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Friday June 29, 2007 2:35 AM


Up to Speed


Rockets select Oregon's Brooks with first round selection



Damien Pierce
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- The Rockets were craving more speed heading into the 2007 NBA Draft.

On Thursday night, they certainly picked up a step.

The Rockets selected Oregon point guard Aaron Brooks, one of the fastest players in the latest edition of the NBA Draft, with the 26th overall pick of the first round. The franchise later acquired Purdue power forward Carl Landry from Seattle in a trade and selected Australian shooting guard Brad Newley in the second round.

Despite having four other point guards on the roster, the Rockets snatched the 6-foot, 160-pound guard from Oregon with their lone first round selection.

Since the team is looking to pick up the pace under new coach Rick Adelman, Brooks' ability to open up the offense with his blazing quickness was too enticing for the Rockets to pass up.

"He brings speed and quickness and an ability to get to the line," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "Guys who can shoot and have his quickness are really unguardable in the league right now."

The Rockets selected Brooks after a deal to move up the draft board in the first round didn't materialize.

The jet-quick guard led the Pac-10 in scoring with a 17.7 scoring average during his senior season and was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. During his career with the Ducks, the guard developed his shooting touch, showing a knack for sinking short-range shots in the lane. He played both guard positions in Eugene, Ore., often guarding bigger players.

Brooks arrives to a team that already has four other point guards on the roster. The Rockets are returning starting point guard Rafer Alston along with reserves John Lucas III and Vassilis Spanoulis. The team also recently acquired veteran Mike James in a trade with Minnesota.

Despite already having those players at the position, the Rockets believed that Brooks' quickness was a needed asset to their roster. Morey said that the guard was coveted by other teams late in the first round.

"We like his speed," Rockets director of scouting Dean Cooper said. "If you look around the league at the point guards who have had success lately -- Tony Parker, T.J. Ford and Chris Paul -- speed is valuable."

Brooks improved his draft value during the Orlando predraft camp and worked out for the Rockets. Although Brooks says he didn't have one of his strongest workouts in Houston, he understood why the Rockets selected him.

"I was just talking with (Rockets coach Rick Adelman on the phone)," Brooks said. "He said they were interested in my game. They want to push the ball a little bit more. If that's what they want, they got the right guy.''

The Rockets addressed some of their other needs in the second round.

Needing help at the power forward spot, Houston shipped next year's second-round pick and cash considerations to Seattle for the 31st overall pick. The Rockets chose Landry, a skilled post player who could end up pushing for minutes in his rookie season. Chuck Hayes, a restricted free agent, is the only other power forward in Houston's picture for next season.

Landry, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound power forward, was Purdue's leading scorer and rebounder last season, collecting 18.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He made 59.7 percent of his shots and showcased a midrange jumper.

"I'm in a way like Chuck Hayes, but I can score," Landry said. "I averaged 19 points in college. I'm going to rebound the ball, dive on the floor for loose balls, take charges, do little things it takes. I'm going to give the team a few extra possessions and try to win a championship this year."

The Rockets later selected Newley with the 54th overall pick after acquiring the selection from Orlando earlier in the day for cash.

Newley, who has shown an ability to hit long range and pull-up jumpers, has spent the past three seasons playing in the NBL, Australia's premeir professional league. He avereaged 22.4 points last season with the Townsville Crocodiles.

"He's someone that we think can develop over time," Morey said. "He may play in the summer league with us, but we haven't had a chance to speak with him yet."

Brooks, meanwhile, wasn't surprised at all to be heading to Houston. He apparently knew exactly what the Rockets were seeking.

"My quickness," Brooks said. "The NBA is becoming a quicker game, so I guess that attracted teams into picking me. I'm not mad (at the other teams for not picking me). I'm just ready to go to work and help the Houston Rockets win."