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Tuesday April 27, 2010 3:29 PM

Brooks Named NBA's Most Improved

Rockets' point guard earns honor following break-out season

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

Houston - Why was Aaron Brooks named the NBA’s Most Improved Player? Because the stats, facts and figures of his candidacy practically leap off the page.

19.6 points per game – good for an increase of 11.2 points per contest from his scoring average of a season ago, far and away the biggest leap in the league among minimum qualifiers.

39 games scoring at least 20 points and 10 contests which witnessed him post 30 points or more – this after entering the season with a mere 11 20-point games over his first two seasons combined.

Becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to make at least 200 three-pointers and dish out at least 400 assists in the same season.

Setting the Rockets’ single-season record for three-pointers made with 209, while also establishing the Rockets single-game mark for most 3-pointers made without a miss (7) during a March 17 th game against Memphis.

There are plenty more superlatives to be placed at the feet of Brooks but at the end of the day those numbers are mere window dressing to the true essence which lies at the core of this honor. Of course his averages went up. He played more minutes than ever before and assumed the role as the Rockets’ lead dog in the absence of an injured Yao Ming.

It’s what he did in that role – how he grew, how he developed, how he matured – that is precisely the reason why Aaron Brooks earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

Here was a young man in his first full season as Houston’s starting point guard who was handed the keys to the offense and asked to oversee the team’s transformation from plodding to pronto. For years the Rockets had ranked among the slowest paced clubs in the NBA. Now they wanted to pick up the tempo at any and every opportunity. It was a bold, risky and daring decision. But it worked – thanks in no small part to the rapid development of the lightning-quick Brooks.

With Brooks at the helm, the Rockets played at a pace befitting their name and managed to experience merely a minimum drop-off in offensive efficiency, despite the season-long absence of its most efficient weapon. Contemplate that for a moment: with no Yao, a plethora of fresh faces and a brand new plan of attack, Houston’s offense barely skipped a beat. And though he certainly had plenty of help from his teammates in that regard, as the quarterback of the club Brooks deserves plenty of praise for his role in the Rockets’ successful extreme makeover.

If the conversation merely ended there, no doubt most would already be convinced of Brooks’ credentials. The truth is, however, that we’ve saved the best for last because those searching for his biggest area of growth this season should look no further than his ability to rise to the occasion in the role of Rockets’ closer.

Time and time again, Houston asked the 25-year-old point guard to take the ball in his hands and make something magical happen with the game on the line. And not only did Brooks deliver, he did so while displaying a knack for coming through in crunch time against the best the league has to offer. The overachieving Rockets emerged with more than their fair share of wins over elite competition this season – the team posted road victories against the Lakers, Celtics, Jazz and Mavs just to name a few – and Brooks stood at the center of nearly all of them, draining big shot after big shot, all while displaying a confidence level and fearlessness which belied his relative lack of experience.

So, yes, Aaron Brooks put up the necessary numbers to back up his Most Improved candidacy. But of far more importance, he displayed the sort of growth in his game that allowed his team to exceed expectations and bolster hope for an even brighter future to come.

Which is why this year AB = MIP.


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