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Tuesday April 6, 2010 5:31 PM

Out Of The Shadows

Aaron Brooks making strong case as NBA's most improved player

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

Houston - Exciting, electric and fearless. Breathtakingly fast, blindingly quick with unlimited range.

When Aaron Brooks is the subject, those are the adjectives and characteristics most often used to extol the virtues of his burgeoning game. All are accurate of course but they only serve as a starting point of sorts because to truly appreciate Brooks’ talents one must see him in person – assuming your eyes are quick enough to catch him, that is.

Now in his third season in the NBA and first as a full-time starter, the 6-foot point guard from Oregon has burst onto the scene as a fan favorite thanks to his dazzling skill set and big-time performances. Monster scoring nights, lights-out shooting, game winners – you name it, chances are Brooks has delivered the goods.

Building upon his breakout postseason a year ago, AB has helped the Rockets exceed expectations this season, leading the team in several statistical categories while providing the sort of quiet, steady leadership which bears witness to his growth both on and off the court.

Once considered little more than a largely unknown, late first-round draft pick, Brooks has not only solidified himself as a capable starter but a key building block of the Rockets’ future as well, showing off All-Star potential and an innate ability to rise to the occasion in big moments. In other words, the secret is out: Aaron Brooks has emerged from the shadows of obscurity.

He is ready for his well-deserved turn in the spotlight.

He is living proof that good things come in small packages.

He is a star on the rise.

AB4MIP.

AARON BROOKS BY THE NUMBERS (stats as of 4/05/2010 - to be updated weekly)

• If using the minimum qualifier for league leaders in points per game for 2008-09 (70 games played or 1,400 minutes at the end of the season), Brooks has made the biggest jump of any qualifying player in the NBA from 2008-09 to 2009-10:

Player 2008-09 2009-10 Points Increase:

• Aaron Brooks 11.2 19.6 +8.4

• George Hill 5.7 12.5 +6.8

• Brook Lopez 13.0 19.0 +6.0

• Trevor Ariza 8.9 14.7 +5.8

• Carmelo Anthony 22.8 28.4 +5.6

• Of players who even saw at least 1,000 minutes played in 2008-09, Brooks again stands first in points per game (+8.4) improvement to 2009-10.

• Among players with at least 70 games played or 400 assists last season, Brooks (+2.3) stands as one of just two players in the NBA with an increase of two assists per game from 2008-09 to 2009-10:

Player 2008-09 2009-10 Assists Increase:

• Russell Westbrook 5.3 8.1 +2.8

• Aaron Brooks 3.0 5.3 +2.1

• Trevor Ariza 1.8 3.7 +1.9

• Rajon Rondo 8.2 9.8 +1.6

• Steve Nash 9.7 11.1 +1.4

• Brooks registered a career-high 43 points (14-30 FG, 6-9 3FG, 9-12 FT) in a 120-114 3OT win vs. Minnesota (1/13/10), while setting career bests in field goals made (14) and field goals attempted (30). Brooks became the first Rockets player to reach the 40-point plateau since Tracy McGrady scored 41 points back in 2007-08 vs. New Orleans (3/8/08).

• Brooks, who has 36 20-point performances and ten outings of 30 or more points this season (through 3/23/10), stands as the first Rockets point guard to reach at least 20 points in 20 or more games since Steve Francis’ 42 20-point performances in 2002-03.

• Brooks recorded 10 20-point performances during the month of Dec. 2009. To put that in perspective, Brooks entered this season with 11 20-point games over his first two seasons combined with the Rockets. He also had a run of 20-point performances in eight of 10 outings (11/29/09-12/18/09).

• Brooks made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-best 39 consecutive games (12/22/09-3/17/10), which surpassed Luther Head’s previous team mark of 37 straight (11/4/06-1/13/07). Brooks became the first player in the NBA to reach 39 in a row since Orlando’s Rashard Lewis hit at least one trey in 56 straight contests (11/12/08-3/9/09) in 2008-09.

• Brooks has set a new career single-season best with 189 3-pointers made on 487 attempts (113 3FGM in 2008-09), which stands first in the NBA in 3-point makes (through 3/23/10).

• Brooks marked the first time in his career to register four straight 20-point games, accomplishing this feat three times already this season (12/13/09-12/18/09, 1/27/10-2/2/10 and 3/1/10-3/7/10). His only consecutive 20-point outings prior to 2009-10 stood at two games (20 on 3/24/09 and 21 on 3/28/09).

• Brooks reached double-figure scoring in a career-high 40 straight games (12/23/09-3/21/10). His previous best was double-digit point totals in just seven consecutive contests (3/9/09-3/20/09 and 10/27/09-11/10/09).

• Brooks set both his career high in treys and the Rockets single-game record for most 3-pointers made without a miss (7-7 3FG) vs. Memphis (3/17/10). He broke the prior team mark that Shane Battier (6-6 3FG) set at Milwaukee (2/17/10).

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT AARON BROOKS:

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES' ZACH RANDOLPH: “Brooks is an All-Star. He killed us and he really hurt us. He got snubbed as an All-Star. He doesn’t surprise me what he does on the court. He was pulling up and hitting 3’s once he was crossing mid-court.”

MAVERICKS' JASON KIDD: “He’s playing great. He plays very hard, is extremely quick and shoots well behind the three-point line. He is a big part of their success this season.”

STEPHEN CURRY: “He uses his speed so well. Speed kills. He is a very tough guy to stop. He got Houston rolling and we couldn’t come back.
 
HOOPSWORLD (Jason Fleming: 3/30/10): “For my money the Most Improved in 2010 should be Houston’s Aaron Brooks.”

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES' MIKE CONLEY: “Brooks is a great player. He’s very quick and extremely talented."

CLIPPERS' STEVE BLAKE: “He is extremely quick and very good with the ball in his hands. You really can’t lay off him because he shoots the 3-pointer so well. He is a tough cover.”

Improvement is ongoing for Rockets guard Brooks

By JONATHAN FEIGEN

Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

March 17, 2010

Aaron Brooks could be the first Rockets player to win an individual NBA performance award since Steve Francis was the Co-rookie of the Year in 2000.

The numbers are persuasive, and in the Daryl Morey era, numbers are always considered, usually valued and sometimes celebrated.

This was not about numbers.

Aaron Brooks has had those for much of the season. No player qualified to be among the NBA statistical leaders has increased his scoring from last season to this season as much as Brooks. He has gone from 11.2 points per game last season to 20 this season. Only one, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, has had a greater increase in assists.

Rockets coach Rick Adelman, however, might have made a greater statement — actions speak louder than statistics? — about his third-year point guard on Monday when with the score tied in the closing seconds, he put the game in Brooks' hands.

His “faith,” as Brooks called it, was rewarded when Brooks hit the game-winner from 20 feet with 2.9 seconds left.

Adelman also demonstrated how far Brooks had come in his first full season as a starter.

“It's faith,” Brooks said. “There's been a bunch of times when I didn't make the shot. Coach continues to put faith in me that I'm going to make the right decision and make the shot.”

In many ways, Adelman sees the improvement to come as much as the strides already taken. There have been missteps late in games, but the Rockets believe each experience — good and bad — has made Brooks stronger and smarter in those situations.

“He's getting better,” Adelman said. “He's understanding what he can do, how teams are playing him. I think he's got to work on mixing it up like he did (Monday) night. He's got the mid-range game. He has to look for that a little bit more.

“He still has to work on (late-game execution of the offense). He has to understand when we need to move the ball a little bit, when to attack. Sometimes he attacks one-on-four. There's nothing there. He needs to mix that up a little to where they're not set and ready for him, knowing he is going to attack.

“It's a process.”

But when asked how well Brooks has advanced this season, Adelman did not hesitate.

“Oh, totally different,” Adelman said. “His confidence level is totally different. He can have a tough quarter or even a tough half. Eventually it's going to come to him. Very seldom does he have a whole game that's not good. Last year, he was just feeling it out.”

The statistics do demonstrate the improved consistency with the increased role. Brooks has scored in double figures in 37 consecutive games. Prior to that, his longest streak of games scoring at least 10 points was seven.

Long before his last shot on Monday knocked off the Nuggets, his first shot stretched his streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 38, the longest active streak in the NBA and the Rockets franchise record.

“The game slowed down a lot for me,” Brooks said. “I take more of a leadership role. I'm increasing in every category, so I guess those are most improved things.”

With just 17 games remaining, Brooks is by far the Rockets' most viable award candidate. The Rockets have not won an individual NBA performance award since Steve Francis was the Co-rookie of the Year in 2000, and if Brooks becomes their first-ever Most Improved winner, it would be a breakthrough for a team that has not had an All-Star, player of the month or player of the week selection this season.

“The main goal is just to win championships,” Brooks said. “As far as personally, to get some kind of accolade this season, the fact is no one had us in this position. A lot of stuff I've been through in my life basketball-wise, the highs and lows, to finally get an award in the pros would be a big accomplishment for me.

“It's for the team, too. I think we deserve something as a team. We didn't have anybody representing us in the All-Star game. We didn't have any (national) television games. We are playing basketball down here. It would be good to have recognition for this team.”

For now, however, he said he is still working to improve, especially late in games. Brooks said he has learned to avoid contact, believing that more is allowed late in games, and how to measure defenses that know he is coming.

“Even in isolation, everyone is sitting there looking at you,” he said. “They know you are going to take the shots.”
It has become obvious — and a sign of improvement that goes well beyond the numbers.
jonathan.feigen@chron.com
 
Most Improved NBA Player by Division
DIME
By Jack Jensen
Dec 7, 2009

Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets.
In his first full season as Houston’s starter, the 6-0 Brooks is averaging 16.5 points and just over 5.5 helpers a game in way to amassing a surprising 11-9 record. Last year—before Brooks ignited the Rockets’ second-round playoff run—he was penciling in 11.2 and 3 assists a game as a sophomore. Since the ’09 playoffs, in which he averaged 16.8 points (Along with a 34-point explosion in game four against Los Angeles), Brooks has been Houston’s catalyst spark plug. He may be the quickest player in the League with the ball in his hands and is quickly becoming an elite point guard. You can bet a lot of people in the Gulf Coast aren’t too upset that Rafer Alston was sent away last February. Teammate Trevor Ariza is also playing the best basketball of his career, but the Rockets aren’t an 11-win team right now without Brooks.
 
ESPN'S NBA AWARDS WATCH
Maurice Brooks, a former Race to the MVP columnist at NBA.com, is an NBA editor at ESPN.com.
Most Improved Player of the Year Watch
By Maurice Brooks
ESPN.com
 
1. Aaron Brooks, Rockets: I don't know what the Rockets' PR staff has in store for Brooks' MIP campaign, but his performance against Denver (31 points, nine assists, winning shot) is a good place to start. (Last week: 1)
 
Ron Tillery: Rockets' Brooks makes his case for Most Improved
By Ronald Tillery – The Commercial Appeal
Posted March 21, 2010

Houston Rockets guard Aaron Brooks has increased his scoring from 11.2 points per game last season to 20 this season, a bigger jump than any player in the NBA. Only one player, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, has experienced a greater increase in assists.

Brooks, who averages 5.2 assists, says his increased production and ability to make plays late in games should be credited to one thing from coach Rick Adelman.

"It's faith," Brooks said. "There's been a bunch of times when I didn't make the shot. Coach continues to put faith in me that I'm going to make the right decision and make the shot."

The Grizzlies watched Brooks take over in the second half and hand them a defeat Wednesday night. Brooks went 7-for-7 from 3-point range -- a single-game franchise record -- en route to a game-high 31 points. He's made a strong case for the league's Most Improved Award.

"He's getting better," Adelman said. "He's understanding what he can do, how teams are playing him. I think he's got to work on mixing it up. He's got the mid-range game. He has to look for that a little bit more.

"But his confidence level is totally different. He can have a tough quarter or even a tough half. Eventually it's going to come to him. Very seldom does he have a whole game that's not good. Last year, he was just feeling it out."
 
The Oklahoman
By Mike Baldwin 
March 24, 2010

Rockets guard Aaron Brooks is viewed as the leading candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He has increased his average from 12.2 to 19.9.

“He’s as offensive minded as you’ll see from a point guard,” (Scott) Brooks said. “It seems he can have a bad three and a half quarters and come back the last five or six minutes and get 13 points like he did the other night in New York.

“He’s a gamer. He’s tough to guard. He’s quick. He has a 3-point shot and for a little guy can finish around the rim.”

Read more here.

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