Brooks’ Big Night Helps Suns Take Down Raptors
Posted: March 23, 2011
At 6 feet tall, playmaker Aaron Brooks certainly isn’t the biggest player on the Suns’ roster. On Wednesday, though, that didn’t stop him from playing like it.
The Suns’ reserve point guard racked up a team- and season-high 25 points, as Phoenix battled back from a one-time 13-point deficit to defeat the visiting Raptors, 114-106.
In his second game back after serving a one-game suspension, it was Brooks’ first time scoring in double digits in consecutive games as a Sun. One night after tallying 15 points vs. Kobe Bryant and Co., he finished Wednesday’s game 9-of-16 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from three-point range in 34 minutes of play. It was his long ball with just under a minute left in regulation that helped the Suns seal the deal on their 36th win of the season.
“I just wanted to be aggressive like coach asked me to be,” Brooks said. “Play hard and get it done. Everybody that stepped in had an opportunity to do something. As a team, we did well.”
Less than 24 hours after Tuesday’s triple-overtime marathon vs. the Lakers, minutes were more than available up and down the Suns’ bench, especially with the early departures of an ill Grant Hill (stomach) and an injured Mickael Pietrus (sprained knee).
“Coach told us to be ready,” Brooks added, “I didn’t realize that it was going to be that soon, but I tried to provide a little spark and get it close enough for our starters to come in and finish it off.”
With 14 of his 25 points coming in the second half, the effort marked Brooks’ first 20-point effort in a Phoenix uniform. He was also just two assist shy of his second double-double since last month's trade that brought him to the Valley.
“Aaron is still trying to find himself, but I think he is a lot more comfortable,” said Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who thought Wednesday’s team effort was the best he’d seen all season. “I’ve got to let him call plays that he feels comfortable with, where he’s seeing what’s going on. I think he’s a lot more comfortable doing that and has a lot better feel if I let him run the show when he is in there. I did that when he went in the second time, and I thought he did a really good job. ”
THE RETURN OF LB
Even though it was a journey he’s made countless times over his seven-plus-year NBA career, Leandro Barbosa’s trip around the event level of US Airways Center this week was like none other.
The former Suns guard’s homecoming marked his first official appearance in the building since last July’s trade to Toronto. After a nice hand from the Phoenix faithful when he entered the game in the first quarter, LB responded with 14 points in 22 minutes.
“It felt good walking in and seeing the people that I worked with for seven years,” Barbosa said. “I used to talk to them and say, ‘Hi.’ I was very happy when they were waiting for me (in the hallway). So it was emotional for me. I got a little sad, but it is what it is. It is a business. I’m with the Toronto Raptors now. I wish the best for the Suns, but I’ve got to take care of my team.
“I’m just happy to be here in the desert and to see the purple and the orange, and the people that I worked with. It’s sad, but I’m in a different situation now.”
Arriving in Phoenix following Monday’s Raptors loss in Denver, the “Brazilian Blur” made the most of his off-day Tuesday by visiting his old haunts, including a house he was having built at the time of his trade.
“I went over there last night to see how it was for the guy that I sold it to,” the former Mesa resident said, “and and it was pretty (laughs)! That really got me emotional, but the market was not good, so it was a good thing for me to sell.
“I was driving (around) the whole city to see what Phoenix looked like without me. It was a little bit different for me. There is a lot of new construction and a lot of empty buildings. But I still like it. The weather is unbelievable. I’m just happy to be here again.”
Averaging 12.6 ppg, 2.6 apg and 2.4 rpg in seven seasons in the orange and purple, the 2007 Majerle Hustle Award winner is averaging 12.9 ppg, 2.5 apg and 2.3 rpg for the Raptors in his first year playing north of the border.
“It’s not been difficult,” Barbosa said of the transition. “It’s just been a different experience for me. We have been losing a lot, and I am like a veteran on the team, so I have been teaching and talking with all the young players. There is always a wish that we can come back next year and be in the playoffs.”
Posting 15 points in his first meeting against his former club in Toronto last month, LB admits it felt strange to play against his old teammates, but that certainly didn’t diminish his memories of his Suns “family” for the past seven years.
“The friends that I made, and the friends that we became…,” he said. “It was just a family for me. It is something that I can never forget about – the times that I enjoyed with the players and the coaches, the organization, the fans and even the media. It’s something that I can never forget about.
“I’m happy to be back home. I’m happy to see all the fans, even though I’m on the other side. I wish the best for the Suns.”
In football, players are taught to follow their blockers. Thanks to Marcin Gortat, the Suns did just that Wednesday.
The center tied a career high with five rejections in the Suns’ victory, and once again made his presence felt on the other end of the floor, too. He extended his career-high double-digit scoring streak to 16 straight games – the longest streak by a Suns reserve since Ring of Honor great/assistant coach Dan Majerle’s 31 consecutive games in 1991-92.
Gortat also fell just two boards short of extending his league-leading double-double numbers off the bench (15).