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Wednesday September 22, 2010 3:18 PM

Ready For An Encore


Q&A with Houston Rockets' point guard Aaron Brooks

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - With the start of Rockets training camp rapidly approaching, the Toyota Center practice court is the place to be as players start ramping up the intensity level in an effort to make sure their games are good to go. You see a sharper focus during the various training drills players perform and the competition taking place during the daily scrimmages is certainly heating up as well.

So with the guys getting ready for the 2010-11 season, it's time for us to do our part as well. And what better way to do so than to catch up with the various members of the team to find out what they've been up to this summer? Today Rockets.com sat down with one of the electrifying Aaron Brooks.

JCF: You’re heading into the fourth year of your NBA career. You’re coming off a season in which you really stepped up, seized hold of the Rockets’ starting point guard position and earned Most Improved Player honors. So I guess that means you spent the summer just basking in your accomplishments, resting on your laurels and being content with everything you’ve accomplished, right?

AB: Exactly (laughs). Nah, not at all. We didn’t accomplish too much last year. For the first time in my career we were off early. I did log a lot of minutes last year so I did take a little bit more rest than usual, but I’m back on it and the whole team in general is a little bit hungrier. We’ve got some new guys here and we’ll get to go through a whole training camp together, and we’re going to be a deeper team this year so it’s going to be exciting and fun. We’re going to run and we’ve got Yao back.

JCF: So what can we expect from you individually? Obviously you took a big step forward last year and gained tons of experience as not just a starter, but also as the go-to guy as well. But as you mentioned, this is now a different team, so what are you expecting from yourself heading into this season?

AB: I want to be a better leader. We have a lot of new guys and a lot of guys who can put the ball in the hole, so I need to be more of a floor general, get more assists and increase my percentages as far as making smarter plays on offense.

I just want to build and continue getting better. I just want you to see a gradual progression and hopefully that continues this year.

JCF: Do you feel as if you’re at the point now where you can run this offense in your sleep?

AB: Definitely. I think now I’m at the point where I know exactly what Coach wants and I know all the different cuts and options and plays that can be made in this offense. Now I just have to go out there and get on the same track with my teammates where we all know where everybody is supposed to be at.

JCF: You’ve always been more Tony Parker rather than Chris Paul or Steve Nash in terms of your point guard style: you can go out there and get your points, and that’s what you do best. I know this has always been the question for you, but how do you balance those scoring gifts with the need to get your other teammates involved as well?

AB: It’s just about finding the right feel and making the right reads. It’s about knowing that Chase and Shane need the ball in the corner, so I can get to my spot and get them the ball. I know I’m not Steve Nash or Chris Paul, and I’m not Tony Parker, either – I just want to go out there and make the right plays, and if that’s taking my shot, then as long as I’m doing the right thing and making the right reads, then nothing else really matters. It’s definitely my job to get guys the ball when they’re open but, at the end of the day, assists don’t really matter as long as we’re winning games and making the right plays out there.

JCF: That’s a good point. I mean, Coach Adelman wants you to shoot the ball when you’ve got an open look, right?

AB: Correct. Rick’s offense is an open offense. The point guard brings the ball up and calls out the plays, and when we do ball-screens it’s about making the right reads, but otherwise it’s an open offense. Our big guys have the ball some of the times so if we’re cutting off them it’s not a situation where you’re going out there trying to get 10 or 12 assists per game. Like I said, in this offense it’s just about making the right plays and getting high percentage shots for yourself and your teammates.

JCF: Do you have numbers in mind at all that serve as statistical benchmarks you’d like to achieve this season?

AB: No, I really don’t get wrapped up in that. It kind of takes away from my game. I think I just go out there and try to take what the defense is giving me, whether that’s a layup, a 3 or a drive-and-kick. The only thing I want to do is make sure I don’t have that many turnovers. I have the ball in my hands so much it’s important I limit my turnovers.

So if I’m getting into the middle of the paint consistently and I’m shooting a high percentage without many turnovers, then I think that’s being pretty productive.

JCF: How much do you think about shot selection when you’re on the floor? This is obviously a team that highly values efficiency, so that means being aware of the types of shots you’re taking, i.e. avoiding shots with your foot on the 3-point line. Have those concepts been hammered into your head playing on this team?

AB: No, I always want to take shots with my foot on the line (laughs). You know how it goes, you want to be as close to the line as possible because the closer you are, the higher the percentage. But, yeah, if your toes are on the line then now you’re taking the least efficient shot in basketball. There’s obviously a small margin of error there. But we know that corner 3s are so important and if someone is open in the corner you definitely want to get them the ball. It’s all about 3s and layups – that’s what we want.

As a point guard, I want to shoot over 50 percent. I might be a tad under just because I shoot more 3s than most point guards, but that’s the number I shoot for.

JCF: It’s funny to hear talk about wanting to shoot 3s with your foot on the line, when it’s coming from the same person who shoots 3s from about 28 feet away half time.

AB: (laughs) Yeah, but you’ve got to take into account whether it’s a higher percentage shot to be closer to the line with a hand in your face, or to shoot it from further away with no hand in your face. I like to be able to see the rim when I shoot most of the time (laughs). So if I’m a couple steps behind the line but I’m open, I’ll shoot it. But you know what? When I’m in the game I really don’t where my feet are at. I just shoot it.

JCF: What are your goals for this team right now?

AB: I definitely want to get to the playoffs but I think we can do a lot of different things as a team this year. We have more big guys this year, so as guards we might be able to pick-up full-court and be more pests on the defensive end, and spend a little less time having to defend in half-court sets. So if we can pick things up a little more, make opponents take more time with the ball in the backcourt, then it will help our defense out, and it will help Yao out and give him a chance to rest and help give him time to get back down the court. Also our cross-screen defense has to be a lot better and I think that will come with being more aggressive and dictating what their guards are able to do, instead of letting them dictate what we do.

JCF: There’s been a lot of focus on improving the defense this year. Everybody knows you and Kevin will be incredibly explosive offensively, but can you guys get the job as a defensive pair as well? And if so, how?

AB: We’ve got to use our quickness. Last year with all the injuries and changes it was tough and a learning experience for all of us. Defensively I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do or and I didn’t do what I was supposed to do – either way you want to put it. But this year I want to pick up guys full-court because the more time you can spend in the opposing team’s backcourt, it’s harder for a team to score. Plus I need to deny a little more because it’s a lot harder for your guy to score if he doesn’t have the ball. We have to use our quickness to our advantage. And it wouldn’t be the first time someone said I couldn’t do something and I proved them wrong. Hopefully that’s what will happen this year.

JCF: How about offensive strategy. You guys really picked up the pace last year. A lot of people have just assumed that now that Yao is back, things will slow down again. But you’re still bound and determined to run just as much, if not more, this season, right?

AB: Yeah, Yao’s faster than you think (laughs). Nah, we’re definitely going to run. We want as many open, high-percentage shots as possible. If we race down the floor and have an open corner 3 before Yao makes it down, we’re going to take it and save him some steps. But we’re also not going to force anything. I think last year we forced a lot and we don’t have to force anything this year with the big guy on the court.

Plus, Yao opens up the lane. When you drive, guys have to stay connected to him and that’s just going to make us a lot better. I’ve been playing some pick-up ball with him and I kind of forgot how easy it is to play with him, so it’s so good to have him back.

JCF: Last year: Aaron Brooks = Most Improved Player. This Aaron Brooks = All-Star?

AB: That would be nice (laughs). That would be nice. But I think about Aaron Brooks in the playoffs. I like the sound of that better. It’s not about what happens with me or to me, it’s about making it back to the playoffs. The fans and organization deserve that and we want to get there this year.

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