Suns GM Headed to China to Visit Brooks

By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: March 26, 2012

To help a Suns fan keep his perspective during the course of an NBA season, someone might tell him that two billion Chinese could care less about what happens in Phoenix. But what if that philosophy was reversed?

What if Suns fans cared about what was going on in China? Thanks to Suns guard Aaron Brooks, that’s exactly what has happened.

At the trade deadline of last season, the Suns acquired Brooks from the Houston Rockets to help add some offensive punch to a team making a push for the postseason. During his 25 games in a Suns uniform in 2010-11, the 6-0 playmaker averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 assists as a backup to Steve Nash.

With the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of NBA labor negotiations this past offseason, however, the speedy point guard signed a contract to play in the Chinese Basketball Association until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.

There was a catch that came with the guaranteed money in China, though. Until his team’s season was concluded, Brooks didn’t have an opt-out clause in his contract to return to the U.S. and the NBA.

“When I first heard that Aaron was heading to China to play, I tried to put myself in his shoes and I thought it made sense for a player who is passionate about playing the game,” Suns General Manager Lance Blanks told “No one knew when the NBA would resume so there was some risk in staying here or going to China.”

While several players, including the Knicks’ J.R. Smith and the Clippers’ Kenyon Martin, have already returned from stints in China and have been suiting up for a month in the NBA, Brooks currently finds himself in the CBA Finals competing for a championship.

“The Chinese league is an emerging league with some talented players and coaches,” said Blanks, who departed on a 17-hour trip overseas Monday morning to visit with Brooks, as his Guandong Tigers attempt to rally from 2-1 deficit against the Beijing Ducks, starring former Suns guard Stephon Marbury. Guandong concluded the regular season in first place, with Beijing finishing one spot behind.

Blanks made it clear that he’s not heading to China to scout Brooks, who was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2010. He already knows the 27-year-old veteran can play.

“It's never been a question of talent with Aaron at the NBA level,” said the Suns’ GM, who is making the fourth trip of his NBA career to China. “The trip is more about a relationship that we have with someone who has worn a Suns' uniform. Aaron is a part of the Suns family, so we thought it was important to take the time to see him in China.”

According to, Brooks is averaging 21.9 points, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals a game for Guandong. He was named a CBA All-Star and was asked to compete in the league’s three-point contest.

The Suns’ front office believes that Brooks is “as quick with the ball as any guard in the NBA” and could provide a “valuable scoring punch.” Whether or not he will throw those punches this season, as the Suns make another push for the playoffs with just 17 games left to play, has yet to be determined.

“Going over to China will give us a chance to sit down with Aaron and see where his head is, in terms of his experience in China and his future,” explained Blanks, who plans to spend at least five days in China. “Our team is in a good place right now and team chemistry is important as we make a push for the playoffs. Forecasting future acquisitions or signings right now would be premature on my part.”

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