HOUSTON – Aaron Brooks was not back where he wants to be in the starting lineup. But he was back with the Rockets, back with his teammates, back at his locker about 75 minutes before Tuesday night’s game, trying to put the worst moment of his NBA career behind.
“Emotions got the best of me,” Brooks said. “It was an embarrassing moment for myself. I wish I hadn’t done it. That’s not the type of guy I am.”
The fourth-year point guard was the guy who literally walked out on his team when he left the court in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s home game against the Grizzlies. He had been frustrated for weeks about his own inefficient play and the fact that coach Rick Adelman was frequently sitting him on the bench late in games.
Brooks had been suspended by the Rockets for Monday night’s game in Denver.
“I just want to send apologies to everyone, to Mr. (Leslie) Alexander, to the GM to the coaches, especially to the team, because I let them down. It was just a big mistake. That’s not me. That’s not part of my character and it won’t happen again.
“I love being a Rocket. I love being here. Right now, my play hasn’t been where it needs to be to play. I need to pick it up personally. I feel if I do what I’m capable of doing, what I’m accustomed to doing, getting healthy and playing, then everything will take care of itself.”
The Rockets were trailing the Grizzlies 80-77 with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter of a game they would win 95-93 in overtime when Brooks made the decision that shocked his teammates and the coaching staff.
“I’m not gonna change how I coach the game based on someone’s reactions,” Adelman said. “I’ve told players that right along. That’s one thing in my control is who I’m gonna play. I’m gonna play who I think can win. Why else wouldn’t I do that?
“We talked about it 10 days before that. [It's] no secret [that] our roster [has] a lot of people at three spots. I can’t please everybody. It’s not like we’re 40-10 here where it’s real simple. I’m just trying to win games … I told him that tonight, when I took him out, it wasn’t just him. I felt that game was slipping away and I put in what I thought were our five best players to try to win the game and we did, an overtime game.
“I’ve told players, whatever you think you’re doing, I notice. I’m not stupid. I see body language. I see what’s going on. I can see someone coming out of a game upset. But you don’t embarrass anybody and you certainly don’t embarrass your teammates or me. I think that’s what sometimes players think passive-aggressive behavior does and it’s not gonna work. I just think he made a big mistake.”
Brooks won the 2009 Most Improved Player Award and was the Rockets’ starter entering the season. But he suffered an ankle sprain on Nov. 6 in San Antonio and did not return to the lineup until Dec. 19. By that time, Kyle Lowry had been entrenched as the starter and with Brooks struggling to regain his form upon return, Lowry has usually finished games.
Compounding the problem was the fact that Brooks has been open in his disappointment that the club has not been willing to offer him a contract extension. Since the incident, speculation was swirled that the Rockets were looking to trade away Brooks and a growing problem.
“I still think he can be a terrific success in this league,” Adelman said. “I told him that there are a lot of people in this league that love you. What you did now everybody in the world is gonna think we’re gonna trade you some place. That’s not gonna happen either.
“It’s one of those things. I think he’s truly sorry it happened. Sometimes as a coach, you’ve got to take that and you’ve got to move on too.”