SACRAMENTO, Calif. – This was the kind of game that made Aaron Brooks feel especially back home.
Not hometown home. That’s Seattle.
But NBA home. Back where he fits.
It was Kings 131, Warriors 127 – in regulation. It was a back-and-forth Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena made for a jet point guard. It was Sacramento going 11-for-19 on 3-pointers as Brooks went 9-for-12 and hit all three of his 3-pointers en route to a season-high 23 points to help key the upset.
It was definitely more like it.
The season so far has been a difficult adjustment for Brooks in the move to a new team and a new/old league. He spent last season in China, taking a deal there rather than waiting for the lockout to end and the uncertainty of being a restricted free agent. He came back to the NBA with the Kings, only to open 2012-13 as the backup to Isaiah Thomas. Brooks eventually became the starter, but has yet to provide the dependable point guard play Sacramento desperately needs.
That’s what made Wednesday so valuable. While it may have been one game in the ongoing transition back to playing in the United States — so ongoing that he said it may still be a while before his body re-acclimates to the speed and athleticism of the NBA, and certainly just one game for his last-place team — this was Brooks seeming in his element again.
“It’s a whole different game,” he said. “I’m still developing into this NBA game again. But I’m happy. Every day I’m trying to get better.”
Playing in China was, he says with ultimate diplomacy, a “good time” but “trying.” He was far away from family, unable to get out of the contract when the lockout ended and trying to play his game in a league where physical play was more permitted. He was in a basketball world where people could make it harder on American players.
“No comment on that,” Brooks said, and then he laughed. Which definitely was a comment.
“I was able to relax over there on defense and just focus on offense,” he said of another difference. “But here, people are coming at you.”
The 2009-10 winner of the Most Improved Player Award is trying to adjust back to what once was the only thing he knew. The opening quarter of the season has had some encouraging moments, but also signs it is still a work in progress and the Kings are not as settled at point guard as they would have hoped. The open court of Wednesday helped. It seemed very right again.