Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Brooks’

Rockets Trading On Patience This Time


VIDEO: Brent Barry breaks down the Rockets’ recent success in this version of ‘Breaking Bones’

HOUSTON — Birds fly. Fish swim.

Daryl Morey trades.

Underneath all the talk of the Rockets adding a wing shooter and perimeter defender at the deadline — they landed Jordan Hamilton from the Nuggets – was a huge, hard-wired part of Morey’s DNA that said: Do something. Something big.

Surely, Morey would have leaped at the chance to, say, reel in Rajon Rondo from his old Boston stomping grounds, if Danny Ainge had been so inclined. But the truth was the Rockets never really had the chips to the put onto the table — a premium first round draft choice or two — to even get the Celtics thinking seriously.

Daryl Morey, James Harden (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Daryl Morey, James Harden
(Bill Baptist/NBAE)

There was the one rumor that Boston would have very much been interested in Chandler Parsons. But who wouldn’t be? Parsons is young, athletic, talented and still plays on a rookie, second-round pick contract. That’s the kind of real value that is very much at a premium in today’s NBA.

Morey’s jumping-the-checkers-all-over-the-board approach has been on display for more than a half-decade now. He landed the All-Star pair of James Harden and Dwight Howard with it. So, if he couldn’t wallop another another home run this time around, it surely wasn’t because he didn’t wear out his beloved Blackberry trying. You can’t hit the pitches you don’t swing at.

Yet for the first time since he began calling the shots in the front office in 2007, the Rockets’ general manager didn’t feel the same sense of urgency.

“We feel like as a team as we are coming together at the right time,” Morey said. “We had a lot of opportunities to mix things up. But we feel like we have a core with stars in Dwight and James and we have a good group around them that we feel good about, and we feel like when you have that core you want to keep the guys around them.”

A seemingly endless of string of nagging injuries since the start of the season had prevented the Rockets from developing any cohesion or consistency. Even with Howard back close to his pre-back surgery, pre-shoulder injury level of fitness, there was also the matter of trying to blend his low post game with Harden’s one-on-one skills.

While the two of them can sometimes look like would-be dancers with no sense of rhythm, there is a feeling that the pieces are growing together. And the Rockets’ record is showing it.

As they close out a five-game road trip with a back-to-back at the Kings and Clippers that starts Tuesday night, the Rockets are now an NBA-best 17-5 since Jan. 1. They have climbed solidly into the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference and now set their sights on the No. 2 Spurs, whom they have already whipped three times this season.

It is a wholly different attitude for Morey, to let the pot he’s filled come to a slow boil rather than just keep grabbing for new ingredients. Inside he believes his team still needs that third All-Star level player to stand toe-to-toe with Miami, Indiana and Oklahoma City. But with Howard and Harden contented in their roles on the team, their place in Houston and locked into max-level contracts, patience is probably the most prudent path.

The Rockets were able to trade veteran guard Aaron Brooks, a fan favorite, to Denver because they feel they have enough talent in the pipeline. Last year’s draft pick, Isaiah Canaan, plucked in the second round, has been simmering in the NBA D-League and earned his chance to contribute significant minutes with the Rockets. Hamilton is another below-the-radar talent that the Rockets believe can flourish if give the opportunity to play. And it is that cycling through of young players that has kept the Rockets both moving forward steadily in terms of overall progress and flexible enough with their payroll to remain open and available to make that next big deal. As sure as summer follows spring, they’ll be standing on the high dive looking to make another big splash in the talent pool in July.

The Rockets would likely be a tough out in any best-of-seven playoff series in the rugged Western Conference, the Thunder included. But with an offense that relies so heavily on the 3-point shot, the question is whether they can perform consistently enough over eight weeks of the playoffs — or even two rounds — to be taken seriously yet.

We’ll find out. Sometimes, the answers do come when you sit and wait.


VIDEO: Daryl Morey discusses the Rockets’ trade for Jordan Hamilton

Kings’ Changes Continue At Point Guard

HANG TIME WEST – The latest was Aaron Brooks being released Friday as part of a buyout. But that came after the Kings spent most of the last four months trying to sort through options at point guard among current candidates and a good portion of the last several years scanning the globe for a solution.

Literally scanning the globe. Brooks signed last summer after playing in China, which came after Jimmer Fredette was picked from BYU in the lottery, which came in the same draft Isaiah Thomas was selected in the second round out of Washington, which came after Tyreke Evans was chosen in the lottery via Memphis, which came after Slovenian Beno Udrih was signed and then woefully overpaid to re-sign. Anthony Johnson, Sergio Rodriguez, Luther Head and Pooh Jeter (as in “cheddar,” not as in Derek “Jeter”) were somewhere in there as well. So even Derek Jeter was in there.

How long have the Kings been searching for a replacement for Mike Bibby?

So long that Bibby has played on four different teams – Hawks, Wizards, Heat, Knicks – and has sat all this season without announcing his retirement, while Sacramento has burned through prime draft choices and cap space. And still no answer. Nothing close to answer, in fact.

Three of the so-called solutions are still on the roster, but Evans has been moved to the wing, at shooting guard and small forward, in his own ongoing search for position stability and could be playing his final games for the Kings, before becoming a restricted free agent July 1. Fredette struggled so much last season as the next Point Guard of the Future that management offered the vote of confidence of signing Brooks in what at the time seemed like a smart move, with a reasonable salary and a coach, Keith Smart, who wanted to play fast.

Thomas, while clearly delivering the best return on investment, from No. 60 pick in the 2011 draft to an encouraging start on a long career, is at 25.5 minutes a game heading into Friday’s game, commendable given his path but not exactly taking over the position.

The topic becomes especially relevant as the draft gets closer and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart continues to track to a potential top-five pick and maybe even the top three. But, though a physical presence at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds with an intense style of play, he’s still learning to be a true point guard instead of a combo guard. His shot is inconsistent. There will be Evans flashbacks.

For now, the roles among the remaining Kings have better definition, with Thomas the starter, after sharing the job at times with Brooks, and Fredette coming off the bench barring a sudden change of direction from Keith Smart. Fredette is shooting better than a season ago, but getting inconsistent minutes and still trying to show he should remain in the conversation for the job in the future.

Kings Take On Dallas… And Seattle



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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings got back to the basketball portion of their ever-spinning world Thursday night. Kind of.

Yes, they played for the first time since news broke that the owners, the Maloof family, were deep in negotiations to sell to a group that would move the team to Seattle. And, yes, 14,011 showed to Sleep Train Arena to watch, a good crowd for a mid-week game against a bad team, and those fans did bring noise in the continued delicate split of supporting the team while sticking their Maloof voodoo dolls full of pins. DeMarcus Cousins even got ejected, this time for a flagrant foul, and just try finding a greater sign of normalcy.

But Seattle was unavoidably everywhere before and after. Maybe during as well, with the hand-made signs brought in by fans urging the Kings to stay or even for the Maloofs to sell to the citizens of Sacramento a la the Packers in Green Bay. It is one of several ideas that has been mentioned the last couple days as a solution.

Definitely during the 117-112 overtime loss to the Mavericks, actually. It was impossible not to notice the irony that two of the five Kings on the court the final seconds were Tacoma native and University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas and Seattle native Aaron Brooks. Thomas was even the reason the night lasted into an extra period, thanks to a 25-foot bank with 9.1 seconds remaining for a 101-101 game.

The before was a candid Keith Smart. The Kings coach was asked 90 minutes prior to tipoff whether the relocation talk could become a distraction, whether the sale is complete and moving is inevitable or talks on the deal at a reported $500 million linger and the future remains an uncertainty. He did not hesitate.

“It’s going to get there,” Smart said matter-of-factly of the distraction. “I’m going to have it from my side — my family, my kids, everything. We all are going to have it. But we have to, at a moment, block out everything and focus on the task at hand. As soon as we get away from the two hours of practice, hour of shootaround, two hours of game time, then we’re going to go back to reality. And reality is going to ask, ‘What are you hearing?’ and all those things there. We have to answer those questions from our friends, family and everyone because everyone will be a little concerned.

“What we’ll preach is, ‘Do what you need to do in that time frame, but as we get ourselves back into the environment where we have to practice, workout, stay on top of what it is that you’re supposed to be doing and we’ll deal with all that as it goes day by day.’ It’s definitely going to be a distraction. Obviously yesterday (when news of the potential sale first broke) was. But we’re pros. We’ve got to figure out a way how to separate the two and then get ready to play.”

The after?

Brooks, sitting alone at his locker, trying to find the right words. The Kings in Sacramento would be nice. Playing point guard in his hometown would be nice.

“It’s a lose-lose,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta lose.”

A difficult spot.

“Yeah,” Brooks said. “Very difficult.”

Kings’ Brooks Finds His Comfort Zone

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.

Hot Streak Increases Evans’ Value





SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It turned personal at the strangest of times, with a couple minutes remaining between two lottery-bound teams and about 10,000 people, if that, watching on a rainy night.

Tyreke Evans heard someone on the Raptors bench – he thinks injured forward Landry Fields – shout “Hell no!” as Evans lined up a three-pointer in a tight game Wednesday.

Evans connected from a few feet away from the visitors and gave a long, punctuating stare.

Next Kings possession, same thing. He heard “Leave him open!” as the Raptors did just that, backing off in understandable strategy. Evans hit again and stared again. He said something too, a message that very possibly included a word beginning with F.

“Maybe so,” Evans said later, smiling.

Vindication and the baskets that turned a 95-95 tie into an eventual 107-100 victory. Yes, this is a good run.

Evans has scored 27, 20 and, most recently, 23 points his last three games, a streak interrupted only by the bruised left knee that cost him two contests before the return to exchange holiday greetings with the Raptors. He is shooting 50 percent. He is sticking to a commitment to defense that started in training camp to regularly check two positions a night and is on alert that a three – both backcourt spots and small forward – is possible. He gets the opponent’s biggest scoring threat on the wing as long as it is not a small point guard.

Of course Toronto played it right Wednesday. Maybe not the trash-talking part, but Evans had made six three-pointers all season, for a 27.3-percent success rate. Everybody knows to go into prevent defense and collapse around the lane when he gets the ball on the perimeter, because Evans will put his head down and barrel to the rim. That he made the Raptors pay for doing nothing wrong is the flashing bright light of exactly how good he is going.

These are the moments, however brief, that remind of Evans as Rookie of the Year, either three seasons or a lifetime ago, of why he may still be an integral part of the rebuilding puzzle. Or of why he could still be traded.

The topic is on the clock, especially when he plays like this, because the sides did not reach an agreement on an extension to Evans’ rookie contract by Oct. 31, putting him on schedule to become a restricted free agent on July 1. The decision made perfect sense for the Kings – he was regressing, had no position, and no certain place in the future, and to spend big to lock him up before the Halloween deadline would have been ill-advised.

The decision also raised the stakes on trade considerations, because now it was possible to see them losing a starter for nothing in July, if another team reaches deep enough for an offer sheet the Kings do not match. (To say they could simply sign-and-trade their way into a return is an oversimplification. Team X may not offer any assets Sacramento wants, and the Kings certainly won’t take bad contracts back.) He could stay in the summer with a new deal, he could leave without compensation or he could leave in a swap, but new rookie extension means new uncertainty.

Potential suitors won’t be swayed by a few games set against seasons, plural, of Evans trying to find his way while backsliding from a dynamic rookie season. But it will attract some eyes. So will a few more fourth-quarter Hell no! jumpers.

The truth, though, is that his real value would be as a point guard, and that isn’t going to happen. Maybe another team sees the potential to coach him into a permanent starter, thinking it can work past the endless moments of Evans driving into three defenders waiting in the lane and passing to no one. The Kings had the same vision when they took him at No. 4 in 2009, still a pretty good pick, of someone 6 foot 6 and 220 pounds with the speed and ability to immediately run past and through most grown men. In Sacramento, though, Aaron Brooks has the job and Evans is a swingman.

Playing point guard was the entire hook. Strong, fast shooting guards and small forwards are not unique, and shooting guards and small forwards without a perimeter game, when everyone knows to play them for the drive, don’t bring a lot in return. That is the unavoidable part of the Evans predicament that can’t be stared down.

In Wake of Brooks Pickup, Jimmer Sends Message




By Drew Packham, NBA.com

LAS VEGAS — Jimmer Fredette barely had time to digest the news.

The Kings added another point guard Monday with the acquisition of free agent Aaron Brooks, in what could potentially mean even less playing time for Fredette.

Jimmer sent a “don’t forget about me” message to the franchise just minutes after word of the trade came down, scoring 30 points Monday in a 113-91 loss to the Rockets, but says his big game had nothing to do with proving his worth.

“Coach just told me to be really aggressive and shoot the ball, so that’s what I did,” said Fredette, who put up 21 shots (hitting 10, including two 3s).

Fredette said he didn’t think anything of the pick up before the game, but is eager to play alongside Brooks.

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Goran Puts Rockets In Quandary





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This is shaping up to be the Year of the Dragon in Houston. As in Goran “Dragon” Dragic, who is playing some serious ball and made life without Kyle Lowry feel a lot more reassuring.

Dragic is coming off Player of the Week honors for going nuts against Chicago, the Lakers and Sacramento, when he averaged almost 21 points, eight assists and two steals and superbly directed the Houston offense.

His ability to shine the spotlight is something Dragic never doubted about himself, as he tells Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Somewhere between his goals and potential, Goran Dragic believed all this would happen.

With Kyle Lowry out for the past month, the 6-3 Dragic has become the Rockets’ most reliable force, among the league’s most productive point guards and soon, one of the most coveted free agents of the summer.

He doesn’t pretend to be surprised.

“I always expected this,” Dragic, 25, said. “I believed I could do it.”

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Much Ado About The Amnesty Rule …

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Rarely have so few words received so much scrutiny.

But if we didn’t know any better, the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new labor proposal (and that’s all it remains at this point, until the untangling process is complete) would appear to be the most important piece of the pending collective bargaining agreement.

It seems strange that something that will be utilized by such a small number of teams would be the focus of everyone’s attention. Yet when you realize the names that could potentially be impacted by the rule — Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas and several others — the intense examination of how the rule works makes much more sense.

Folks in Portland have already singled out Roy as one of the certain casualties of the amnesty rule, with John Canzano of the Oregonian providing the background for how and why it will go down:

The whisper at One Center Court is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen won’t bother to take one last look at Brandon Roy before he goes amnesty clause on the guy who won all those games for him.

Here’s hoping Allen does. And that the longest look is into Roy’s eyes.

“Brandon’s out,” a league executive told me Monday. “Don’t know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it’s way, way done. Paul and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one.”

While the amnesty provision seems like the hot topic of the day, there are other items in the tentative labor agreement, outlined in a letter from Billy Hunter to the players, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com‘s Sam Amick, that require more attention.

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Blogtable: Disappointing players

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Which player has let you down like none other this year, expectations-wise? No fair picking someone who’s hurt.

David Aldridge: Nobody’s “let me down–”; it’s not like I loaned somebody $20 and they haven’t paid it back. I would say I’m surprised that Steve Blake didn’t play better for the Lakers this season. I know it takes a couple of years to really learn the triangle, but I thought he’d pick it up quicker than he has and not have to be coaxed to shoot. I suspect he’ll play a lot better in L.A. next year.

Steve Aschburner: Seeing as how I picked Indiana center Roy Hibbert to be the NBA’s Most Improved Player and Hibbert, in many ways, has actually regressed, he’s my pick again for all the wrong reasons. Hibbert did not boost his game in significant ways — his shooting percentage is way down, his scoring and assists are off on a per-minute basis and his rebounds have ticked up only a little. The Pacers’ pivot man did not take responsibility as a leader on or off the floor, and his inconsistent, largely lost season was a major factor in coach Jim O’Brien’s firing. He did get in a great shape and worked hard last summer, but a couple of days working with (and hearing about John Wooden’s pyramid of success from) Bill Walton didn’t have much carry-over.

Fran Blinebury: Though he’s played better lately, Hedo Turkoglu has the distinction of under-performing for two different teams this season.  He never was a fit in Phoenix and overall hasn’t been the same Hedo who was a key factor in Orlando’s run to the Finals in 2009. (more…)

Lowry Fuels Rockets’ Playoff Push

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In the interest of full disclosure, we should begin by saying we were skeptics when the Houston Rockets decided to hand Kyle Lowry the keys to the franchise and trade away Aaron Brooks.

It’s not that we aren’t fans of Lowry’s daredevil style and fearless approach to any and every challenge that stands in his way. Truth be told, that’s what we love about his game, that and the fact that he looks like your prototypical NFL free safety in a basketball uniform.

But we just weren’t sure if he was right fit for the Rockets.

It’s a good thing general manager Daryl Morey is the man in charge of making Houston’s decisions, because he understood what this team needed and didn’t waste time acting on it.

For all the things Brooks gave the Rockets — a scoring threat with seemingly unlimited range, a swashbuckling young point guard who made up for a lack of size with a huge heart and competitive drive to spare — he was never the take-charge floor leader the Rockets needed.

Lowry is and shows it off on a nightly basis these days (triple doubles, and his Western Conference Player of the Week honor that was just announced today).

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