Find out how the team’s new addition went from a rookie reserve to a star overseas. Plus, which cherished Kings tandem does Brooks see as a model for him and Isaiah Thomas?
Lightning-quick, fearless and boasting superb range, Aaron Brooks brings newfound excitement and elite play-making ability to the Sacramento Kings backcourt.
Capable of beating his counterpart off the dribble with his impressive speed, finding the open man or pulling-up from long range with his rapid release, the 6-foot point guard presents a nightly challenge for opposing defenses.
“I don’t really go into a game looking to score – I just go in there looking to take what the defense gives (me), whether it’s passing or (taking) the open shot,” Brooks explains. “Being a scorer, you get labeled that, but I want to go in there and have a high assist-to-turnover (ratio) and be efficient, shoot over 50 percent.”
The University of Oregon product has delivered countless lights-out shooting performances, including setting a Houston Rockets single-game franchise record by hitting 7-of-7 three-pointers against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 17, 2010, and has routinely knocked down big shots in crunch time.
“I like being in that situation, when the game is on the line – that’s when the competitors come out,” he says. “It’s like a different person comes out of me.”
Brooks’ competitive nature traces back to his earliest exploits on the hardwood, when he engaged in a sibling rivalry with his older brother on a basketball team founded by their mother.
“My brother was the man in high school – he was the elite athlete, he earned a scholarship to Seattle (University) – but I always wanted to be better than him,” Brooks reflects. “I think I might be better than him now.”
Selected with the 26th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Brooks – known as “A.B.” among teammates – began his career low on the depth chart on a veteran Rockets team, averaging 5.2 points and 1.7 assists in 11.9 minutes per game, and briefly spent time in the D-League mid-season.
Two years later, when All-Star center Yao Ming was sidelined with an injury, Brooks emerged as a team leader and an All-Star-caliber floor general, capturing Most Improved Player of the Year honors by averaging career-highs of 19.6 points on 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 39.8 percent from downtown, along with 5.3 assists per game.
In the process, he became only the sixth player in NBA history to record at least 400 assists and 200 three-pointers in a single season.
“I think I relished the opportunity and took advantage of it,” he says. “And the practice that I put in actually paid off during the games.”
After being traded to the Phoenix Suns mid-way through the 2010-11 season, Brooks put up 9.6 points and 4.2 assists in 18.9 minutes per game in 25 contests (five starts), registering the highest assist percentage (35.3) of his career, while noting a few tricks from perennial All-Star Steve Nash.
“I wasn’t there for that long, but I will say, (Nash) is a very talented guy – some of the passes I’ve seen him (make) up-close and personal were pretty amazing,” admits Brooks.
Last year, the 27-year-old took his game overseas, suiting up for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. In addition to earning an All-Star berth, Brooks led the Tigers to the CBA finals while putting up 22.3 points per contest on 55.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.7 percent from long range.
“It was a good experience,” he says. “I missed my family, but as far as basketball-wise, I think it made me a better player, kind of adapting to all the different elements of the game. It’s a different type of game over there, a lot more physical, and I had to be more of a playmaker over there. So I think my passing became a lot better, and hopefully that translates to the NBA, makes me a better player and more dynamic.”
Reflecting on his professional career to date, Brooks says while he enjoyed playing abroad and has remained in touch with some of his former Tigers teammates, he was humbled by the experience and, using the knowledge he has gained, looks forward to reestablishing himself in the NBA on an exciting young team.
“After having a good Summer League my rookie year, coming in and going to the D-League, being Most Improved, to going to China, it’s been a roller coaster,” Brooks says. “But it just makes you appreciate today more, (makes you) want to work harder, and the NBA, you can’t take it for granted. I just want to work hard, prolong my career and help this team out.”
In Sacramento, Brooks – who played with Kings forward Chuck Hayes and assistant coach Bobby Jackson on the Rockets in 2007-08 – is excited to run the point or play off the ball in an up-tempo offense tailored to his strengths, alongside fellow Washington native Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.
“I remember Isaiah when he was a little kid running around Tacoma, but he’s always been a great player, and hopefully we can compete in practice and make each other better,” says Brooks.
“Isaiah is a playmaker – everybody sees he can score the ball, but I think he makes the right play at the right time. That’s what I kind of pattern myself after, and I think that together, we can be a great point guard (combo), kind of like (Mike) Bibby and Bobby Jackson.”
Already familiar with the relentless passion of Sacramento faithful, Brooks anticipates putting on a show that will electrify Power Balance Pavilion next season.
“The fans are amazing – when you’re an opposing team, it’s difficult to get wins here, no matter (the Kings) record,” he says. “The fans make it interesting, and now we have to give them a reason to be here towards the end of the season. We know (if) we play well, then we’ll have that good home-court advantage.”
With a game that has long been appreciated by Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie – who revealed the Kings nearly acquired an additional pick in the 2007 Draft with their sights set on the exhilarating guard – Brooks hopes to now provide depth and veteran experience for a young, up-and-coming squad.
“(My goal is) to make the Playoffs, trying to get that good atmosphere again,” he says. “I grew up watching Bibby and (Chris) Webber and (Vlade) Divac, when they had that Lakers series and hearing the fans – we want that feeling again.
“I know Sacramento is capable of bringing that roar, and we want to try and bring that back.”
– An avid bowler in his spare time, Brooks has come within a few pins of recording a perfect game.