NBA Analysis: Problems Between Aaron Brooks and Rockets?

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This season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the former Oregon stud and recipient of last year’s most improved player award Aaron Brooks.  After an ankle injury that kept Aaron inactive for the majority of the first half of the season, Aaron’s play has significantly declined.    Brooks is shooting a career low .302% from deep alongside a miserable .367% from the field.  His body language on and off the court seem to say one thing:  I’m not happy.  Since the return from his injury Aaron has had exceptionally poor shot clock management. 

Every play where the clock is running down to the final ticks Aaron either chucks up an ill advised three or passes of to a teammate who shouldn’t be taking that last second shot.  His shot selection is off, although I’d argue that it always has been only in the past he’s been able to hit those deep and poorly timed three bombs.  Last night against the Grizzlies, Rick Adelman pulled Aaron from the fourth quarter with 6 minutes and 45 second left to let starting guard Kyle Lowry have a chance to finish of the game.  Aaron proceeded to pass up the bench at this time and walk directly into the locker room giving up on his team completely and submerged in his own frustration.  

Rick made the right call and Lowry had an incredible defensive performance late in the fourth and in overtime as Nick has previously recapped but what if Lowry had twisted his ankle?  What if he had fouled out?  We had no back up point guard on the bench and a head case sulking in the locker room.  Today Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen tweeted that Aaron Brooks would be suspended from the road trip to Denver for his actions last night:

Aaron Brooks suspended for Monday’s game in Denver for walking out in fourth quarter Saturday. #hounews

Some of the things Aaron has done in the past have lead to me to question his character and his general style of play lends itself towards a ball dominant head case but I never would have thought that the youngster would react so negatively to his situation.  Aaron is being given a chance by the coaching staff to step up to the plate and earn back his starting role in clutch minutes down the stretch.  The team and the fans still have plenty of faith in him, but stunts like this make it very easy for me to wish for a trade.  Aaron is on a very attractive contract and can help a lot of teams out.  If we could acquire an upgrade for him at this point I’d probably be very complacent.  Let’s now take a look at what seems to be irking the 26 year old guard.

What’s wrong? It’s important to note that this season’s ankle injury was Aaron’s first significant injury since he started playing ball.  Coming back from an injury that keeps a player on his rear for months at a time is never easy for an athlete but the fact that Aaron has never had to do this at all is especially crucial.  Not only does Aaron have to adjust his game physically in order to accommodate his wounded ankle but he has to adjust his head.  He can’t make the same kind of decisions he could have made a year ago and he has to deal with a lot of expectations that his body might not be ready to oblige.  I’m not saying this excuses the kind of childlike desertion Aaron treated his teammates to last night but it does factor into a building frustration.

Next up is Aaron’s contract extension.  Aaron thought he had earned a big paycheck before he enters the restricted free agency this summer.  He believed his stellar shooting and production had set him up for a front office exception; but let’s be clear – Houston does not do extensions.  General manager Daryl Morey made this very clear to team Aaron and the rest of Houston.  The Rockets don’t extend contracts, although I believe they have with one or two franchise players, but such rare exceptions are to be expected.  Aaron, like most professional athletes, is looking to get paid and he’s looking for security.  Unfortunately for Aaron, the way he’s acting right now is going to guarantee the exact opposite.  If Aaron had rolled with the punches, accepted his bench role, and played the way Houston fans know he can from back in the Rafer Alston days he might be looking for a big fat pile of money this summer but nobody wants to shell out the Benjamen’s for an egotistical ball hog who abandons his team when he’s needed most.

Finally Aaron is dealing with an issue of pride.  His starting role has been stripped from him.  He worked very hard to get to that spot especially considering he’s a short, skinny and defensively limited specimen.  Now Aaron finds himself on the wrong side of 25 with a young up and comer ahead of him in the rotation.  The realization that he may never start again could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Aaron.  Many basketball fans see Aaron as the perfect instant offense option off the bench, I’m sure Aaron has heard this as well.

Whatever the reasons for Aaron’s building frustration might be they don’t excuse him for his actions last night.  I wanted to give Aaron a chance but if this is the way he’s going to handle things from now on than I’d just as soon have his inflated and enormous head traded.