There's the joking jab at management, which kept him in the dark about last February's trade of
The 24-year-old Seattle native is smiling, his goatee giving way to a grin. A remarkable achievement, that grin, when one looks at the Rockets' difficult circumstances.
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And yet, Brooks' smile persists. He's asked about the situation, the predictions of decline, the sacking of Houston's hopes. He's clear when he speaks.
"I don't care," he said. "I couldn't care less. Really. Just because the critics come out and say that [another team] is going to win, that doesn't give them 10-plus points to start the game. So it doesn't really matter to me."
Brooks is playing that way -- as are his teammates. With the speedy Brooks fueling a balanced offense, the Rockets have defied expectations by opening the season 8-6. The encouraging start has included victories against division leaders the Trail Blazers and the Lakers and a rare road win for an opponent at Utah.
The transition to the team's new identity is obvious. With a gaping hole in the middle, coach
The quicker approach suits Brooks. He's haphazard with the ball, almost manic, and stopping him is like trying to catch a housefly with your bare hands. His first step might be as quick as anyone's.
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McMillan should know. In the first round of last year's playoffs, Brooks averaged 15.3 points in Houston's six-game victory against the Blazers. Brooks has followed that up this season with 19- and 28-point performances in two early meetings with Portland -- the type of scoring that is becoming the norm for the third-year player. Brooks is averaging 16.3 points, second on the team and seventh among NBA point guards.
"We had a different team [last year], so he was able to do different things," Adelman said. "It's been a total adjustment. ... Now we're asking him to do a lot more."
But Brooks is still young, and with youth comes impudence, and with impudence comes inconsistency. Brooks can be streaky with his offense (though he's been steadier early this season), and he's also among the league leaders with 3.4 turnovers (to go with 5.7 assists).
"He's still a point guard in transition," Battier said. "He's a cog. He's a big cog. But by no means is it [all] on his shoulders."
Still, Brooks' shoulders seem up to the task. Battier believes that once Brooks settles into his role -- an outcome that appears imminent -- he can put up 20 points per game. And as his play goes, so too will Houston's fortunes.
"His maturation is going to be a huge part of who we are and how successful we're going to be," Adelman said.
Even if Brooks doesn't figure it all out this season, his first 82-game slog as a starter, the Rockets have seen enough to want him back next year, too: Houston picked up its option on the fourth year of Brooks' contract. This, undoubtedly, gives Brooks another reason to smile. And another reason to blow back a sardonic response that he's quickly becoming known for.
"Well, that's just excellent," he said wryly when asked about remaining with the Rockets at least through the 2010-11 season.
He's not derisive, not sarcastic -- it is apparent that Brooks, the No. 26 pick in the 2007 draft, couldn't be happier in Houston. Yet there he is, jabbing and feigning, slicing through the contract's importance like it was a slow-footed perimeter defender.
"Management knows who I am, and Houston knows who I am, so that's all that matters," he said. "Just keep picking up my options."