During the last NBA lockout, Aaron Brooks did what others threatened to do: signed to play in China.
In what must have been heady times, Brooks joined one of China's greatest basketball teams, a dynasty winning seven of the last ten championships and reaching the finals for a decade straight.
The former Oregon star hit the big time in China, but he played on the wrong team. It didn't feel right when he took his Guangdong Southern Tigers to the Chinese Basketball Association finals against Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks.
He rode the red rocket of sports greatness in the biggest basketball market in the world. Why couldn't he be a Duck?
Brooks' success is no surprise. His senior year at Oregon included membership on the 2007 AP All-American Third Team, the John Wooden All-American Team, the NCAA 3-Point-Shootout Champion, and the All-Pac-10 First Team. He was a first round pick after Eugene and his four year University of Oregon basketball career.
His was part of the greatest draft class in NBA history. Or could have been.
2007 was the Greg Oden draft, the one where Kevin Durant's durability was questioned because he couldn't bench press the league standard even once. Since then, top basketball minds learned that bench pressing and brick laying don't predict All-Star success.
Brooks was the fifth point guard taken, chosen twenty-sixth overall following Mike Conley, Jr. at four, Acie Law at eleven, Rodney Stuckey at fifteen, and Javaris Crittenton at nineteen. (On a side note, Rudy Fernandez came into the league on the twenty fourth pick, All-Star Marc Gasol with the forty-eighth. As much as it already hurts, the Blazers could have had The Gasser.)
That Brooks was named the NBA 's Most Improved Player in 2010 seemed to show he was headed towards the land of Rondo, Parker, and Paul, that his name would be mentioned with Rose, Westbrook, and Lillard. And why not?
Something's going on when all those guys play for their first teams except Paul, and Brooks has moved from Houston, to Phoenix, to China, to Sacramento/Seattle, and back to Houston. That's not the sort of rocket you want to ride. The great ones settle in to learn their team and collect championships. It could still happen.
Aaron Brooks may be a different player after coming close to a Chinese Basketball Association title and raising the jade Chinese O'Brien Trophy. He's learned more about the game, himself, and where he plays. Stephon Marbury and his Beijing Ducks were good teachers.
If you don't look at the final score, you'll still know Brooks' team lost, but you won't see a three point difference.
If you don't watch the video, you won't see an NBA player wash dishes in the bathroom sink. They are so pampered.
If Yao Ming warned Brooks about going astray in China during their time together in Houston the first time around, he could have used Marbury as an example of DON'T DO THIS!
Closer to home, Yao probably warned Aaron that his new team city was known as China's sex capital, employing between 500,000 and 800,000 people in the trade. In a video interview, he said he stayed in a lot.
Sports take our emotions where they've never been with each victory or loss. Sports took Aaron Brooks to China to deal with his emotions, his game, and his life. This is one writer hoping it all comes together for him, one writer who's glad he didn't mistake this bus for the team bus.
Welcome back to Houston, Duck.