With little to gain by winning or losing (eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, unable to improve their draft position), the Suns have four games to evaluate their prospects for next year. The longest look is focused on Aaron Brooks, whose play against Minnesota gave reason for optimism. Key among the reasons for Brooks’ improved play over the past few games is his comfort level – he’s catching on to the terminology the Suns use and developing a rhythm with the backup unit, particularly since coach Alvin Gentry decided to bring Vince Carter off of the bench. Brooks noted Carter and Josh Childress specifically as players with whom he felt he played well.
His performance of late is promising, though I remain skeptical of the move to bring Brooks to Phoenix – because of his status as a restricted free agent and the sacrificed draft pick. I also worry about what a night like tonight might do to Brooks. Steve Nash may sit out with a hamstring injury; Brooks would likely start in his place.
If the former Most Improved Player’s success stems from his synergy with the Suns’ second squad, then might slipping into the starting spot set Brooks up for failure?
As someone on record against the trade, it’s something I’ll keep in mind if Nash does in fact miss the game and Brooks starts in his place. If he plays well with the starters, I’ll be thoroughly impressed and ready to reconsider my opinion about Brooks. If he plays poorly with the first five, I’ll try to consider whether it’s the result of unfamiliarity rather than ineptitude.
The best case scenario for everyone? Brooks/Gortat Pick-and-Roll! And lots of it!
Speaking of reconsidering an opinion, perhaps Josh Childress simply needed steady playing time of his own.
Since the Suns’ elimination from postseason contention, Childress is often the first wing option off the bench – ahead of Vince Carter. He too often seems lost on defense, turning his back to the ball and getting beat to the hoop by the player he’s guarding, but his effort is encouraging. He more and more seems like a player becoming of his glorious hair (and maybe even his salary).