Aaron Brooks signs deal in China that could delay Phoenix’s decision on his RFA status


Aaron Brooks signed a one-year deal in China that precludes him from returning to the NBA before his CBA season ends. (AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Aaron Brooks signed a one-year deal in China that precludes him from returning to the NBA before his CBA season ends. (AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Aaron Brooks made one Phoenix Suns offseason decision a bit easier (if there are any offseason decisions to make, that is) by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with Chinese Basketball Association team Guangdong, as Yahoo! Sports first reported.

Brooks is expected to make more than $2 million to play for a squad that also includes former Wizards forward Yi Jianlian and Americans Fred Jones (the former lottery pick out of Oregon) and Lester Hudson. AB’s new team has won four titles in a row.

The most noteworthy aspect of the deal is the fact that the CBA is not allowing NBA players to include an opt-out clause in their contracts. The CBA’s season runs from this weekend though Feb. 15, and the playoffs — which this squad will most likely make — do not end until March.

Like with most things, there are too many scenarios in play to have a full picture of what this move means for the Suns but here are some of the possibilities.

First off, it is presumed that Brooks will be a restricted free agent under the Suns’ control whenever he returns to the States (as was the case with Josh Childress with the Hawks), although at this point it’s too early to know if restricted free agency will even be a part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The decision on what to do with Brooks as a restricted free agent was going to be an important part of Phoenix’s offseason.

If this lockout ends like the last one did with something like a 50-game schedule beginning in February, one would think that Brooks would return to the Suns and get the prorated portion of his $2,976,636 tender offer and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Under this scenario he could theoretically sign an offer sheet elsewhere but I can’t imagine the market being too hot for Brooks in the middle of the season. One would think he would be better off rebuilding his value with the Suns and then trying to get his payday in 2012.

There’s also the possibility he would sit this season out after returning and then retain his restricted status (if that is still around) in 2012.

I’ve always thought the most likely scenario (barring a major AB offer sheet) was for him to just sign the one-year tender to give him a chance to rebuild his value while healthy and comfortable in the new system. One way or another, if there is a season this still seems like the most likely possibility.

This move also likely allows Brooks to make more than he would have under the offer sheet if there is a season since he will have $2 million of the $3 million in the bank and would likely get at least the extra mil if there is an NBA to come back to when his Chinese season ends. Even if the entire season gets wiped he’s now guaranteed better than two-thirds of his offer sheet.

Brooks told The Arizona Republic of his decision:

“We were waiting on that (collective-bargaining agreement) to get done. It looked promising. I really don’t want to sit out a whole year. I want to play. You want to continue to get paid. Mostly, you want to stay in shape. I want to play basketball and have fun. I figure this will be better for me in the long run. You can only work out one-on-one so long.”

Brooks also made an interesting comment to Paul Coro about the sprained ankle that limited him all season in what was most certainly a step back from his Most Improved Player campaign the year before:

“Phoenix knew and anybody who watched me knew I wasn’t 100 percent. I rushed coming back. It hurt me more than helped. I’m good now so this is a chance I can’t pass up.”

Brooks most certainly wasn’t the same player we saw in 2009-10 last year. Some of it must have to do with the adjustment to a new team and the fact that most every backup point guard struggles in a system designed for Steve Nash, but perhaps his ankle played a bigger role than many seemed to think. If so, it would be nice to see what a completely healthy Brooks could do with a full training camp in Phoenix’s fast-paced attack but now the best the Suns will get is a healthy Brooks joining in the middle of the season (if there is a season).

Still this should be a good opportunity for AB to get some run in a country where he is loved from his years with Yao’s Rockets, work on his game and prove that last season was the fluke, not the year before, due to the injuries.

For the Suns now Zabian Dowdell figures to be Nash’s full-time backup in AB’s absence, and it’s a job Brooks may never get back amid his contract uncertainty.

I did not think AB was the point guard of the future previously, and I still do not think so now. The ideal Brooks scenario to me has always been for him to sign his one-year tender and then for the Suns to get some value for him in a trade before continuing their quest for a PGOTF.

Brooks’ move to China only further clouds his Phoenix future but could buy the Suns some time before deciding whether to commit to him for the long haul.

Tags: Aaron Brooks