Asked if he had a minute as he headed for the locker room after practice on Friday, Aaron Brooks paused.
“Me?” he asked.
You can’t blame him for wondering. Brooks has been one of the least visible Pacers this season, which has been the least productive of an NBA career that began in 2007. Interview requests, whether after practice or games, have been as rare as UFO sightings.
A month ago, it seemed his season was over, aside from token garbage time appearances. He didn’t play in 13 contests over an 18-game stretch from Feb. 1 through March 14, and didn’t play long enough to score more than four points in any of the five games in which he did appear.
Now, suddenly, he’s averaged 7.9 points over 17 minutes over the past eight games. He’s scored in double figures in five of the past eight games, hitting 11-of-18 3-point shots in that stretch.
“Just been playing a little more, getting a little rhythm to the game,” he said. “I feel like I’m needed again.
“I had been getting up one or two shots per game, now there’s a role for me and I see how I can help out. It’s later on in the season, but I’m finally getting acclimated.”
Brooks’ “comeback” began at Toronto on March 19, when he played 10 minutes, 20 seconds off the bench in a blowout loss. He got double-figure minutes again the next night against Utah because Rodney Stuckey sat out with an injury, and has been in the rotation since.
“He tends to try to make big plays, go for home run plays,” Paul George said. “I just tell him, be you, keep it simple, stay aggressive, take your time. When he gets out there, he’s kind of forced with that second unit to try to make things happen. Because it is a different unit out there. If he just keeps things simple and plays his game, stays within the offense, he’ll be fine. He’s been doing that of late.”
Of late, it’s been easier to do that because of the arrival of Lance Stephenson. Part of the makeover Stephenson has performed on the Pacers is moving Brooks off the ball and allowing him to flourish as a spot-up shooter. It’s an unusual role for a 6-footer, but Brooks has done that with other guards at times this season. They, however, didn’t get the ball to him as well as Stephenson.
“He told me he likes to play off the ball, he likes people to create for him and get wide-open shots,” Stephenson said. “My goal is to be aggressive. That weakside is always open and he can knock that three-ball down consistently.”
Brooks is a career on-the-nose 37 percent 3-point shooter. He’s at .371 now, thanks to his recent surge, a few makes behind C.J. Miles, Glenn Robinson III, George and Thad Young. The Pacers have hit 128 fewer 3-pointers than opponents this season, so they’ll take every one they can get.
It’s yet another positive result from Stephenson’s arrival. He likes handling the ball. Brooks likes spotting up and receiving it. It all works out.
“When I came into the league (with Houston), I did it with T-Mac (Tracy McGrady), and a little bit with Kyle Lowry,” Brooks said. “So, I’ve been kind of used to it.
“I like it. I still have the ball at times, just not all the time. He (Stephenson) does a good job of finding me.”
If it keeps up, more media members will be finding Brooks, too.
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