There was no sign of Aaron Brooks' familiar, easy smile. The wit as quick as his first step was gone. When discussing his contract Tuesday, Brooks found no humor.
Brooks had hoped his breakthrough season and status as the NBA's Most Improved Player award winner would prompt the Rockets to offer a contract extension. Instead, he said the Rockets' unwillingness to work on a new deal for beyond this season is
"It's kind of stressful," Brooks said.
"I was hoping we maybe could get something done this summer, but we couldn't, so I'm stuck in the position I'm in."
"I understand, but it's bothering me. It's the business of basketball. You have to take it like it is. I'm stuck with that."
Brooks' agent, Leon Rose, is scheduled to meet with general manager Daryl Morey today to discuss the situation, but he would not comment other to confirm the meeting.
Asked if he felt he deserves a contract extension, Brooks said,
"Oh, no doubt. I deserve at least discussions."
The Rockets customarily have not considered contract extensions, other than for players still under their rookie contracts. They will pick up their options on the contracts of Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Jermaine Taylor later this month, waiting - as is their policy - for the deadline.
Last season, the Rockets picked up their option on Brooks' rookie-scale deal but let Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry become restricted free agents. This season, Brooks, Yao Ming, Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries and Chuck Hayes are in the final season of their contracts.
Brooks 10th in salary
The Rockets have not extended the contract of a veteran since trading for Tracy McGrady in 2004. With the NBA in the final season of its collective bargaining agreement with the players, Kevin Durant is the only player from Brooks' draft class to have received a contract extension.
"We're not doing extensions," Morey said.
"Quite a few guys on the team are up for extensions. Just policy-wise, we're not doing it."
"Obviously, every player would want an extension. I don't blame them for that. All we can do is the best for the Rockets. They're doing the best for themselves. Make sure they know the reason we're doing it has nothing to do with how you value the player or anything like that. It's just we're trying to keep ourselves as flexible as possible going forward."
Brooks, who averaged 19.6 points and 5.3 assists last season, will earn $2,016,692 this season, ranking 10th among Rockets players. Depending on the rules of the next CBA, he would be a restricted free agent next summer if the Rockets make a qualifying offer.
"Every player gets his time to get his money," Morey said.
"The money a player makes really doesn't always - I'd say more than half the time - correlate to anything bottom-line based. It correlates to when they became a free agent. It correlates to who else is a free agent when they became one. What was the market at that time?"
Lowry, Brooks' backup at the point, will earn $5.75 million this season in the first year of a four-year, $23.5 million deal.
"I'm happy for Kyle," Brooks said.
"He's a great player, and I'm happy for him, but something could have been done. We could have discussed something, but I guess that's just the business of basketball."
'I'm a work in progress'
Asked if he felt he still had to prove himself, Brooks said,
"I guess I do".
"I'm a work in progress. I'm not satisfied with myself. I've got a lot of work to do. For me, nothing has changed."
Yet while pledging that his approach and attitude will remain the same, Brooks openly lamented that his contract will, too.