by Aggrey Sam / @CSNBullsInsider
On one hand, it’s easy to feel bad for MarShon Brooks.
Immediately thrown into the fire as a rookie on a team with little to no hope of contending for a Playoff spot, the smooth, long-limbed scorer acquitted himself well in his NBA debut campaign, displaying the tools that led to a breakout senior season at Providence, which included a 52-point outing that firmly put his pro prospects on the map.
But with his Nets’ failed pursuit of Dwight Howard hanging over him—as one of the franchise’s top young prospects, it was assumed that he would be part of the package sent to the Magic—his anxiousness about going from a downtrodden team on the rise to a post-season mainstay beginning the rebuilding process showed in his first Summer League game, though he managed to bounce back to have one of the stronger outings in (ironically) Orlando.
But while Brooks avoided betting dealt, his presumed starting role next to Deron Williams was usurped by another Nets transaction, the acquisition of All-Star Joe Johnson, who will step into Brooklyn’s starting lineup at shooting guard. But instead of moping about the turn of events, when I caught up with him in Hollywood last month, the Georgia native was ready to embrace the challenge of learning from arguably the League’s top backcourt (that new old-head duo in L.A. might have something to say about that, but let’s wait until November before passing judgment) and already had a goal for the upcoming season: NBA Sixth Man of the Year, in the fashion of gunners and previous award-winners, Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry.
It’s both ambitious and realistic for the second-year player, but on a perimeter-heavy roster that should effectively utilize up-tempo and small-ball strategies, Brooks could excel as an instant-offense type, whether alongside fellow backup CJ Watson or on the floor with some combination of Williams and Johnson.
Unlike his debut campaign, however, the season is much more high stakes for Brooks and the Nets—the move to Brooklyn, contract years for general manager Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson, post-season expectations and an impatient, free-spending owner are all heavy burdens for the organization—and it’s important for the former to establish himself as a valuable contributor and a future member of the potential contender’s core moving forward.
Keep in mind, though, that Brooks was never preordained to be in this position, from his under-the-radar prep days outside ATL to his relatively low-profile college careers at one of the bottom-of-the-barrel programs in the Big East. His easygoing nature and effortless game belie his competitiveness and underrated versatility, but Brooks is also ready to shed his one-dimensional label in favor of being more of a playmaker and more importantly, playing for a winner, something that’s eluded him since his senior-year high school state title.
Although Brooks has had to put up with a fair amount of uncertainty about the direction of his career than most players that actually produced in less than ideal circumstances, he now has a tremendous opportunity. Armed with some serious confidence and in perhaps a role that fits his skills better than any other, despite the presence of the All-Star backcourt starting in front of him, don’t be surprised if Brooks quickly becomes a fan favorite in BK, as opposed to his previously assumed fate as a piece of Orlando’s youth movement.
Take a look as, among other topics, Brooks shares his thoughts on whether the new-look Nets can capture the affections of fans in the Five Boroughs.