Despite the franchise’s 22-44 record last season, the Nets are looking forward to turning the page and starting a new chapter in Brooklyn, with the start of the 2012-2013 season. With the anticipation of a playing in a new city –with a new arena– and the re-signing of All-Star Deron Williams and the acquisition of Joe Johnson, the Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov should be equally excited about the return of second-year guard MarShon Brooks.
After a stellar rookie campaign, in which he averaged 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 56 game, Brooks was selected to the league’s All-Rookie second team and easily became a fan favorite during the Nets finally days in New Jersey. But the 23-year-old’s future with the team wasn’t secure. After dodging trade rumors for Dwight Howard this summer, the lanky shooting guard out of Providence lit up the NBA’s Summer League in Orlando and continued to prepare for his new role as sixth man for Brooklyn. The hard work this offseason has seen some early dividends, as the 6’5, 195-pound Brooks was ranked No. 148 on ESPN’s listing of the top 500 players in the league called “NBA Rank,” further cementing his rising star status.
On the eve of his trip to Russia to participate in the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program as a delegate, Life + Times caught up with Brooks –where he signed autographs for fans as part of the league’s foray into Fashion’s Night Out– to discuss the Nets move to BK, his desire to win Sixth-Man of the Year and all-things Madden.
Life+Times: The opening to the Barclays Center is very soon. How excited are you to get things going in Brooklyn?
MarShon Brooks: It’s very exciting. Brooklyn has a great tradition, and you know, it’s obviously New York, so it’s going to be different. The fans are going to be different and we’re just looking forward to coming out and competing while playing hard. I think Brooklyn will appreciate that and jump behind us as a city if we come out and play as hard as possible.
L+ T: Are you ready for the expectations that come with playing in the Big Apple? All the cheers and jeers?
Brooks: Yeah, I think we have a great team on paper, so as long as we come out and play hard, I think everything will fall in place. We have a chance to really make some noise. Brooklyn is excited about the entire situation with the team. I’m in Brooklyn a little bit throughout the week and I see the Brooklyn [Nets] apparel everywhere, so it’s just exciting.
L+T: You put up some big numbers during the summer league, scoring 34 points against the Indiana Pacers. What aspects of your game have you been working on to improve?
Brooks: Just getting stronger. That’s going to help me in a lot of different aspects: defense, finishing at the rim and many different areas. But getting stronger has been my main focus and putting in the time.
L+T: Obviously you’re a big time scorer, putting 52-points up in your breakout senior season at Providence. Heading into your rookie season was there a particular player that you looked forward to going up against?
Brooks: I was a big Kobe Bryant guy growing up. Him and Jamal Crawford were the two players I watched a lot and studied closely, coming up. So I always look forward to playing against them.
L+T: It’s been reported that your main goal for your sophomore campaign is to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. What are you going to do to make sure you hoist that trophy at the end of the year?
Brooks: I’m just going to go out there and play hard. Obviously, when I step out there, I feel like I’ll be able to just produce at a high level and if we’re winning as a team at the same time, I feel like it gives me a great chance. So I’m just going to go out there and compete and provide that spark off the bench.
L+T: The Nets starting backcourt is already strong with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, it’s probably one the best in the league, but with the recent acquisition of CJ Watson, the secondary backcourt is just has strong…
Brooks: I think it’s going to help us a lot. Especially down the stretch, we won’t have to have guys play 40-45 minutes like they did last year. D.Will can actually sit down and take a breather and not have to worry about any let downs or anything like that. I think our backcourt coming off the bench is going to be huge for us. We’re going to be able to wear guys down and just continue to attack with our guards. So we’ll give a lot of players, a lot of different looks.
L+T: How fortunate are you to have a former world champion point guard, in Avery Johnson, as your head coach?
Brooks: It has helped me a lot, especially because with me playing a little point guard last year, it helped me with ways just to relieve pressure and things like that. Coach Johnson really knows the game and he really looks into it and watches a lot of film like point guards do. Any way he can help me, he just does.
L+T: What is the most important piece of advice coach Johnson has given you in your transition to the pro game?
Brooks: That’s tough, that’s tough…I would say the most valuable thing he’s done for me was, when I was going through my rookie wall stretch, he was just trying to pump me with confidence and things like that. The main thing is, Coach Johnson helped me get over my stretch.
L+T: You’re a big time Madden gamer, posting your triumphs in the football game on Twitter. So New York wants to know, which team is your favorite, the Super Bowl Champion Giants or the Jets?
Brooks: Ah, I’m actually an Atlanta Falcons fan. But if I had to pick between the Giants or the Jets…that’s a tough one, cause I actually don’t care for either one of them [Laughs]. But I’m a Falcons fan, so I can’t root for the Giants because they’re in the NFC. So, I guess Jets.
L+T: The Brooklyn Nets first home game of the season tips-off against the Knicks. Bragging rights are on the line. How pumped up are you for November 1st?
Brooks: You’re always pumped up playing the first game of the year. But, definitely with us moving to Brooklyn and them already being in New York, it’s almost like a statement game for us. And, obviously for them too. But, it’s going to be the start of a great rivalry. We’re playing on TNT and the lights are going to be shining bright. I’m excited. I can’t wait.
Image: Brooklyn Nets