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Houston has a special place in Scott Brooks' heart

Make no mistake, though, Brooks wants the Thunder to crush the Rockets in this Western Conference playoff series.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 30, 2013

The Toyota Center had a decent atmosphere for Games 3 and 4 of the Thunder-Rockets playoff series. Two rousing games helped, of course.

The electricity was nothing like in Oklahoma City. Or Oakland. Or Portland. Or Salt Lake.

But there was a time when Houston roared for pro basketball. And a scrawny little guy who played with his heart helped make it that way.

Brooks was his name. Scotty Brooks.

Nineteen seasons ago, the Rockets won the NBA title, and Brooks, now coaching the Thunder, was a Houston sparkplug.

The Summit, now Joel Osteen's megachurch but then the Rockets' coliseum, sizzled with the great team led by Hakeem Olajuwon.

“The Summit at that time was just like Chesapeake Arena,” said Rockets broadcaster Matt Bullard, Brooks' teammate on that 1994 Houston title team. “The fans were crazy, they were loud. It was an awesome atmosphere.”

And Brooks helped make it that way. Foreman Scotty is low-key as the Thunder coach. But he wasn't low-key as a Rocket backup point guard.

“Scott Brooks is one of my all-time favorite teammates,” Bullard said. “We used to call him the energizer bunny. He would come in and change the game.

“He was a lot like Patrick Beverley is for the Rockets now.”

That's fighting words in contemporary OKC. Beverley, whose collision with Russell Westbrook knocked the Thunder star out of the playoffs, is Public Enemy No. 1. But Brooks was a similar player in demeanor.

“Oh, he was a pest,” Bullard said. “There's no doubt. You loved having him on your team. But you hated playing against him.

“There's a lot of guards … you would ask ‘em, ‘Oh, Scott Brooks is guarding me? Made it tough on me, 94 feet.'”

Brooks toes the political line when reminiscing about his Houston days. After all, this is a franchise that now stands between Brooks' team and the Western Conference semifinals, heading into Game 5 Wednesday night. Brooks wants nothing more than to crush the Rockets.

But it's clear that his 21/2 seasons in Houston holds a special place in his playing memories.

“It's a great city,” Brooks said. “I love Houston. Some of my best memories as a player are here. The atmosphere was off the charts at the old Summit … one of the loudest buildings in the game. Great fan base. The crowd was always good.”

Brooks made the Philadelphia 76ers roster as a 5-foot-11, rookie free agent in 1988, then was traded to Minnesota two years later. In 1992, the Timberwolves shipped him to Houston for a second-round draft pick, and Brooks found a home.

“He definitely was a fan favorite,” said Fran Blinebury, then a Houston Chronicle columnist and now an writer. “Kind of goes with the stature of the little guy in the big man's game. He was sort of a bundle of energy of hustle.”

That first season in Houston, 1992-93, Brooks played all 82 games and averaged 18.5 minutes. The Rockets won 55 games and lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in a seven-game Western Conference semifinal series.

“Scott was undersized,” Bullard said. “He shot the ball really low. He didn't have a high release on his jump shot. So he had to be wide open when he shot it. But he played so hard that he was able to play at a high level for a long time in the NBA.

“He would come in, play unbelievably hard defense. Full court. He would change the tempo of the game. He could knock down open jump shots. He was very good at creating shots for Hakeem.”

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist and Reporter
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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