Rockets trade Brooks to Suns, Battier to Memphis

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Nash, in a Twitter post, said he learned of the trade when the team landed in Toronto.

“Just landed in the T Dot and found out we traded my good friend Goran Dragic,” Nash wrote. “Great teammate and person. Has a chance to be great.”

Brooks and Battier have contracts expiring after this season, coveted commodities for teams looking to create salary-cap space. But in acquiring the 7-foot-3 Thabeet and Dragic, the Rockets are parting with two of the team’s most popular players.

Brooks was a first-round draft pick by the Rockets in 2007 and shined in the 2008-09 playoffs, averaging 16.8 points and 3.4 assists and nearly leading Houston to a second-round upset of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was honored as the NBA’s most improved player last season, but a sprained ankle limited his production earlier this season and he wound up a reserve.

Unhappy with his playing time, Brooks left the bench during a game against Memphis on Feb. 5, and the team suspended him for a game. He was averaging 11.6 points and 3.8 assists, far below his 2009-10 averages. He was also shooting 28.4 percent from 3-point range, a career-low.

Morey said that when the team decided Kyle Lowry would be the starting point guard, it just wasn’t smart to keep Brooks and have to pay both players money that a starter would earn.

Battier, 32, is valued as much for his play and leadership as for his contract.

He’s scheduled to make about $7.4 million this season, and has started all 59 games while averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. He’s also the team’s top active shot blocker and its third-best 3-point shooter (39.5 percent).

The 7-foot-3 Thabeet has disappointed since Memphis took the native of Tanzania with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft. He’s to make about $4.8 million this year and $5.1 million next season with the Grizzlies having the option for 2012-13. Thabeet, who attended high school in Houston, has averaged only 1.2 points and 1.7 rebounds in 45 games this season.

“When we drafted Hasheem, my guys told me point blank that we needed to play him a lot,” Heisley said. “He needed to be on the floor. I don’t think we’ve been able to do our part.”

The Rockets have been desperate to add size since Yao Ming went down early in the season with a stress fracture in his left ankle. Chuck Hayes, at 6-6, is the shortest starting center in the NBA, and 7-foot Brad Miller, acquired in the offseason to back up Yao, missed 15 games with a knee injury.

“Obviously we need a center on our team,” Morey said. “We lost Yao and we have a chance for Yao to come back in the future, but Thabeet is a player who has the potential to develop into a good center over time.”

Morey said he wouldn’t have taken a chance on Thabeet if he had struggled in several places, but since he’s just had one stop there’s a good possibility that he could develop in Houston.

“He was a very effective player in college,” Morey said. “You don’t go second in the draft if you’re just a project. We felt comfortable after researching it that Thabeet was somebody that could realize that potential that he showed in college.”

Morey still isn’t sure of Yao’s future, saying that he’s in the middle of his rehabilitation and it’s not time for any decisions to be made.

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