Same ol’, same ol’ for mediocre Rockets
By Dennis Silva II
The bottom line what the Rockets pulled off at the trade deadline Thursday will not be enough.
The Houston Rockets whiffed on a much anticipated trade deadline opportunity on Thursday.
Who are they now?
They’re a little bit better, but at most, still only a contender for a playoff position rather than having an actual shot at the title.
After hearing names like Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic possibly calling Toyota Center their new home court, the Rockets’ management seemingly failed (again) to give their fans the direction they deserve.
They Rockets did, however, land 37-year-old center Marcus Camby from the Portland Trailblazers, while only losing two bench warmers, who have combined to play in a total of 16 of the 44 games this season, in Jonny Flynn (11) and Hasheem Thabeet (5).
They also brought in another 37-year-old, trading for President of the Players Association Laker point guard Derek Fisher, losing 24-year-old power forward Jordan Hill and a conditional 2013 second round draft pick in the process.
While losing Hill, Flynn and Thabeet isn’t anything to cry about (as none have reached their potential after being drafted in the top 8 of the 2009 draft), it’s other aspects of the trade that should make fans furious.
Bringing in a star player isn’t an easy thing to do, so that wasn’t a big letdown. However, the inability (or unwillingness) to dump salary and get a decent draft pick to rebuild with was really a hard pill to swallow.
The Rockets currently own New York’s 2012 first rounder, and if the Knicks are to make the playoffs or bottom out and finish with a top-5 pick, the Rockets will have no top 10 picks in the upcoming draft.
Even if the Rockets miss the playoffs, they’ll be sitting too far back at 14 – a familiar spot – to get a shot at a franchise player. The Lakers’ first round pick involved in the Fisher trade, via the Mavs, is top 20-protected, so not much to hope for there.
General Manager Daryl Morey has found quality talent as far back as the second round, but none have breached the “role-player” title.
Another mind-boggling aspect is the fact that Kevin Martin is still a Rocket. It’s been reported that Kevin was on the trade block due to what amounts to his inability to be the scorer he once was. Sure, he’s disgruntled and that seemed like a reason to move him, but the more important reason is that he’s not producing enough to earn the money he’s set to make.
He’s only averaging 17.1 points, as opposed to his career high 23.5 a season ago, yet his salary remains well above league average as he’s set to make $12 million this season, and $12.9 million the next. That’s considerably high for a one-dimensional scorer.
Getting back to the trades, on the surface, they were safe, easy moves. Typical Morey.
There’s no doubt the team’s young players can learn the (right) ways of the NBA by being on a roster with such veteran leadership (30 years’ experience between Camby and Fisher, assuming the latter isn’t bought out sooner than later). There’s also no doubt that Camby and Fisher can contribute at their positions.
However, they are polar opposites to the Rockets’ need of elite scoring ability.
Camby is basically a more disciplined version of current starting center Samuel Dalembert. Both are considered to be solid rim protectors (Dalembert is 8th in the league in blocked shots; Camby 17th) that can hit the open shot, but do not have the interior offensive game a Gasol (averaging 16.6 points ) or Howard does (21.2).
Fisher backing up Goran Dragic in wake of Kyle Lowry’s return from injury seems to be a good fit. Again though, Fisher is 37 and only averaging 5 points on 38 percent shooting as a starter this year.
These moves might have been acceptable a few years back, when eight-time all-star Yao Ming and seven-time all-star, two-time scoring champ Tracy McGrady were considered amongst the elite, but with no current star power on this roster, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
When it comes to the big scheme of things, making the playoffs just isn’t as important as giving yourself a better chance to get a young, franchise-type prospect in the draft.
Lack of faith is now warranted as this isn’t the first season mediocrity has been aimed for by owner Les Alexander. Despite not only a lack of star power, with a 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes starting at the center position, they set a goal to make the playoffs last season before falling short at ninth in the west, where they have been the last two years.
The reality of these current trades is that the Rockets didn’t obtain premier talent, a go-to dynamic threat, nor did they position themselves better to obtain it.
As good as the Rockets have been without a superstar (currently holding a 24-20 record), a team like the Memphis Grizzlies (24-17), who also don’t have a superstar, are considered a better team even without skilled post-man Zach Randolph. So the Rockets haven’t even been the best team without a superstar, much less being a legit contender to make a title run. There are other teams who don’t have name players, like Philadelphia and Indiana, and the Rockets aren’t anywhere near their class.
Considering they couldn’t land Gasol, Howard, Chris Bosh (through free agency before the 2010-2011 season) or any other star that was expected to be on the move over the past few years, their overachieving in barely being above .500 kills their last option to get a star through the draft.
When the clock struck 3 p.m. eastern Thursday, it was almost as if the Rockets lost an overtime heartbreaker by a point. It just wasn’t enough.
The days of saying, “we’ve accomplished this without a star player” has overstayed its welcome.
The troubling thing is this notion of running in circles will continue for years to come. There does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
At this point, there’s no reason to believe things will get better unless a change of philosophy is made by the owner.