Following the Houston Rockets’ decision to waive forward Gary Clark, they instantly tried to bring him back, but were ultimately rejected.
The Houston Rockets are struggling right now, as they’ve lost four straight games. This is the worst stretch of Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni‘s Rockets’ tenure, and the Rockets have been in desperate need of 3-point shooting and stellar defense.
These are two traits former Rockets forward Gary Clark possesses, but the Rockets decided to cut ties with him earlier in the season. Clark initially landed with the Orlando Magic on a 10-day contract, and the Rockets instantly tried to undo the mistake they made.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets kept in contact with Clark, in hopes of bringing him back after he reached his 10-day limits with Orlando. As we now know, Clark ultimately decided against rejoining the Rockets, and he explained his reasoning behind rejecting the Rockets’ overtures:
“Both my 10-days, they (the Rockets) were in the mix, trying to figure a way to get back here,” Clark said. “It made total sense to be somewhere I was going to play for the rest of the season. I know, as everyone else knew, I would play for a little bit and then didn’t play and the style of the guys they want, older guys. You see now, they have older guys.”
When the Houston Rockets released Gary Clark, it was obvious they were making a mistake. Clark is a 3-and-D developmental player who showed instant flashes as a rookie, which landed him significant playing time right out the gates.
Clark played in 21 of the Rockets first 22 games as a rookie and averaged 16 minutes per game during that span. All in all, Clark played in 51 games and even earned the starting nod in two of those games.
Heading into this season, there were questions of whether Clark would land in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s rotation, as he shot 33 percent from deep over the final three games of the season. Clark didn’t play in the Rockets’ first 11 games of the 2019-20 season and played a total of eight minutes through his first four games of the year.
This made it clear that the Rockets didn’t have long-term plans for him and with Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta keeping a watchful eye on the Rockets’ spending, Clark was the first to go.
This was unfortunate timing for the Rockets, as they released him prior to their commitment to the small-ball strategy. It’s been the worst kept secret that the Rockets have coveted wing players, which explains the decision to trade for Robert Covington and the signing of DeMarre Carroll from the buyout market. But what about Clark?
It was obvious that the Rockets weren’t going to give Clark an opportunity, but it was a bad decision on their part because of Clark’s 3-and-D ability, not to mention his 6-foot-6 frame. Clark made 35.3 percent of his 3-point shots in Houston this season, which was an improvement from the 29.7 percent he shot from deep during his rookie season.
On top of that, Clark has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, which allows him to alter and contest shots. In fact, Clark had the fourth-best block percentage on the Rockets during his rookie season, which shows his defensive capabilities. These same traits caused Clark to be picked up by the Orlando Magic, which has been a great opportunity for the second-year forward.
The Magic are a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, and he’s already played in 16 of Orlando’s 21 games in less than two months of being on Orlando’s roster. Clark has also averaged 12.8 minutes per game in Orlando, which is a career high for the Cincinnati product.
To put that in perspective, Clark only played in 18 of the Houston Rockets’ 35 games, and only played an average of 11.8 minutes in Houston this season, which is less than he played as a rookie. This is due to D’Antoni’s lack of trust in developmental players like Clark, which is what he’s likely referring to when he uses the phrase “older guys.”
It’s obvious that Clark made the best decision for himself and his career, especially as it pertains to landing more playing time. If Clark would have returned to Houston, he would have been in the same boat as Chris Clemons and Isaiah Hartenstein, who are both glued to the G-League.
Kudos to him for making the right call, but unfortunately for Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, he’ll end up being the one that got away. At least for the rest of this season.