Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle wrote this blog post blasting the Rockets: “See, in most cities, and with most other professional franchises, not winning anything significant for more than 10 years makes people angry. Not winning has just made most Rockets fans dream of how great it will be next year. You poor things.” [UPDATE: That blog post came on the heels of this column. Scroll down.] This is the first time in three years the Rockets haven’t made the playoffs – you may recall they pushed the eventual-champion Lakers to seven games in the conference semis last year.
Their best player, Yao Ming, missed the entire season. Their 2nd leading scorer from last year, Ron Artest, left for the Lakers. Their third leading scorer (albeit in 35 games), Tracy McGrady, was jettisoned. Anyone who expected the Rockets to make the playoffs this year wasn’t paying attention.
In a different era – five years ago? – Solomon’s blog post would have came and went without much fanfare. But Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey – aka “Dork Elvis,” who is part of the stats revolution in basketball – is active on twitter and decided to respond.
We particularly liked his mention of an “alternative plan.” What would Solomon have done? Who knows. What would we have done?
We wouldn’t have re-signed Artest either. At the time we didn’t like giving Ariza, a role player, $33 million … but who else was out there at small forward? Better to pay ARizona instead of overpay for older guys like Hedo or Marion (acquired via sign-and-trade). The only real comp to Ariza was Charlie Villanueva, who signed a similar deal with Detroit. He’ll forever be without a position, though. Few would argue Houston’s in-season trade was smart. As for the offseason …
1) Can they resign Scola? He’s reliable, and an ideal fit next to Yao … but he also turns 30 this month. Jordan Hill isn’t ready to be the starter. Gotta bring Scola back.
2) What do do with the logjam at SF? Ariza, Battier, Budinger, Jeffries (a swiss army guy who we’ll put here, but he can defend guards and play PF/C).
3) Whom to target in the draft? They’ll probably pick around 14th. If Kyle Lowry leaves (always been a fan; does he really think he’s a starter?), you’ve got to look for a backup PG. Do they draft Eric Bledsoe of Kentucky for his upside? Or do they draft with the end of Yao’s career in mind and look at post players like Cole Aldrich (probably won’t be around), Daniel Orton (probably a reach here), Hassan Whiteside (probably two years away from contributing), or Solomon Alabi, who hasn’t declared yet? We’ll guess that Alabi has the best NBA future of that group.
4) The last one is out of their hands: Yao’s health. If he’s to miss half the season (or even a quarter), they’ll go with Chuck Hayes and David Andersen in the middle, which isn’t bad (as long as Scola is brought back). The scoring will fall upon Kevin Martin … who will probably feel like he’s back in Sacramento as the main gunner, again. We can’t be the only one who thinks Aaron Brooks won’t duplicate his 19.2 ppg next season, can we?
The real question becomes: Which of the top eight teams in the West does Houston bump out of the playoffs? Gotta be San Antonio or Phoenix, right?