• My fingers are literally shaking as I type this, in fear that its contents will be obsolete prior to my hitting publish.  That usually is the case this time of year and prior to free agency.  This year, things seem even crazier, with several stars (‘Melo, Paul George, Drummond) and impact players (Wilson Chandler, Galinari, Lou Williams) reportedly in play, and the league’s most dominant big man already dealt.  And of course there is the added wrinkle that Houston is already good and probably looking to upgrade its chances for the stretch run.  I’ll add onto this as I go, as we approach the Thursday deadline, or until something significant occurs necessitating its own post.
  • Part of why it seems everyone is piling on the ridicule of Kings management (aside from the fact that they completely embarrassed themselves on Sunday) is an outrage over the shakeup they facilitated.  If you’re stupid to your own detriment, nobody cares, aside from a little bit of mockery.  But if you’re stupid and it has widespread ramifications that affect everyone, that’s when you will really hear about it.  Maybe the Davis-Cousins experiment fails.  But there’s just as great a chance, in my opinion, that it completely alters the landscape of the West.  And that absolutely should not have happened.
  • I tweeted this morning about Clint Capela, wondering whether it might be wise to sell high in a year when a seemingly unprecedented number of stars are available.  Allow me to offer a disclaimer: this does not mean that I no longer hold Capela in high regard.  What I’m saying is that while in December, I considered Capela nearly untouchable, as the season has progressed, with Capela not demonstrating an ability to play heavy minutes, I’m beginning to wonder if my analysis should be mended.  If the stamina issues which have plagued him are going to be a long-term concern, Capela’s production will not justify the dollar figure he will command.  Understand that I’m not advocating that we just trade him.  What I’m saying is that if the concern I just raised is valid, the Rockets should at least explore selling high while the rest of the league is still in the dark as to the point of concern.  And in a market like this, now would be the time, especially when Houston does not figure to have any significant amount of cap space available this summer to add a second star.
  • And the Rockets just traded for Lou Williams.
  • Update at 7:05 – I knew it would happen, and it did.  The Rockets made a trade in between my writing this post and hitting publish.  In acquiring Lou Williams for Corey Brewer, Houston bolsters the second best offense in the league by replacing its worst offensive player with another dangerous scoring threat.  All of those demoralizing open corner 3’s Corey Brewer routinely bricked will now go to a 39% 3-point shooter, making Houston’s second unit absolutely deadly.  Even with James Harden on the bench, Mike D’Antoni can now feature lineups with both Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, maintaining the pressure on the opposition.  But this takes Wilson Chandler out of play, which is sort of a bummer.  Additionally, of some interest is that the pick the Rockets are sending back to Los Angeles does not come with protections attached, sort of an oddity for a Daryl Morey deal.  One could argue that Houston is so far ahead in the standings that it doesn’t matter, but its still rare to see Morey concede on such a negotiating point.  I think the Lakers too did well for themselves in this trade.  The Rockets did great.






in musings

Longtime readers of this page will recall that through the early years, I maintained a running series entitled “Discerning Morey’s Philosophy.”  I’ve updated it here and there, mainly to keep it alive, but I’m no longer guided by my initial mission.  As I’ve learned with time, there isn’t some over-arching philosophy dictating all aspects of transactional management.  And with time, Daryl’s opinions too have likely evolved.  To that extent, I’ve been wondering recently, especially in light of the Boogie Cousins fiasco, to what extent are the lessons learned from the past applied to present dealings?  Now if I asked Morey on the record, he no doubt would tell me that he weighs every situation differently on a case by case basis.  But I don’t know if the reality is different.

In the early years, before James Harden, Morey took fliers on failed prospects such as Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and Terrence Williams.  But the Terrence Williams situation soured so quickly that I don’t think you’ll ever see Morey spend anything of value on an unproven talent with attitude concerns.  Then of course there was Royce White, who was mentally unstable.  If they’re ever picking that high in the draft again, its a safe bet the Rockets will this time ensure the prospect is willing to get on the team plane.

And that brings us to the recent lessons learned from Dwight Howard.  Unlike the formerly mentioned players, Howard was an established superstar.  But its on the record that his presence wrecked the Rockets’ lockerroom.  Is that why Morey held off on bidding for the even more talented Boogie Cousins?  And if so, had the Dwight Howard saga not occurred, might Morey have acted differently?

The risk pendulum operates on a sliding scale, whereby the better you are, the more you have to lose.  Before James Harden, the Rockets had nothing to lose.  (That’s why they tried things like drafting Marcus Morris as a small forward, a decision I’ll defend to this day).  I would argue that they still are not at the point where they could pass up on a talent like Cousins.  I, however, am not inside that lockerroom.  I may look at the standings and see a team that would get crushed in a series with Golden State; Morey may see a team who has only come so far because all of its players get along so well.






in essays

The Red94 Podcast: On the Boogie Cousins trade

As I said in the episode, we probably will never know how much Daryl Morey was willing to give up for Boogie Cousins.  All we know is from reports that the other offers on the table were embarrassingly low.  Did Morey even make an offer?  If he didn’t, was it out of a fear from the lessons learned from the Dwight Howard experience?  Would he have been willing to include Clint Capela and Sam Dekker in a potential deal?  It might not have mattered as reports have surfaced regarding Kings ownership’s infatuation over Buddy Hield.  I still maintain that objectively speaking, what the Rockets could have given was a better offer than what the Kings got for Cousins.  But the normal rules of objectivity and rationalism do not apply.






in multimedia

Can James Harden win the MVP this season? Part 3

Even though he is currently the favorite, I’m right now struggling to overcome the paranoia that somehow in the end, James Harden will be robbed of this year’s MVP award.  I’m still suffering from the traumatic experience of watching him have the 2015 award stolen away.  This is the fear which survivors live with.  Because James Harden absolutely was robbed of the 2015 MVP – I will argue that point until my very last breath, and even more fervently with every historic performance exhibited by Klay Thompson or Draymond Green.

The no-brainer choice as the frontrunner would be Russell Westbrook not just because you can see him obliterating every usage and shot attempt record in existence, but also because if the Thunder have any degree of success this year, the media will be all over the narrative.  Durant and Curry would seem to cancel each other out and I see Lebron taking an even greater step back to save himself for the stretch run.  Anthony Davis would be a natural choice if the Pelicans could manage to not be horrible, leaving you with just Chris Paul and Blake Griffin who will both be injured for extended periods.

As I wrote above, on August 24, Westbrook has taken this opportunity to not-so-efficiently take his game to greater heights, Curry and Durant have canceled each other out, and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both have missed extended time due to injury.  But while Lebron hasn’t had the stratospheric numbers we’re accustomed to, with the Cavaliers crippled by injury, one can really see James taking his game to another level in the second half and reminding the rest of the league of his place at the top of the totem pole.  Lebron also has narrative on his side – we forgot about him last year, and he slayed Goliath.  Do we reward him now for his postseason heroics?  I also previously had not accounted for dark horses like Kawhi Leonard or Isaiah Thomas, the former of whom I seriously fear might steal the award.

I wrote on February 6:

At the time of writing, just five losses separate the Rockets from the Thunder, with Houston occupying the third seed and the Thunder sitting at seventh.  If Houston drops below fourth, that’s it for Harden.  Similarly, if the Rockets stay in third, and the Thunder climb to fourth, (or maybe even fifth depending on the number of games that separate the teams), it will be Westbrook’s award.

Today, Houston still sits at third with Oklahoma City at seventh, and with 7.5 games separating the two teams.  But I’m no longer as fearful of Westbrook as I am the field.  I fear Harden has peaked too soon, but that could be the paranoia speaking.  The Rockets cannot afford another month like their disastrous January.






in essays

screenshot-2017-02-19-12-05-37

Just two games this week, and not even until Thursday, against the lowly Pelicans and Timberwolves.  I’d have felt comfortable back in December already tallying these two into the win column ahead of time, but with the Rockets’ shaky play since January, no game is safe.  Wednesday’s loss to the Heat doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

I mistakenly referred to Charlotte as New Orleans, two weeks ago, previewing a Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones reunion.  That will actually be this week.

screenshot-2017-02-19-12-16-18

The Rockets were five games up on Utah for the third seed, and three games back of the Spurs for the second seed, this time last week.  The lead now is four over the Clippers, with a four game deficit to the Spurs.  Like I said last week, while they had gotten to within 2.5 games of the Spurs, barring an unexpected injury to Kawhi Leonard, I think the Spurs are probably safe in second.  And it looks like the Clippers and Jazz will continue trading places the rest of the way, or at least until Chris Paul returns from injury.  Lastly, as of today, the Rockets would need to go 20-4 the rest of the way to win 60 games, something which is very likely to not happen.  Bummer.  That would have been fun.






in from the editor

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