Umm, what the hell. As reported by Marc Stein, early Monday evening, this was one of those bombs that so comes out of left field for the unsuspecting Twitter user scrolling down one’s feed anticipating some update on Marcus Smart’s contract negotiations or something similarly innocuous, that said user must recollect one’s thoughts and consider pulling over.
It was just last off-season of course when word broke that Les Alexander desired to sell the team, a revelation that sent shockwaves throughout the Internets. But while an ownership swap primarily has implications upon willingness to spend (which, ahem, we might be seeing manifest itself right now, allegedly), losing Morey would have been a near fatal blow to the team. He’s up there with James Harden as the franchise’s most valuable asset. They might still have stars, but if they lost their general manager, you can forget about annually filling out the roster with quality role players.
I think Daryl will move on eventually, to bigger and better things. He’s basically a celebrity amongst his peers and has sort of validated himself against the criticisms of his approach. A title would have done wonders there. But its tough to see him sticking around after James Harden moves on, particularly now that the team has reached the apex that it currently enjoys. Does he have the stomach for another rebuilding effort, taking into consideration the painful years endured to eventually acquire James Harden? Because the Harden trade was the triggering point when Morey’s fortunes completely changed; it was his defining moment, to date.
Who knows what the current situation entails. The commentariat has taken the position that the Rockets are being cheap, a change of course reflective of ownership. True or not, the reputational implications are damning. I, thus far, am of the opinion that they are simply exercising prudence. Trevor Ariza at $15 million was a gross overpay; Clint Capela is restricted. The jury is still out on the Luc Mbah a Moute decision, but I would have thought using the midlevel for retention of his services was a foregone conclusion. I was wrong. We will see how the Rockets use the monies instead. Had Daryl been successfully pried away, it might’ve offered a glimpse behind the curtain as to what the hell is really going on with these decisions.
I’ve been calling this the golden era of Houston sports for some months now. Other people have as well but I’ve been hammering it home so I will try to take credit for it. The Astros won the World Series and have a team of phenoms under club control for the next several seasons. The Rockets won 65 games and would have won the title had Chris Paul’s hamstring not gone out. And the Texans are still largely a laughingstock, but offer an unprecedented (in their forgettable history) glimmer of hope in the form of an electrifying second year quarterback who was on pace to have one of the greatest rookie seasons ever before injury. It’s been quite the time to be alive.
But one thing that just hit me is how every one of these three teams’ most recent marquee acquisitions not only met expectations, but wildly exceeded them. When has that ever happened?? Justin Verlander has been virtually unhittable since joining the team, guiding them to the World Series last year. And now the team hasn’t just turned Gerritt Cole around – they have him throwing like 100 miles per hour, keeping the ball in the park and fulfilling untapped potential long considered squandered.
Deshaun Watson was like amazing and was putting up seemingly 50 points per game, evading tackles despite this putrid offensive line, and allowing me to forget for a glorious few months that I’m a Texans fan.
And then there’s Paul. His numbers stayed strong and the team obviously had success, but the part that’s most amazing to me is that there wasn’t a single hiccup. Recall that the big question regarding the Paul acquisition wasn’t so much about his performance but rather the growing pains he may have with another ball-dominant superstar in James Harden. And they didn’t have a single one! They just went out and crushed the entire league, with Paul seamlessly transitioning into his new role. Like, the absolute low point of the Paul/Harden relationship was when Paul made an angry gesture to Harden during a Drew League game and everyone [outside of Houston] celebrated citing it as foreshadowing of later problems. And then we never saw anything like that ever again! I honestly think Chris Paul’s complete and total selflessness in taking a back seat this season is the story that hasn’t been written about nearly enough. It’s like he came in and knew exactly that this was James’ team and that the big possessions went to James. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I even remember seeing Paul call for the ball on a possession called for Harden. And conversely, when James just didn’t have it going on, it was just understood that it was Chris Paul’s turn. That’s what happened to close out Utah and at the end of Game 5 against the Warriors. Incredible.
I told you guys before the draft that I don’t follow the draft and I don’t provide pre-draft coverage because I hate college basketball. The only good thing about the draft are the trades. But I don’t care to study up on any players because that would require enduring what I consider one of the cruelest of punishments – watching college basketball. Have you guys seen that Simpsons clip where Homer is watching a soccer game and two players are just passing the ball back and forth to each other repeatedly and the announcer is losing his mind? That’s college basketball, but insert Dick Vitale.
This is all to say that I never pay attention to Rockets draft picks. Not unless they are lottery picks which hasn’t happened in a long time. If its a Rockets lottery pick, of course, I’ll immediately compare the player to a future hall of famer, because making completely unreasonable comparisons is what you do with players that are picked high. But a highlight clip of Rockets rookie De’Anthony Melton happened to show up on my timeline the other day and I clicked on it. And I became intrigued enough to do some additional digging. And now I would say I am pretty damn intrigued.
The kid was effortlessly pulling up into off the dribble threes…and his scouting report says outside shooting is a weakness. That’s like, really encouraging. For those who don’t know, Melton is a 6’4 combo guard who only played one season at USC after being indefinitely suspended from the team in relation a scandal. So those scouting reports and college statistics were based on game-play from over a year ago; Melton clearly has spent the interim period working on his shot. This is a textbook Daryl Morey buy-low, high-upside pickup. Nab the guy who fell to #46 because everyone forgot about him and didn’t realize he would be working on his weaknesses. Based on the scouting reports, Melton’s strength is defense. This feels like the Kyle Lowry “get the guy whose already gritty but can’t shoot and teach him to shoot because that’s the easiest thing to learn.” Michael-Carter Williams too for that matter.
At the moment, Melton is buried behind maybe the best three-guard rotation in basketball so you can forget about him cracking the heart of the rotation anytime soon. But Houston doesn’t have a steady mop-up backup point guard, at least not ever since human victory cigar Bobby Brown was handed his severance package. And the Rockets figure to be in a ton of blowouts. Some additional reserve minutes could be there for the taking as the Rockets hopefully continue to lessen Chris Paul’s workload as he eases into year-one of a truly frightening four-year deal. Protect the investment! I honestly think, at some point in the year, it could very well come down to between whoever can actually shoot better between Carter Williams and Melton for that last spot.