Derrick Rose jumped back into the happiest part of our imagination last night, reeling off a vintage performance against LeBron and the new-look Cavs. All of the non-play and paltry statistics of his last two years faded away for an evening; he’s back, we thought, and that’s all that matters. No collection of basketball metrics can account for what this blur of a man does to our hearts when he’s at his best. Whether or not he can bring such fire to the court regularly, and make the Bulls a real rival of the daunting Cleveland battleship, is almost moot. It’d be nice to see something resembling competition in the Eastern Conference Finals, of course—but either way, we’ll always have the Paris of Rose helping us believe for a year, a night, a week, an instant, that the league could be a different place. Perception is miles away from reality, which is frequently just what we go to sports to escape.
“If Boston wants a big haul, it has to hope a potential Rondo suitor feels some unexpected desperation early in the season. Houston is under pressure to win now, and if it starts slowly, Daryl Morey might swallow hard and meet Boston in the middle. Rondo and James Harden make for an awkward fit, but talent tends to work itself out, and the Rockets are confident they can re-sign stars once they get them.”
The above cited tidbit from Zach Lowe’s latest at Grantland leads to a question to which I had not previously given much thought. For Houston, this season, is the opportunity cost of waiting for “the best deal” justified? If we assume that this roster, as currently constructed, cannot win a title, and that an upgrade somewhere is necessary, a premise with which I think most observers are in agreement, then when should Daryl Morey strike? History tells us that Morey never settles for what he considers a bad deal. But the changing circumstances inherent to this season are that, maybe for the first time, time is actually of the essence. In the past, Houston was content to wait patiently, letting assets accrue, keeping an eye towards the offseason. But now, the Rockets face uncharted waters, with Dwight Howard’s prime (and impending free agency) on the clock. Simply put, the Rockets have to make progress this season, and simply put, they took a step back this summer.
- So this was odd. ESPNs Brian Windhorst reports on some apparent acrimony between former Heat teammates Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James, with the two holdovers presumably harboring some resentment towards the league’s best player. It’s understandable that Wade and Bosh may be hurt a bit by how things played out, with James leaving, but…really? This is where self-awareness is invaluable. Wade reportedly stated in a recent interview that “he didn’t have fun last season”, leading one to wonder if that might not have been the case had he actually suited up for a majority of the team’s games. As for Bosh, this gives rise to an interesting question. Would he have preferred James stay, causing him to sign for just $10mill-$13million, or would he prefer the rich $120million extension he landed upon James’ departure?
- We touched a little on the Kevin Durant injury in this week’s podcast (which, as will be the case with all future podcasts, is embedded into the sidebar to the right of the page), unexpectedly finding ourselves in stark disagreement over the ramifications. I think the Thunder toil along at .500 until Durant returns, digging a hole for themselves that will ultimately prove insurmountable. My esteemed colleague felt OKC wouldn’t really miss much of a beat, except against the league’s elite. Regardless of how things ultimately play out, the gap between Houston and the Thunder is larger than most around here believe, and that gap has only widened since the departure of key players this summer.
- As excited as I am for the season, it’s a bit discouraging to realize we again are back at the “waiting game” we thought would be over by this point in time. Any honest observer knows this team, as currently composed, cannot compete for a championship, without some significant addition. Most feel that addition will eventually come, but developing chemistry with that missing piece will also take up valuable time.
It’s been three years since the Rockets played their last NBA game, and even an ugly preseason game is like a sip of sweet water in the desert. Well, it may have only been a few months, and the water may not have been that sweet, but a grudge match win over a division rival in the Dallas Mavericks is a relief for the Houston Rockets and their fans. It was among the longest and most grueling affairs ever to unfold in preseason, and may have ended on a comical, if appropriate, note, but a win is a win. Even if the win doesn’t matter.
Why was the game so ugly? There had been 49 fouls by the end of the first half, and the game ended with a total of 81. The Rockets and Mavs split 109 free throws, with the Rockets hitting only 64% of theirs. The game came in at three hours long and featured Dwight Howard fouling out in under sixteen minutes of play. The Rockets couldn’t buy a bucket to save their lives in the first half, and for much of the game Howard led the team in free throw percent with 50%. It was a horrible, awful, no-good game… that the Rockets ended up winning.