By: Eric Nielsen
After only two games in the last week, the Rockets have had some time to get healthy, rest, eat home-cooked meals and get some practice time in. While the Rockets have been resting, the Suns will be on the back end of a back to back. But they better be ready because Phoenix is on a roll. The Rockets and Suns are sitting at 5th and 6th in the West and a win at home would give the Rockets a little room. The Suns are 8 and 2 in their last 10, without Eric Bledsoe! This game should be a good barometer for the Rockets.
The big news for the Suns is the trade talk with the Lakers for Pau Gasol. I predict this deal will happen. Basically the Suns give up a first round pick to rent Gasol for the rest of the season (though they would hold the Bird rights on him). The Suns could have 4 first round picks in the loaded 2014 draft, and they could spare one, or more. This could give them huge momentum. Imagine adding a playoff experienced, 7 foot veteran, who is averaging 17 and 10 to your team.
The only hitch seems to be Gasol’s health. It’s reported that his groin injury is worse than first thought, and though the Lakers are pitching it as not serious, the Suns want to see how he recovers before pulling the trigger. This Lakers are done, they sit in the bottom of the West and 11 games out of the 8th seed. A draft pick and some savings sounds smart. Of course Kobe would be pissed, thinking he can still climb up the standings when he gets back, but they better start looking to their future.
Many stars are aligning for the Suns this year. Rockets fans are well versed with the Suns’ leading scorer Goran Dragic. He’s having a career year, his 5th in the league. He leads the Suns with 20 a game while shooting over 50% from the field. His PER is an impressive 22.3, that’s higher than Howard or Harden. He had 19 in a win over Houston in early December. The Morris brothers are also having career years with Markieff hitting almost 13 a game, and former Rocket Marcus good for 10 a game. Jeff Hornacek is having a great run as well. He was Western Conference coach of the month in December and he’s only the third person to be named player and coach of the month (Bird and Drew are the other two). He’s in the running for coach of the year.
The Rockets seem to gelling as of late, even though the injury bug continues to bite. They are 7 and 3 in their last 10, with some big wins over the Spurs and Trailblazers, and a couple of tough losses to the Grizzlies. They will play the Suns twice in the next 18 days. The schedule looks pretty good to the Rockets, and a win at home could set up a nice run for the next three weeks.
Feigen’s story in the Chron about Asik doesn’t clear up any mysteries. I find it highly suspect that after a two month absence he may be ready to go in 7 to 10 days. This seems to be coincidentally coordinated with the Feb. 20th trading deadline. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but I’m not buying either party line on Asik about his “injury”. Wouldn’t it be great if he got well in time to showcase a couple of games and find a buyer?
Speaking of the trade deadline, is there any interest in Garcia? He’s due to return against the Suns. Now that Covington and Canaan were named to the D League all-star team, is there any chance they might help the Rockets land a player that could help their rotation? With any luck the Rockets can continue to roll against the Suns, maybe make a move at the deadline and keep edging closer to the elite teams in the league.