Now that the Houston Rockets have secured their core for the foreseeable future, something strange is happening. Something foreign to Houston these last four years. The Rockets are signing established players to veteran minimum contracts. Not only that, but they’re bringing back players from previous years. The old band’s getting back together.
The past four years have seen Houston mercilessly turn players over, acquiring newer, younger talent while selling off older players to gain expiring deals. Flexibility, potential and trade value were top priority. As the Rockets shift gears into win-now mode, general manager Daryl Morey and his front office have begun to attract and accept players on veteran minimum contracts. More than that, we’re seeing players from the past coming back to Houston.
Francisco Garcia distinguished himself in his short time in Houston, leading to a very shrewd signing with the Rockets this season. Aaron Brooks was renounced for salary cap reasons, then re-signed to the minimum when logistics permitted. Now, Morey is courting Marcus Camby, who briefly played for the Rockets in the 2011-2012 season, but left a strong impression. These are all players who will play spot minutes at best (though Garcia played so well at a position of need that he may well be the 7th man), but who have distinguished themselves for various reasons.
The chance that any of these players will be mission critical is low. In the playoffs especially, starters log huge minutes and the bench is peppered in to give what relief they can. Camby and Brooks have a real chance of playing no minutes in a potential playoff campaign in 2014. Make no mistake, though, those positions matter to Houston. The regular season is a different beast, and minutes will be monitored carefully. Adept second and third string players can make the difference between a tired, injured starting lineup and a fresh, dominant one.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Rockets have been veering toward known variables. Omri Casspi is the one outsider to be signed to Houston since Dwight Howard made his choice. Casspi has the advantage of being comparatively young, which offsets his question marks. Garcia, Brooks and Camby all have previous experience with the organization, with Brooks in particular playing as the starting point guard for multiple seasons in Houston. Morey knows what he’s getting with all these players.
Don’t be surprised if more ex-Rockets come back to the fold. Houston has always been good at identifying fringe talent, and they’ve done so many times in the past. If a player was intriguing enough for the Rockets to invite to the bench in past, it’s very likely they’d be just as worthwhile now. Age, experience, and a contender discount can only add more allure to a homecoming situation. Why wouldn’t you get the old band back together?