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Houston Rockets Potpourri for June 17

  • Why not Houston?  I wrote last week about the Lebron James scenario, illustrating what would need to happen for the game’s greatest player to bring his talents to the third coast, noting at the end that it wouldn’t happen.  Lebron to Houston is the scenario that most Rockets fans dare not contemplate, readily dismissing as implausible.  But why?  Why not Houston?  If the Rockets are being described as “ready-made” for Carmelo Anthony, would they not hold similar appeal for James?  The key distinction is that for James, staying for one more year in Miami is a viable option; that is not the case for Anthony.  But if it becomes clear that James is open to leaving the Heat, why would Houston stand second to any suitor?  He would at least have to give them a look.  Get the Ipad ready, just in case.
  • And on that point, how do you navigate the waters of free agency with so many options available?  The first step is trading Asik and Lin.  Or is it?  Do you hold onto them until you know for sure you have a commitment?  More importantly, if you are given indication that you are in the running for James, but you have received a commitment from Anthony, do you hold off for James or secure the bird in hand?  The Texans moved quickly on Johnathan Joseph when Nnamdi Asomugha was still in play.  While Asomugha was clear-cut superior to Joseph, James might end up the greatest player of all-time.  It’s an intricate matter.
  • The money move would be trading James Harden for Anthony and then signing James, if that’s what it took to sign James.  But like our Howard for Kevin Love scenarios last year, that won’t happen.  Just sayin…

  • I would not even give Dwyane Wade my mid-level exception at this point.  
  • Every time I mention the difficulties of trading Jeremy Lin, several of you cite the Warriors’ clearing of $30million before last season’s signing of Andre Iguodala, stating it can easily be done.  It’s not quite the same.  As Zach Lowe noted in a piece last week, there will be reluctance to help create the next super-team and don’t look for Sam Hinkie to bail Houston out yet again – the 76ers’ GM has his own reputation to build, even if simply absorbing Lin for assets would actually be beneficial to that team’s end objective.  I’m not saying it can’t be done.  But it will come at a steep cost.  The Rockets clearly are confident they can make it happen, though they’ve been known to bluff in the past (see: Fake Trade Deadline, Asik, last season).  It might even be a scenario where you’d trade Asik for a draft pick, and then package that draft pick with your own draft pick, along with Lin, for like a trade exception and some prospect currently in Zambia that no one has ever heard of.  That would be the best case scenario.  The likelier route will require sacrificing one of Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, and hopefully not the latter.
  • I can’t help but think that Motiejunas on the Spurs would look like the best European import since [insert punchline].
  • If the Celtics can get Asik and Kevin Love, they are right there again in the East.
  • On the Spurs: Everyone thinks they’ve gleaned some sort of sacred truth about team-building from this Spurs championship, citing player development etc. in opposition to star-chasing.  Can we please stop?  The Spurs model is inimitable, even moreso than that of the Thunder model of getting three top lottery picks in three consecutive years.  It’s not as simple as saying, “hey, we don’t need ‘Melo, we need to develop our own players.”  You want to follow the Spurs?  First, go draft Tim Duncan.  If you’re rolling your eyes, you’re underestimating the importance of that first domino in the process that has elapsed over the past 20 years.  Popovich has the capital to coach from the standpoint of ideal when his superstar supports him 100%.  He can scream at anyone for even the slightest miscue when he’s already able to scream at Duncan.  Want to know what happens in any other city?  The coach is gone.  Want to guess what would happen if McHale tore into James Harden for a slight error?  All it would take is Harden implying he’s unhappy and McHale is gone.  If you’re citing the Spurs as some duplicable model, you don’t quite understand that ego-management dynamic that is so critical to NBA coaching and environment.  You can’t create that.  I realize we’re all excited here over this championship through its apparent affirmation of our predisposed belief in the evil of the Miami Heat, but let’s all just calm down.  The Heat just went to four straight titles after creating a super-team.  The Rockets can also create a super-team.  That’s the easier route.
  • On Kawhi Leonard: A lot of talk these past few days revisiting Morey’s blunder in selecting Marcus Morris over Leonard with the 14th pick in that draft, an introspection which I find otherwise unfair.  For one, I don’t think Leonard develops like this outside of that Spurs ecosystem.  Two, while the kid was phenomenal, he’s not the budding superstar everyone is anointing him as and I’d venture to guess that if you took him out of San Antonio, that nonsense would stop.  Great, great, great roleplayer – amazingly perfect roleplayer.  But he doesn’t have the handles or skillset to be the star everyone is describing him as, outside of that dynamic Spurs system.  But the greater point is that Morris was a perfectly logical pick.  In law, we have something called ‘the business judgment rule’ whereby the standard for managerial negligence is not result, but rather process in determination.  Sure, it’s easy to get a few cheap laughs out of looking at that pick now, but at the time, those Rockets were desperately in need of a homerun.  For a team with Kyle Lowry as its best player, taking Marcus Morris with the hope of converting him to small forward represented a “swing for the fences” move – they didn’t have the luxury of selecting another roleplayer when that was all their team was composed of.  It didn’t work out in the end, but the judgment was sound and rational.

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About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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