Huq’s Pen: What a difference a month makes

On December 28th, the Houston Rockets were 16-12, and sitting in the sixth seed.  They had won five in a row, seven of their last ten, and were knocking on the door just outside the elite 4 (Clippers, Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder).  Today, they sit at .500, losers of eight of their last ten games, occupying their familiar ninth seed.

Those marginal few who have maintained interest, despite not being able to actually watch the games, (a demographic pretty much confined to this readership), have been wondering, “what the hell happened?”

To begin, it was unrealistic to think that this team, with the manner in which they were winning, would be able to maintain that level of success.  The Rockets were essentially, literally, running teams off the court with the highest pace in the league.  When the grind of NBA travel caught up on this recent road trip, legs got tired and those shots which were originally falling stopped going in.

At the same time, this team is not nearly as bad as it’s ‘Last 10′ record indicates.  As with anything, reality is almost always closer to the mean.

I think you’ll see the team make a few adjustments and close out the season somewhere between 7 and 9.  (I know I’m really going out on a limb there.)  I don’t think they’ll continue to slip enough for the gap to close between them and the Wolves; for now, there seems to be at the least, a decent cushion between Houston and the bottom tier.

  • The recent struggles have left many wondering what Houston will try to do to right the ship at the deadline.  Those thinking such losing necessitates a trade haven’t been watching Morey very closely.  As always, unless a deal fits into the long term plan, Houston won’t make it.  For instance, power forward is very obviously the biggest problem spot on this roster.  But just because the team is losing, while getting nothing from the ’4′, doesn’t mean he’ll rush to upgrade the position.  Any acquisition would either have to be a guy that they like enough to want long term (think a pipe dream like Kevin Love) or someone who can help this year while not tying them down in the future (think, last year’s Marcus Camby deal.)
  • Continuing from above, the problem is that this year, there is no Marcus Camby – that was essentially a dream scenario where a quality vet–at a position of need–on an expiring deal was rotting away on a cellar dwellar.  Houston was able to give up two players with zero value in Thabeet and Flynn and get Camby for the playoff push while removing him from their cap in the summer.  If there is someone else like that out there this year, Morey will consider it.
  • This will make you cringe, but I don’t think you can rule out the Rockets if the Lakers are really considering moving Gasol.  He fits the team’s plans in that he expires in ’14, but can greatly help the team now.  And I don’t buy for a second that he’s anywhere near as bad as he’s looked under D’Antoni.  If the Rockets can get a bargain, I think they’d make the move.  Gasol would give them a halfcourt low-post option through which they can facilitate their offense, something they don’t have.  The challenge would be coming up with the salaries to make it work.
  • If they think they even have any chance at signing Dwight Howard this summer, Houston won’t move on Gasol.  The interesting point there is that with the Lakers’ struggles, and the existence of James Harden on Houston’s roster, a snowball seems to slowly be taking shape in Hell.  Still, as was always the obstacle, an outright signing of Howard in the summer would require that the center leave money on the table.
  • Would the Lakers really entertain trading Howard as some recent reports have indicated?  Unless they got a slam dunk of a deal (think Kevin Love), I just can’t see it.  This was their summer coup, maybe the heist of the decade.  They won’t just deal him because of this season, especially if he’s likely to re-up.  And I’d be shocked if anything Houston was offering was enough to keep Mitch Kupchak from hanging up the phone.  Chandler Parsons is a nice player, but a package of the small forward coupled with tweener 4′s and Jeremy Lin is not something over which one gives up on a man who was formerly the second best player in basketball.
  • Closing up on Dwightmare, if either scenario were a possibility–meaning free agency or trade–would Houston fans accept Howard?  His antics are beyond tiresome to the point where he’s probably, in my opinion, the least likable personality in basketball.  But, even I’d admit, you’d have to set that disdain aside for basketball reasons.  A team frontlined by Harden and Howard would instantly form one of the most enviable cores in the league.

‘Huq’s Pen’ is an infrequent potpourri of musings, penned by editor Rahat Huq.

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Total comments: 9
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Jeby, on 25 January 2013 - 16:45 PM said:


    I've been cringing at the thought of trading for Gasol for a while now. For one, I'm not sure that he would be more motivated in Houston than in L.A., although I'm sure McHale would be more accomodating to Gasol's post game than D'Antoni.
    My other concerns is that on offense, Gasol's skillset doesn't mesh with Houston's core. He likes to operate in the low post. Lin, Harden and Asik all need to score around the basket. His presence would also muck up the pick-and-roll game for Harden and Lin. We'd have to revamp our roster around Gasol, and he's not worth it.
    But really, the biggest fear is that Gasol would Odom us. He likes Los Angeles. He has nothing else to prove as a pro. He has interests outside of basketball. Getting traded away to a rebuilding team in Texas will not result in Happy Pau.


    But Gasol has been on the market for so long, I think he doesn't really like LAL that much more. He's constantly in trade talks, and if I were him, I'd be tired of it. Now with D'antoni and the benching, Gasol prob feels at an all time low -- super underappreciated. He'd be #2 in HOU easily, and I think he'd thrive in HOU now. First time we "traded" for him, I would have said otherwise, but given everything now...

    And keep in mind, a trade for Gasol may involve trading away Lin. In fact, I sort of hope it does haha. I like Lin a lot, but he doesn't fit our team either (really). So then it is just Harden driving to the basket. Asik and Gasol's efficacy together is a legitimate concern. Asik's butterfingers messes up a lot of what makes Gasol a great low post threat, and the two of them would certainly clog the lanes. That being said, I think it could work, esp. if (like Lin and Harden now) there's a slight stagger in the minutes Gasol and Asik play together. I think they'd work well together (more so than Lin and Harden), but Smith and Gasol is pretty awesome too.

    If Morey thinks we have a shot at Dwight, then obviously no Gasol. But shoot, I still think LAL and ATL have better chances of landing Dwight than we do...

    I assume we don't want to throw a 4 yr max deal at JSmith. I really don't like him for the Rockets, esp. at max money. I think he'd only bring more frustrations to our team.

    I like signing Millsap a lot, but no idea how much he'd cost. He'd also be 4 yrs (prob) and keep us out of the 2014 and 2015 SUPER AWESOME free agencies (Gasol would not). That makes me hesitant, even though I like Millsap a lot, because he alone doesn't do it. But I'd still be happy with a Millsap signing at like $10M or something because hey, maybe our young assets develop and we get our last piece in house. Could still swing a non-blockbuster trade too with what we have down the road, so still possibly cool.

    I think that is it though. Those are our only realistic options. CP3 staying w/ Clipps. Who else is left? Id' rather move Lin +expirings +PFs for Gasol and D.Morris, and then maybe try to then get a backup PG or a meh starting one in the offseason. Gasol for Asik instead is a big no.
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago I've been cringing at the thought of trading for Gasol for a while now. For one, I'm not sure that he would be more motivated in Houston than in L.A., although I'm sure McHale would be more accomodating to Gasol's post game than D'Antoni.
    My other concerns is that on offense, Gasol's skillset doesn't mesh with Houston's core. He likes to operate in the low post. Lin, Harden and Asik all need to score around the basket. His presence would also muck up the pick-and-roll game for Harden and Lin. We'd have to revamp our roster around Gasol, and he's not worth it.
    But really, the biggest fear is that Gasol would Odom us. He likes Los Angeles. He has nothing else to prove as a pro. He has interests outside of basketball. Getting traded away to a rebuilding team in Texas will not result in Happy Pau.
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    A-Rich, on 24 January 2013 - 20:03 PM said:


    @phaketrash.
    Yeah, I'm certain the Lakers are dying to trade Gasol for a long-term/big-money backup PG. You do remember that they have Nash, right?


    That was my biggest concern -- not the size of Lin's contract per se, but the length of it. LAL is on track to have a clean slate in 2014 almost haha, but Lin's $8M would mess with that. The $$$ isn't THAT much, even if he's coming off the bench. I mean shoot, they have a $19M man coming off the bench right now :P

    And already having Nash doesn't change anything. Lin's the spark they need off the bench to back UP Nash, who they don't put ridiculous minutes on because of his age (I presume). Who do they have backing up Nash at the 1 right now? D.Morris? Blake's still out on injury I believe...so I mean...

    And this is if LAL even decides to move Gasol rather than have him be upset and waste away on the bench. Gasol's $19M salary makes it nearly impossible to get any deal back that isn't somewhat "big money." With us, they are shedding $6-7M...I don't think they can say that with many other teams. Few have our cap space and the commodities to trade. Who'd give near $19M in expiring contracts? Pacers?

    I do agree with ale11 though. I think LAL would do the deal in a heartbeat if Parsons were thrown in (they need the perimeter relief), but I don't want to trade Parsons in the deal for Gasol. Parsons is our trump card in that he gives our roster talent at a CHEAP price. It allows us to build a more competitive roster while not sacrificing production, esp. with what Parsons brings to the table. Giving that and other pieces up for Gasol...not worth it since we wouldn't be contenders.
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago Those thoughts leaves you wonder that Gasol might be a great fit for us regarding his contract and our lack of post offense. It's almost certain that a trade to get him here would have to involve both Patterson and Morris to unjam that PF position. Capwise, we will have to send Lin or Asik, but neither one of them would be appealing for them since they are making too much money to be sitting on the bench, and probably they would want Parsons.

    Bottom line, it would be nice to get him here, every party would be benefited, but....we will be inflicting too much damage to this "developing roster" and he is not worth it anymore, IMO.
  • datruth says 1 YEAR ago Something has to be done.No reason to have Mchale keep jerking guys in and out of the line up. I think right now Lin, Parsons, Patterson still have good value. Not sold on Harden yet, but I'm sure Mchale will give him every chance to look good. So either strike while you have a chance or continue to allow Mchale to destroy this team. This team seems broken and right now I think we have regress with Mchale and Sampson.
  • A-Rich says 1 YEAR ago @phaketrash.
    Yeah, I'm certain the Lakers are dying to trade Gasol for a long-term/big-money backup PG. You do remember that they have Nash, right?
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago I'd accept Howard in a trade or free agency for sure, but I agree with you in that I don't think Dwight's being moved before the Feb. deadline. Will he re-sign w/ LAL? That's a different story...but I don't think Houston can offer him what ATL can. Gets to go home, have a team built around them, and a team that has a LOT of offseason flexibility (can't they also give him the 5 yr K?).

    Pau Gasol for 2 yrs is a good trade, imo, if, as you said, we don't give up too much. Would a trade centered around Lin net us Gasol? I wonder...
  • Forrest Walker says 1 YEAR ago I was already steeling myself for the inevitable Josh Smith acquisition. Now you've raised some very compelling points about a Pau Gasol acquisition. (Is still good, could be got on the cheap, contract end coincides with a very rich free agency year) I'm wondering just how this team will look in a month.
  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago Provocative questions Rahat. I will share a few thoughts... For starters, I have little interest in Howard. He strikes me as a happy-face, aren't I good, basketball player instead of a gritty, determined winner despite obstacles. Plus, he may be damaged goods unable to perform as he once did. Until we get a better look at our rookies, Motiejunas and Jones, I'd rather not make any moves at the 4 slot. Between them, they have yet to play anything but garbage minutes, and only 130 minutes combined through the season. Of course, if we get an inquiry from someone wanting to trade a good 4 to us I would certainly listen to all offers. Meanwhile, the Rocket coaching staff must have some ideas to share with Harden and Lin regarding turnovers. We just cannot continue to defeat ourselves with sloppy habits that cause them.