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Huq’s Pen: I’m feeling a little Melo

  • If you’re reading this, you are no doubt aware of the rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s purported interest in the Houston Rockets.  Shockingly, I’ve seen some places where some who are inclined towards this team have expressed hesitation regarding such an acquisition.  I underscore ‘shockingly’ because such a maneuver should be considered a no-brainer.
  • To begin, as I quipped on Twitter very recently, the mere revelation of said interest, in concert with the reality of Dwight Howard’s capitulation this summer, evokes the words of the esteemed philosopher Michael Jones who once famously said, “back then [they] didn’t want me, now I’m hot [they] all on me.”
  • ‘Capitulation’ because, as the Chronicle reported last season in a story which surprisingly gained little national steam, the impetus for Howard’s infamous ‘opt-in’ was an agreement in principle between Orlando and the Rockets, at the deadline, to send the center to The Third Coast.  Howard wanted no part of such a move and killed talks with the contractual formality.  Of course this summer, he took $30million less to join us.  Because Houston is now a desirable destination.
  • And as you painfully might recall, the team spent what felt like (at the time) the better part of a decade wooing Anthony by dangling packages frontlined by Kevin Martin in trade talks.  Anthony’s heart was set on New York and he forced his way there (forcing through new rules in the latest collective bargaining agreement in the process.)  Now, with the Knicks an absolute embarrassment to professional sports, the talented forward reportedly has wandering eyes.  Because Houston is now a desirable destination.
  • All that’s left now are for Chris Bosh and Chris Paul (and whoever else we chased) to head over, Ipad in tow, with a cameo by Pau Gasol and we’ll have come full circle.  Morey at this point is like the pimple-faced band geek who stumbles upon Crossfit (or whatever fitness innovation is in vogue at the time of reading) a semester before prom and finally snags the head cheerleader.  In the movies, the geek would then, filled with indignation, shun the cheerleader, rewarding some homely creature who saw worth in him before his newfound repute.  In real life, the geek gladly snags the cheerleader.
  • Which leads us to Morey: those watching last week’s Jekyll and Hyde impromptu which saw this team drop three straight after topping three of the league’s best teams in the previous three affairs, if viewing objectively, no doubt came away feeling a bit disturbed.  As I explained in the previous edition of this column, I’ve bought in to the fact that this is a ‘very good team’ sure, but ‘true’ contender they are not.  That should be painfully obvious to the impartial observer.

  • Something’s missing and much of that “something” is born from the reality of Dwight Howard’s mortality.  To wit, this is not intended to be taken as a slight on Howard.  He’s been great, a true max player, and a force which has transformed this outfit into a 55+ win team.  But those of you who responded to my comments regarding Howard following the Oklahoma City loss saying that it was “just one game” are missing the point.  It wasn’t just one game.  It was the latest in a disturbing pattern of disappearances by Howard against our prime competition.  As our own Forrest Walker so perfectly put it at the time, the fact that Howard could not best Steven Adams is absolutely “chilling.” If I asked you today, in a Game 7 tomorrow against either the Thunder or Clippers, whether Howard would be more likely to total 30 and 20 or 10 and 5, 99% of you would choose the latter.  Chilling.
  • I’m reminded of an observation I made towards the tail end of the McGrady-Yao era that every season, the team begins the campaign appearing as if to boast an embarrassment of riches, and then every season they end the year looking like “McGrady and a bunch of scrubs.”  Now, that’s certainly a harsh comparison and this team certainly boasts a wealth of talent.  But at the end of close games, one can’t help but feel James Harden is alone on an island.  Beverley and Parsons, for different reasons, are incapable of creating for themselves in tight situations.  Against the better teams, Terrence Jones becomes so inept that he can’t even get on the court while Jeremy Lin might as well be wearing diapers.  And Howard, for all of his prowess, becomes neutered due to his turnover woes and free throw shooting inabilities.  The issue of “hero-ball” is a different one, but Harden is on an island.  The team needs something else.
  • And again, that last point is not meant as an indictment.  The team has been marvelous, right on schedule, maybe even exceeding any realistic expectations for this year.  But if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s clear that they don’t have enough to top the Thunder.  ‘Melo has his warts, yes, but opportunism is a tricky game.  You may prefer Kevin Love but at the cost of a) not getting him and b) losing yet another year of Howard/Harden?  Morey takes the bird in hand at that point.
  • I shouldn’t need to speak of the merits of adding Anthony to this lineup.  It would transform this offense into unguardability, especially when coupled with the powers of the two existing superstars.  Look at Anthony’s numbers off catch-and-shoots or his efficiency as a supporting star.  With Anthony at the ‘4’, good luck to anyone guarding that cast.  Some might argue that he’d have to guard the man-sized 4’s in the West; I’d retort that they’d have to guard him.  
  • And I also don’t see Anthony as a downgrade from Terrence Jones defensively.
  • There are several necessary ingredients to a successful sign&trade: the player must want to come to the team, the current team must prefer the new team’s assets to losing the player for nothing, and lastly, there must exist some viable threat of the player signing on some other team outright for the current team’s acquiescence.  All of those ingredients would seem to exist but the problem here is that that “viable threat” (Chicago) in this case is so viable that it may actually be preferred, in Anthony’s mind.
  • Chicago is the bigger market.  But if he’s smart, Houston is the choice.  There are no “ifs” in Houston.  Joining Howard and Harden, the Rockets become the best lineup in the league.  With the Bulls, there is the looming uncertainty of Derrick Rose’s future.  The problem is that I’m not sure winning is Anthony’s sole objective.
  • What makes this situation so marvelously unique is that New York is literally the one team in the entire league that might realistically not balk at the prospect of taking back Jeremy Lin.  Anyone else would just want the cap space for a clean rebuild.  But the Knicks?  You could very realistically see them pocketing Terrence Jones, trading Omer Asik for a draft pick, and selling Linsanity to their fans in what would be a rebuilding year.  They’d then have him off the books the next year and could figure things out.  That doesn’t apply anywhere else.  And that’s what makes this whole thing so delicious.  This is very, very real, folks.  And what we learned last summer, from the Dwightmare, is that anything can happen.  If you’re a fan of this team, you should want this to happen.

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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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