• I think the biggest shock in all of this isn’t that the Houston Rockets landed Chris Paul but more in the way that it happened, via a trade, in days prior to even the start of free agency, with the news announced before I had even finished my first cup of coffee.  Recall that the Dwight Howard news was announced while most everyone who cared was steadfastly checking Twitter for breaking news updates throughout the hours prior to the actual announcement.  This just happened out of nowhere, and I also think that for many of us, there still was not full trust that Paul’s interest in Houston was genuine and not anything more than a leverage ploy to extract the full max from Los Angeles.
  • Many of you vented your frustration over the team’s handling of star guard James Harden, particularly in management’s refusal to ever offer criticism over his failures.  This is why you coddle him and why you coddle stars in general.  Because they hold the greatest power in personnel maneuvers and in the organizational hierarchy.  For all of Daryl Morey’s brilliance in manipulating the salary cap, none of this would have been possible without the relationship James Harden forged with Chris Paul on Team USA.  Morey knows this, in memory of his many failed free agency pursuits from earlier in his career.  Harden’s Game 6 was one of the most baffling performances I can remember by a player of his stature on such a stage.  But what would rebuking him have accomplished?  Maybe Morey or D’Antoni would have been out or maybe Harden would have just soured over the situation himself.  Now Harden will have Paul in his ear for the full 82, possibly the most exciting development resulting from this move.  For all of Harden’s otherworldly talents, it can be agreed he isn’t the most intense individual around.  While Paul will certainly help him keep defenses honest, his greatest contribution may come by way of helping Harden conquer whatever causes him to shut down at certain times.  The Rockets already had probably the league’s most dynamic overall offensive talent.  Now they also have its best leader.  If it doesn’t work and the laboratory explodes, it was never going to work anyways.  I didn’t want Paul at first, weeks ago, but I came to realize, just in time, that this was a risk that simply had to be made in the reality’s of today’s NBA.

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I said a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t want the Rockets to sign Chris Paul and then a lot of you laughed at me and said I was an idiot and now I’ve changed my mind and am only posting this to show my open-mindedness.

In seriousness, I’ve thought about the matter and I want them to sign Paul.  I fully grasp the absurdity in proffering that statement as something profound.  But one must admit, in acceptance of my prior stance, that the fit is not ideal.  Paul is a ball-dominant guard and last season irrefutably proved that James Harden is at his very best with the ball in his hands.  To those who find that latter characterization somehow offensive–and those people exist–I will add that last season also irrefutably proved that the Rockets’ offense is at its best with the ball in James Harden’s hands.  Paul is also 32, and a new deal would take him closer to 40 than to his prime.

But such perilous times call for the dismissal of such luxuries as concerns over fit.  Perhaps Paul Millsap or Blake Griffin would be integrated more smoothly into the Houston offense.  But if Chris Paul is the one willing to come, the Rockets would be foolish to turn their nose up at him in want of preserving their cherished chemistry.  They did amazing things last season, yes, but if merely preserving their current core and making modest upgrades, the best they can hope for is even the opportunity this time around to get swept by the Warriors, a fate they weren’t even good enough last year to realize in falling in the second round.  The gap is that gargantuan and one would be deluded to think otherwise.

Last of all, I’ve long believed that Houston must diversify its offense to succeed at the highest levels.  Last year’s extension of Morey’s long held philosophy, with the right personnel, sufficed to allow the team to pummel opponents on its way to an unexpected 55 win season.  “Threes and paint” can lift you from 45 wins to 55.  But at the margins, we saw again how the best defenses can scheme to turn Houston’s no-midrange strategy against it.  Getting Paul, one of the best midrange shooters of all-time, doesn’t necessarily mean D’Antoni will forfeit his gameplan.  But having an extra all-NBA playmaker will allow the team to give defenses varied looks instead of needing outright dependence upon James Harden.  We saw Harden willingly defer to Eric Gordon and Lou Williams against the Thunder when those two had favorable matchups with Harden shadowed by Andre Roberson; now imagine that cross-court option being Chris Paul.

in essays

I think those of you who have been with me since my pre-law school and law school days understand that with the introduction of ever-evolving life duties, I just am simply unable to maintain the pace of content consistency that characterized those earlier days of Red94.  A rough week at work coupled with a medical procedure for my wife made the timing of this year’s West semifinals non-negotiable for my writing duties.    Thus, my absence since Houston’s disposal of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round 1.

I’ve had ample time to reflect now since the Rockets’ elimination on Thursday night in what I called the most pathetic, embarrassing display in Houston sports history.  Those of you who join me regularly on Twitter already have been given a sneak peek into my current mindset.  While I haven’t before today taken to longform, I’ve been following along in the background, observing the pulse of the fanbase and the larger basketball community regarding the so-very-public total humiliation of our dear local team.  I don’t really have the emotional energy for this, given that our Game 7 tip-off was to be in three hours (at the time of writing), but the limiting constraints of Twitter have proven obstructive in my quest for catharsis.

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