So the Rockets beat up on the worst team in the Western Conference last night to improve their record to a stellar 4-7. They rode big nights from 30-somethings Luis Scola and Samuel Dalembert to the win. Were it not for Kyle Lowry and Chandler Parsons, I’d be pulling my hair out right now. Seriously, what is the point of this?
No ‘young player’, other than the two aforementioned, contributed anything of note. Last night was a continuation of the season’s norm and affirmation of my greatest fear. The Rockets once again beat up on a terrible team after losing to a good one and did it through the play of their vets.
Some argue that if the team is out of it by the deadline, they can simply trade off Martin/Scola/Dalembert and cash in at that time. As the argument goes, why mail it in so early when there’s nothing to lose? What’s overlooked is that by that point, if this current trend continues, the team will have already sufficiently destroyed its draft standing. The opportunity cost of winning is not the trade value of the vets; it is the lottery position.
This team is not as bad as the one that took the floor at Staples Center on successive nights. They will get better and eventually make a run, finding themselves at .500. But I think most can agree that this team is not a contender. Why not sacrifice a shortened season to acquire the currency they need?
As I took my seat at Toyota Center last night, I almost wondered if the start time had been pushed back. Half the seats were empty on this Friday night. I later learned in the postgame notes that only 12,000 people were in attendance. It begs the obvious.
If the objection to tanking is a fear of losing fan interest….well, that ship has already sailed. People aren’t going to suddenly stop coming just because the team traded Luis Scola or Kevin Martin. They’ve already stopped coming and they already don’t care. It really can’t get any worse than this.
There would be no better time to cash in than while no one is even paying attention. I don’t buy the platitudes about “losing culture” or embittering fans in coming seasons. That stuff’s made up. The casual fan–the demographic in question–isn’t viewing the team at some greater macro-philosophical level thinking, “oh my god, well the team sold off its best players in 2012, so that’s indicative of a defeatist mentality so I’ll hold this vendetta now and stop coming.” That’s nonsense. Nothing rejuvenates a fanbase more than a hotshot rookie. You’re telling me if the team landed someone like Kyrie Irving or Ricky Rubio (a #5 pick), people wouldn’t fill the stands? The casual sports fan just wants to be entertained. The casual sports fan just got off work and wants some escapist delight with his kids; he’s not thinking about management and holding grudges. And the die-hards and club suites remain constant regardless.
Those who don’t take heed of the dangers of winning meaningless games in a lost season should look to history. Were it not for a pointless win in Denver, on the backs of season-best performances by David Wesley and Juwan Howard, back in 2005, the Rockets would have landed Brandon Roy–their real target–in the 2006 draft. Roy is now gone, but had he been a Rocket, I’m sure most here agree the Yao-McGrady era would have had some second round appearances to its credit. You have to know when to cut your losses and look ahead.
Kyle Lowry is playing like the best pure point guard in basketball right now. He hit some 3′s from near midcourt last night and threaded a pass late in the 4th that left me in amazement. The Brooks-Lowry debate of yesteryear just seems silly now. It’s comforting that at atleast one position, the Rockets are set with a building block for the next some-odd years. At just $5.75million–roughly $600,000 more than Hasheem Thabeet–Lowry owns the best contract in basketball. I would go so far as to say that outside of a trade for the very elite–James, Durant, Howard, etc.–there isn’t a deal in basketball for which I would include Lowry in a package. Given the injury histories and respective salaries, would you trade Lowry for Williams or Paul? That’s an interesting question.
Manu Ginobili’s injury and the extreme nature of Lowry’s performance make way for a very realistic chance for an all-star bid. If he were averaging something like 7 assists and 4 boards he’d get a pat on the back as an improved player and pushed gently aside. But the man is at 9 assists per game, leading all guards in rebounding with 1/6 of the season in the books! If his team were any good, he’d be a lock. Kobe and Chris Paul are virtual guarantees at the starter, but after that, you can’t find a better guard out West having a better year than Lowry. Let’s hope the coaches see that too.
Speaking of sunk cost, what in the world were the Grizzlies thinking choosing Mike Conley over Kyle? The whispers at the time were that while Memphis knew Lowry was the superior player, because they had already invested the #4 pick in the struggling Conley, they couldn’t face cutting the cord and admitting a mistake. This shows that sometimes its best to be humble and move on when wrong.