When the James Harden trade was announced last October, the world changed for the Houston Rockets and their supporters. In the three years prior, the Rockets had lost something crucial that they had been looking for ever since. It wasn’t scoring or wins or defense or cap space. All those things can help, but they aren’t the prize itself. Until James Harden arrived, the Rockets were missing relevance. Now, with a double shot of superstar talent in James Harden and Dwight Howard, the Rockets are as relevant as they’ve ever been, and the world is paying attention.
Houston has the holy grail of mass media appeal, and have a path to contention and domination, if everything goes right. That’s the good part. The bad part of having all eyes on you is that all eyes are on you. And sometimes, that’s the worst thing of all. Teams, like people, struggle to get into the discussion, to enter the debate, to be in the eye of the people. The spotlight can warm, but it can also burn, and we’ve seen that happen plenty. We need look no further than the Eastern Conference of the NBA for the dark side of anything.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first.
In the report, he also speculates upon the possibility of Millsap and wonders whether, if receiving either Thad Young or Jeff Green, Houston would be willing to pay the long term obligations due to either player with the prospect of the Chandler Parsons extension looming on the horizon.
The big key there are those Boston firsts as up to this point, we have not yet heard of a dance partner willing to part with an asset of that sort; Sam Hinkie almost definitely would not trade a draft pick. Jeff Green has many warts, most famously documented by Grantland’s Bill Simmons. But to date, a package of Green and a first stands as the most compelling I’ve heard thus far. Still, its unclear whether Green would be acquired to plug into the lineup or to be moved on elsewhere before the actual deadline. To respond to the question of some, if kept, Green almost undoubtedly would be played at the ‘4’ spot next to Chandler Parsons. The 27-year-old is also shooting 41% from the floor. He shot 39% last season.
Most ironic, however, is the Thunder connection. Recall that it was Green whom the Thunder drafted 5th alongside Kevin Durant and then subsequently dealt to the Celtics to free up time for a budding James Harden. Harden had had a disappointing rookie season and Green’s departure is widely considered to have been the impetus for his breakout. The man Oklahoma City received in return for Green, Kendrick Perkins, was the reason–via a bloated salary–that the Thunder could not afford a Harden extension and opted to deal the shooting guard to the Rockets. If a deal is made, it would be quite the sight to see Harden and Green, reunited, in the Houston lineup when the team visits Oklahoma City on the 29th of this month.
Trade Watch – If you want to know the latest on the Omer Asik situation and didn’t read Rahat’s latest post linking to Jonathan Feigen’s latest, please do so. In a nutshell, the Rockets are pleased with Terrence Jones at the 4 spot, so they’re really looking for some combination of a good 3 and D wing player, a backup center or draft picks.
Injury Updates – James Harden rolled his ankle during the game on Sunday. He returned to the court after X-rays came back negative, but he is listed as day-to-day. Jeremy Lin is day-to-day with back spasms.
The good news is, Harden’s ankle sprain gave us the most awesome free throws ever taken by a Houston Rocket. Mr. Miyagi would be proud. [read more…]