Rockets Daily: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

  • Remember the glorious month of August, one in which the Houston Rockets seemed to be among the chosen few angling for the services of one Carmelo Anthony? Entering the fracas at this point, an unbiased observer has to wonder if the Rockets’ calls are even getting through to newly named and, most likely, newly overwhelmed Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri. The Nuggets are apparently trying to move Anthony somewhere he has no interest in in the West, as the Clippers, King and Timberwolves have emerged as the Nuggets’ preferred trade partners. None of these places provide Mr. Ihatekatstacks with the win-now roster in which Anthony seems interested (scream sweating, hopeful Rockets fans everywhere). If Anthony can suck it up and learn to live, though, NBA Fanhouse‘s Tom Ziller thinks Melo should reconsider one of these NBA cellar-dweller’s offers: “Consider this, then, a plea for Carmelo to look past 2010-11 and embrace the wonderful future he could have with a young, rising team. Sacramento, for instance, could make Denver an attractive offer without putting Tyreke Evans or rookie Demarcus Cousins in play. The Kings have modeled themselves after the Oklahoma City Thunder; like OKC, Sacramento hit the depths, drafted a superstar, drafted well again and is ready to rise. Evans isn’t Kevin Durant, but one could argue Cousins is a bigger chip than Russell Westbrook and that the Omri Cassippi-Donté Greene dragon outstrip the Thunders’ third tier. (There’s also the fact that Sactown is an hour flight from L.A., with jets leaving five dozen times a day. Also, the team is owned by the Maloofs, who have some pulls both in Vegas and the entertainment world. And they got Evans a sitdown dinner with President Obama last season. Power comes in odd shapes and sizes!)”
  • Could the Houston Rockets completely fail to improve in the upcoming season? Stat-head Greg Steele seems to think the Wins Produced by this incoming group will look a lot like those produced last year thanks to injury concerns for the players expected to have the highest usage rates (Yao Ming, Kevin Martin), middling help at the four and a detrimental off-season trade that landed Trevor Ariza in New Orleans: “Despite their personnel changes, the Rockets are right where they were at the beginning of last season — and in fact at the beginning of the last several seasons – hoping that their oft-injured star players will be healthy and productive. If Yao and Martin produce at full capacity, the Rockets have the supporting cast to the push them closer to the top of the Western Conference. Unfortunately, this is basically the same prognosis one might have offered in any of the last four seasons, with the team merely replacing Kevin Martin with Tracy McGrady. After so many changes near the end of last season and during the offseason, it looks like more of the same in Houston this season.” I think it would be hard for hopeful Rockets fans to read words less noxious, yet it confirms a primary fear of the Rockets’ chances to make a deep run this year: the one that posits that a severely limited Yao Ming might not make a 42-win-team anything more than an also-ran in a league of superpowers. Still, the Yao Ming mystery will endure until he sees some court time, and it’s not like every basketball nerd disliked the Rockets’ move to acquire Courtney Lee, especially not ones with awesome names like Bradford Doolittle: “So Houston saved money with no likely dropoff in the quality of its projected rotation for the coming season. What’s not to like?”
  • For years, Yao Ming has been the greatest and only Chinese-born NBA basketball player. Those shaking their heads and mentioning Yi Jianlian are neglecting to remember that he essentially has not existed on an NBA court, as apparitions lightly floating off-balance and generally missed jumpers from 20 feet don’t count as NBA players. The former ghost of Yi (and current strangely-outfitted cover model for Vogue) plans to augment his level of NBA existence and has shown the world, and Rumors & Rants‘ Phillips, that he certainly has the capability to do such a thing: “Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either, but the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft may have actually improved. Despite the fact that he’s been the most disappointing Chinese import since those toys with lead in them, and he’s already been traded twice in three years, Jianlian has apparently looked fantastic at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Yi had 26 points and 14 rebounds against Greece on Saturday and added 26 more points and nine rebounds against the Ivory Coast on Sunday. Now, I know those aren’t exactly two world powers, but the fact that he’s actually putting the ball in the basket is a stark improvement over the past few years.”
  • The Basketball Jones’ Tas Melas has a realization that so many Rockets fans came to last year while watching a certain “galloping” 7-footer and his errant, line-drive jumpers. Enjoy, Toronto.
  • A truly gifted basketball journalist should have the drive and inherent need to want to be involved and at ease with the game as physically possible, and Bethlehem Shoals is nothing if not a fantastic NBA journalist. With typical George-Plimpton-esque panache, Shoals attended a D-League workout led by former slam-dunk-champion and current D-League coach Dee Brown and nearly died several times. The read is, of course, fantastic: “I can’t say he made me a better basketball player. Brown got that making me into an athlete was a lost cause — he liked my line about trying to get on “a level,” as opposed to the next one. That didn’t mean, though, that he didn’t want me to see the game like he did. That’s why, as I struggled through ball-handling drills with my non-existent left, Dee Brown demanded I respect the routine.”
  • Apparently, no interested Houston Rocket could hit a home run in Houston Astros batting practice. Those looking for an athletically capable cutter with blazing speed to help Yao ease back in to the league, though, need look no further than the Astros’ centerfield: “Astros center fielder Michael Bourn, who claims he can dunk a basketball, was impressed with Hayes, but he said he’s ready to show off his skills on the court. ‘They were out there to have fun and they actually know more about baseball than you think,’ Bourn said. ‘Now it’s time for me to go over to their territory. I can get up there a little bit, but I have to get my legs a little rest. They’re a little tired from this season.’”

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