Again, tanking revisited

So many thoughts right now.  So many thoughts.  I don’t even know where to begin, from losing Chuck Hayes, to New Orleans actually wanting this deal, to Rockets fans actually thinking we were giving up too much.  So many thoughts, and this comes at the most inopportune of times as I actually have another final exam in less than 24 hours.  But I promise you, at the drop of a bell at noon this Wednesday, I will type like no man has ever typed before, recounting the strange, curious events of last week.  If anyone still cares at this point.

Where do the Houston Rockets even go from here?  Their free agency blueprints are destroyed and they’re stuck with an unhappy Kevin Martin.  (I think Luis Scola will be fine.)  Like that, they went from mere moments away from the league’s best frontcourt to hoping Hasheem Thabeet has a pulse.

Here’s the biggest problem – they have no chance to be good.  National observers won’t understand this, but losing Chuck Hayes was a crippling blow.  A week ago, I thought the team, as it stood, had a shot at the 8th seed.  Now, with Hayes gone, that chance is gone.  But at the same time, because of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin (and Kyle Lowry), there’s virtually zero chance this team is absolutely awful.  Does owner Les Alexander understand this?

Now, moreso than ever, its time to tank.  Les, its time to tank.  The Gasol manuever was a valiant effort that would have set this team up for a hope at contention.  Barring some miraculous contingency plan, there’s no other move Daryl Morey can make to recreate that effect.  Why?  Because the Gasol deal was as much about landing Nene as it was about Gasol.  Gasol alone didn’t do you much.

It’s time to tank.  Holding onto Kevin Martin and Luis Scola now makes absolutely zero sense.  It’s counterproductive.  It hurts the franchise.

The argument before against tanking was that if the team could make the playoffs this year, based off their success, with ample cap room, they could lure a free agent in ’12 with a dream supporting case.  That won’t happen now.  With Dwight, CP3, and Deron all looking to have things settled soon with impending moves, there likely won’t be any ’12 free agent class.  Moreso, even if there is, with the loss of Hayes, with no interior defense, the team won’t even make the playoffs.  They’ll win 30 games, the worst possible result in basketball.  If you’re not winning 55, you better be winning 20.

Maybe Daryl Morey has some Plan B that I don’t know about.  I wouldn’t put it past him.  If that’s the case, we’ll see what unfolds.  But if there’s nothing out there, no other move to go all in, this team absolutely must trade Kevin Martin and Luis Scola and race to the bottom.

The Houston Rockets must tank.  Going forward, every single game that Kevin Martin and Luis Scola help win, hurts this franchise.  It ruins their draft position, in the best draft in years, and with absolutely no cause.  A few extra wins here and there, on the strength of guys who won’t even be around when the team is again ready to compete, can be the difference between multiple draft slots.

I can’t understand what is Les’ objection.  Is it fan apathy?  Is he somehow worried that people in Houston won’t care about his team?  Newsflash: outside of the diehards reading the blogs, no one in Houston cares about this team.  It’s the sad truth.  Winning 30 games instead of 15 won’t change that.  The casual sports fan won’t even know.  A race to the bottom at least brings a bluechip young talent to electrify the base.

There are those who think tanking is a risk.  That you could pick the wrong guy and there’s no guarantee of success.  Sorry, but when Daryl Morey turns dust into gold with every mid and late first round draft pick he’s had, I kind of trust him to not **** up a top-5 selection.  Based on Patrick Patterson leading all rookies in efficiency last year and looking like Antonio Davis reincarnated, I’m fairly confident whoever we drafted would end up an All-Star.

Maybe Morey and the gang have another plan to get us back into the elite.  But if they don’t, I can only hope that Les listens and allows them to sell off aging vets.  It’s the best thing for this franchise.  There’s nothing worse than ‘hanging on’ when there’s nothing left to hang onto.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

in columns
  • U22

    You are almos as dumb as Daryl morey u have a chance to win a championship with this team all they need is a true big man if they dalembert there’s no holding this team back, I know now you don’t play any type of competitive sport,basketball is just as much about will attitude and determination witch is what this team has more then anyone and let’s not forget talent. 😉

  • rahathuq

    if you think this team with dalembert has a chance to win a championship, i don’t really know what to say @U22

  • U22

    Just remember who pushed the lakers to the limit a few years ago with the same team but no Martin just artest witch I think we both know who we would rather have on the team, we were the only team to take them to game seven we know who had the talent but that’s were u see the will of a team

  • thiefery

    @rahathuq @U22 I’m thinking he was being sarcastic?!? Anyways, as much as you make sense I hate if teams tank, I could live with it more if we play the young’uns to see what they can contribute. Here’s hoping that TWill makes a big improvement along with Patterson and the emergence of morris…

  • DreaminRed

    @U22 Wow, Dalembert? That team that took the Lakers to 7 had Yao for a few games who is 10X the player Sammy is. Brooks exposed the blueprint of beating the Lakers with a lightning quick point guard. This team isn’t close to a championship. I can’t think of one team that didn’t make the playoffs one year and won the championship the next. Talent? Where’s our Dirk/Kobe/Wade on this roster. Rahat is right, this is the year to tank. I’m hoping the Rockets are on the losing end of lots of 120-119 games.

  • rahathuq

    that team had two guys named shane battier and chuck hayes. @U22

  • U22

    Tanking should never be an option fighting for playoffs is exciting once you get in you never know, just look at Memphis they beat the spurs and yes I was bieng sarcastic but I agree with u never tank u never know who you get in the draft look at Oden and kwame brown

  • U22

    Listen guys all I’m saying is that giving all that up for paul was a joke and there was no Guarantee nene would come to Houston they should bring the star to play with Luis and Martin and Kyle u bring a star here with no team to back him up we win nothing Luis scola and paul gasol Almost same player scola is stronger tougher but paul is taller longer

  • U22

    Yea and that’s why I never understood why we didn’t build of that team even with out Yao that same team with kmart and sign a big man I think would have been really good

  • Stephen


    Minn allegedly put together a trade package for Martin when they thought he was being traded to NO. I’d try and hold out for Randolph.

    Agree losing Hayes is really tough.

    Dalembert is fools gold. He chases blocks,leaving his man wide open. He believes he’s a much better shooter than he is. Once every 4-5 games he’ll hit 6-8 jumpers and spend the next few games going 2-10 thinking he can shoot. Morey doesn’t sign him unless he’s desperate.

  • Is it the Shoes

    Agree 100%. Do everything you can to get that Minn pick from the Clippers, and dump everyone.

    The draft is deep this year. If we got 2 Top 5 picks, its very foreseeable that we could get 2 elite players out of it.

    Maybe we could pull off a 3 way deal with Boston, LAC, where we send whatever Boston wants to them, they send Rondo to LAC, and we get that pick.

  • JesusS17

    We need to tank and get a guy like Drummond or maybe even Sullinger.

  • bobobourbonface

    There is no tanking in basketball (minus San Antonio).

  • chichos

    I’m just shell shocked. How could we go from trying to create a Gasol / Nene twin towers to losing chuck in just two days. Not only are we being punished with the amnesty clause granting all those bad GMs an out but we are punished when we make a deal with two other teams that legitimately helps everyone. I have loved the NBA for my entire life but the lockout combined with this madness is terrible.

    Tanking feels like a panic move after these setbacks. We still have some time in free agency lets see what happens.

  • bobobourbonface

    @chichos No way Alexander allows them to tank. A mediocre team brings in more money than a team known to be tanking. As long as they can skirt the line, they will…AND the Rockets have way too many tradable assets to “tank.” Morey has held on to his assets this long, why does anyone think he’s gonna give up now? I seriously doubt he was hired to only take on THIS year. It sucks to be a Rockets fan, right now, but players will be bounced around until they find a star.

  • SirThursday

    I agree that Hayes leaving is a big blow to my anti-tanking agenda – without him we’re going to lose a lot more. Plus he was my favourite Rocket and it will be tough to adjust to him not being there.

    Nevertheless, I still don’t think we should tank for several reasons:

    1) Losing will have a psychological effect on the players. I watched quite a bit of Timberwolves basketball last season, and it was not pretty. A defining characteristic of their games was that they could hang with the other team for 3 and a half quarters, often holding big leads deep into the 4th quarter. But time and again those leads would disintegrate – they were not used to being in winning positions, so they could not close out games. There is a mentality that comes with winning that allows you to win games that you otherwise would lose – players accustomed to winning will unconsciously put in that extra bit of effort to ensure it keeps happening. Players who have got used to losing cannot do this, and I fear that this would happen to the Rockets.

    2) It takes a LONG time to tank, and there are no guarantees, even with good drafting. When I have more time, I will go through a list of all the teams that have tried tanking in the last 6 years or so and evaluate how it turned out for them. I started going through them earlier, and found that apart from Chicago and Oklahoma City there haven’t been many quick exits. My impression is that the draft lottery does its job – there are very rarely going to be superstars available outside the top 5 picks. So you either need one of the worst two records in the NBA or to win the lottery in order to get a superstar. If you only get a merely very good player you are in trouble – your team will be good enough to reach the mediocrity zone but no further, and eventually you’ll have to break it all up and try again (see Toronto or Milwaukee for examples, off the top of my head. Sacramento, Charlotte for a couple more).

    Now I know the 2012 draft is supposed to be stacked, but how many truly game-changing players are there going to be? Probably not enough for us unless we get lucky. Even if we tank, there is no way that we are going to be bad enough to be bottom 2 in the NBA this year. So we’d have to win the lottery to get a top 5 pick. Morey may be good at drafting, but he has no power over the ping-pong balls. And teams are averse to trading away top 5 picks these days.

    3) I dispute your claim that tanking will bring in more fans. It certainly will if all goes well, but as I point out above, that is not a guarantee. Would you say that Sacramento has more excited fans now than they did in ’05/’06 when they made the playoffs? How about Toronto or Milwaukee?

  • wtflife

    I would argue that if we are serious about tanking we have to unload Terrance Williams. He is not going to develop while losing 50 games. He strikes me as someone that needs to feel good about how things are going.

    I also think Tanking is just not a great plan. I can only think of 3 times that tanking has worked out. The Rockets tanked for Hakeem, the Spurs tanked for Duncan and Cleveland tanked for Lebron. I am not clear on the Magic and Shaq, but that would count as well.

    There is no one in the draft that is that known of a quantity. Throwing away team chemistry for Sullinger, Barnes, or Davis is a huge reach.

    It would be so easy to end up with Anthony Randolph instead of Al Hortford and neither of them is good enough to justify tanking.

  • bobobourbonface

    Well put.

  • Is it the Shoes

    I think if we could get the Minn pick, it’d be worth it. As you noted, the only time it “works” is when you get a superstar. If we have 2 shots at it, and Morey is picking I trust he’ll land at minimum, one superstar, if not two.

    This is definitely the year to do it though. By my count, just browsing draftexpress there are 7-8 guys with elite potential. Will all of them be superstars, very unlikely. However, even if only 2 or 3 of those guys end up becoming superstar players, there is a strong chance if we have 2 picks, we’d get at least one.

    If you have someone like Jordan or Kahn running your team, it doesn’t make as much sense to tank, because there is a lower chance they’ll choose (or in their case, more like guess) right on the pick, and an even lower chance, that if they get lucky, they’ll be able to build a team around the superstar.

    With Nene and the Gasols off the market, we’re not going anywhere. And unless we make some moves with Scola and Martin for expirings, we won’t have cap space to try and get Paul/Howard/D-Will. It also seems like D-Will and Howard are set on playing with each other in NJ. So, in a way tanking is the only viable option for a title.

    Also, the great thing about tanking is you essentially get “re-dos” until you get it right.

  • Bluejohn

    Rahat – when you last posted about this possibility I suggested that based on my experience as a King’s fan it’s a brutally hard road to hoe.After Houston’s brutal and senseless mishandling by the league of the multi – team trade I don’t see any alternative. If there is a plan B by your front office at this point it would have to be so brilliant in it’s conception that it surpasses mere human understanding of the type practiced by almost all NBA GM’s here on earth with the possible exception of David Kahn.

    If nothing else, the time has come to move Kevin Martin’s contract. When it became clear in Sacramento that our front office had no real idea how to mesh Kevin and Reke into a functioning backcourt and that management was more intrigued by Evans, Kevin really never got past it. The physical rehab was difficult enough for him but the disrespect and lack of loyalty shown him by Sac’s FO was an injury he really struggled with. The Rocket’s trade came just in time.

    While I don’t understand how Morey ever really thought he was going to get Nene and Pau to the Rockets, the damage to the team by the league office appears far more significant and and I’m starting to agree with your position that it’s time for a do over. Tanking is just another definition for giving your rooks and young vets major minutes.

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