Assessing the deadline deals

In light of three months of rumor-filled speculation, today’s acquisitions of veterans Marcus Camby and Derek Fisher can only be described as disappointing and underwhelming.  Yet stepping away from that backdrop, this team today is much improved from the one that took the floor last night at Toyota Center.

In acquiring Marcus Camby, the Rockets have addressed their greatest weakness, adding a player who ranks amongst the tops in the league in rebounding and shot blocking per 48 minutes.  Often forced to play forward Luis Scola at center, coach Kevin McHale can now rest assured knowing he will have a rim protector at his disposal for all 48 minutes (Samuel Dalembert).  Jordan Hill, despite his energy and  activity on the glass, simply could not maintain the defensive focus necessary to help a team with playoff aspirations.  The veteran Camby is a massive upgrade.

Sitting now at 8th, the Rockets have a nucleus which should ensure a playoff berth this season and very well could shock a top-seeded team in a series.  The neutral reports I’ve seen of this trade now rate the Rockets as rather dangerous, with a solid interior quartet of Scola, Dalembert, Patterson, and Camby.  There is no star on this roster, but after today, there really are no holes.  After some of the rumors and reports about this group, McHale must be beyond thrilled to be adding the 37-year-old to his lockerroom, heading into April.

At that cost, while not sacrificing financial flexibility, this was a very good move by Daryl Morey.

The day’s other deal was a bit of a head-scratcher though as the team essentially received a top-20 protected pick (via Dallas) and guard Derek Fisher for Hill.  Until the Mavs finish in the league’s top ten, the Rockets won’t receive the pick.  They also owe Fisher over $3million next season, an amount which will likely be bought out.  So unless they think he can add some form of veteran influence to this team, management is essentially spending $3million (and Hill) for a two-week rental (until Lowry returns) and a pick they might not see for a while.  Confusing.  As they’ve now contacted Anthony Carter, and numerous D-League options are available (I hear Rafer Alston is still alive and well), why waste the buyout cash on Fisher?  At the same time, if I’m not mistaken, this maneuver does tie the Mavs as teams cannot trade first-rounders from consecutive years.  Perhaps that in itself is worth the price.  I’ll seek confirmation.

The ‘09 saga is now over with only Terrence Williams remaining, sort of.  Of the four, only Hill had real moments, but even he could not be trusted.  Flynn and Thabeet move on after giving the team close to nothing.  For all of their oncourt inabilities, the pair were two of the nicest guys on the team.  After talking with Thabeet extensively throughout these past two years, I’m still not convinced he’s a lost cause, if someone can actually get through to him.  His is simply a lack of confidence, an unsurety in himself and his abilities – he told me this himself.  He needs a proper mentor, not a former great, but someone who too was awkward and uneager about the sport – someone who can show him how to use his body properly to earn a living and carve out a niche.  If this does not happen soon, this might be his last paycheck.  Flynn is unsalvageable.

There will be months to discuss the long-term ramifications of these deals and the direction of this franchise.  After today, still the Rockets remain routed on that treadmill of mediocrity.  On that front, to the dismay of many, nothing has changed.  But after today, they are unquestionably better and primed for a playoff run.  Perhaps postseason success might more easily facilitate the moves they seek?  They can only hope.

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