June 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

Potential Rocket Profile: LeBron James

LeBron James Houston Rockets

Player Overview

I’m reminded of the movie Hoosiers when coach Norman Dale tells his team before the semifinals, “I’m sure going to the state finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.”

The Houston Rockets landing LeBron James seems just that — beyond our wildest dreams. It would be a daunting, near-impossible task to land the best player in the league in his prime, so it could be better off left unsaid.

However, the current scenario demands that the subject has to at least be broached.

James can opt out of his contract by the end of the month to become a free agent. Miami was soundly thrashed in the NBA Finals. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski says, “One more team to watch in this with Lebron is Houston because … they can create the salary cap space. Would it appeal to LeBron to go play with James Harden, Dwight Howard? I don’t know that it would, but I think Houston will certainly try to get in that mix.”

So here we go.

Rocket Perspective

LeBron James is a two-time champion, four-time MVP and five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team. This is the one player that doesn’t just provide answers for Houston but actually changes the questions: “Does Player X fit with Harden and Howard?” becomes “Do Harden and Howard fit with LeBron James?”

The Rockets can offer LeBron a roster with two superstars – one inside, one out – in the prime of their careers and several role players (Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones) who appear to be substantial upgrades on their counterparts in Miami. A starting lineup of LeBron-Harden-Howard-Beverley-Jones would be ridiculous, one that would be a giant leap forward on both ends of the ball for the Rockets. Houston would instantly become the favorites to win not just the West but the 2014-15 NBA crown.

While it’s unclear if James would have interest in combining forces with Howard and Harden specifically, he is not a stranger to being a teammate to either player. LeBron played with Howard on the 2008 Olympic squad and with Harden on the 2012 team. He has spoken highly of Harden before, calling him his “little bro” after the trade that sent him to the Rockets and noting that Harden had “made superstar status” after a Rockets-Heat game in February 2013.

No matter how crazy, the Rockets would do whatever they could if it meant reeling in James. Need every penny to sign him? Scrap the Chandler Parsons-restricted free agency plan and contracts they’d like to keep become cut bait. LeBron would come if he could play here with Carmelo Anthony? Suddenly you consider putting Harden on the trading block.

That’s how absurd you would get to land the world’s top player.

Conclusion

LeBron currently has just about everything he could want: A glamour location, top dollar on his contract, an easy path to the Finals in a creampuff conference, a coach he’s comfortable with, star friends by his side and multiple championships. It’s hard to see him leaving all that, especially with the possibility of simply “opting in” for one more year in Miami and giving Pat Riley 12 more months to retool.

But LeBron has made a controversial decision for the purpose of immediately winning titles before. If he senses the future isn’t as bright in Miami (a big “if”), Houston would have to be high on that list of ready-made situations where he could continue to win and compete at a high level. The Rockets also could make an interesting pitch in that with one stroke of the pen, LeBron could turn the San Antonio Spurs from NBA champions to second-best team in their own state, relegating the Dallas Mavericks, another team LeBron lost to in the Finals, to a distant third.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey will definitely do his due diligence on this possibility, but in the event the Rockets do make some ground with LeBron, it seems unlikely that Miami would play ball on a sign-and-trade. The Rockets would have to go the cap room route and unload Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

But while the Rockets do offer a great situation for LeBron, all of us are in the dark about his plans. Until he decides to actually opt out and there is any evidence of interest in Houston from him, this is just a guessing game.


 Ben DuBose also contributed to this profile.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

Rockets gain “significant momentum” as preferred destination for Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls have emerged as the “clear frontrunners” to acquire Carmelo Anthony, according to a story published on Saturday by Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

“Anthony, 30, has been intrigued with [joining] the Bulls for several months, but Houston has gathered significant momentum as a preferred destination for him,” Wojnarowski wrote, citing league sources.

“Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden prepared to recruit Anthony as the third star in a championship chase,” he added.

Both Houston and Chicago front-office executives are said to be “working diligently” on scenarios to clear the cap space to sign Anthony outright, or engage New York on sign-and-trade scenarios, according to the report. In Houston’s case, that would mean shedding the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, at a minimum. But with both of those players entering the final year of their contracts, Wojnarowski writes that a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony is indeed possible.

“Because those players are moving into the expiring year of their contracts, they could potentially appeal to New York in sign-and-trade scenarios that would deliver Anthony his full max contract of four years, $90 million-plus,” Wojnarowski wrote.

“In trade talks, New York has told teams it doesn’t want to take on contracts beyond the summer of 2015 although Asik, a center, could ultimately be a player the Knicks would want to sign long-term,” he added. “There’s a market for Asik to be traded into salary-cap space elsewhere for draft considerations, but Houston may have to package a draft pick to move Lin.”

The full max for Anthony would involve a contract starting at over $22 million per year, but citing league sources, Wojnarowski writes that Anthony would take less than that if “he can be shown how his financial concessions can result in the immediate acquisition or retention of talent”.

In Houston’s case, Wojnarowski writes that most scenarios that would hold the Rockets’ nucleus together — including Chandler ParsonsPatrick Beverley and Terrence Jones – would involve Anthony getting a starting salary near $19 million.

Meanwhile, should Chicago amnesty the contract of Carlos Boozer and trade the contract of Taj Gibson and at least one other player, the Bulls as an Eastern Conference team could offer Anthony a theoretically easier route to the NBA Finals than the Rockets. Additionally, Anthony is said to “have an affinity” for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Wojnarowski writes, before cautioning that Anthony must also weigh the future health of Derrick Rose in his decision.

The Knicks, of course, can still offer the most money to Anthony and have still expressed interest in retaining him. To that end, a delegation consisting of Phil Jackson and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher met Anthony on Friday night in Los Angeles. However, the option of re-signing with the Knicks appears to be becoming less likely.

“Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Wojnarowski also noted that Jackson has “turned off” Anthony with public proclamations of wanting Anthony to take less money to stay with the Knicks.

“Jackson has been somewhat cavalier in his public declarations of wanting Anthony to stay, and it’s been noticed,” the report says.

The next significant development in the Anthony sweepstakes should come within the next 10 days. The New York forward, who averaged 27.4 points per game on 45% shooting last season, has until June 23 to notify the Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract.

If Anthony opts out and becomes a free agent, as several reports indicate he is likely to do, outside teams such as Houston and Chicago could begin courting him on July 1.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

Hey, Remember when Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were on the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik

No doubt by now you’ve heard the Yahoo! Sports report that the Rockets plan to decline the option on Chandler Parsons‘ contract by the end of this month, which would make Houston’s starting small forward a restricted free agent this summer.

David Weiner has been breaking down the details of this fascinating contract over the past year. In a nutshell, by the Rockets declining their team option, Parsons will be able to sign with any team — but the Rockets will have the ability to match the offer sheet he signs. If the Rockets pick up the option, then they get Chandler at a bargain rate (less than a million dollars) for one more year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

While I don’t think it’s 100% that the Rockets will do this (too much can happen between now and June 30), there are plenty of positives to taking this route: The Rockets have more control. They play the restricted free agency game very well. It forces the player to prove their market value. It’s possible to get Chandler at a better salary. It gets Parsons the big bucks one year sooner. It opens the possibility of sign-and-trades involving Parsons.

Sports Radio 610 guest appearance with Sean Pendergast, Rich Lord and Ted Johnson to discuss Parsons’ contract.

But for me, the big takeaway from this is not that the Rockets will decline Parsons’ option but rather how absolutely brazen the Rockets have been about their ability to trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

It’s almost as if they’re already gone.

It started shortly after the Rockets’ exit from the playoffs when team owner Les Alexander said about this summer, “We’re going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent.”

Only one problem: The Rockets don’t have cap room. They need to trade Asik and Lin to create it.

Next, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was asked on Twitter what kind of free agent the team could acquire this summer, and Morey responded that the Rockets “can create max [cap] room.”

Unless he’s talking about trading away James Harden or Dwight Howard, Morey isn’t even hiding it. He’s saying: ‘We can unload Lin and Asik.’

And now this report surfaces about how they will handle Parsons. This too is another indication that Lin and Asik are toast.

The Rockets do not want to sign anyone long-term before acquiring their third-best player, expected to be a significant contract. If the Rockets were to sign Parsons for say $10 million a season, their cap room possibilities would be stung and their fallback plan (2015 cap room) would be wiped out. So if the Rockets really are going to make Chandler a restricted free agent with the intent to match any offer, then the clock is clearly ticking on Lin and Asik trades. The Rockets would get no real benefit by allowing those two to come “off the books” in 2015, if Parsons already has his new deal.

Another thing to consider with this news is that the Rockets might not clear cap room at all. To pursue a major free agent like Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets would need to pinch every penny, but by making this move, Chandler’s cap hit would increase by $2 million before he is signed. This would seem to make trade, not free agency, the more likely avenue to improve.

I would not be surprised if the Rockets are looking to make a complicated three- or four-team deal that sends out Lin and Asik, along with a treasure trove, that nets them their player. By doing it in one fell swoop, the Rockets would remain above the cap and keep their mid-level exception ($5.3 million) to sign a better free agent or try to bring over a player like guard Sergio Llull or forward Kostas Papanikolaou.

But the bottom line with this news is that the Rockets are either extremely confident in their ability to dump off Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin — or, by putting this info out there, they want the NBA to think they are.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
May 18, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Wojnarowski: Rockets plan “aggressive play” for Kevin Love trade

Kevin Love and Kevin McHale

We can now add Kevin Love to the Rockets’ ongoing search for the “third-best player on a championship team”.

Per Yahoo‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, generally regarded as the top NBA insider on the planet, the Rockets are planning an “aggressive play” for a Love trade. Wojnarowski also notes that the Minnesota power forward has a strong bond with Houston head coach Kevin McHale.

 

“For the first time, [Minnesota] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” a rival executive told Wojnarowski.

Love holds an early termination option (ETO) in his contract for the summer of 2015, thus giving him the same sort of leverage against Minnesota in the 2014 offseason that Dwight Howard had against Orlando in 2012. Unless the Timberwolves are willing to risk letting Love leave in July 2015 for nothing in return, the time for them to recoup maximum value would seem to be sooner rather than later.

Other teams likely to make “hard runs” at trades for Love, according to Wojnarowski, include the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

“Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, [Love] is open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender,” Wojnarowski wrote, adding that Love’s representatives are pushing for a deal to be completed before the beginning of summer free agency in July – preferably by the June 26 NBA draft.

In terms of potential offers, the Celtics and Lakers are each expected to offer a trade starting with their first-round lottery pick in the aforementioned draft. On that front, a potential day of significance could be May 20. The Celtics and Lakers are currently projected at 5th and 6th in the first-round order, based on probability from last season’s records. But if either team slips into the top three in Tuesday’s draft lottery, it would seem to make their offer all the more attractive to Minnesota.

Nonetheless, as with Howard and Orlando two years ago, Love still holds most of the cards. If Love expresses skepticism to a potential suitor about his willingness to re-sign in 2015, it would likely diminish that team’s offer to Minnesota (if not kill it altogether).

The hope for Houston is that a roster coached by McHale and led by Howard and James Harden could push them to the front of Love’s list. Should that happen, Minnesota’s leverage in the Love negotiations could be compromised in a similar manner to the circumstances that forced Orlando to accept an underwhelming haul in the August 2012 trade that sent Howard to the Lakers.

Love, who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season, will make $15.7 million in 2014-15. Thus, any Love-to-Houston trade would have to involve the Rockets sending out approximately that much in salary. Future draft picks, a likely requirement for Minnesota in any Love proposal, would not have any cap value and thus would not count toward that total.

The cap figures of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik ($8.3 million) would match up almost perfectly, but trades involving just one of those two and several smaller Houston contracts would also be feasible.

“Houston doesn’t have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages,” Wojnarowski wrote.

It’s unclear if the Rockets would make Parsons, their starting small forward, available in proposals for Love. But if Minnesota were intrigued by a Parsons-led deal, their interest would likely come soon. Should a deal be struck by the end of June involving Parsons, Minnesota could then turn down the 2014-15 option on Parsons’ contract, send Parsons into restricted free agency and maintain the right to match any offer. In short, they would have control over his future with the team.

However, if a deal were struck after June 30, Parsons would likely be on a path to unrestricted free agency in 2015. That would put Minnesota in the same position with Parsons that they’re currently in with Love, making the swap improbable.

Other All-Star names rumored as possible Houston targets this summer include New York’s Carmelo Anthony, a likely free agent, as well as Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged |
May 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Report: Nets could be open to dealing Deron Williams for Lin, Asik

Deron Williams and James Harden

It’s been almost six months since the Rockets reportedly approached the Nets about a potential swap of disgruntled center Omer Asik and guard Jeremy Lin for Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams.

Back then, the Nets were said to be uninterested. But in the aftermath of a disappointing second-round loss in five games to Miami, things may have changed.

Brian Geltzeiler of HoopsCritic.com reports that Williams and the Nets have a “pending divorce” and have mutually decided to look elsewhere.

“Sources have told HoopsCritic.com that this falling out between Williams and Nets management, specifically Nets GM Billy King, has resulted in a mutual decision between the two parties to split,” Geltzeiler wrote. “Williams, and his wife, essentially want out of Brooklyn and King is more than happy to accommodate them.”

Geltzeiler goes on in his story to list the Rockets as a possible destination.

“If Morey offers… the same package in the forthcoming offseason, I don’t think King will say no,” Geltzeiler wrote.

Williams isn’t likely to be on the front burner for the Rockets, who continue to search for a third star player to put around James Harden and Dwight Howard. The clear top priority would seem to be Carmelo Anthony, who unlike Williams, had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013-14 and still appears very much in his prime, statistically.

But the catch to the pursuit of Anthony or any other top free agent this summer, including Kyle Lowry, is that the Rockets would likely have to find a way to move both Asik and Lin, either through a sign-and-trade or to an outside destination for cap relief. Asik probably wouldn’t be a problem to move, but finding a home for Lin could be trickier, especially given his balloon payment to $15 million next season in real dollars (though his cap figure remains at $8.3 million).

If Morey is able to move Lin for cap relief, the Rockets would seemingly be all-in on Anthony or another prized free agent. But that’s far from a done deal and if such a move isn’t possible, the Rockets would appear to be left with three realistic options.

1.) Keep Lin on the roster and trade Asik, either for cap relief (allowing Houston to target a middle-of-the-pack free agent, not a max guy) or for a player under contract from another team. Sam Smith writes at NBA.com that the Hawks could be interested in starting Asik at center and moving Al Horford to power forward, a plan that could presumably make Atlanta’s current starter at power forward, Paul Millsap, a trade target for Houston (yet again).

2.) Keep both Lin and Asik on the roster going into next season. That would allow Houston to either trade Lin/Asik as expiring contracts near the February 2015 deadline to teams looking for cap relief, or simply let their contracts expire as Rockets after the 2014-15 season and attempt to use the savings in 2015 free agency. That class, of course, is headlined by Kevin Love.

3.) Go after Williams.

The highest upside of those three paths would seem to be No. 2, but it doesn’t come without risk. The Rockets cited injuries and a lack of continuity as being behind many of their inconsistencies in 2013-14, and delaying the arrival of the team’s next big piece would also defer the integration period with Harden and Howard. It also goes without saying that free agency offers no guarantees.

Deron Williams

Deron Williams had one of his worst statistical years in 2013-14.

Williams, on the other hand, would be available this summer and ready for 2014 training camp — and Geltzeiler writes that the need to move Lin would not be a stumbling block.

“Most teams would find [the balloon] payment objectionable,” he said. “The Nets aren’t most teams. The Nets paid a record amount of luxury tax this season, and there are no indications that their billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has any interest in spending less.”

It’s not a slam-dunk decision for the Rockets, of course. Williams will soon be 30 years old, and the Nets are open to trading him for a reason. After all, Williams is coming off a season in which he posted his lowest PER (17.6) since his second year in the NBA and his fewest points (14.3) and assists (6.1) per game since his rookie year.

Additionally, Williams is owed $62 million over the next three years, which means that the Rockets would essentially be “capped out” for the remainder of Harden and Howard’s current contracts. They’d still have mid-level exceptions (MLE) each summer, but by and large, it would be an all-in move by Morey with the Harden/Howard/Williams trio.

The upside, though? It’s not as if Williams’ subpar season is part of a broader trend. In fact, his metrics in 2012-13 — just one year ago —  were arguably his best ever in nine NBA seasons, especially on offense. And a case can certainly be made that injuries (Williams is planning offseason ankle surgery to clean up nagging issues) and the integration of newcomers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett into the Brooklyn offense played a role in his 2013-14 decline.

We know the Rockets have long been fans of the ex-Illinois point guard, including in 2011, when Houston made a strong bid for Williams before the Jazz ultimately dealt him to Brooklyn. The Rockets were also said to be interested in Williams again heading into his 2012 free agency.

We also know Howard has liked Williams, dating back to his  ”lists” when demanding a trade from Orlando in 2011 and 2012. Both times, Brooklyn — led by Williams — was at the top. And instead of spending another one of Howard’s dwindling prime years waiting on a trade or free agent that could be, a move for Williams would make the Rockets fully focused on the present and what is.

For his part, Williams is even a Texas native, having grown up in suburban Dallas, and would likely jump at the chance to play closer to home.

None of those factors is enough to vault Williams ahead of Anthony or immediate cap space as the Rockets’ offseason priority, of course. But any bigger pursuit also comes with a difficult question:

Can Morey move Lin for cap relief?

If the answer is no, the Williams scenario could very well be revisited as a fallback option.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
May 7, 2014 at 9:30 am

Houston Rockets Salary Cap Update

Well, that sort of sucked.

After a strong regular season — in which the Houston Rockets amassed a 54-28 record and got the 4-seed in the Western Conference despite several key contributors missing stretches throughout the year — the Rockets bowed out in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, succumbing to the Portland Trailblazers 4-2 despite holding home-court advantage in the series.  Each game was a down-to-the-wire nail-biter — Rockets GM Daryl Morey even described each game as “a coin flip” — yet Portland seemed to make just a few more key plays than Houston did throughout the series, none bigger than Damian Lillard‘s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the Rockets’ season in Game 6.

So, as we Rockets fans attempt to dry our tears and/or to get over our hangovers (both figurative and literal), it’s time to take stock of the team’s current salary cap situation and where the Rockets can go from here.
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Posted in Houston Rockets, Salary Cap Update |
May 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Rockets face critical offseason

I needed to take the weekend off before writing anything, but I think Rockets broadcaster Bill Worrell summed up this series best.

“My heart is down on the floor right next to you. Please pick it up and massage it,” said Worrell to Clyde Drexler.

And that was 30 seconds before Damian Lillard hit that shot.

The final play of Game 6 was devastating, but it was a collective failure. While many have chosen to blame Chandler Parsons for not sticking with Lillard, that was only part of the problem. Initially, Kevin McHale rolled out Dwight Howard on the inbounder, placing James Harden on LaMarcus Aldridge and playing Jeremy Lin. When he realized the issues, he called a 20-second timeout to take out Lin, get Terrence Jones on the inbounder and put Dwight on Aldridge.

Howard said that all the team talked about was stopping the three, but not only did the Rockets lose Portland’s best shooter, but take a look at Jones’ defense on the inbounder. He’s doing nothing but covering the pass down low to Aldridge, where Houston’s best defensive player is locked in. The Rockets left a Grand Canyon-sized hole at the top of the key with no resistance on the pass or the shooter.

Did that look at all like a team trying to stop a three-pointer?

But while the Rockets’ inability to stay with Lillard for less than a full second will haunt them this offseason, it’s only part of the nightmare.

The fourth quarter collapse in Game 1. The absurd call against Dwight Howard in overtime of Game 1. The brain lapse in not calling timeout and then turning it over in Game 4. And now the infamous Game 6.

The Rockets honestly blew three games in this series because of the little things. Correcting any one of these simple mistakes likely puts them in the second round of the playoffs against a team (San Antonio) that they swept in the regular season, and that’s what really should stick with them.

The Rockets are top-heavy in talent, but it should be sobering to all of us that not only did the Rockets lose with home court advantage in this series, but Portland was likely the very best possible matchup out there. There are no easy outs in the West and the Rockets have not yet separated themselves, so this will be a very important offseason for this team. They can’t afford to just stay pat.

Here’s what I think you can expect.

Rockets Need Coaching Help

Dwight Howard listens to Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale was a big draw for Dwight Howard to sign with the Rockets

There’s no doubt about it, Kevin McHale looked lost at times in this series. He didn’t make series-altering adjustments until Game 3. His team seemed unprepared in big moments. Ultimately, the Rockets underachieved and fell short of expectations.

But while I thought it was premature to come out so early with a vote of confidence for McHale, there may be a method to the madness in keeping him for the final season (team option) of his contract.

Remember, Dwight Howard was specific in saying that McHale was a big draw for him to sign with Houston. He is well-liked by his players and respected by many around the league. For example, he both drafted and coached Kevin Love, someone who could be traded between now and the summer of 2015, when he’s a free agent. This next year gives McHale one more season to both lure talent and prove he is the right man for the job long-term.

But the Rockets absolutely must hire an experienced, savvy, defensive-minded assistant, preferably one with head coaching experience. McHale can still serve as figurehead and team leader, but they could use X’s and O’s help on the defensive side after losing Kelvin Sampson. This is a must this offseason.

Big Game Hunting

The Rockets will not have near-max cap room until 2015, but I can promise you that they will operate this offseason as if they have it now.

They will pursue Carmelo Anthony. They will watch to see if Chris Bosh opts out. Dirk Nowitzki will be a free agent, though it’s incredibly unlikely he would leave Dallas (much less for a rival city like Houston). They will pursue a trade for Kevin Love. Paul Millsap provides the best of both worlds — an upgrade at the power forward position and a player that expires in 2015.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is on record as saying the Rockets lack a third-best player on a championship team. Until he acquires that player, the Rockets can not sign any role players to long-term deals beyond the league minimum salary because it will hurt their flexibility to acquire that key piece by 2015.

With his hands tied under those restrictions, take a look at the team’s transactions this season: Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia, Ronnie Brewer and Jordan Hamilton were all out of the rotation by the end of the season. They weren’t able to move Greg Smith for anything. It wasn’t until very late in the year that they were able to find a rotation player with a league minimum deal (Troy Daniels).

They need to finalize their core so they can go over the cap and into luxury tax (if they so choose) to get the right pieces. Hands down, getting their third-best player is the top priority this offseason.

Trading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik

Jeremy Lin in the Portland series

Jeremy Lin’s contract makes it more likely that he gets traded this offseason

Omer Asik didn’t speak to the media on Monday (par for the course), though I did see him exit the building. Lin said it’s “part of the business.”

“I’m human. I definitely wonder about it,” said Lin of the thought that he will be traded this summer. “Next year will be my fifth season. My first year and a half, I dealt with my name being surrounded with getting cut. And from then on, my name being surrounded with trades. I’d rather take the second than the first.”

Here’s why I think we’ve seen Lin and Asik’s final games with the Rockets.

  • The Rockets will be paying a hair under $30 million to a pair of backup players. I repeat — thirty mill. Backups. Even at a cap hit of $17 million, it’s a terrible allocation of cap space and funds.
  • Asik is a luxury the Rockets can’t afford. Lin is a less-than-ideal fit on a team that would place more of a premium on sure-handedness, three-point shooting and defense at the position. He could do a lot more on a team with lower expectations that gave him carte blanche to operate and develop — much like the Rockets expected to be when they signed him.
  • As mentioned before, Morey can’t sign anyone of significance until their foundation is set. Are they really going to use up another year of Dwight’s prime before making the move for the third guy? Getting a third guy means dealing Asik and/or Lin.
  • It would have been irresponsible to trade Lin and Asik for nothing at this past February trade deadline given that they were in the middle of an important season. The Rockets were shopping those players looking for a big name star (unlikely) or for players that could help them this season without hurting their flexibility beyond 2015 (difficult). That concern does not exist this summer. They simply need to unload them off the books, knowing that the cap room itself is now a significant asset to work with.
  • The Rockets will try to prepare several trade options they can turn to when the need for cap room arises. The Rockets can likely move Asik given that he is a rare commodity, but Lin for “nothing” (pure cap room) will cost the Rockets additional assets and will be harder to execute.

I would be shocked if either player is still with the team by training camp in September.

WANTED: Three-and-D

The three-point game is critical to the Rockets. They led the league in attempts per game (26.6), but were only mediocre in efficiency (35.8%, #16 in the league). In the playoffs, the Rockets shot 31.8% from three. Take out Troy Daniels? 29.5%.

That’s an absurdly low rate given how much they depend on the three. Players who stretch the floor and can knock down a three-pointer when defenses double Dwight or collapse on Harden drives are essential.

Defensive players, especially on the perimeter, are another must. The Rockets have one top defensive player (Patrick Beverley) that isn’t a center. Corey Brewer (COREY BREWER!) popped off for 51 on this team. They need a player or two with some length, athleticism and a defensive motor.

So when it comes to role players, three-point shooting and defensive specialists should be high priorities this offseason.

What we saw from James Harden

Last but not least, I want to talk about James Harden.

The Rockets’ star guard was brilliant in Game 6, but it was five games too late in this series. The defense played by Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum played a role in slowing Harden, but there are far better defenders in the West, and that wasn’t the whole story. There were times he looked completely out of it and was unable or unwilling to attack the basket. His inability to stay focused on the defensive end has been a major problem since he’s been here. The team needs to get him some help, yes, but as the best player on the team, the Rockets will only go as far as Harden will lead them.

It’s no secret that Harden is immature, as evidenced by his dustup with a reporter after Game 2. It’s a byproduct of being that young and that talented. If anything good comes from this series, let it be that James Harden learns and grows from it, that he takes it personally and becomes a better professional next season.

Les Alexander can’t buy this change. Daryl Morey can’t acquire it. Kevin McHale can’t coach it. It’s up to James.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
May 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Houston Rockets 2013-14 Exit Interviews

James Harden and Dwight Howard

The Rockets met the media on Monday after their final team meetings for the 2013-14 season, and the theme of the day seemed to be that everybody needs to get on the “same page.”

Dwight Howard said the team needs to have one goal and be “like a band of brothers.”

“If you’re not about winning the championship, then you shouldn’t be here,” said Howard. “My only goal is to win. If you’re not about winning, then we’re not on the same page.”

Dwight Howard

James Harden

Chandler Parsons

Patrick Beverley

Jeremy Lin

Donatas Motiejunas

Isaiah Canaan

Troy Daniels

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