I've been pondering over what to write about for the past week. Nothing specific has come to mind, and when I think I've found something worth grinding over for 500 words or so, I've decided to just leave it alone. It's been nearly as frustrating as watching the Rockets this season.
My, how stupid does my prediction of 53 wins look now? And how smart does Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE system look, in comparison? I've never been so shocked by the start of a season. In trying to avoid writing an ultimatum post, I might just end up doing just that.
The Rockets are 3-10. They've obviously played better than a 3-10 team, except for the fact that they're currently fourth-to-last in defensive efficiency. At the end of the day, you have to start wondering about the direction of this team. This team, this roster, right now.
No matter what we think of Yao - I'm not ready to eulogize his career, by the way - we're not going to be able to find a suitable replacement center any time soon. That's why signing Erick Dampier would have been a decent move, if only to give the Rockets more bodies at the position who, when playing no more than 20-25 minutes, can make a solid contribution.
We're in the dumps, and there's no arguing otherwise. I'm still not pressing the panic button, but there are a few things that are becoming quite clear to me. Here they are:
1. Kevin Martin cannot be the best scorer on a team with playoff aspirations. He doesn't show up in the fourth, at least not when it matters.
2. Depending on Yao Ming is just stupid at this point.
3. I'm semi-quasi comfortable with Ish Smith and Kyle Lowry running the team, which could perhaps open up Aaron Brooks to the trade market. However...
4. I'm beginning to doubt if the Rockets will be able to trade for a star player, when it's quite obvious that they need one. No matter how many assets Houston has, it takes two to make it out of sight.... (sorry for that). The market just doesn't look very penetrable right now.
5. Rick Adelman doesn't go 3-10, which means something is just weird.
6. To echo Xiane in last week's DreamCast episode, the Rockets have some guys who are good at defense but are terrible offensively (Chuck, Lowry, Battier), and they have guys who are good offensively but terrible defensively (Brooks, Martin, Scola, Budinger, etc.). Nobody on this roster can do both, outside of Yao Ming.
We shouldn't be at the fulcrum point so soon, but what if we are? What if the next few months - perhaps ending with the February trade deadline - determine the Rockets' future for the next 3-4 years? Do we rebuild, or do we contend? I brought this question up at the beginning of the year, because ever since the Courtney Lee deal, I haven't been sold on our direction.
This team has no identity. This team has no direction. I'm trying to be patient, and I realize that 13 games doesn't make or break a future, but we're starting to see traces of what that future may turn out to be. It all starts with Yao Ming, but apparently, there's plenty more to worry about.
Daryl Morey told me that, despite seemingly "winning" many of his recent trades, it still has to work out on the floor. No matter how shiny the roster looked, it all had to come together on the court.
I don't think I took him quite seriously enough.