Hey folks. I figured I'd draw this up as my way of giving myself closure, offering some conjecture, and hopefully stirring up some discussion. Given we've only had one summer league game some of this might be a bit ahead of time, but you never know. Long article, I now, but I think it's worthwhile.
1.) The definition of star seems to be up in the air.
The media and quite a few Rockets fans continue to tow the line that Houston still needs another star if it's going to be competitive. My question is what makes a star? Is it a certain statistical average? A certain portion of market share? A list of intangibles? A blend of them all? If it's anything other than basketball production, I'm not sold. Having said that, looking over our roster, I think our team has at least 4 stars on it, all of whom are in the starting line up. If we're looking at statistical averages to determine a star, I would assume anything near 20 points per game as a good place to make a judgment. In that case, we have 4 players on our roster who are capable of, have nearly, or have averaged these point totals. Those players being Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Yao Ming. All 4 of these players can have a monster night any night and put the team over the top. With last season's addition of Kevin Martin we saw spikes in production from Trevor Ariza and Aaron was easily able to distribute and score as he wished. With all of this in mind, I find myself asking why Rockets fans still are set on the needing of another star. At what price do you pursue a star player in the NBA? Knowing that star players can move and flop, have salaries that would take at least a 3 or 4 for 1 to make it work has to be a deterrent, especially when you consider what our current roster is. I don't know if it's a lack of faith or a negative realist look at it but I'm just not convinced that this Rockets team, as build, cannot compete without adding a major ego with a big paycheck.
2.) What makes a team good, predictability or flexibility?
This is a good follow up to number one. If we have two stars on the same team we're predictable. Everyone knows which two players are going to be the ones to get the ball and every team in the league can design a plan to guard them. The historical argument that every team has had at least two stars doesn't win me over. The Pistons show up as an anomaly but whose to say the Pistons will never happen again? A lot can be said for a team with a player like Yao Ming (Even if he comes back at less than what he was, he's still better than most are) surrounded with players who can put up star numbers but don't get the recognition. Let's face it Rockets fans, Houston gets dumped on by the media, the media anoints stars. We can't say "They don't even recognize us." Then turn around and not pay proper respects/attention to our fellas here in Houston. As assembled now, our team is unpredictable as to who is the second fiddle behind Yao (Though Martin is clearly the odds out favorite) but Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks could just as easily chip in points. Ariza went off for 30 points in a game a few times last season, even he has it in him to go off. Isn't the idea of team and cohesion what defines Houston? The idea that as a unit, any of us can step up and be the strong link? How do you game plan for a team with no clear cut number 2 option because it has 3 or 4 number 2 options? We can mismatch any position we damn well please, but for some reason people assume we won't be able to get the job done.
3.) When do I get my 3 year 20 million dollar contract and what defines collusion?
Funny enough, the biggest winner of the free agency period looks to be Joe Johnson (financially) though I read on Sports Illustrated that the Cavs and Raptors have completed sign and trades with Miami for James and Bosh (Amounting to draft pick packages) and I have to say, it sickens me. These GMs obviously want some return on their players but to have to take draft packages from a team where the draft picks will be useless is just sad. Unless the Heat manage to get their asses kicked by Orlando, Boston, LA, and Houston (The 4 teams I pick that stand the best chance to beat them) I can easily see NBA attendance or viewership plummeting from actual fans. They'll pick up some casuals but not as many as they could potentially lose for sucking competition out of the league.
The reason I say the Magic, Celtics, Lakers, and Rockets stand the best chance to beat Miami is that Miami is going to be facing its biggest challenge out of teams that have capable wing defenders to help put locks on Wade and James and interior presence to keep Bosh and whatever corpse they trot out at the 5 in check as well. As it stands, Houston's extensive list of defensive specialists and 4's fits that bill. Boston has willing and able defenders (Though Thibodeau's departure will cause some problems) and length, Orlando, if they retain Matt Barnes should be set, and LA, come on, it's LA.
My collusion statement. It's rumored, and I think it's even been stated, that in 2008 Lebron, Wade, and Bosh all discussed this. They structured their contracts to orchestrate it, and as it stands now, it happened. Stern is all too happy to slap NBA clubs with fines for any transgression, nailing Mark Cuban for saying "I'd like Lebron on my team." an innocent statement, but what about three players changing the competitive landscape of your league over the course of 2-3 years? That's just fine and dandy? They can all collude to go to whichever club can afford them but a player can't say they want to see a marquee player on their team? Please, Mr. Stern, this is weaker than your investigation of the refs post-Donaghy where you swept it under the rug. I understand, it's good for business if your manufactured cocksuckers stars win rings and create dynasties but you're killing your option to build a successful and competitive league that values players facing off to see who is the best over who draws the most merchandise payoff.
Milicic and several other players this offseason have banked in pretty well. It makes perfect sense, clubs cleared out cash and they're expected to use it. Because of that, I can't fault players for getting paid. The owners, will though. The next CBA is almost guaranteed to be a lockout. I'm actually mixed on this. On one hand, I see teams going out and taking on bad contracts to make a run this year (Especially 2 year deals out there if I don't have to pay the 2nd year due to lockout happy birthday to me). Which I think will make it an exciting finish. Houston is poised to fleece a team at the deadline but I'd only expect to see that if we're struggling.
4.) Our youngsters were worth holding on to.
Striking out on Chris Bosh and the high asking price for "stars" is the best thing that could happen to the Rockets. Summer League yesterday showed Patterson just could be the real deal. Jordan Hill, once he calms down, has shown to be a player developing quickly. When Hill made his moves and got up defensively players took notice and changed their shots. After a quality game Patterson came out and said he needs to work on his defense and that he was disappointed in his. I LOVE that in this kid. To look at a reporter and tell them "I have to keep working on the defensive end." is not something most youngsters will cite and actively work on. I'm looking forward to him cracking into the rotation.
Speaking of rotation cracking. We need a back up 2 guard and Jermaine Taylor player like a man out of his mind knowing that he has to make the best of his chance. His defense looked much improved over last year too. Houston, I think we found our back up 2 guard to mix with Buddinger.
Also worth noting, by holding on to our youth, we're no longer a tiny team. Before the trade deadline last year we had more in common with the Lollipop Guild than we did an NBA club. Now we can sport a lineup where our smallest guy is 6'0" (Brooks) and our average height parses out above 6'5" (Martin, Buddinger, Ariza, Patterson, Hill, Jeffries, Yao, Hayes, Anderson, etc...). We can play "Small" if we want by sliding Hill to the 5 and running too! Get pumped.
5.) This season is going to be a great one for the Rockets.
I can't wait to see who we pick up as a free agent off the MLE. I just have a strong feeling that this is going to be Houston's season. Call me crazy if you want but I'm not satisfied with a post season run. I'll be satisfied when I see Yao's beaming smile hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy over his head to a screaming crowd in Houston. Brooks bouncing around in excitement and Trevor Ariza's lanky ass holding his kid all huddled around that trophy. Believe in Clutch City, believe in your team, believe in the heart of a champion. THIS IS HOUSTON'S YEAR, BOYS!