Prado: What a freaking drag Monday night turned out to be. Rockets lose to the Galactic Empire in overtime, Texans lay an egg on national television? Blah. But what's this in our inbox? Actual questions?! Feck yeah! (<-- that's right, an Almost Famous reference.)
Thank you for your submissions!
On with The Spill:
BD34: So, what do we want to talk about on Fluffy Happy Bunny Time Hugtacular 4.0? The return of Kevin McHale? An honest appraisal of Kelvin Sampson's work in the interim? Let's go with Sampson.
Jonathan Feigen was gushing on Twitter about how other NBA teams noticed Kelvin's coaching while McHale was gone. I don't see it. We got a few wins but let's look at the two signature W's. We gutted one out against the Bulls, that was a well executed game and he'll get some credit there. They played the Lakers at home and used a strategy that is widely becoming known as the easiest way to beat the Lakers. We've seen some erratic and undisciplined play by the Rockets during this stretch. As of writing this the Rockets are 9-10. I don't know if you can really put much stock in the performance Kelvin coached aside from seeing the lack of discipline and the aversion to defense. The rotations were pretty good but I'm not entirely convinced that he was much more than a mediocre coach in this span. So, the shortest way of putting it, you kept the ship steady, Kelvin, but you are being oversold by Feigen.
AP: Feigen usually has solid observations about these things, he's been covering the Rockets for a long time so I take a pause when he makes word love to someone so lasciviously, but I disagree with him too. Not because I think he is wrong but simply because I didn't really see a tangible difference in this squad under Sampson than McHale. Did the players do anything thing or play in a way that could've not happened under McHale? I didn't see much difference, and maybe that's a good thing. A cohesive coaching staff is just as important as good team chemistry. Sampson should be proud, and this actually may be enough to leverage a full time gig for him elsewhere. But for now, it's good that McHale is back.
We got some submissions this week. Here's the first:
Sup guys. I thought I would contribute to this little farce...er...symposium of basketball's great critical thinkers. I will save my more acerbic questions for a later edition and begin with this instead. In an interview recently, Harden said he had "already begun recruiting" fellow players to come join the Rox. Your thoughts on who this could possibly be?
Oh, and I would say keep up the good work, but, well...you guys f*cking suck. Here's to new beginnings!
Love you girls,
BD: If James Harden is recruiting any players I'm honestly taking stabs in the dark. Harden isn't bound by the same rules that GMs are so he can talk to guys to go and demand a trade. He can talk to guys before they hit free agency. So we'd have to look at the pool of free agents this up coming summer but we can't rule out some players under contract. The really "scandalous" part of it is if he's lobbying for a guy at a position we already have filled. I say scandalous because clearly on a team like the Rockets we're all catty high school girls and just two slights away from the basketball equivalent of Mean Girls. (Obligatory "We have a new student from Africa!' Welcome. "I'm from Detroit..."). Shut up, don't judge me.
For an actual answer as to who James Harden is probably trying to recruit? After conducting some investigative journalism (Because that's what you all pay for and come here for, this quality of reporting) I have come to the conclusion that the likely recruitment pitches are going to: Demarcus Cousins (Hates Sacramento), Jamal Crawford (Player Option, good bench option), Kevin Love (Disgruntled in Minnesota), Kate Upton (Because James loves us and wants us to be happy), and I'll go with the throw-away option of Josh Smith (Free agency).
OK, so really all my investigation was I went through his Twitter and checked on people he follows. He most like is followed by them and he can send DMs back and forth. Having said that, the only people on the list that he doesn't follow are Kevin Love and Josh Smith but I assume James is able to call someone.
AP: What if he's calling Chris Paul? I remember watching Olympic coverage of the Dream Team's practices over the summer and I saw one sequence where Paul and Harden were sitting next to each other on a bench talking and laughing and carrying on. My natural journalistic instincts tell me that this must mean Harden and Paul are best friends and will Paul will most likely be best man at Harden's wedding.
And here's the crazy part. We keep Lin too. Imagine the depth we would have with Lin running the second unit and spending more time with Donatas and Jones in the forward spots? We'd be contenders.
The Rockets generally have a "No Extensions, Period" policy. In general, this makes sense, but you have to buck the trend for guys like James Harden (which they did). Is this a policy they should stick to, or should they look to extend players who aren't superstars? If they shouldn't, do you think this affects how agents deal with the Rockets? Would you steer your free agent to a team that didn't extend contracts? -ak2themax
BD34: This no extension policy is one I've called bullshit on since Aaron Brooks was in town. The Rockets have lost a fair bit of players due to money ball and an unwillingness to extend that a lot of fans are clamoring for in general. I mean, look at the anger directed at not having a guy like Goran Dragic anymore. Despite the fact that rebuilding almost precluded him since his ceiling was basically hit but the point stands, the Rockets didn't extend, then got cheap with the contract. Now that there is a foundation in place I feel like the no extension policy needs to die along with our search for a franchise guy. Harden is the guy you now extend players for, tie up the guys you can build with.
If the Rockets see something in Jones as a potential starter or rotational player, lock him up before he hits the market because the market can give you either a shock to your system you didn't expect or a savings you didn't expect. Either way, it's an element of control that you lose as a franchise when you refuse to negotiate an extension. I'd rather know I negotiated and overpaid a little bit for a guy who wanted to be in Houston than let the guy get an offer before I try to match it. The message it sends to the rest of the league? Come in here, be the kind of guy we want, put out your best effort, and you'll be taken care of. Instead, what we've seen here in Houston was "Come here, give us all you got, and we'll ship you out as soon as your value peaks." I know if I were a free agent or a throw in to a trade I'm not going to give Houston a fair shake because I'm interested in security and reward for my performance.
AP: My Social Attorney and I once discussed rules that all GMs should have just as rules of thumb. One of them was never give out a contract longer than four years. In sports terms four years is the perfect window for success, its enough time to know if you have a star, enough time to build around him, enough time to know if this guy is worth it. So I think "No Extensions" Is a pretty good rule by definition. And If I were an agent I would love a team that never extended anyone for the same reason that lawyers love having clients that get sued all the time. It gives the agent more chances to negotiate one player's contract, thus more money.
Reader Lawrence says: Given your obvious need for questions for the Spill, I thought I would step up and help you out by asking a question that's (vaguely) basketball-related:
What should America's next fringe sport to hit the big time be: Slamball, ChessBoxing, or Hockey?
BD34: As a hockey fan, that idea of it being a fringe sport hurt a little bit. Primarily because I'm a proud nearly Canadian and let's face it, a sport that's embodied by massive bearded men knocking each other's teeth out while kicking each other's ass is definitely one that shouldn't be labeled fringe for a country that loves football so much. Slamball would be awesome if it we could hybridize it with toddlers and tiaras. Think of it. Honey Boo Boo and cast hopped up on whatever cocktail of sugar and caffeine that these parents have managed to skirt child abuse charges with bouncing around on trampolines and dangling from the rim by their elbows after a colossal dunk? I'd watch the shit out of that. Chess boxing is right out because it was invented by a French artist and any sport whose genesis came from that combination is likely to be an awful post-modern fatalist sport that will roll right over as soon as Germany enters the competition. Also, baguettes.
AP: I'm still waiting on the WNBA.
I got another couple of questions for ya. Admittedly, I haven't been able to watch as many games as I'd like, but I have caught the past few. What I see is what I expected. A young team that is going to show flashes and be inconsistent other nights. However, after watching Pacman get his ass whooped by Marquez last night, I started thinking. We have to get stronger in more areas than just one. One big name FA isn't going to solve all of our ills, because instead of Harden playing 40+ a night, we'll have two worn out stars. So here are the questions:
-Where do you see us ACTUALLY set at and where do we legitimately NEED an upgrade. For instance, we can safely say our starting SG is good, but are we really set at PG, PF, etc?
-Who do you see out there we can target in FA, and I don't mean the big names like Josh Smith? I'm talking about adding that vaunted depth we once had. DM only has so many 2nd round picks.
-This one is for Abel. How do you cope with the fact that your co-writer...host...whatthef*ckever, is a known habitual crotch grabber?
Thanks for the replies,
AP: Currently I think we're a team that has a year or two of lump taking before anything serious happens. It'd be delighted if we made the playoffs this year but wouldn't really expect any noise. With the promise of room for another max contract this offseason however, it is not unreasonable to expect another big name As far as that goes, I think the positions where we are actually set but could use depth in: Center, Shooting Guard.
That's it. Every other position could be upgraded tomorrow.
Lin is worth starting but if you can get a guy like Brandon Jennings or Chris Paul then you go ahead and do that. A Lin/Jennings duo would be awesome and realistically affordable if he takes slightly less than Paul and we assume Milwaukee doesn't match.
At power forward, I'm a fan of David West but he could not be worth the salary demands. A guy I would love to see alongside Asik would be Utah's Al Jefferson.
Jefferson is basically the exact opposite if what Asik has done for us lately. Al's number for this season are a cool 17/11/2 and he'd score more points from the power forward position while still sucking down 6-8 boards a game.
As far as depth goes, well it's a shame that what Morey really gave up in the pursuit of Dwight was the stellar bench that we had. Lowry/Dragic Parsons/Budinger Camby/Delembert weren't exactly slouches.
We've talked about some of these names last week. Omri Cassipi, David West, Chauncy Billups and Ramon Sessions might be guys that would work.
Finally, as to BD's purported crotch grabbing ways it seems to bug others more than it bugs BD. So I'm thinking maybe its not that BD has a problem grabbing them, its that WE have a problem with it. I mean, I don't think the guy can really help hisself. All we can do is control our reactions to it... which for me is a swift kick in the ass.
BD34: As for where the Rockets are actually set, I'm going with set at the following:
Starters: PG, SG, and C. Bench: SG and SF. Not in immediate need of an upgrade: Starting SF and Starting PF. Desperately needed: Bench PG, PF, and C.
As for who the Rockets could fathomably get this offseason to build that depth? That's something I've had an eye towards for a while. I'd be happy with signings of the following guys, and I'm putting their purpose in parenthesis. Devin Harris (Veteran back up who won't mind being a bench guy), Tyreke Evans (Not entirely realistic, wouldn't mind him at SF), Omri Casspi (Bench PF, young), Andris Beidrins (If he exercises his ETO).
Really it'd be tough to split money for good bench guys but I'm in agreement with your Sessions idea. If we're after a PF to replace Patterson I'd dump my money on a guy like Marese Speights. He's got a good ceiling, a strong PF, plays a bench role in Memphis but he steps up when he gets the chance.
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