Meanwhile, consider the Rockets. They have dealt with all kinds of injuries to Yao Ming and many others. But have made trade after trade, year after year, just trying to win a few more games, and to get a tiny bit better. They have always been competing and scrapping, and by the looks of things always will be. And do you know what's sad? In the NBA, teams almost never progress from pretty good, like the Rockets and Blazers have been, to excellent. It's the jump we allege every team can make, but it's one of the least likely in sports.
So remember this Camby trade, and watch the Rockets and Blazers from here forward. They're racing to be the first to make it back to the Finals. One of them is trying to win by competing hard every night, the other is trying something that nobody in their right mind would want to watch night in and night out.
As much as I appreciate the strategy in Portland, as a fan of competition, I wish I could support a league that inspired 30 teams to approach things like Houston.
It's not deadline day until Daryl Morey makes a deal involving a second-round pick. In this one, the Rockets used their expiring contracts to get a better player who is also on an expiring contract; this barely affects their long-term strategy at all but it does give them a leg up in their playoff push. Expect Camby to take minutes as the backup center, and in the big picture he provides more quality size for a team that could really use some.
The Rockets are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and the ability to make life hellish for either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. No, Rox GM Daryl Morey didn't get his superstar at the trade deadline (he has long coveted Lakers big man Pau Gasol), but this is a pretty solid haul; especially considering Camby's expiring contract.
The Blazers will receive the rights to a conditional second-round pick from Houston, but these rarely materialize. There isn't a prospect here, no cap relief for next year, no player to take a flyer on (even Flynn). Not a bad trade for Portland by any stretch, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an absolute gift sent Houston's way.
And [the Lakers] gave the Rockets a first-round pick in the process. A solid one, too, if the Dallas Mavericks improve and post a record within the NBA's top 10 this year, which allows the conditions to be taken off and Houston to utilize the conditional selection in this year's deep draft.
The Rockets appear to be a dangerous team right now. And not just as an upstart eight-seed to challenge Oklahoma City. Because they might not be sitting in that eight-seed slot much longer.
Giving up very little to get back Camby is a shrewd move by Daryl Morey as he tries to piece together a team that can return to the postseason. Now he's got Camby and Samuel Dalembert inside, which makes one heckuva over-the-hill tandem. Still, Camby, Dalembert and Luis Scola give the Rockets good size and depth inside, especially when they're looking at the prospect of taking on teams like the Lakers who possess a lot of beef in the paint in the Western Conference playoffs.
No telling how productive Camby will be as his age has really started to show lately, but he's an expiring deal and it's not like the Rockets gave up anything of value to get him. Thabeet was not going to do anything and Flynn is their third-string point guard when Kyle Lowry returns. Letting go of a second round pick is really the worst thing of it all, but Morey made up for it by snagging a first rounder from the Lakers in the Derek Fisher deal.
The Rockets wanted better than Camby as they pursued Pau Gasol, but he'll have to do for now.
Houston Rockets: They didn't get Howard, but they got Marcus Camby out of Portland and that is a fantastic fit for them - they have needed a defensive-minded center. All they gave up was guys such as Jonny Flynn who were not playing anyway. They take on Derek Fisher and get a first-round pick for it, but that's not going to mean much more than a little depth. Houston is going to be a tough out in the playoffs. Grade: A-.Houston Rockets
Houston ended up as one of the deadline's winners, as much because of the other moves Western Conference teams made as from the addition of Camby. With the rest of the bottom of the playoff picture imploding, the Rockets now look more likely to reach the postseason than not, and they have a realistic chance to move up as high as sixth.
Yeah, stop if you've heard this before -- the Rockets made a trade where they dumped some useless "assets" and were able to ever so slightly upgrade one position while positioning themselves to make a big move down the road
that will never, ever fucking happen.
The general consensus has been that Daryl Morey's trades have, by and large, been wins for the Rockets. Most of the time they have been. To use a baseball analogy, Daryl Morey has had a bunch of base hits, but can't hit the home run. (To be fair, he had a solid triple down the line back in December with the Pau Gasol trade, but the umpire David Stern decided to reverse the call.)
But honestly, It's beyond the point now where you can even give the Rockets grades on trades in terms of what they mean on the court. Every Rockets trade is graded on how well it sets them up to make some magical bigger and better cure-all trade down the road. What a helpless, awful, miserable place our team has brought us.
So now we do what we do after every other trade the last four years.
We wait. Fun.
Sure, they keep riding the treadmill of mediocrity, but nobody accomplishes dual goals better than Daryl Morey. Camby has lost a step this year, but the Rockets gave up nothing of consequence and get an excellent backup center at the very least for a potential playoff run. Trading Jordan Hill, a player who wasn't in the rotation, for another draft pick is a worthwhile swap for taking on Derek Fisher.
So, Houston shored up its interior defense and rebounding while adding a backup point guard and another draft pick in what should be a loaded draft. That gives Houston two potential first-rounders to play around with and try to make an actual impact trade this summer.
Can these guys put Houston over the top in the playoffs? That'll be the biggest question, but we've got a little while before that needs answering. If anything, the addition of Camby means Houston's front like has a much better shot at banging with Memphis or OKC than it did before.
I like the additions the Rockets made. I think they had much bigger plans but at the end of the day they made a pair of decent moves. The problem is that they will need their in-house options - mainly Luis Scola and Kevin Martin - to start earning their seven- and eight-figure paychecks by playing better during the final third of the season. Without strong contributions from those two, the Rockets will have little chance to make noise in the post-season and with five teams within two games of the Rockets in the loss column and Kyle Lowry out for a month, Houston may even struggle to maintain their playoff spot.
Poor starts to the season from Scola and Martin gave the Rockets no veteran pieces to pair with their young assets, forcing Houston to settle for small acquisitions instead of big ones. Now it's time for Scola and Martin to make it up to the franchise by playing like the stars they are paid to be. If Scola and Martin return to their previous form, with the subtle but potentially valuable addition of Camby and Fisher, the Rockets will put up a fight in the post-season.
The bigger picture for Houston here is that they needed some veterans in the locker room to help stop some squabbling and some of the dissension in the ranks between players and new head coach Kevin McHale. Fisher and Camby are consummate professionals and should help the Rockets focus more on winning basketball and less on roles with the team and off-the-court issues.
Their chances of making the playoffs just got better, as well, with Portland throwing in the towel.
Took Fisher off the Lakers' hands (and reportedly will buy out his contract) and got Marcus Camby from the Trail Blazers, surrendering Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. Not awful, but what's the point? Grade: C
It wasn't the trade for a marquee player Daryl Morey had coveted, but the Rockets general manager deserves kudos for his last-minute magic as the NBA trade deadline was about to expire Thursday.
In two deals, the Rockets improved themselves for a playoff run this season and also got something for the future. All the Rockets, who currently sit at No.8 in the Western Conference with a 24-20 record, really gave up of value was a second round draft pick to Portland. Not a bad day at the office.
The Rockets have much to celebrate going forward. They can potentially have multiple first round draft picks this June and cap room to go free agent shopping this upcoming summer.