Just when market sentiment is at a yearly low, who should stroll into town but the LA Lakers. The Lakers, suffering from the NBA equivalent of a 48 hour stomach virus (3 game losing streak) are looking to get well against Our (Poor Beleaguered) Heroes.
According to a lot I'm reading here, ALL IS LOST. In fact, there's only one thing to do: Blow it all up.
Well, maybe two things, the other being: Mope Petulantly
Moping Petulantly is more of a lifestyle choice, and so I'm really unequipped to offer much on that front except to say it never, ever, got me a date.
Blowing The Bastard Up - now that's a call to action. And, at this point, a foolish one. Stupid plans, however, are something of a specialty of mine.
I would say this - 20% of the season gone is the exact wrong time to press the panic button. I know what we've all seen, but here's the thing. I believe in my analysis. I've looked at this roster, at every player. I still believe the Rockets have a good roster. Do they have a good team? Right now, no, they don't. Sometimes combinations just don't work. Sometimes they never will. But sometimes the souffle has to say in the oven a little longer before it comes together. Right now, we really don't know. When will we know for sure that this is a disaster? Surprise, right around the trade deadline - the perfect time to scrap your roster if scrapping is indicated.
Anyway, while I don't believe my analysis so much that I'll go down with the ship, I do trust it enough that I'll ride something 20% down and buy more if nothing has changed fundamentally. Fundamentally, the Rockets are the same team I thought would win 52 games. They won't now, but they might still make the playoffs with (yes, I know, but dreams are free) a healthy roster.
Besides, what choice do we have? Fire someone? Who? And who replaces them? So let's assume no one is fired.
Let's do the thought experiment a little more, though. and Blow it up.
First, let's ask - Ok, blow it up. Blow it up how? Who do you want out of town on a rail, who doesn't already his ticket punched for that ride come the trade deadline anyway? Because the enigmatic Jared Jefferies, he's got his "A" boarding pass printed already.
Let me say now that blowing up the team is a possibility that has always been present this season. In fact, the Rockets need do nothing but make deadline trades to do it. Or indeed, do nothing at all.
Remember that the Rockets have a lot of expiring deals, which allow the team to be rebuilt very quickly - next year.
The Rockets don't have a single contract (after this season) that isn't tradeable, not one. Luis Scola has shown himself to be very good value for money. He's not going to lose much in the way of hops in the next few years, since he never had them to begin with. I think the McHale comp holds true - he'll hold good value to the day he retires.
The biggest money next year is owed Kevin Martin at $12 million. Listen, there are very few guys who can score what Martin scores, as efficiently as he does it. He has his flaws, and I'm not sure if sometimes non-existent defense counts as a flaw, but that's a lot of points for the money. Who might be a title contender with Martin on their team? Chicago, for one (Rose, Martin, Deng, Boozer, Noah - yikes). Dallas or SAS become nightmarish, as does OKC. How about Orlando? All this to say, no toxic contracts on the roster, not even Miler.
Shane Battier's deal is expiring. So is Aaron Brooks. So is Jared Jefferies. So is Yao Ming's. So is Chuck Hayes'. In all, assuming no one is re-signed, the Rockets have $36.2 million coming off the books next year. The rest of the contract are pretty cheap, with the exception of Brad Miller, and he looks like pretty good value too - not many backup centers can score 25pts...ever.
Go back and read that again. $36.2 million. That's a lot of spending money. I'll go on record now and say that the Great Lockout of 2011 costs the league and players exactly zero regular season games next year. Maybe some preseason, and maybe there's some sloppy ball early, but that's it. You read it here first.
So, with $36 million, a possible high lottery pick (and I don't think this draft is all that weak), New York's pick, perhaps, and whatever swag we get for those expiring deals (and we got a metric ton from McGrady's carcass), there's your rebuilding scenario right there. (I don't expect that much this year, but there are some financially hurting teams with interesting players out there.)
So, whether we do anything at all now, and knowing Morey, something will be done, there is a vast opportunity to rebuild with what we want (assuming its available) simply by doing nothing until this off season. Isn't that soon enough to rebuild? I think it will have to be, because the candidates to turn the team around through a trade just now are few and far between. Discount Melo until Worldwide Wes and his wife tell him what to do, because he doesn't have a clue unless someone buys him one.
Last year was a special situation, with a number of teams stripping their rosters to the wall to have money to spend on the Three Tostitos in Miami. This season? Much less so. But again, a lot of teams want to shed long term salary anyway, so that is in our favor. Also, here is a list of 2011 Unrestricted Free Agents that seem at least somewhat interesting to me:
Jamal Crawford, Ray Allen,Shaq, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins,Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, JR Smith, Tayshaun Prince, Lou Admundson, Yao Ming, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, TJ Ford, Craig Smith, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, Michael Redd, Troy Murphy, Ronny Turiaf, Mickael Pietrus, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Joel Przybilla, Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, Reggie Evans, Kyrylo Fresenko, Andrei Kirelenko, Ronnie Price.
There are more, of course, and some restricted guys, and I've left Tim Duncan off the list, as I expect gravity to fail before Duncan wears another uni.
Of that list, who do you want? Landry? Nene? Dalembert? Prince? Randolph? It's not terribly inspiring, and it's hard to see some guys moving, yet there are some pieces that completely address our concerns, particularly Nene and Prince. That also leaves resigning Yao a very real possibility. Unless Battier is part of a trade, I think he resigns here, unless he goes to Portland. As for Aaron, I can't really say. I'd like him back, as there are few players as purely enjoyable to watch.
Anyhow, if rebuilding is called for, it will be done, and the roster is in a great position to do it. If this teams does what I think it will, and turns things around, then it isn't, but even so, the opportunity to make big changes is there next year.
So why panic? The time to do something isn't now. Soon, maybe, but not now. Petulant Moping, here we come!