Sometimes, the path to a championship is paved with subtle moves as opposed to blockbuster deals. Take the San Antonio Spurs for example. We all know the genius behind selecting Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili late in the draft, but how about the Spurs signing heretofore unknowns like Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson this past off-season? It’s that sort of sneaky-smart maneuvering that has San Antonio on the verge of winning ring number four.
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It’s also the rationale behind the Rockets attempt to reacquire point guard Mike James. The proposed trade (Juwan Howard to Minnesota for James) isn’t sexy and it by no means puts Houston over the top, but it does make the Rockets a better team. And that’s the bottom line.
Unfortunately, this deal comes a couple months too late. The trade was actually first proposed in February, but Houston backed out because it did not want to upset team chemistry. Of course, we can play the what-if game until the cows come home, but it doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination to think James could have been a difference-maker in the Rockets crushing Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz. His grit, shooting and playmaking were all attributes Houston sorely missed during its short playoff run.
Looking ahead, there’s no question much more work needs to be done. James is by no means a savior and Howard’s impending departure means the Rockets are now even more desperate for help at the power forward position. They still need to get more athletic. And the team will continue to tip-toe along the edge of oblivion as long as it hitches so much of its hope to Tracy McGrady and his balky back.
But, make no mistake; it is a small step in the right direction. And for a franchise and fan base so desperate for good news, hopefully it proves to be a positive start on the path leading back to a championship. – Jason Friedman