Five Questions Answered About the Rest of the Rockets' Season
Derek Fisher, or what's left of him.
A buddy of mine texted me when news came of the Rockets trade of Johnny Flynn -- the guard with a name like a `40s-era movie star -- and Hasheem Thabeet to Portland for Marcus Camby and a draft pick. "This team was one Marcus Camby from being a championship contender." I responded, "Six years ago." We both had a good laugh. Then, the Rockets dealt Jordan Hill to the Lakers for Derek Fisher and a conditional first-round draft pick and I started thinking, "Maybe more like ten years ago."
But, the things these trades have in common are that they attempt to keep the Rockets in playoff contention -- Fisher can help shore up the point guard position while Lowry is recovering from his bacterial infection -- without casting off any significant pieces, and the two players they received have expiring contracts this season (Fisher has a player option for next year, but all indications are the team will attempt to buy him out before he makes that decision).
In all, it was a fairly harmless trade that didn't really address anything in the future other than clearing cap space for an offseason that promises to be significant, but what does it do for the Rockets this year?
5. Does this solidify a playoff spot for the Rockets? Not really. It definitely gives them depth and defensive help along the front line as well as experience in the backcourt, but both Fisher and Camby are in the final years of their respective and respectable careers. The Western Conference will be a dogfight, particularly for the last couple playoff spots, and the Rockets have a tough schedule ahead. The last couple of wins are promising, particularly with Lowry out, but it will be a battle.
Kevin Martin: Somehow still a Rocket.
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4. Will Kevin Martin improve now that the trade deadline has passed? Probably the biggest shocker of the week in Houston is that Martin remains a Rocket. He is suffering through one of his worst seasons and has spent extended time on the bench in crunch time, prompting pretty much everyone paying attention to assume his days in Houston were numbered. He now knows he'll be here the rest of the year and they'll need his shooting touch, but can he regain some of his form or will the slumping...and sulking...continue?
3. Why would they trade for veterans...particularly old ones? The Rockets have stated since the beginning of the year -- last year even -- that they believed you could rebuild without becoming a losing franchise. They might be the only people who believe that to be true and history is not on their side, but they are sticking to their guns.
Ironically, if they want to see how that has worked out for other teams, they need only look down La Branch to their soon-to-be network partners the Astros. They tried to maintain a winning club until the wheels completely fell off and they started rebuilding from scratch. The Rockets don't have to drop that far, but getting a high draft pick is a near necessity and they won't do that if they continue on this pace.
2. Are the Rockets any closer to winning a title than they were on Tuesday? No. Theoretically, they got some picks and they will free up some cap space, but they were going to do that anyway. This was a move that keeps them relevant, but no one is mistaking them for the Heat or the Lakers or the Thunder. Their championship aspirations will lie with the offseason.
1. Why should I bother watching them then? Even if the Rockets don't go deep into the playoffs, they will continue to be a fun team to watch. They play the game the right way and they have players no true basketball fan should hate. Their coach holds all his players accountable no matter what their salary and, while they might not always have the most talent on the floor, they normally are the team with the fewest mistakes. It's a fun brand of basketball to watch.