Game Time: Jedi Master Obi Wan Morey Strikes Again
At some point, other NBA general managers are going to just stop taking Daryl Morey's calls. Nobody enjoys being made a fool of, no one aspires to be the target of an atomic wedgie on the playground, and no one wants to be the Imperial Stormtrooper that gets snowed by Obi-Wan Kenobi on the way into Mos Eisley....
This is pretty much what Daryl Morey has been doing for the length of his brief tenure as general manager of the Rockets. When he's not turning second round draft picks into regular rotation contributors, he's busy convincing teams to give up their finest meats and cheeses for bags of warm garbage (with the occasional fine meat or cheese sprinkled from the Rockets because occasionally you have to give up something to get ten-times-something; plus, I don't want to disrespect to Carl Landry).
It happened again this morning. What was shaping up over the last few days to be Morey deciding which package to take -- a bunch of stuff from the Knicks or a bunch of stuff from the Bulls -- turned into a surprising (and somewhat polarizing) trade with the Kings where the main eventers were Landry and Kevin Martin, and finally evolved into a surf and turf of the Knicks' deal and the Kings' deal.
In the end, apparently it will shape out as such:
ROCKETS get Kevin Martin and Hilton Armstrong from the Kings, Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries from the Knicks, the right to swap first round picks with the Knicks in 2011 (unless it's first overall), and the Knicks' 2012 first round pick (unless it's in the top five)
KINGS get Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey from the Rockets, and Larry Hughes from the Knicks
KNICKS get Sergio Rodriguez from the Kings, and the hours of unintentional comedy of watching Tracy McGrady try to revive his career in a Knicks uniform
Since a lot of this deal is window dressing to balance out contractual dollar amounts, clear cap space, and get under the luxury tax, allow me to boil down this trade in a functional sense, i.e. what it means on the court to the Rockets...
Daryl Morey just atomic wedgied the New York Knicks (and maybe the Kings, too; more on that in a minute). Whittling this down to guys that matter, Jedi Master Morey swapped Carl Landry for Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, and potentially two lottery picks if the Knicks strike out on LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh, a distinct possibility.
I'm convinced if the trade deadline went just a few more hours, Morey would have convinced the Knicks to throw in the Empire State Building, Spike Lee, and a conditional slice of cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli.
Throwing a scorecard on this deal for the other two teams before giving my perspective on what this means to the Rockets:
KNICKS: The Knicks basically shed their last long-term bad contract that was trade-able (sorry, no one is taking Eddy Curry's $11 million; you're stuck with that one, Walsh) and gave up their lottery pick from this past draft (Hill) and potential lottery picks in 2011 and 2012 to open enough cap space to go sign two of the megastars on this year's free agent market. In other words, as I outlined in my post yesterday, the Knicks are "all in" on Donnie Walsh's ability to recruit two marquee players to the Big Apple. The silver lining for Knicks' fans is that after living through the Isiah Thomas Era, they can pretty much survive anything.
KINGS: The Kings record with Martin in the lineup this year was 4-18; when he was injured they went 14-18. During Martin's absence, rookie Tyreke Evans established himself as "The Man" and a guy who could take over in crunch time. Martin and Evans together wasn't working, and Evans is clearly the guy with the bigger upside, youth, and a current rookie contract dollar amount on his side.
So the Kings parlayed their second best player and top scorer the last few years (Martin) into a solid, young (and for one more season, VERY reasonably priced) power forward and a big contract ($13 million in Hughes) that goes off the books after this season. I, for one, think the Kings did all right on this deal, but I'm not the biggest Martin fan, which brings me to....
ROCKETS: All right, breaking this down into plusses and minuses....
PLUS: Assuming Yao comes back healthy, the Rockets essentially position themselves for somewhere between relevance and prominence for the next five years having to give up only Carl Landry, who while making a big leap this year had probably maxed out his skillset.
PLUS: Jordan Hill is a big, athletic body who is worth taking a chance on, hoping he may thrive in a more stable environment. And if he doesn't work out, he's just a rookie contract.
PLUS: The Rockets stand to net two high draft choices, the quality of which will be predicated on the Knicks ability to, all of a sudden, execute a sound business plan. As Tiger would say...HUGE.
PLUS: Kevin Martin does give you an outside shooter that teams will have to respect, a huge plus that should pay even more dividends once the Rockets have a center who commands a double team back in the fold
SLIGHT MINUS: You had to take on Jeffries contract (almost $7 million through 2011), but honestly once you included Martin in the deal (his contract has three more years topping out near $13 million), 2010 cap-friendliness ceased being a buying criteria for Morey.
MINUS: This whole thing truly working out (barring striking franchise player-type gold with one or both of the draft picks) is predicated on two things -- Yao's health and Martin becoming a really good second banana on a good team. The former, there's no need to dissect; we all know why Yao's foot needs to have magically healed.
As for Martin, I've gone on record, a couple times actually, with my feelings on him as a player. In short, he's way too one dimensional for my tastes. A great shooter who has thrived as the leading scorer on a bad team but hasn't really shown the ability to make others better and his defensive prowess is hovering somewhere between "wretched" and "non-existent."
While he cures a couple things that ail the Rockets (outside shooting, offensive firepower in general), it will be painful on many nights watching the backcourt of Brooks and Martin try and stop people. I mean, REALLY painful. Also, I'm not wild about his contract, which tops out near $13 million in 2012-2013. With his injury issues (and yes, when you've missed more than 20 games three straight years they are now "issues"), Martin has every bit the chance of evolving into Kevin Martin's Expiring Contract as he does "Kevin Martin, starting two-guard on a Western Conference Finalist." In fact, if I could wager on it, I would go with "K-Mart becomes K-MEC" as being slightly more likely. You also just don't know how a guy will do going from playing off the radar in Sacramento, where the last meaningful game included Vlade Divac and Chris Webber before his feet were amputated, and playing in a city like Houston where success is expected.
For better or worse, Kevin Martin is now Robin to Yao's Batman. If Batman somehow gets killed by bad guys (like the evil Stress Fracture Fairy)....well, we've seen the Robin Show. It's called the Sacramento Kings, 2006-2009. It's not a very successful show.
Still, for the price of Carl Landry and the Ghost of Tracy McGrady, when you consider Donnie Walsh coming in and sweetening the pot at the last minute, it's a chance the Rockets had to take.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 PM weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.