Houston Rockets -- Screwed City
It's no surprise that Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has a Facebook page. And it's not one of those aloof "Fan" pages, either, where all you can do is click "Like." Morey has one of those "regular guy" Facebook pages where you can send him messages, post on his wall or "Poke" him.
Morey is on Twitter, too. He's @dmorey, if you want to follow him. He's not your typical famous person Twitter follow, either. He's honest, forthright, interactive and insightful. In other words, he's the exact opposite of nearly every celebrity on Twitter.
Morey is a man of the people, and chances are very high if he is in a room, he is the smartest person inhabiting that room. Those are the reasons Rockets fans have loved him, they are the fuel for the Morey Blind Trust Express.
Unfortunately, this morning you started to see the first signs of that Express derailing.
The Rockets made two moves yesterday just before the trade deadline hit, bringing in bust-thus-far center Hasheem Thabeet from the Memphis Grizzlies for Shane Battier and Ish Smith, and sending Aaron Brooks packing to Phoenix for point guard Goran Dragic. In each deal, the Rockets also received a first-round pick (conditional 2011 pick from Phoenix and 2013 pick from Memphis).
Morey's summary of the Rockets' activity:
"These moves position us better in the future," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "The big move that helps us now and in the future did not materialize, but we feel like this positions us better down the road to make that move."
We've heard a lot about the Rockets positioning themselves for "down the road." I understand it, I get it, but just how long is this road? Does it end somewhere?
Like virtually every other deal made during the Daryl Morey Era, I think the Rockets won both rounds. Hasheem Thabeet is a young, athletic, 7-foot-3 body who addresses a need. (The downside is that, according to my friend Chris Vernon from Memphis, Thabeet has an addiction to hanging out at the mall, which means he's much more concerned about his scoring average on Dance Dance Revolution than he is his scoring average in...you know...NBA games.)
As for Dragic, he has parlayed a pretty decent postseason last year into a leading role as the supporting actor on Derrick Rose's next poster:
And still, I like him better than Aaron Brooks, if for no other reason than he will stay in the bench area for the entire evening if he's not actually in the game, I'm pretty sure.
So here we are again -- small personnel victories for Daryl Morey that have the Rockets no closer to being a championship contender. Daryl Morey's winning percentage, if you will, on trades and the overachievement of draft choices is stellar. Maybe the best in the league. The problem is the impact has been minimal. For all those moves, the Rockets woke up this morning in 11th place in the Western Conference.
Put differently, if Daryl Morey were a football offensive coordinator, he's found plenty of plays to go get four or five yards, but he needs a thirty-yard strike down the field. Desperately.
There are three ways to do this:
1. Draft the next big thing. Highly unlikely even with all of the assets the Rockets have because, for no other reason, nobody knows who the next big thing is right now. Unlike other drafts the last few years where we knew that Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin or John Wall were going to be foundation-type players. The Rockets can sit where they are and draft the twelfth-best player in a suspect draft, or move up and draft an enigma with more upside. Crap shoot.
2. Trade for or sign the current big thing. Unfortunately, the league has turned into a game where the überstars have decided to conduct their own 3-on-3 tournament in the glitziest media markets. So as much as this hurts to hear, Houston is on the outside of that group looking in. If you're not in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami or Boston, you have to hope to draft someone via avenue number one above -- and even then, it's no guarantee that player won't (a) force a trade to one of the big markets (Carmelo), (b) leave via their own made-for-television special for one of the big markets (LeBron) or (c) display a pattern of behavior that would lead you to believe that eventually he will do either (a) or (b) at some point so you need to dump him for 75 cents on the dollar (Deron Williams).
3. Start taking chances on guys who could be the next big thing. A tricky one for the Rockets because inherently this means bringing in someone who is undervalued, for whatever reason (performance, discipline or clinically insane). The Thabeet trade is a flavor of this, although it's the longest of long shots. And the Ron Artest trade from two years ago has blown the roof off of the whole "avoiding kooks" thing. Buying low and hoping the stock appreciates is the biggest leap of faith of all. And sadly, this may be the Rockets' best option.
My point, which I shall now make via rhetorical question, is "Has there ever been a more helpless time to be a Rockets fan?" It's like they're just good enough to have painted themselves into a corner of mediocrity, and not even the Ivy League acumen of the smartest personnel guy in the league can bail them out.
Basically, they're screwed. And as a fan, you're screwed.
So now how soon until we attach the adjective "embattled" to the term "genius" for Morey? How soon until the people do a collective heel turn and hit the People's General Manager with a figurative chair shot? It may not be fair, but it's a bottom line business.
The Rockets' bottom line resides in basketball purgatory.
On Morey's Facebook "Mobile Upload" photos page, there is a picture from a business trip Morey took to Las Vegas a couple years ago. The picture shows a blackjack hand where Morey was able to split aces three times and he hit the mother lode -- four blackjacks. You can't do any better than that.
Unfortunately, Morey was only betting the table minimum, ten dollars per hand. A resounding win yielding little in the way of impact. A blip on the radar screen. Forty bucks. A metaphorical hand of blackjack if there ever was one.
At some point, Daryl Morey needs to stop fiddling around with red chips like Goran Dragic, Hasheem Thabeet and draft choices, and start messing with the black and purple chips.
Otherwise, what's the point in playing?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.