Hello everyone! Welcome to my blog post for today, also known as "Day Four of the Jim Rome Smack-Off Recap Hostage Crisis." That's right, based on feedback on my Twitter feed and the monster hits that our rogue "Smack-Off On A Mobile" have been getting, I know you people want this. But I'm holding it hostage...until I can find two hours where I'd rather listen to the Smack-Off than do whatever it is I'm doing.
Admit it, the suspense of "When will he write it?" is killing you, isn't it? Well....is it? It isn't? Oh. Damn. (It'll get done. Someday.)
In the meantime, Rockets season is now over, and for a second straight year there will be no playoff basketball at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets wrapped up a season that started with cautious expectations, nearly cratered in January, and finished with a 17-8 run that gives Rockets fans some modicum of optimism heading into the offseason (assuming there will be basketball next year).
It's not all that hard to figure out -- if you grade player-by-player the group the Rockets ran out there for a large majority of the last third of the season, most of the guys they trotted out achieved a grade of B or better compared to expectations. To that point, these are my completely subjective marks for each player by year end:
Kyle Lowry: A The closest thing the Rockets have to an All-Star. And yes, I feel completely vindicated when I wrote a thousand or so words defending his signing over the summer. (Now if there were some way to vindicate my calling the Houston Cougars the "Lock of the Century" when they played UCLA last year. Dammit.)
Chuck Hayes: A-When expectations at the beginning of the year include "can't make a lay-up" and now you CAN make a lay-up...well, you gotta love the Chuck Wagon. It does bother me that his feet remain stationary when he shoots free throws no, though. More than it should bother me, at least.
Kevin Martin: B I hate to get into the whole "23 points a game is 23 points a game" because there's a big part of me that thinks if Kevin Martin is your leading scorer, your ceiling is 43-39, but he was solid to spectacular during the final 25 games.
Luis Scola: B- $9 million per year for 18 points and 9 rebounds is actually pretty good value, but defensive liabilities and flopping drop him a small peg. (Sidebar: Apparently the re-make of the movie Arthur is bombing in theaters. Russell Brand, the star of the movie, has some Scola-like features -- long, dark, greasy hair; long face; kind of skinny. I contend that the movie would have done twice the business with Scola as the leading man in place of Brand. I know I would go see it.)
Chase Budinger (Pre-All Star Break): D- I went to the Philadelphia game right before the All-Star Break and Chase Budinger looked like he had one foot out the door to the D-League. He was held scoreless in a game where he could barely defend. He was, in a word, horrible. And then....
Chase Budinger (Post-All Star Break): B+ With his minutes going from around 18 a game to starter's minutes (nearly 32 a game), Chase saw his shooting improve in every category (field goal, three pointers, free throws) and, more importantly, he was much more assertive and confident. Just a completely different guy. It was almost like they actually acquired another player when the Rockets made the Battier trade to open up minutes for Chase. Also, the power of Chase being a quasi-ginger cannot be underestimated. Courtney Lee: B Another guy who saw his game improve when his minutes went up Post-All Star Break. Solid fit in Rick Adelman's system, and one point was cited by Adelman as a guy who was effective in the fast break game for the Rockets because he was one of the few guys "who would run." Novel concept.
Patrick Patterson: (Very cautious) B The body of work isn't that extensive, but when he was given some minutes when Scola went down with an injury in March, he put up a few double-doubles and showed signs of being a plus player for the team, certainly worthy of the 14th pick in the draft. I still wonder how often his name gets googled and people immediately think he's an openly gay former WWF wrestler.
Jordan Hill: C- It would have been nice to see Hill take a step forward this season, if for no other reason than the fact that the only other player in the rotation of length is....
Brad Miller: D+ ....and he actually was making losing plays for you at the end of the season. Not a great use of $5 million, but at least Hill is better than his draft classmates...
Hasheem Thabeet, Terrance Williams, and Demarre Carroll: F Yes, the Rockets have 13 percent of the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft on their roster (or they did until they cut Carroll loose). They got all of them for pennies on the dollar, but the fact is I don't even know if they're all wearing anything under their warmups. They never take them off!
Goran Dragic: C Had a triple double in the final game capping off the most unlikely threesome of players to get a triple double from one team maybe in league history (Lowry and Hayes are the other two).
Yao Ming, the Person: A
Yao Ming's Feet: Z
Rick Adelman: A- I don't think there's a coach in the league that could have coaxed more out of this roster than Adelman. Hard to find young guys on this team whose games haven't developed when given the opportunity under Adelman.
Daryl Morey: C+. The team needs a superstar-level talent; they're still in a holding pattern. Assets stockpiled, Morey is still winning the little battles, but the problem isn't losing the war, it's not even being allowed on the battlefield. The problem isn't that trades aren't working out, it's with the magnitude of the trades/signings that don't get done. A big part of that is circumstance and the amount of clout that star players have over where they end up...but unfortunately, I can't give a grade to "Circumstance" or "Amount of Clout Star Players Have." They are not Rocket employees. Morey is. Sucks, but he knows how that goes.
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.