It might seem odd to think the Rockets have done everything they could to maintain their roster this offseason when they made arguably the biggest deal of the summer in dealing Chris Paul for Russell Westrbook in a blockbuster trade even by this year's NBA standards. But, when you consider that really was a one-for-one swap and the rest of the roster remains almost entirely intact, it seems clear keeping the band together — for the most part — was key for GM Daryl Morey, Coach Mike D'Antoni and the crew at Toyota Center.
On Wednesday, they continued that theme by signing Eric Gordon to a new contract extension. Gordon, 30, a critical offensive weapon (particularly from beyond the arc) and underrated defender, signed for three years, $54 million, the final season of which is not guaranteed unless he makes an All-Star team or the Rockets win a title.
As usual, the amount of the deal sent some fans to social media to howl about the costs. And, yes, it was the maximum the Rockets were allowed to pay Gordon under the collective bargaining agreement. But, it's not a long deal, it's not your money (so, why do you care if Tilman Fertitta drops some Landry's cash on EG?) and it does the one thing the Rockets believe will give them an edge over all of the other "super teams" the league created in the offseason: continuity.
While the Lakers, Clippers, Nets and even the Warriors had fairly substantive roster overhauls this summer — in the case of Golden State, not all of which were necessarily desired — and certainly saw significant upgrades, the Rockets, one of the best teams after the All-Star break last season, stood (mostly) pat.
Given how badly the began last season and the fact that it took a frenetic mid-season re-tooling by Morey (never mind another MVP-type season from James Harden) to salvage what otherwise could have been a lost campaign, it's no wonder they valued consistency over upheaval. "Splash" Gordon's signing is illustrative of that and our guess is forward P.J. Tucker is next.
Of course, they still managed to explode the offseason by acquiring Westbrook and it would be simply idiotic to overlook the significance of what he brings to the team over Paul, who was a stalwart and brilliantly intelligent player but without the explosive tendencies of his replacement.
Still, it will be Westbrook who slides into the culture of a team that has been together at least a couple seasons, not a player brought in to reshape it. And it's a roster that, to a man, has strong opinions along with the freedom and respect from teammates to express them.
This kind of familiarity, the Rockets hope, will get them off to a good start and keep them solid during any rough patches. But, just as importantly, it will give Westbrook a comfortable spot to land with veteran guys like Gordon he can rely on so he doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting. Harden too for that matter.
For the next three years, barring a trade, the core of the Rockets should be together including Harden, Westrbrook, Gordon, Capela and, most likely, Tucker. Despite a huge trade this offseason, they might be the most stable roster of any franchise in the Association. Signing Gordon was more evidence of that. Hopefully, it pays off.
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