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Jermaine Every: The Rockets lost. So now what?

Daryl Morey will have to take another run at it. Rockets.com

I was filling in on SB Nation 94.1 yesterday doing the national broadcast in the morning from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. My co-host, and podcast partner, Craig Koshkin and I went over the potential machinations of the impending matchup. Most Rockets fans were very optimistic, especially since the Rockets were at home. Lots of media members weren’t. However you felt going into Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, it captivated the audience.

In the end, I chose the Warriors because they have more firepower, and Chris Paul was out. Craig chose the Rockets because of home court advantage and intangibles. If you know us, you’d know how weird that is. Upon leaving the station, we were asked to do a post game show, to which we happily obliged. I knew it hinged on the Rockets winning, and never had a good feeling about it.

I grabbed some food, went home, took a nap in between watching the Star Wars marathon on TNT and laughing at my crazy kids. I was excited, but felt leery about the Rockets’ chances. I knew the Warriors were going to come in waves and wasn’t confident the Rockets could handle it.

As the first half unfolded, the Rockets were in firm control. They weren’t playing their best, but were up by 11 going into halftime. I left the house and headed to the station. There was a sense of “they may actually pull this off” mixed with “the Warriors are about to make their normal third quarter move.”

Low and behold, it happened. The Rockets missed 27 straight 3-point shots, including 0/14 in the third quarter while the Warriors took the lead and never relinquished it. There would be no need for a post game show. That realization sunk in during the third quarter. I almost left then, but stayed to watch the ending, all the while hoping things would change, knowing there was extremely slim chance of it happening.

Now what? The offseason is here abruptly. Fans are disappointed. I consider this season a failure. General Manager Daryl Morey stated that they were obsessed with the Warriors and had constructed a team to beat them. That didn’t happen. There are several key free agents on this team. Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza are both unrestricted, while Clint Capela is restricted. Losing them could be disastrous. Or could it?

The No. 1 free agent out there will be LeBron James. He’s all but guaranteed to opt out of his player option for next year and test the market. Getting a player of his caliber automatically boosts a team's chances at winning a title. The only way I see him coming to the Rockets is if he loses in the Finals to the Warrior. There is truth to the rumored beef between he and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, and he’s not impressed with the offseason the Cavs produced. However, there is a high probability he stays in Cleveland, or stays in the East. The path to the Finals goes through whatever team he’s on in the East.

Paul George also has a player option he’s all but guaranteed to opt out of this offseason. Playing in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook can be taxing. He wanted out of Indiana, but couldn’t find his way back to his hometown of Los Angeles. This may be his chance. The Lakers will be attractive because they have cap space and young talent to build around. But if he thinks joining the Lakers will topple the Warriors, he’s crazy. George is a juiced up version of Ariza. He’s a good defender, and more potent offensive threat that can create for himself or others. He’s already proven he can play with another star.

Should Capela leave by the Rockets not matching whatever offer sheet he signs, he needs to be replaced. DeAndre Jordan is the first name that comes to mind. He has experience with the pick and roll offense. He also is a better rebounder and rim protector. He’s not versatile enough to switch and cover guards like Capela, but his size and jumping ability guards the rim while changing shots. The Pearland native has made it known he wants to come home, and almost signed with the Mavs a few years ago. Another potentially cheaper option to replace Capela would be Nerlens Noel. He’s only 24, still very skinny, and hasn’t lived up to his potential.

Bringing back Chris Paul is a necessary evil. Sure he’s on the wrong side of 30, but his not being able to go in Games 6 and 7 made a huge difference. He’s made a ton of money in his career and seems as if he’s more concerned about winning, hence him turning down the max extension from the Clippers. The questions remaining about Paul are his age/health, and is he willing to take less in order to build around himself and James Harden?

There are several other guys out there for the Rockets to look at. I’ll dig deeper into potential free agents later on in the offseason. None of these moves are possible unless Morey can unload Ryan Anderson’s albatross of a deal. That deal has stood in the way of a ton of potential moves the team could make. Thank God it prevented them from getting Carmelo Anthony. Morey has turned chicken sh-- into chicken salad before. He’s managed to field a competitive team while rebuilding on the fly. This offseason will be a true test of his skills. For Rockets’ fans, here’s to hoping he can Jedi mind trick the league into giving him the pieces he needs to finally take down the Warriors.

 

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