Joel Blank: Is it possible for the Rockets to still salvage the off-season?

Joel Blank: Is it possible for the Rockets to still salvage the off-season?
Daryl Morey still has some work to do. Rockets.com

How would you rate the Rockets off-season so far? Do you think they are done wheeling and dealing, or is there still time to make a move or two even after they sign Carmelo Anthony? What if Daryl Morey was somehow able to find a new home for Ryan Anderson? Can they still be a top defensive team having lost two of their top five defenders to free agency? Training camp is a couple months away and these are some of the more pressing questions that remain.

It's kind of hard to deem this off-season as anything other than disappointing when the conversation started with the possibility of bringing Lebron James to Houston. After the King decided on Hollywood and Chris Paul resigned in H-town, fans were still hopeful of big things and big names coming to Houston. Instead, Trevor Ariza signed in Phoenix and  Luc Mbah A Moute got tired of waiting and headed back to the Clippers. For all of those experts who said the Rockets would be just fine if they were just able to bring everyone back from last year, those hopes and dreams were thwarted by the exit of key rotational players.                                                                                            

Clint Capela’s negotiations dragged out for the majority of the month, and somewhere along the way fear and doubt crept it—assuming he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal. Thankfully, both parties reached an agreement last week and now it looks like Carmelo Anthony will be the next piece to fall.  With free agency all but over, the experts in Vegas have the Rockets slipping to third in the power rankings and odds to win the title next year. By their standings, the team has dropped a notch in quality and Boston is the biggest threat to Golden State. I guess bringing Boogie nights to the Bay Area and a healthy Uncle Drew accentuate the opinion that in Houston there is still work to do? (Notice I did not say "there was a problem")

What if Houston finds a way to get off of Ryan Anderson’s final two years and $40 million? After all, Anderson has become public enemy number one in Houston due to his lack of production and inability to live up to lofty expectations. Not since Brock Osweiler or Kelvin Cato have we seen the city turn so quickly and adamantly on a local athlete.  If Daryl Morey could somehow find a new home for "Rhino" and give the team some much needed cap flexibility in the process, I don't think the city would care if they got a bowl of soup back in return.  If they were able to get a defensive minded and playoff experienced wing player like Iman Shumpert in the process, fans might suggest Morey should get a max deal as a reward. Before we go too far, let's keep in mind he was also the guy that signed Anderson to the deal in the first place. 

If you read between the lines above, you can figure out that the Sacramento Kings might be interested in a trade for Anderson and could possibly include Shumpert in the deal. Anderson is from California and has said he would like to finish his career in Sacramento. Shumpert is a square peg in a round hole as an expensive veteran on a young and rebuilding Kings squad.  So if you are holding out hopes of salvaging the off season and believe the glass is still half full, let's hope the Kings and Rockets have each other on speed dial and somehow, some way, there is still hope they can salvage what's left of the summer and be ready to run it back at the Warriors and the rest of the league next season.

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With their closer revealed, here are the Astros top bullpen X-factors

Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.

Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.

Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.

Who pitches the sixth inning?

Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”

While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.

And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.

But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!

Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!

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