Creight Expectations

Patrick Creighton: Not likely any tricks up Morey’s sleeve

Daryl Morey will have limited assets to move at the trade deadline. Rockets.com

The Houston Rockets are currently 35-13, good enough for both the second best record in the Western Conference and the NBA.  Led by their pair of superstar guards James Harden and Chris Paul, the team has been able to take next step in the regular season and has shown they can play with the champs, the Golden State Warriors.

It’s a very good team and I hope you like it, because they won’t be making any major roster moves at the deadline.

Feb. 8 is fast approaching.  Rockets GM Daryl Morey usually has a few tricks up his sleeve, and we know he loves to wheel and deal.

Barring one of the greatest displays of Morey Magic that he can even think up, let alone actualize, the Rockets are going to be standing pat at the deadline, and whatever moves they might make will be minor.

The Rockets have no cap space, and they are over the tax threshold.  They don’t really have tradeable commodities on their roster that aren’t considered key rotational pieces.  Trading an Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, or Clint Capela creates a new hole to fill on the team, and none of those guys are making particularly large money (Gordon $13M this year, $13.5M in '18, $14M in '19, Ariza $ 7.5 this year then UFA, Capela $2.3M this year then RFA). They don’t have a first round pick they can deal this year (dealt in the Chris Paul trade).

So while you see other teams making headlines as the Detroit Pistons did Monday by acquiring Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers, understand the Rockets made their moves in the offseason in acquiring Paul & Luc Mbah a Moute, and they are going to battle with the guys they have.

Essentially the only position they need help is at the 4/5, where a big man who can bang and play defense against more physical players would be beneficial, as Joel Blank speculated on yesterday.  Capela has shown he can rebound and protect the rim, but he still gets pushed around some by the larger, more physical guys in the league.  Nene is always an injury waiting to happen and can’t realistically give more than 15 mins on  a consistent basis, and Tarik Black just isn’t a good enough player to go against the better PF & C in the league steadily, especially in the playoffs.

With limited bullets for a trade and no first round pick, even a GM as creative as Daryl Morey will find it extremely challenging to make any kind of move with substance.  Their best bet may be to target a player like Knicks C Kyle O’Quinn, a junkyard dog style player who is tough defensively, rebounds well and is efficient with his limited offensive game.  He could be a defensive presence for the team against larger, more physical bigs.  Of equal importance is he has an affordable contract at $4.25M and he is a free agent at the end of the season, which means no long term commitment for the Rockets and a low asking price as he is a straight rental player.

The Rockets wanted that third star to go with Harden and Paul, and thankfully they didn’t pull the trigger on Carmelo Anthony.  The right fit for them wasn’t available this past offseason.  By not making a significant deal this year, they keep their assets for the offseason, when they will need them to try to unload Ryan Anderson’s contract.  Without losing Anderson’s deal (with two more years at $42M total) there is no chase for a Big 3, so trading him is job 1 this offseason.  They will need every asset they have to pull that off.

For this year, however, what you see is what you’re likely going to get.  It will have to be good enough, because help isn’t on the way.

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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