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Rockets problems are far bigger than Carmelo Anthony

The Rockets have bigger problems than this guy. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Everyone wants to blame Carmelo Anthony for all that ails Houston's favorite basketball team. It's the easy way out, the fastest way to point fingers. The average fan and all the outsiders can say the aquisition of Melo is the reason the team is below .500 and can't seem to score 100 points anymore.  The truth is, the problems are way deeper than that and are spread far and wide accross a team and roster that is light years away from the squad that should have been in the Finals a season ago.

By now you all have read and watched and listened to me vent about how important the losses of Jeff Bzdelk, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were to this team. The defense has been a disaster through the first ten games and they can't get stops and can't slow down teams when they get on a run. Their two best players have been below their averages at best and have each spent time out of the lineup due to injury and suspenson. The team that was supposed to be able to score with anyone has found it difficult to score 100 points in a game lately. They can't make the most important shot in their offensive system, the 3-ball, and struggle to make free throws and even layups occasionally. Eric Gordon looks like a shell of his 6th man of the year self and has struggled to adjust to his new role with Melo on the roster. The list goes on and on. So, sure, the defense is bad, but there is so much more to this story and a majority of it starts and ends with the General Manager that loves to soak up the accolades but hates to be in the cross hairs of criticism.  

Daryl Morey is a General Manager that cannot stand pat, period. The same reason he has made a trade at the deadline virtually every year he's had a say so or control of an NBA roster, he can't seem to sit still and "run it back" with the same roster or close to the group that got you so far, so good last year. He was fine with Ariza and Luc leaving, which most observers agreed with, but where he screwed up was not replacing them with players that had similar skill sets and could play the same system the same way as their predecessors did.

He brought in a handful of guys that can't shoot the 3 ball and can't defend individually or collectively the way this team needs players to play in order to be effective. He made a trade to unload another mistake he made previously in Ryan Anderson and brought back a wasted lottery pick in Marquese Chriss that seems disinterested at best, as well as a back up point guard coming off major knee surgery in Brandon Knight.

The roster at first glance is exactly what I thought it would be, a bunch of dudes, just guys, a few folks past their prime and some more who were going to be asked to do things completely different from what they did a year ago, and of course, two of the best players in the game. there is no continuity, no chemestry and no chance of them playing the style and brand of basketball that they played all of last season as currently constructed. 

Morey brought in Anthony, a player that he had pursued for more than seven years, that he had to have and was convinced he was the missing piece to the Rockets championship puzzle. It was like a Wall Street wolf that was so obsessed with a stock that he buys it too high and way too late to have any ROI, but it doesn't matter because he finally got the prize he had coveted for so long! He was so adamant that Melo be in Houston that he ignored the negative past history that Mike D'Antoni had with him and basically told the coach that he would not only have Anthony on his roster again but that he better find a way to make it work.

That's not even taking into consideration the back story between the player and his first NBA coach, Jeff Bzdelik. Not exactly the kind of treatment you give a guy that won you more regular season games than you had every seen your franchise win in a regular season and the guy that turned your defense into a top six squad in the league as opposed to the bottom feeding "D" the team had played previous to his arrival. 

If the GM really believed in the squad that he constructed for this season and thought it was talented enough to win a title, then why was he in such hot pursuit of Jimmy Butler? Why was it rumored that he was willing to give up four first round draft picks and a couple of major rotational players for just one guy?

Is that the sign of a guy that liked what he saw in the first month of the season or a guy that knew he had plenty of work to do to try and re-construct a roster that wasn't going to cut it in a loaded and talented Western Conference, let alone compete for a title? Now that Butler has been traded to Philadelphia, that dream is over and the heat that has been on the H-town GM is getting to a boiling point. There aren't too many all-stars out there to be had and there aren't too many GM's in the West in a hurry to help out Morey. The Anthony situation is up in the air, but the rest of the roster should be too. Regardless of what happens with Melo, Morey had better be on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, trying to add better pieces to this puzzle and a supporting cast that can make shots, execute a system and get stops better than the roster he has right now. There's still time to right the ship and get back on course with sights set on a return engagement with the Warriors, but time is of the essence and there is no quick fix in sight.

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There's a lot that doesn't add up to the headline "The Rock Buys XFL for $15 Million."
First, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson certainly is the headliner, the pitchman, the slot machine that Vegas casinos put by the front door, but he's just part of a group that, pending approval by a bankruptcy judge, is purchasing the snake-bit football league created and paid for by pro wrestling mastermind Vince McMahon.
Joining The Rock in the ownership combine are his ex-wife and still business partner Dany Garcia and an investment group called RedBird Capital Partners. RedBird reportedly is sitting on $4 billion of funds, so $15 million is mere peanuts - which the XFL won't be able to sell at concession stands if the league plays without fans in 2021.
Absolutely $15 million is big bucks, and spending it on the XFL 3.0 could involve lots of whammies. Like lawsuits, bill collectors, a cursed brand and suspicious fans who've been burnt two times by the league.
First, why would anybody buy a proven flop? The original XFL played its one and only season in 2001. Faced with dwindling TV ratings and uncertainty that networks were interested in a second season, McMahon pulled the plug. McMahon brought back the XFL 2.0 this year. Just like 2001, the first week's TV ratings were good but quickly spiraled downward. XFL 2.0 played only five games in 2020 before suspending its season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, In April, despite pouring $200 million of his own money into the XFL, McMahon announced the league was done. The XFL 2.0 declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and terminated all of its employees, including commissioner Oliver Luck, who is now suing McMahon for wrongful termination.
Let the record show that the Houston Roughnecks were undefeated with a 5-0 record, in sole first place of the XFL's western division. The Roughnecks' future is up in the air, but they were the league's glamour team and could be rarin' to go in 2021. But like everything else with the XFL, there's a big "if" attached. For example, the University of Houston wants a big chunk of the XFL sale, $800,000, for hosting Roughnecks games last season. Also, the players were officially terminated, the quarterback has signed with the NFL. It may be difficult to get the band back together.
The XFL brand's baggage certainly wouldn't fit in an overhead compartment. If The Rock, Dany Garcia and RedBird wanted to start an alternative football league, wouldn't it be easier, for sure cheaper, to start their own league, with a new name, from scratch?
I'm also not buying that The Rock is buying the XFL. Celebrities, and The Rock is the world's highest-paid actor ($87 million last year), usually don't put up their own money for companies that brandish their name for publicity. In 1989, tennis legend Bjorn Borg declared personal bankruptcy after his sporting goods stores closed. Financial commentators were shocked to discover that Borg had invested his own money in the venture. Baseball great Pete Rose was smarter. In 2016, Rose was in Houston to announce the first of what would be many Pete Rose Hit King Academies across America, where kids would learn to play the game "the right way," like Rose did. There was a whispered doubt that anything involving Rose would be "the right way," and the facility closed a year later. Investors lost their money, but Rose came out smelling like his last name. He was paid up front for use of his name. He invested nothing.
Garcia, announcing the purchase of the XFL, told ESPN that she contacted The Rock right after McMahon threw his league into bankruptcy. She told her ex-husband, "We have something really important to do." She added, "We do sports. We do entertainment. If you look at our resumes, everything points to this moment and opportunity for us, to work with these athletes and build this brand."
So if we smell what The Rock is cooking, this could be the strategy behind buying the XFL. We always hear, for a sports league to survive, it must have rock-solid TV exposure. Who better to get networks and cable onboard with lucrative, long-term deals? The Rock is the most bankable movie star going. He owns and hosts the Titan Games on NBC. He has relationships with FOX and USA cable. While networks may have cast a wary eye on McMahon and his crazy pro wrestling schemes, everybody loves and respects The Rock. TV will want to get in The Rock business.
The almighty NFL has withstood the challenge of alternative leagues for the past 50 years. They come, they fail, they vanish. But what if the NFL is thinking, we could use a minor league like baseball, or a developmental league like basketball? Instead of draft picks and free agents sitting on the bench, or biding time on practice rosters for one or two seasons, wouldn't they gain more from actual games in an NFL-affiliated rookie league owned by one of the most influential people on the planet?
Is The Rock connected? Uh, yeah. In 2011, he was first to let the world know that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed. He tweeted, "Just got word that will shock the world - Land of the free ... home of the brave, DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN." He wouldn't reveal who gave him the "word," but he later told Movietone, "I got friends in high places. The individuals who were there were proud to let me know. I knew the president was going to give his speech."
As for his own political ambitions, unlike his wrestling career, The Rock doesn't pull any punches: "Right now the best way I can impact the world is through entertainment. One day, and that day will come, I can impact the world through politics. The great news is that I am American, therefore I can become president."
President? That's almost as powerful as NFL commissioner.

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