Losing Ground

The time is now for Morey to make a major move to improve Rockets

Daryl Morey is not likely to sit idly by as the Rockets struggle. Rockets.com

Daryl Morey knows this team as currently constructed doesn't have enough to win a championship. In fact, it already looks like this team isn't as good as the one that came one hamstring away from potentially winning it all. It's actually a good thing if Morey can look at his roster, look in the mirror and realize there is work to be done for a roster that was expected to be top 4 in the league. The biggest loss was when assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik walked away and decided to call it a career. The timing of his departure was even more unfortunate as it came on the heels of the start of training camp with little to no time to find a replacement. Without him at the defensive helm, the team looks unorganized, uninspired and completely checked out of the defensive end.

The addition of Carmelo Anthony has proven to be more of a distraction than a success. Anthony is the main focus of the media and he is quick to oblige with comments centered on his mental struggle with the lesser role he has been given and time for him to adjust and accept the changes. It's exactly what everyone hoped would not happen, but was what most experts and basketball minds predicted when he was bought out by the Hawks and decided to join the Rockets. Eric Gordon in in the midst of a horrible shooting slump to start the year and don't think for a second that the addition of Anthony has nothing to do with it. The fact is, it has everything to do with it as EG struggles to play a different role with other players getting the shots and crunch time minutes that used to belong to him. The truth is there are more problems than answers and all the while the team everyone is chasing quietly got better and continues to roll.

The Warriors have won back to back NBA titles and yet they continue to get better, add more pieces and win at a high level while playing both ends of the floor. They also know that most players that have attempted to beat them and have failed, welcome the chance to join them and chase championships. Golden State was able to add Boogie Cousins in the off season and it's just unheard of that a World Championship team could go out and add an All-Star center at a quarter of the usual price it should have taken to sign him. They have the titles and the swagger and the Bay and that has made them the premiere destination for free agents and veterans that are fading a bit, because they know if they go, chances are they will walk away with a ring. As long as they still have Durant, Curry, Green and Thompson and they stay healthy, they are going to be extremely hard to beat. The Rockets had the ideal chance last season and the perfect storm brewing to knock the "Dubs" out and get themselves in The Finals and we all know how that story ended. Smart people in high ranking positions with other teams in the league know that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best and that means off the court in the draft and free agency, as well as on the court.

Morey is a smart guy and as much as he is the master of the media and propping up his team and organization by saying all the right things to make people believe this team is better than a year ago and more equiped to win a title, quietly we all have to hope he sees a squad with too many flaws to compete for a crown. The Jazz are better and so are the Spurs and if you haven't heard, the Lakers got LeBron James. Teams all around the West have improved their roster and with it, their chances of moving ahead of Houston.

The good news is that there is still plenty of time and at least one guy out there that could instantly take you and your title hopes up a notch to a more realistic chance to win it all. Jimmy Butler has been on Morey's radar for quite a while and unlike Melo, if he can get him in his prime and get him in here with plenty of time, the team elevates to a totally different level of title contender. Morey is now rumored to be willing to give up four first round picks, Eric Gordon and others to bring the Tomball native back home and no one should be shocked or think that an offer like that is too much to do.

If the Rockets are at the level they expect to be for the next several years, those picks would not bring players that could play significant minutes and they might not even be able to crack the rotation. If not Butler, there are others out there that can help and the opportunity to acquire them needs to be right now. That's right, there is no more flexibility to wait for talent to develop and personalities and abilities to mix.

The time is now for Morey and the Rockets to go for it all and with CP3 older and only signed for a few more years, it's full blown go time for Red Nation and "NBA title or bust" must be the mentality. No excuses or substitute will be acceptable to the city and its fan base, not to mention the teams' owner Tillman Fertita. It's only October and this can all be forgotten if the right moves are made to insure that the team is playing in late May and June for the second straight year.

 

 


 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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