If “dropping the ball” is the go-to expression for missing an opportunity, the Houston Rockets just Welkered it so far this offseason and through the beginning of NBA free agency.
Everything was laid on the table for the Rockets to become heavy favorites in the West, but the Rockets walked away with virtually nothing from free agency and actually lost much more than they gained. It’s been a roller coaster ride from hell for Rockets’ fans. It just keeps going up-and-down, and every time it’s getting close to ending, the car just kicks back up again and takes you through the ride another time. By the end, everyone’s sick and puking all over the place. It’s one big disaster. That’s the analogy for Houston’s offseason so far: one big, pukey roller coaster ride.
Thought to be major players for Carmelo Anthony this summer, the Rockets only stayed in contention for Anthony for about a day before the Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks became the three teams Anthony was considering. The Rockets made more headlines for photoshopping Anthony in Jeremy Lin’s jersey than they did for actually being a threat in the Melo sweepstakes. Yikes.
After Anthony to Houston was reportedly out of the question, things moved from bad to worse for the Rockets. Chandler Parsons, who the Rockets let test the market as a Restricted Free Agent, signed a three-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks, forcing Houston to make a tough decision about their future. Either match the Mavs’ offer for Parsons, or lose him completely to a team the Rockets play at least four times per year. Decisions, decisions.
Then, a small window appeared for Houston to try to drag Chris Bosh from Miami back to his home state of Texas. It was initially reported Bosh was strongly considering the Rockets’ offer, but was leaning toward returning to Miami if LeBron James was returning to the Heat. We all know how that situation turned out. James went back to Cleveland, and in one iota, it appeared Bosh was headed to Houston.
All of that changed a few hours later when Miami threw the kitchen sink along with a five-year, $118 million at Chris Bosh, and he elected to stay in South Beach. That opened the door for Houston to match Chandler Parsons’ offer. Surely, the Rockets would match, right? Wrong.
Then, without a real reason, they didn’t, one of the few mistakes of general manager Daryl Morey’s run in Houston, and things got really weird. Instead, Morey and the Rockets traded Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, sign-and-traded Omer Asik to the Pelicans for Trevor Ariza and some no-names, re-signed Troy Daniels, and then things got so weird that no one knew how to react. On Tuesday, the Rockets signed Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey. Why? Honestly, I can’t figure it out.
Obviously, the summer and offseason is not over and there are free agents left for the Rockets to try to sign. The moves the Rockets made don’t make that much sense. Last season, they were the fourth-best team in the West during the regular season and, probably, the sixth or seventh best team in the league. Bringing back the exact same roster would have put them at least in contention in the West, especially when none of the other teams out West dramatically improved their roster this offseason. Instead, the Rockets’ role players from last season have been replaced with worse role players for the next season. It doesn’t make any sense.
It’s not like the Rockets won’t be competitive next season. They should make the playoffs if they stay relatively healthy. Though, it has to be frustrating to be so close to making the jump to an elite team, and then picking up your ball and going home. Yes, the Rockets will be competitive but right now they’re about the seventh or eighth seed. I expect the Rockets to seriously pursuing Kevin Love as long as he’s still on the table, but who are they going to trade? Seriously, someone tell me who they have to trade now? At least, Asik and Lin were expiring contracts. Surely, someone would have taken them at the trade deadline, if they couldn’t be used to grab Love.
It’s not like the Rockets were the only team who had terrible run during free agency. The Lakers, obviously with no real plan for the future or even being competitive ever again, re-signed Swaggy P to an atrocious four-year, $22 million deal, obtained Jeremy Lin from the Rockets, and re-signed Jordan Hill. Just awful. The Heat, as you might have heard, lost the best player in the world to Cleveland. The Hornets, after Utah matched their offer for Gordon Hayward, lost Josh McRoberts and didn’t make any other moves that will help them next season. Still, none of those offseason atrocities really compare to Houston’s offseason.
The Rockets set themselves back at least another season or two. Howard isn’t getting any younger. How many years of elite center play does he have left? Three? Four? Maybe Five? Title windows open and close in the NBA so fast. The Rockets may have just missed their window to make their roster strong enough to win a championship, at least with the core of this roster. Years down the road, I may significantly regret writing those words, but I’ll take my chances. I don’t foresee a title for Houston with Harden and Howard as the core of this team unless they get another star within the next year. They need another star player. I don’t blame them for going all out to try to appease Anthony or Bosh. It’s a risk, but they needed to take it if they seriously wanted to win a championship.
I blame Houston for not getting something better than Trevor Ariza, Alonzo Gee, Scotty Hopson, and a protected 2015 first-round pick in exchange for Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. If you’re a Rockets’ fan, you can spin it any way you want. Maybe, it’s good to rebuild. Maybe, they’ll somehow steal another star player like they stole Harden from the Thunder, and it’ll be business as usual.
Maybe it’s just me, but it sure feels like the Rockets just missed their window.