The Rockets want you to notice them. They really do.
That is about the only way you can explain the cry for attention Houston has subjected itself to this offseason so far. From amassing draft picks, to reportedly signing Jeremy Lin to an offer sheet, to going after Dwight Howard, the Rockets have been active. But for what purpose?
This was a team after all that missed the Playoffs by two games and has been knocking on the door of the postseason for some time now. Of course it is long recognized that the place you don’t want to be in the NBA is purgatory — good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but not bad enough to get a high draft pick.
The Rockets are continuing rebuilding themselves in some fashion.
Houston reportedly will exercise its amnesty waiver on Luis Scolaon Friday, parting ways with the team’s starting forward and the $30.7 million over the next three years remaining on his contract (the final year is not fully guaranteed and at least $21 million over the next three years is guaranteed). Scola is sure to draw interest from around the league in amnesty bidding as he averaged 15.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game last year (those numbers were actually a step back for the 31-year-old center).
The rumor of course is that this waiver is occurring to make room for Dwight Howard and several of the Magic’s bad contracts in a potential trade. It was not lost on many people when the Rockets official Twitter page followed Howard, Chris Duhon, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu in quick succession.
That only further stoked speculation.
Then came the report with some actual meat — i.e. an offer– on it. Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com report that the Rockets appear to be letting Scola walk so they could absorb the hefty salaries of Chris Duhon ($6.8 million/2 years), Hedo Turkoglu ($23.8 million/2 years), Jason Richardson ($18.6 million/3 years), Quentin Richardson ($5.4 million/2 years) and/or Glen Davis ($19.4 million/3 years).
The Magic have a lot of dead weight they want to cast off and the Rockets seem to be willing to reel it in to get Dwight Howard. The reported deal, and this one is a doozy, would send Howard along with Jason Richardson, Davis and Duhon to Houston for Kevin Martin, Toronto’s 2013 First Round pick, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Chandler Parsons and the draft rights to Royce White, Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Jones.
Pretty much the Rockets and Magic would swap teams.
So why does it seem like Houston is willing to mortgage its future and commit long term to several veteran players who underperformed last year for a season of Dwight Howard, who sources say will not sign an extension with the Rockets? Your guess is as good as mine.
Certainly Houston is trying to get back to the Playoffs. The Rockets have not been there since 2009 and have had one sub-.500 season since 2003. That usually would mean a whole string of success and a pretty sound future. Not for the Rockets, though. They went to the Playoffs only five of those nine seasons and got out of the first round just once.
Houston is the definition of NBA purgatory right now.
Acquiring Howard would sure be a way to pick up some brief notice. But at what cost?
Houston is reportedly giving up all of its young players, cap flexibility and draft picks to acquire Howard and “bad contracts” for the next two years. It is really difficult to see what is in it for Houston.
Now, the news is not all bad.
Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon’s final year is only partially guaranteed and Jason Richardson has an early termination option before his final year. So maybe the Rockets would not be stuck in salary cap hell. But then you remember, Houston still has qualifying offers for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin on the table.
Either way, Houston’s methods are fishy. It is not quite a complete rebuild and it is not quite committing to winning a championship now.
The Rockets look to be making a move that ensure they remain in purgatory or are really bad with no prospects for some time. Either way, that is not a place Houston wants to be.
At least, I guess, we will notice them for a while.