Oh, Crazy Pills.
How we love you.
Just having you back in relevant conversation makes us giddy. That you’re now joined with the player most frequently associated with playoff failure in the modern age, a seven foot Chinese man, a 27 year old “rookie” who looks like Machine if he ate a buick, Rafer-Alston-God-Among-Men, and Who Wants To Sex Mutumbo. Welcome to H-Town, Ron. Remember, everything’s bigger in Texas.
There’s a(nother) great discussion going on over at Free Darko regarding what is being referred to as the redundancy theory. It was the first thing that sprang to my mind once I started looking at the roster. It’s not that Battier and Artest are the same player, far from it. But the skill set is similar, like Arenas and Hughes. Both are defensively focused, but Artest is more physically talented, while Battier is a harder worker. Both can be offensive assetts, but while Artest has a much greater capacity to take over a game, Battier has a much better ability to work with the offense to get it’s gears moving. But they both add a level of toughness to this squad that will now be unmatched in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, this shifts so much of the pressure off of Tracy McGrady. This has been one of my favorite things about watching Morey work. He seems to recognize that McGrady is a franchise player, and that he has the capacity to be absolutely amazing. But he also realizes, “Like it or not, I have to take as much pressure off the guy as possible. I have to put him in an easy position.” Now, the argument can be made about whether that means McGrady is actually a franchise player, due to that. But he’s there, they’re committed to him (for the moment), and so Morey has to work with what he has. And so he’s slowly surrounded him with tough players that can score and defend. But last year it wasn’t enough, because there wasn’t a guy who could create his own shot and be the guy you “have” to cover, especially once Yao went down. Now he has that guy, and that’s only going to make Battier better. That’s the nice thing about Battier. He’s not going to complain, he’s not going to whine, he’s going to go out and play basketball to the best of his ability and try and win. And with that kind of support, with Yao back, and the confidence the rest of this squad found last year, McGrady has yet another new level of comfort for him to try and ascend to greatness.
There are a lot of times when teams make big moves out of desperation or due to mental devastation. That’s not what I think this was. Morey knew that this team needed something extra, but that it was close, so there was no reason to get desperate. They lost to the Jazz. Again. But I don’t think any of the Rockets would tell you they can’t beat the Jazz, especially with the Dynasty back. And now with Artest? You have such a collection of talent and size, I have a hard time looking at how this team is not in the top four teams in the West. You’re talking about a team that, despite losing one of the top three (two? one?) centers in the league, was the tenth best team in scoring differential. And you’re adding a better defender, rebounder, and scorer than you gave up.
From a lineup standpoint, the first one mentioned was this insane concoction: McGrady at point, with Artest, Battier, Scola, and Ming. Hollinger says it’s more likely that Artest switches to the four, for Alston, McGrady, Battier, Artest, Ming. So they can either have a massive, athletic herd of velociraptors swooping down with this big giant Chinese T-Rex coming behind, or you have two gunners, two defensive beasts, said T-Rex, and a rotating crop of killer giant robots behind you to provide size and energy.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Morey make another move. The big talk is for a point guard, if they don’t believe in Alston. I think you’re going to have to give up more than Morey wants to if you want to upgrade at that position, and the Rockets are running out of expiring deals to send to Memphis.
This team, just the way it is now, can contend for a championship, depending on the breaks they get. And after the last two seasons, you’d think they’re due. But adding Ron Artest may not be the best way to get the Gods on your side.