Me, You, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Pops Mensah-Bonsu has found an NBA home, and all is right with the world.

Frankly, I didn’t think I was ready to immerse myself in an NBA world that didn’t have Pops in it; his last voyage overseas left me feeling lost and alone.  Not only has he locked up an NBA gig for next season, but Pops has found a team with some serious needs that he’d be happy to oblige.

A quick up-down of the Rockets’ roster (sans Yao, sans T-Mac, sans all hope) drives one point home in an excruciatingly painful way: this team is pretty pitiful.  It’s not an issue of design, really, just a ridiculous string of miserable luck highlighted by a brief addiction to Crazy Pills.

The 2009-2010 Rockets are a collection of role players geared toward producing in a defensive system.  Few players that will suit up for the Rox are capable of creating their own shot off the dribble, and let’s face it: teams are going to wise up to the fact that Aaron Brooks drives inside, draws the defense, and kicks it to the corner almost every time.  Guys like Artest and McGrady, though not pantheons of offensive efficiency, are at least capable of getting something going.  Something that doesn’t involve repeated ball-handling malfunctions, rushed shots, and a desperate case of “trying-to-do-too-much-itis.”

Or maybe that’s tattooed somewhere on Ron-Ron’s back.  But we can all come to an agreement that for all his offensive shortcomings, last season’s Artest-infused model was more productive than the similar Ariza model will be.  Ariza is destined for role player glory, which can’t light a candle to Artest’s delusions of offensive grandeur.  Crazy Pills’ combination of gutsy and downright foolish play can end in misery, but still serves as a beacon of light when set against the shot-creating ineptitude of the current bunch.

Pops doesn’t exactly solve that problem, but he does help provide an interesting alternative.  The Rockets are going to miss shots, and they’re going to miss a lot of them.  That’s where the “bigs” that have been amassed in Houston come in: Landry, Hayes, Scola, Pops — these are all strong rebounders, and three of the four are capable of converting down low.  RIP, Chuck Hayes’ childhood dream of being a 10 PPG guy in the big leagues.

Odds are Pops won’t see major action for a team thick with such similar players, which means that this is all just a convenient excuse to talk about the Rockets’ shortcomings.  But at least this signing seems to be indicative of an emphasis on rebounding over strict size in Houston.  Rather than chasing a Jason Collins or Adonal Foyle down the rabbit hole, Morey and his Superfriends are content with fielding a team with just one player taller than 6’9”.  And that’s okay.  In fact it’s pretty commendable, even if Houston struggles to top 30 wins this year.  Some departures from orthodoxy are products of insanity, and some of necessity.  This is certainly a bit of both, with the black hole left by Yao’s injury and Morey’s own personal brand of genius/insanity working together to create an overachieving cast of undersized bigs.  This could be fun.

So welcome to Houston, Pops.  Live a little, learn a bit, and rebound a lot.

Seth Carstens