HP 2011-12 Season Preview: Houston Rockets and Clutch’s Quest for a Star

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. The lockout has lifted, we have a season, can I get an Amen? (Amen.) And in the spirit of renewal, our shiny new cadre of writers is putting together previews for all 30 teams in true HP style. From where teams are going to what their disgrace is to explorations of pop culture, we are about to rock, salute us, can I get an Amen? (Amen.) So sit back, relax, and ponder the awesomeness of this fully operational Hardwood Paroxysm 3.0. -Ed.

Photo via Planet Basketball

 

Quo Vadimus (Where Are We Going?)

by Curtis Harris

Wherever it is the Rockets have been going the past two seasons. Enceladus? Sioux City? Cracker Barrel?! None of the above. It seems Daryl Morey is intent on finding a franchise player instead of good time country eatin’ with a storefront full of novelty items. That much was clear when he tried to acquire Pau Gasol in the ill-fated three-way trade with New Orleans and Los Angeles. (Can you imagine Pau Gasol in your grits?) Morey was so close to plucking that apple from the tree, but getting a franchise player has been the target of a fruitless quest that is now entering its third year.

Actually…

On a larger scale, this has been the general state of the Houston Rockets since the demise of the Olajuwon-Barkley-Pippen triad in 1999. There was a brief fulfillment of promise in 2009 but that evaporated with the final crumbling of Yao Ming. For the last dozen seasons, Houston has run through false prophets (Steve Francis) and defective real McCoys with no factory warranties (McGrady and Yao) in a largely failed quest for success. Whether Gasol would have changed the state of things is debatable, but the current group anchored by the very-good-but-not-great core of Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry has a very real ceiling of pluckily scrapping together juuuust enough wins to get an 8th seed and then get annihilated but whoever is in the #1 spot.

Third year in a row for that same old ceiling.

If Morey can’t capitalize on this current group of talent (and $11 million of cap space) for a big name star like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams or even Pau Gasol, then it is time to completely detonate this rocket ship. Blow it to smithereens and collapse into the lottery for a real chance at drafting the stud that has eluded the Rockets for a dozen years.

In the meantime the on-court product will still be worth catching. The very-good-but-not-great core is one of the more efficient trios going in the NBA. I’ve yet to see Patrick Patterson miss a mid-range jumper. Chase Budinger continues to prove he was quite the draft steal. Kevin McHale is now patrolling the sidelines and is sure to give a great quote a night. The Chuckwagon will still be roll…

oh wait…

Get well, Chuck. You’re truly a stagecoach amongst apple carts.

 

The Disgrace

by James Herbert, Whiny McWhinerson (not official title -Ed.)

I’m supposed to write about what I hate about the Rockets. Problem is, I actually quite like them. I like smart offensive basketball, so I’m a huge fan of both Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. I write about basketball online, so I adore Kyle Lowry. I write for this particular site, so I care about Terrence Williams. I just watched this video, so I care about Jonny Flynn, too. I think Patrick Patterson’s underrated, Marcus Morris will contribute right away, and Chandler Parsons was a STEAL at #38. I’ll miss Kevin McHale as an announcer, but I think he’s a solid hire. You know what I hate, though?

None of these guys are Pau Gasol. None of them are Nene.

I just went through all the teams in the league and predicted their records. I feel uncomfortable about all my picks and can’t stand making context-less predictions, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is I put the Rockets at 32-34 and I hate that. I’d hate it even if we weren’t talking about “outright lies” from the Commissioner’s office. I hate it because the last time the Rockets were in the playoffs, Yao Ming went down with a goddamn hairline fracture. I hate it because that was the first time they’d reached the second round since Charles Barkley was on the team. For years, Daryl Morey has been making smart little decisions. He’s been collecting assets and putting an entertaining team on the floor, waiting until the time was right to grab the elite players needed to win big. Heading into this abbreviated free agency period, he had a roster composed of a few very good players, a few reclamation projects, and an abundance of solid young role players. This doesn’t make for a great team, but it does make for an ideal trading partner if you’re trying to move a star. For a brief few hours, it looked like the organization would be rewarded for its patience. It looked like the days of the Rockets being a middle of the pack team were over. Now? Not so much. Now, this team is just confusing. With all this depth, I’ve no idea where the minutes will go.

Pau and Nene would have given the Rockets one the best frontcourts in the league and made them an immediate contender. If not for the veto, I’d be dreaming of Gasol-to-Nene interior passes. I’d be giddy over pictures of McHale working with his two new post players in training camp. I’d be contemplating how they’d match up with the bigs on the Grizzlies and the Knicks. Instead, I’ve projected this team to finish just outside of the playoffs again and I’m wondering about Jordan Hill’s development. Spending time thinking about Jordan Hill isn’t a bad thing and Houston won’t be a bad or boring team this year. It’s just not what could have been.

 

Video Interlude – The Red Dream

 

by Connor Huchton

[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU8VgL-vxco w=600 h=400]

 

Let’s Start A Cult About: Chandler Parsons

by Danny Chau

Consider this a sub-cult. For those of you who have been spurned by the Cult of Hedo Turkoglu, Chandler Parsons may hold the key to your happiness. Before he got lazy and grossly overpaid, he stood at the altar where point-forward fetishists prayed. While much of Hedo’s allure has washed away with age and sloth, we are only witnessing the beginning of Parsons’ career. As such, patience will be rewarded, but patience must be obtained first.

While we may have to wait for tangible evidence of Parsons’ awesomeness, we can already begin gawking at his versatile skill-set. In the NBA, where pick-and-rolls are king, Parsons has the ability to pop, roll, and initiate the sets after four years in Billy Donovan’s PnR-heavy offense at Florida. He has a clean stroke on his jumper, he can rebound the ball well despite his thin frame, and he already passes and handles the ball better than a lot of NBA wings.

The cult will start off slowly. Houston’s roster has a wealth of young talent in need of development, but the team doesn’t have enough minutes in the rotation to accommodate their youth while keeping their more proven veterans happy. Parsons will likely take up the role of Chase Budinger’s doppelganger as the tall and athletic floor-spacer, but with Terrence Williams and more widely-anticipated rookie Marcus Morris also deserving of minutes, Parsons won’t be playing much, realistically.

That’s okay, though. Everyone has faith in something improbable, something that has all the evidence pointing vigorously to the contrary. Cults exist beyond logical explanation. They exist to entertain a tantalizing notion, to watch that notion potentially grow into something special. So come join the Cult of Chandler Parsons. Because any chance of erasing the post-Orlando (first stint) Hedo Turkoglu from our collective memory will surely be worth the wait.

 WILL YOU REMEMBER ME, I WILL REMEMBER YOU

by Matt Moore

This team has been lovable for years. And this is shaping up to be another year where the Rockets are adored by the masses. KLOE, Thabeet maybe being good, Scola being Scola, etc. I’m over it, but that doesn’t mean this team is any worse. Well, you know, they lost Chuck Hayes, but that’s OK. And they don’t really have a center, but that’s fine. And their chemistry is likely compromised by the failed trade that actually wouldn’t have really made them all that better just more expensive. But whatever.

What we’ll remember about this team? Good team, tried hard, incomplete. This is probably the last time it’s constructed this way. McHale’s going to want to remake them in his own image. Morey’s going to have to get desperate and pull the trigger on a big upgrade, because much like me or you, he doesn’t want to get fired. Since all the good players are headed for a coastal city that isn’t located in the Republic of Tejas, this does not bode well for the young wizard.

So enjoy this team now. Take pleasure in KevMart getting wing slips from Lowry, Scolas’ no-lift 18-footer, Terrence Williams’ rollercoaster and Patrick Patterson drifting in the background screaming ‘WHY DOES NO ONE LOVE ME WHEN I TRY SO HARD?” Nothing gold can stay, and the same goes for stable teams. Eventually inertia gets the best of the foundation and once the cracks show, they spread like vines.

Seth Carstens