CAROLINA CRISIS: THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU By Michael...
Yao’s injury could be an opportunity
Their choice is to trade him to the Rockets now and get something in return, or wait until he signs with the Rockets a year from now and get nothing.
If they decide to deal him, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey almost certainly would like to be at the front of the line.
Bosh is 25 years old. He’s 6-foot-10. He’s 23 points and 10 rebounds a night. He’s a great kid. He’s a Texan, too.
(Actually, he’s from Dallas, which, sort of makes him a Texan. No one’s perfect.)
He’s the best option for the Rockets filling that huge hole in the middle of their roster caused by the possible absence of Yao Ming for next season or longer.
If you’re looking for good news, this is it. No team is better positioned to withstand the loss of a Yao Ming than the Rockets.
They may not have a single major contract obligation after next season when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Bosh and other premier players are set to be free agents.
Keeping that financial flexibility suddenly is Morey’s first priority during a nightmarish offseason.
If he can trade for a player worth a long-term investment, he’ll do it. Otherwise, we’ll see a small, fast, scrappy team next season.
Do you know what small, fast and scrappy gets you in the NBA?
It gets you the team that beat the Lakers twice in the playoffs but was also blown off the floor twice.
Fasten your seat belts. Our wild ride is about to begin.
The Rockets put last season’s team together thinking they’d have three star-caliber players in Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao.
At the moment, they may be down to zero. Artest is a free agent, and unless he lowers his asking price, the Rockets aren’t inclined to sign him.
Even if they got him at their asking price, they’re uncertain about the wisdom of having a Ron Artest potentially unhappy with his salary on the roster.
As for McGrady, he has so much damage control to do with his teammates that Morey appears to be listening to any and all trade offers. His contract is up after next season, so his days with the Rockets are quickly coming to a close.
At the moment, Bosh may be the only potentially available player Morey is willing to make a long-term commitment to.
None of the other top free agents is expected to be available, and even if they were, Morey doesn’t have a bounty of young talent to swap.
At least now we know why Leslie Alexander shelled out $6 million for three second-round draft picks last week. The Rockets may have known they’d be needing help.
As for Yao, can you miss what you never really had? That’s the bottom line.
To know Yao is to love Yao. Love his game. Love his attitude. Love his brains.
In terms of being a dominant low-post player and a good teammate, there aren’t many better in the NBA. Dwight Howard and Bosh were the only others to average at least 19.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season.
Yao also missed 92 games the last four years and was sidelined at the finish line three of those years. He got the Rockets out of the first round of the playoffs just once.
In other words, he has been mostly an unfulfilled promise.
Is this a fair analysis? Of course not.
Things are always more complicated than that. How did Kobe Bryant do in those years when he didn’t have an All-Star big man beside him?
When the Rockets put McGrady and Yao together five years ago, they believed they had the foundation of a championship team in place.
They were wrong. McGrady has been as injury prone as Yao. He also lacks the mental makeup of a championship player.
The truth is that the Rockets have no idea whether Yao will play next season, or ever. They’re hopeful he’ll find a foot specialist with a course of treatment that will get him back on the floor.
But the sad truth is there’s zero reason for optimism. If this is the end, his legacy will be a sad one. He cared about the right things, worked incredibly hard and made himself into a really good player.
If he was burdened by expectations, he never showed it. Jeff Van Gundy once said that if Yao had played at UCLA or Kansas, he would have arrived in the NBA with a realistic view of what he could be.
Because we’d seen so little of him, we assumed he would be Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rolled into one.
He wasn’t as good as any of them. He was only a really, really good player that could have been good enough to help a team win a championship.
That the Rockets never won one is only partly his fault. He mostly did his part.
Now the Rockets are drawing up a new blueprint. Sports can be maddening because sometimes even good, smart moves turn out all wrong.
That’s how it has worked out with McGrady and Yao. What the Rockets do have is a terrific owner in Leslie Alexander and a really good general manager in Morey and a first-rate coach in Rick Adelman.
They’ve got a good, young nucleus of players, and a year from now, they’ll have the money to make an impact acquisition. On a sad, confusing, frustrating day, those things will have to be enough.