Rockets In the Market for Another Superstar This Summer
Not too long ago, the narrative surrounding the Houston Rockets revolved around the team’s lack of success at luring a superstar player to town via trade or free agency. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey often absorbed the bulk of this criticism, but the veteran executive stayed the course and was able to land All-Star guard James Harden in a 2012 trade and All-Star center Dwight Howard via free agency in 2013.
Although the Rockets were unceremoniously bounced in the first round of the playoffs this season, there’s no doubt the franchise has built a foundation that will allow them to be a player in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future.
But Morey and the Rockets don’t plan on being stagnant in their approach this summer. Morey insists the team will be actively looking to add another marquee piece in free agency to pair alongside Harden and Howard.
“The reason the West is so strong is because the owners are better,” Morey told USA TODAY Sports. “I think the free agents are getting smarter and they’re picking owners.
“Dwight choosing here sort of represents the sea change in Houston, sort of proving that we’re a Tier-One destination for free agents. And obviously, we’re going out there again and saying let’s get one of these top guys again… I’d say the reasons [Howard] chose Houston are going to stay going forward.”
The biggest names available in free agency this summer figure to be LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh (assuming all three exercise their early termination options). Other names who could hit the open market include Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Greg Monroe, Zach Randolph, Luol Deng Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce.
Players have been recruiting potential free agents to their respective teams for years, but it has come under more scrutiny from fans and media since James elected to pair with Bosh and Wade in Miami during the summer of 2010.
There is no doubt Howard wants additional stars to consider Houston as a prime destination spot, especially this summer, but the veteran center maintains he won’t put any additional pressure on any of the potential candidates. Ultimately, Howard feels a free agency decision is one that must be made by the player without outside distractions.
“A great man once told me that this is my plane, I fly it where I want to fly it, I’ll land it where I want to land it,” Howard said. “I built it, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. If I want people on that plane, I’ll put them on there. If not, this is my plane. For ‘Melo and all of these other free agents, this is their plane. This is their time to fly wherever they want to fly. They can’t let anybody or anything get in the way of doing what’s best for them.”
The Rockets currently have $56 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for next season, which on the surface limits the franchise from becoming an active force in free agency. However, rumors are swirling that Morey would be more than willing to package center Omer Asik and guard Jeremy Lin in a trade to free up additional cap space. Asik and Len combine to represent $16.8 million on the team’s committed salary for next season. Other assets could also be included to clear up more space, or get a team to bite on the Asik-Lin package. The Rockets are reportedly confident that they can move Asik and Lin, freeing up the necessary space to land another star and form a Big Three of their own in Houston.
The Rockets finished this past season with 54 victories, the franchise’s highest win percentage since the 2008 campaign. Despite the team’s success, Houston won’t rest on their laurels.
Spurs Targeted Physically Deteriorating Dwyane Wade in NBA Finals
One of the keys to the San Antonio Spurs winning their fifth NBA title was how they were able to keep all Miami HEAT players not named LeBron James in check for the majority of the series. The continuous crisp ball movement and seemingly fresher legs from the thought to be “older” team were ultimately too much for Miami to overcome.
Spurs shooting guard Danny Green revealed a little of his team’s strategy of attacking Miami and bringing some of their weaknesses to light. One weakness, as Green put it, was the obvious physical decline of Miami All-Star guard Dwyane Wade.
Green says the Spurs made a conscious effort to attack Wade at every opportunity and force him to work his ailing body every minute he was on the court.
“He’s a good player obviously,” Green told the Dan Le Batard Show. “[But] I think the wear and tear of his body has not allowed him to get up and down [the floor] as much as he’d like to. So the best thing for us was to push the pace and try to tire him out and fatigue him. We know he had some knee issues, some knee problems, so he’s not going to be as explosive.
“They talked about us being old, but they’re not that young either. So we felt like we had some younger legs and we could get up and down and tire them out a little bit. That was the key. Off the ball movement and keep them moving.”
At this point of his career Wade is clearly past his prime and on the wrong side of 30, but the veteran guard did manage to have one of the most efficient seasons of his career, shooting 55 percent from the floor. However, Wade did miss close to 30 games as Miami attempted to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Wade can exercise the early termination option in his contract this summer and test free agency. This would allow him to lock in a new long-term deal and give him some more security moving forward, but he may have to leave some money on the table in the process since he would earn $20,164,000 next season and $21,655,000 the year after that if he opts in.
Leaving $40-plus million on the table with deteriorating athleticism wouldn’t be the smartest business move from an individual standpoint (unless his new contract would ultimately pay him a similar amount of guaranteed money, just over a longer period of time). But there’s no question that Wade taking less money would certainly do wonders for the HEAT as they try to retool their roster for another title run in 2015.