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Houston Chronicle : Rockets' priority is backcourt

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by dc rock, Jul 1, 2006.

  1. dc rock

    dc rock Contributing Member

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    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/4017134

    Rockets' priority is backcourt
    James headlines potential targets among free agents
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

    At 11:01 p.m. Friday, the first minute NBA teams were permitted to contact free agents, Mike James seemed certain to be on the phone with the Rockets.


    Less clear was whether they would be calling him or he would be calling them.

    The Rockets' pursuit of free agents, beginning today with players allowed to sign starting July 12, will not be that simple. It never is. James is not a perfect fit. He could seek more than the Rockets have to offer. His season with the Toronto Raptors was statistically his best and will ensure the Rockets were not likely to be the only team with his number programmed into their speed dial.

    But with the Rockets' draft-night acquisition of Shane Battier and a roster heavy with frontcourt players (the Rockets would like to play Tracy McGrady as a small forward with Battier playing as much as a power forward as small forward) the Rockets are certain to look for backcourt help and particularly scoring at shooting guard.


    Thin position
    But shooting guard appears to be the thinnest position in this season's free-agent class, and unless they find a partner in a sign-and-trade deal, the Rockets can offer at most their midlevel exception, expected to be worth roughly $5 million a season to start.

    Sacramento's Bonzi Wells, a shooting guard with the size the Rockets lack, earned $8 million last season and is unlikely to come down that far. Or at least he is enough of a long shot to prevent the Rockets from targeting him to the exclusion of other free agents.

    They likely will pursue a variety of shooting guards and point guards who could play in a backcourt with incumbent Rafer Alston, including James, Wells, Sam Cassell, Marcus Banks, Speedy Claxton, Rasual Butler, and to a lesser degree Jiri Welsch, Fred Jones (a restricted free agent) and DeShawn Stevenson.

    Cassell, 36, is more likely to stay with the Clippers than move for a short-term, midlevel contract. Banks and Claxton are point guards who will draw interest around the NBA. Butler is perhaps more of a small forward than a shooting guard, though he does offer the length and shooting range the Rockets would like.

    The Rockets also could renew talks with Vassilis Spanoulis, their 2004 second-round pick. Spanoulis has since moved to the top team in Greece and is earning too much to take a second-round minimum contract. But if the Rockets split their midlevel money on several players, they could have enough to add Spanoulis to the roster.

    "The priority is the backcourt," Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said. "We're still looking for shooting, still looking for rebounding, still looking for athleticism. But those (guard) positions on the court need to be attended to right now."


    Looking for size
    The Rockets had hoped to get size at shooting guard. James, 6-2, 188, has played point guard in his six NBA seasons, including his 27 games with the Rockets. But with so few free-agent shooting guards with size, and the league's movement toward players who can get their own shots, James, outspoken about wanting to return to Houston, could fill much of the Rockets' shooting guard void.

    "New Orleans got away with two of the smallest guards in the league last year in Speedy (Claxton) and Chris Paul," Dawson said. "Denver went that way a lot. There are still big players at the two and one position that you have to contend with, so size is still important, but we have to get the positions covered the best that we can. That's what we're trying to do.

    "You can always use a third or fourth guy that can get his own shot. If you don't have that, you need somebody that can make the shot because they'll be open playing with ... (McGrady and Yao Ming)."


    Battier changes focus
    Though Dawson was not permitted to speak of the trade, the acquisition of Battier likely will focus the Rockets' efforts on the backcourt rather than on free-agent shooting forwards Tim Thomas and Matt Harpring.

    Coach Jeff Van Gundy often lamented letting Scott Padgett sign as a free agent with the Nets last season and could have a second chance at signing him after the Nets waived Padgett on Friday. But the Rockets' trade for Battier and selection of Steve Novak on Wednesday added two shooters to the frontcourt where the Rockets have eight of their 10 signed players.

    If the Rockets want to split their midlevel among several players, or even use all or part of their trade exceptions (worth $4.2 million and $1.67 million) in a sign-and-trade deal, they could pursue the size they lack in the backcourt in Philadelphia's John Salmons or Matt Barnes, Orlando's Trevor Ariza, Denver's DerMarr Johnson and Greg Buckner, or point guard Mike Wilks of the SuperSonics.

    Among their own free agents, Keith Bogans and Richie Frahm could be brought back to offer depth.

    "We still want to get more shooting," Dawson said. "Right now, we got nine people signed (not including Battier or Novak). We have to find twos, a backup one, shooting no matter what position it is."

    James has said he could fill those needs. It won't take long for him to know how much the Rockets agree.

    jonathan.feigen@chron.com


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ROCKETS SUMMARY
    Summer team takes shape
    Memphis guard Darius Washington, who surprisingly was not picked in Wednesday's NBA draft, agreed Friday to play for the Rockets' summer league team next week in Las Vegas.

    Washington averaged 14.4 points on 44.2 percent shooting in two seasons at Memphis. He was named All-Conference USA and an honorable mention All-American last season.

    The Rockets have two players off their current roster, forwards Chuck Hayes and draft pick Steve Novak, and two who played for them last season, guard John Lucas III and center/forward Lonny Baxter, on the team.

    The other players are guards Patrick Beiline (West Virginia), Hollis Price (Oklahoma), Pat Carroll (Notre Dame), H enry Domercant (Turkey) and Chris McCray (Maryland); forwards Jeremy Richardson (Delta State), Antwayne Robinson (Temple), Matt Freije (Vanderbilt), and Judson Wallace (Princeton); and centers Mamadou Ndiaye (Auburn) and Matt Haryasz (Stanford).


    Novak ready to work
    During his first day with the Rockets, second-round pick Steve Novak offered the expected comments about fitting his shooting touch (50.5 percent on 3-pointers this past season) in between Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

    As the only Rockets draft pick expected to be on next season's team, Novak spoke of carrying the balls and fetching the doughnuts.

    He spoke of similarities between his college coach Tom Crean and Jeff Van Gundy.

    But more than anything, rather than speak as first-rounders do on such occasions about great expectations, Novak, the second pick of the second round, moved into an unusual spotlight by saying: "My mindset is I still have to make the team.

    "I feel like if I'm able to prove to the guys I'll work and do anything I can to make the team better, I'll earn their respect."

    To earn playing time, Novak said he will have to add strength to a 6-10, 220-pound frame.

    "It's going to be my first year, and I'm going to have to work my tail off," he said. "Being around guys like Dwyane Wade and Travis Diener at Marquette and now in the NBA, they come back, and the advice they give you is to go in there and work your tail off, and it will be all right."

    JONATHAN FEIGEN
     
  2. maopaopao

    maopaopao Member

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    last season we lack of shooters so we trade lots of shooters! Next season we lack of big mans , how to do??
     
  3. dfwrox

    dfwrox Contributing Member

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    Well, think of the bright side, Rox still have two valuable assets can be used. Maybe next year is the time. Land another Lottery pick, pick Greg Oden, trade away Yao for a bruiser. Damn, I am smart.
     
  4. New Jack

    New Jack Member

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    The key thing about the backcourt is that we find a guard that can create his own shot, and be our third scoring option. I’m still not sure if Mike James can be that guy, but he’s pretty much the only option now that the draft is over. Assuming the Rockets sign Mike James (which is still a pretty big assumption), they seem to have 4/5th of their starting lineup in place.

    At the shooting guard spot, we’ve got to find someone with the physical attributes to chase down all of the quick and athletic wingmen of the NBA. I know some of you were hoping Battier would be that guy, but he’s not. Based on that article, I think it’s pretty clear that the Rockets plan on using him as a full time front court player (primarily a 4).

    I would target someone like Travis Outlaw or Trevor Ariza with the trade exception. They have the athleticism, speed, quickness, and length to be our defensive stopper on the perimeter. I could see either one of them being what DeSagana Diop is to the Dallas Mavericks. Players that don’t offer a ton on the offensive end, but provide the team with the youth, exuberance, and athleticism that it sorely lacks. We’ve got to have someone like that in the starting lineup. A lineup with a bunch of slow veteran players that try to win using their ‘smarts’ and ‘intangibles’ is just not going to cut it.
     
  5. Deuce

    Deuce Context & Nuance

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    New Jack, I agree. Someone to "break down the defense" is important. We need penetrators. James can do that, PLUS he can hit the 3. He clearly is the best option available with the MLE right now. No question the best value.

    We do still need a 2/3 with length, I agree. But I am not sure we can get it with the 4.2 TE. I dont think Outlaw is available for that and dont see Ariza as the answer.

    We dont have a whole lot of assets to get that 2/3 so it will be tough.
    Howard/Head/Alston/2007 1st round pick. That's about it.
     
  6. jakedasnake

    jakedasnake Member

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    I noticed they mentioned Matt Barnes of Sacramento in the article as a possible trade target. I think he would be a solid addition. He seems like he will be a good player with his length athleticism and defense. I don't know if his ugly shot will ever improve but he stepped up big for them in the playoffs. I think he would be a good addition .
     
  7. michecon

    michecon Contributing Member

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    The Rockets are slow - by that I mean the manegement - reactionary. I can't really see systematic team-building here. They made the mistake of trading away MJ last time. If they sign Padget at this point of time, it will be another mistake.
     
  8. batizy

    batizy Member

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    sign Q-Woods 500M/3y to play 2, good defender, athlete.
     
  9. RNuss02

    RNuss02 Member

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    I really wouldn't mind that. If his head is screwed on straight, he could really be a terrific perimeter defender and add much needed athleticism to a the backcourt.
     
  10. Man

    Man Contributing Member

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    I like Ariza..and I liked Padgett, but we don't need him now.
     
  11. clutch citizen

    clutch citizen Contributing Member

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    Since Toronto traded away Villanueva for TJ Ford, maybe a sign and trade involving Mike James and Juwan Howard is in the works? This would make those JHo trade rumors no fluke. When in PHX, Colangelo traded for a 4 who's game involves knocking down the mid ranged shot, Kurt Thomas. Juwan has that game as well. Could this work or am I way off base?

    BTW...Colangelo is a GREAT GM, TJ Ford will help that team a lot. If only he could see defensive talent.
     
  12. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    Bosh and Bargnani can shoot from the outside. They don't need a slow JH. Kurt Thomas provides the Suns with defense something which JH isn't good at.
     
  13. terse

    terse Member

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    The Rockets' priority should be a new coach. JVG's player evaluations suck; this is why he loves to bring in so many of those old Knicks -- because he is scared to rely on his own judgement. And for good reason too, because when he had to use his judgement, he screwed up frequently; see Posey, Padgett, Hayes. Each time JVG gives up on another player, it costs us in many ways: we lose a year in that position, and we usually take a hit in the salary cap (see Ward). Our cupboard is so empty this year at least partly because of the constant turnover of players. How can we possibly build a championship team with such a clueless and wasteful coach?
     
  14. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    Let's see...we're trying to bring back the guy we traded away who would have helped us more by keeping him in the first place but now we cannot afford him. Okay. That worked out.
     
  15. Williamson

    Williamson HARTENSTEIN ONLY FAN
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    You know what's ridiculous? I'm vegan because I'm a staunch believer in animal rights and yet I'm ready to advocate signing Qyntel Woods. I'm such a hypocrite when it comes to the Rockets.

    "What? He eats children and is a member of Al Qaeda?....hmmm... but he can play d, create his own shot and hit the open jumper? Sign him."
     
  16. poseyistheman

    poseyistheman Member

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    Guys Juwan Howard is not going to be traded. Van Gundy likes and wants him on this team. Howard and Chuck Hayes ARE GOING TO BE THE ROCKETS PF'S next season. PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!!
     
  17. TheBigSleep

    TheBigSleep Member

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    It looks like more of Howard and Battier at the PF. If Hayes sees significant minutes in a non-blowout, we're in trouble.

    I think Battier alternating between the 3 and 4 plays to his strengths and will help the team out a lot in the West, where 4's tend to stretch the floor.
     
  18. groovemachine

    groovemachine Member

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    I wouldn't be surprised if Battier starts at the 4 for us next season, and backs TMAC up at the 3.

    Do we have plans to resign Bogans, I like his overall game, I just wish he could knock down the 3 better.
     
  19. H-Dub

    H-Dub Member

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    I would love to get either ariza or woods with the te if we get mj those guys would give us ridicoulous depth in the backcourt! I mean like dallas esc with alston,james,head,tmac,battier,ariza/woods thats crazy it also gives you the ability to have some trade bait if you needed to add someone around the trade deadline! I would much rather have ariza just because of those young legs and better head on his shoulders!
     
  20. H-TownBBall

    H-TownBBall Member

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    I think if we sign Mike James, then we are pretty much set with a good spread of minutes.

    Ideal Game Minutes:

    Alston(28mins)/James(20mins)
    T-Mac(25mins)/James(15mins)/Head(8mins)
    Battier(25mins)/T-Mac(15mins)/Novak(8mins)
    Howard(15mins)/Hayes(20mins)/Battier(13mins)
    Yao(35mins)/Mutombo(13mins)

    This gives the following minutes to players:
    T-Mac: 40
    Battier: 38
    Yao: 35
    James: 35
    Alston: 28
    Hayes: 20
    Howard: 15
    Mutombo: 13
    Head: 8
    Novak: 8


    For depth we could sign Darius Washington as the 3rd PG or Wesley to play backup PG/SG. Pick up Bogans or another cheap FA to backup SG/SF. Get a banger to play backup PF/C minutes (Cato?).

    That would give us 13 players. Rybo will probably pick up his player option. That would be 14 players. I would leave the 15th spot open for flexibility if we have an injury.

    There have been rumors of Darius Miles for Juwan Howard, with other players possibly thrown in. I would much rather have Miles than Howard if JVG (or Battier) can convince him to be a good citizen.

    Get it done Rockets Management! What do you guys think?
     
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