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[SI.com] Marty Burns-Rocket Boost

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Blake, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. Blake

    Blake Contributing Member

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    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/marty_burns/08/09/rockets.offseason/index.html


    ROCKET BOOST: Houston makes gains with moves---on paper at least

    The big news out of China this week involved Yao Ming's marriage to longtime girlfriend Ye Li. The nuptials reportedly took place at a swanky Shanghai hotel, where between 70 and 100 of the couple's relatives and closest friends (but no members of the Rockets' team or front office) gathered amid some 100 security guards. Afterward, the newlyweds were to cruise the Huangpu River in a luxury houseboat.

    The question now for Yao is whether he will he get an NBA title ring next season to go with his new wedding band.

    New Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been aggressive in his first offseason at the Houston helm, adding veteran guards Steve Francis and Mike James as well as Argentine power forward Luis Scola. Along with new coach Rick Adelman and the return of Bonzi Wells, the Rockets suddenly look like a more potent and deeper team -- at least on paper.

    "We definitely felt there was a talent gap between us and [the top] teams, and we wanted to close it," Morey said. "We still have to go out and prove it. But we feel we're at least in the mix now with San Antonio, Dallas and the other top teams."

    The Rockets still have point-guard issues and chemistry concerns, but give Morey credit for trying. While every other top Western Conference contender has played it safe this offseason, the NBA's Mr. Moneyball has done his part to give fans out West something to talk about besides All-Star weddings (Tony Parker, Yao) and a referee scandal. Despite replacing a franchise fixture in longtime GM Carroll Dawson, the 33-year-old Morey has shown no fear in putting his own stamp on the team.

    No player represents that notion more than Francis, a former Rockets standout who will be seeking a career rebirth in the city where he enjoyed his brightest NBA days. Waived last month by the rebuilding Blazers after being traded to Portland by the Knicks, Francis, 30, chose to sign a free-agent deal in Houston over more lucrative offers from the Clippers, Mavs and Heat. Though he's coming off knee injuries and no longer worthy of the Stevie Franchise tag, he is a three-time All-Star with career averages of 18.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists.

    Francis should join with James, acquired from the Timberwolves in exchange for Juwan Howard, in giving Adelman two more ball-handlers who can score, hit clutch shots and apply defensive pressure. Four years ago, James was a key bench player on the Pistons' title team. Two years ago, he averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists while on a contract drive for the Raptors. But James is 32 and coming off a subpar season in Minnesota in which he chafed about his role, and it remains to be seen whether he can still hold his own against the likes of Parker, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Devin Harris.

    The Scola acquisition, meanwhile, looks like a safer bet. The 6-9 power forward, whose rights were acquired along with center Jackie Butler in a trade with the Spurs for backup point guard Vassilis Spanoulis, cash and a future second-round pick, has spent the past seven seasons with Tau Ceramica in the Spanish League, where he won two MVPs (2005 and '07) and became known as arguably the best player in Europe. Scola's mobility, passing and court savvy should make him a good fit for Adelman's system, and he has just enough of a low-post game to make defenses respect him on the block. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old has already played in many big games overseas, including the '04 Olympics where he helped lead Argentina to the gold medal.

    Can Scola defend NBA power forwards well enough to enable Yao to stay out of foul trouble and protect the rim? That's to be determined. But Scola at least appears to be an upgrade over last year's starter, Chuck Hayes, who will likely now come off the bench.
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    "Luis is a smart, high-IQ player, a great pick-and-roll player," Morey said. "He's crafty around the basket. He moves and cuts well. He has a nice mid-range game. He's a great passer. He has skills that will be at a premium in Rick's offense."

    Adelman no doubt also will welcome Scola's team-first approach. Along with Shane Battier, the Rockets now will boast two solid glue guys to do the dirty work for Tracy McGrady and keep things sane in the locker room. It could be a major factor for a team that will face the usual NBA chemistry issues.

    As much as Adelman might relish the idea of having three proven vets to provide scoring off the bench, he has to be at least a little worried about keeping them all happy. Wells, in particular, is a famous pouter who quit on the Rockets last season before the playoffs after disagreements with then-coach Jeff Van Gundy. The 6-5 bulldog insists he's excited about playing again for Adelman, under whom he enjoyed a productive and peaceful 2005-06 season in Sacramento, but only time will tell.

    "It's obviously a valid question," Morey said. "We've had situations here in the past. But Rick is a guy who has had very talented teams in the past, and he was very successful managing those teams. He's a former player and he's just really good at getting guys to buy into the team concept. He's not 'my way or the highway.' I think his experience overall and his experience managing very talented teams makes that less of a concern for us."

    It all sounds good -- again, on paper -- but the real test will be how all the new pieces fit together. The Rockets already are something of an oddball team, led by two laid-back leaders in McGrady and Yao who have yet to forge any kind of identity for their team. Houston needs its new pieces to provide scoring and energy without causing headaches in the locker room.

    If Francis, James, Wells and Scola can fill those needs (and T-Mac's balky back holds up), the Rockets just might be able to take the next step in their quest. If not, Morey's honeymoon will be over and Yao's title hopes will be up the Huangpu River.
     
  2. aamir

    aamir Member

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    It is nice to see that we are shaking things up in people's minds. I hope the expectations off paper live up to the results on court.
     
  3. wreck

    wreck Contributing Member

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    Yea the rockets have been the most talked about team in the NBA this season. Even more than the celtics who have just recently acquired Garnett.

    On the other side of the coin, has anyone heard anything about the dallas shockers, i mean mavericks.
     
  4. wreck

    wreck Contributing Member

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    I cant edit but i meant this *offseason*
     
  5. Man

    Man Contributing Member

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    I'm interested in how the bench will be managed.
    Hayes and possibly Mutombo?
    Either Francis or James, whoever isn't starting.
    Bonzi will probably play, and I think Head can provide us with a good 3 point shooter, but is there enough time for both of them? What about Snyder?
     
  6. lunaticrocket

    lunaticrocket Rookie

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    The last two years have been so dissapointing that I cannot get excited about the team looking good on paper anymore.

    I cannot wait till the season starts, but even though the team looks so much better, I am scared of getting too excited once again. It is going to be horrible to wait until April just to see if we get to Round 2. If we do...
     
  7. yobod

    yobod Member

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  8. declan32001

    declan32001 Member

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  9. A_3PO

    A_3PO Member

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    Same here. I want the season to start.
     
  10. The_Yoyo

    The_Yoyo Contributing Member
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    i am really excited to have steve back the other additions i am really happy that the front office is making moves for the team to get better but i will wait for the season to begin before getting too too excited

    but the change that actually has me the most pumped about the upcoming season is the coaching change to adeleman. Adeleman's teams have always been successful and fun to watch. It was hard on me to see JVG not give some of the younger guys a decent chance and keep changing the roster around constantly. Also defense ultimately wins rings, but some offense is required. jvg defense was a thing of beauty to watch but it was hard at times watching games saying "man if we can only get to 90 we'll have this game" when we have a former 2 time scoring champ and the best center in the league. i am hoping the players can keep a lot of what jvg taught them over the past few season(s) and also incorporate rick's system.
    this is the third coach the rockets have had in the past 13-14 years so its not that often the team changes its style. thats why it feels maybe to a lot of people around here that we're gonna see a whole different/new rocket team this year
     
  11. Will

    Will Clutch Crew
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    Really? A talent gap? So that stuff about our old roster being a 60-win team was ... what?

    Didn't Jeff Van Gundy get fired in part for believing what Morey is now admitting?

    Don't get me wrong. I think what Morey is now saying is the truth. It's just a shame that it's only admitted when it serves the current regime.
     
  12. bbjai

    bbjai Member

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    Well i suppose if Stromile worked out he would have been the PF we needed that year. Could have been. The word talent is pretty farcial.
     
  13. Fighting-SF3

    Fighting-SF3 Member

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    Bless Rocket.
    Wishing have a effulgent future!
     
  14. JeopardE

    JeopardE Contributing Member

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    Instant nominee for post of the year.
     
  15. Jeff

    Jeff Clutch Crew

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    I like Burns and his stuff, but I hate this kind of all or nothing pronouncement. It is exactly the kind of thing that feeds expectations. The reality is that the Rockets will probably in between "the next step" and the end of the honeymoon.
     
  16. RocksMillenium

    RocksMillenium Contributing Member

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    Before you start feeling sorry for JVG remember that he played a part in putting himself in this position. We get Stromile Swift suddenly he is in JVG's doghouse. We get Bonzi, suddenly he is in JVG's doghouse. We get Mike James and he is traded to get a "pass first" PG. Steve Francis gets into Van Gundy's doghouse and is gone, though it was for McGrady. But if we still had JVG Francis never would have come back. JVG never plays the bench. JVG barely develops the young players, already giving up on V-Span before he even shows up in Rockets camp. He barely plays Mutombo in the playoffs even though his defense and rebounding helped get the Rockets back into the game in Game 7 because he intimidated Boozer. So maybe part of the reason we had a talent gap is because so many players were "incompatible" with JVG's personality and is forced out.
     
  17. bfunw

    bfunw Contributing Member

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    Who's 'my way or the highway,' anyway? :D
     
  18. brantonli24

    brantonli24 Member

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    I always thought that offseason articles aren't worth a thing since everybody already knows what this team is capable or not capable of. Burns just wrote what everybody already knows anyway. But still, nice to know some people in the media acknowledge the Rockets.
     
  19. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

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    I guess he could have meant both-- the team could have won 60 but there remained a talent gap.

    If Yao and Tracy were both healthy nearly 82 games, they might have won close to 60, but that was only the result of Van Gundy squeezing as much out of guys like Juwan Howard, Mutombo, Rafer, etc. as humanly possible.

    As for the "shot" he took at Van Gundy... I'm not sure that's much of a shot, just a description of how the guy was. He was a good coach, but he was a "play the right way" guy like Larry Brown.

    Adelman is a whole different beast... the guy got a ton out of Bonzi and Artest when most coaches can't even handle one of them. Just look at how that team fell apart right after he left.
     
  20. Spacemoth

    Spacemoth Contributing Member

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    Outside of John Hollinger, I don't think anyone on the national spectrum is paying attention to the Rockets. The Rockets are the same as the Astros and the Texans; no national sports reporter will ever give a Houston franchise any credence except for occasional blips on the radar ('94,'95, Craig Biggio's 3000) and one big extenuating circumstance (Roger Clemens). As evidenced by Ric Bucher's T-Mac comment which has started its huge thread, NBA analysts will say whatever one-line quip they can muster up to write the Rockets off because that's what sells. ESPN fans don't want to read about the Rockets, they want Lakers, Knicks, Celtics BS so all you ever hear are trade rumors from those dumb chatwraps. Celtics signing Reggie Miller, the Knicks Allan Houston?! Artest to the Knicks, O'Neal to the Lakers?! What's the scoop from the latest cell phone video of Kobe quitting on his team?! Paul Pierce's niece's friend's stepmother gave birth to an albino kid?! Nothing of substance whatsoever. So just give up looking for praise from the mass media conglomerate of the northeast and accept the fact that no fans outside of Houston will see us coming. That's just the way we want it.
     
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