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Chron: Review Process Starts For Rockets + Rockets Brace For Winds Of Change

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by ron413, May 1, 2004.

  1. ron413

    ron413 Contributing Member

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    Chron: Review Process Starts For Rockets

    May 1, 2004, 9:15AM

    Review process starts for Rockets
    Team, management look for ways to build on first playoff bid since '99
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    `You have guys getting better as they get older, but we're looking to add, because if you don't, you're going to get left behind.'
    -- Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson



    As Rockets coaches and players left Toyota Center on Friday, each was presented with a parting gift -- a framed photograph of the arena taken from a last-row vantage point to capture every detail of the playoff scene.
    An inadvertent yet symbolic statement was made.

    The playoff game depicted in the photograph was against the Los Angeles Lakers and represented a breakthrough for a team that had long sought that level of achievement.

    But a closer look at the scoreboard in the photo reveals that it was shot with the Rockets losing.

    With that, the players scattered for the offseason, left with an image that improvement had been made but much more was still to be accomplished.

    "I think there were steps made," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I think individual players made steps. I think the team made steps. I don't think though we can believe that will just continue on without putting more into it. We need to put more into the process to get more out of the process.

    "You try to evaluate. I certainly think that we have to be the type of team, organization that is willing to do whatever it takes to win."

    Van Gundy did not offer specifics about what must be done, at least in terms of personnel changes. He said it would not be "appropriate" for him to comment specifically and deferred to general manager Carroll Dawson.

    But he did seem to indicate that normal growth would not be enough and that no change should be considered too great to be weighed.

    "I do like our players," Van Gundy said. "But I do recognize the need for us to improve and realize that there have been many, many great, great players who have been traded. Many have left by free agency. Many have stayed their whole careers. All that is based on the results."

    In his parting talk with his team, Van Gundy thanked his players for their efforts and support of one another and spoke of the virtues of offseason conditioning. He also left them with the understanding that he was seeking more.

    "I did try to impart to them that my only goal is to try to make this team improve to the point of winning a championship," he said. "We're not as close as we need to be. We better make improvements. We made some, but we need to be very aggressive in our improvement."

    Rockets players do not dispute the need to improve. But they contend the improvement can come from within, citing everything from a second season playing for Van Gundy to the benefits of having made the playoffs. The Rockets won the first playoff game at Toyota Center but lost a first-round series to the Lakers in five games.

    "I think we have to start with change among ourselves, work on ourselves first and what we need to do," center Yao Ming said. "We had some very good stretches during the season when we played great. But we're like a ship on the ocean, up and down with the current. We have to figure out how to become more consistent and sail smoothly."

    That consistency, the Rockets insisted, could come from experiences.

    "You come back with the same guys next year, everybody knows Jeff's system, it's going to be much easier to adapt," Eric Piatkowski said. "We're going to be way ahead of the ballgame. I expect if you don't make hardly any changes for us to be a much, much better team next year just from growth."

    Still, the Rockets figure to be more active in the free-agent market than they have been since they signed Scottie Pippen after the 1998-99 lockout. They signed Jim Jackson before this season, but most of their efforts in recent seasons -- from Hakeem Olajuwon and Maurice Taylor to James Posey -- have been focused on keeping their own free agents.

    Currently, Mark Jackson is the only rotation player who is a free agent. While the Rockets have no first-round pick for the second consecutive season, they do have a salary-cap exception left from last season's Glen Rice deal. It will allow them to offer a $6.9 million sign-and-trade deal for a free agent.

    "It's one of the first steps," Dawson said of the trade exception. "You try to figure out what you can add to make your team better. This year, we have a little bit better machinery (the exception) than we had. It gives you more options. There are so many restrictions as far as making a trade, when you have a plus like that, it helps.

    "You're always looking for factors. Like this year, Jimmy Jackson was a factor. You have guys getting better as they get older, but we're looking to add, because if you don't, you're going to get left behind."

    Van Gundy said determining how much outside help the Rockets need is "hard to answer as I sit here today."

    Van Gundy also is confident point guard Steve Francis should be part of the team's foundation.

    "I thought Steve had an outstanding year," Van Gundy said. "He showed improvements in many, many areas. I think novice fans will look at numbers and say he didn't have as good a year as in previous years. I would say he had a much better year. Helping us win more in a much more difficult and challenging Western Conference ... speaks directly to his impact on the team. I think Steve did a great job of playing well himself but also enabling others to play well."

    Van Gundy also sounded unconcerned about Yao's summer workload with the Chinese national team, including the 2004 Olympics, which begin Aug. 13 in Athens.

    "I don't think it should (wear him out)," Van Gundy said. "When one of your two best players has such a production decline in the last month of his only two seasons in the NBA, included in that is the playoffs this year, ... there has got to be concern and you have to find out the answers, because if ... one of your best players doesn't play his best when his best is needed, then you're going to be continually frustrated. Certainly we've got to come up with, along with Yao, a solution so he's playing his best and we have a chance to play our best in April and hopefully May and June."

    But as Van Gundy offered praise and raved about living in Houston, he was talking about a season that was over in April, and no one had to ask what was wrong with that picture.

    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/2543047
     
    #1 ron413, May 1, 2004
    Last edited: May 1, 2004
  2. ron413

    ron413 Contributing Member

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    May 1, 2004, 9:16AM

    Rockets brace for winds of change
    Players face offseason of uncertainty but want chance to `get better'
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle


    With the team meeting and media interrogation over, Steve Francis made his way through the Toyota Center hallway that leads to the players' parking area with an escort of backpedaling cameramen.

    Francis had by now become well aware of the criticism and speculation about a trade that had accompanied him during the season. And with the Rockets' season over after five playoff games, the team faced the usual uncertainty and the possibility of change. So having answered so many uncomfortable questions about the team's future, Francis on Friday let the devilish side of his sense of humor have the last word.

    "You're acting like this is my last day in Houston or something," the Rockets point guard said.

    With that, he was gone -- likely just for the offseason. But for others, more permanent exits were expected to follow.

    A year ago, the Rockets' players left their former training facility at Westside Tennis Club with a public appeal that they be given another season together to make the steps they had yet to take. In the offseason that followed, the team replaced only two players from last season's rotation -- Glen Rice and James Posey -- and lost Posey in free agency only after Memphis came in with a surprisingly large offer.

    On Friday, Rockets players took the same position. Loyalty and confidence would require no less, but few players seemed to believe that change more significant than last season's tinkering was avoidable.

    "I've been through the league. I know changes come about," said Jim Jackson, a veteran of 10 NBA teams. "You get comfortable with a system and a teammate and like me, you're gone. All you can do is wait and see what happens.

    "There's still some pieces I think (Rockets coach) Jeff (Van Gundy) wants to add. You still have to tweak. We'll see how the summer plays out."

    Before his parting shot, Francis made his preference clear. He did not, however, make a prediction.

    "When I first became a member of the Rockets (in August 1999), the first thing I said was this is where I'm looking forward to playing my whole career," Francis said. "But I was 22 then, and now I realize the NBA is a business. If I'm not here next year, I respect the business. But I think me and coach have been able to get along. I think I'll be here next year.

    "One hundred percent, I'd rather be a Rocket. But it's a business, so you never know."

    The Rockets have not spoken with so much uncertainty since Hakeem Olajuwon's contract expired after the 2000-01 season. The injuries and illnesses of the season that followed and the promise of a high draft pick in 2002 that became Yao Ming were indications the nucleus would be kept together. Last season's progress, derailed by a late-season slide after Rudy Tomjanovich's medical leave of absence, made players believe they could do more if given another chance.

    But Friday, the players left for the offseason, wondering if they were to some degree seeing the breakup of the old gang, almost as if change, more sweeping than in the past, was inevitable.

    "What happens happens," Cuttino Mobley said. "What's best for the team. If I get traded, if Steve gets traded, whoever gets traded. It's a bad thing if you get separated from your family. Steve and I are family on and off the court.

    "It will be hard to see the guys split up because we were together so long -- me, Mo (Taylor), (Kelvin) Cato, Steve."

    Those four players have been together since Taylor was signed as a free agent before the 2000-01 season. Van Gundy praised his team's camaraderie and chemistry in the team's final meeting and again publicly. But since the trade of backup point guard Moochie Norris, the rest of the nucleus that had stayed together through the lottery seasons seems to have accepted a certain inevitability of change.

    "We definitely feel the same way we did last year," Taylor said. "This is probably the best bunch of guys I've been around. We took a step reaching the postseason. We didn't have the result we wanted. Now we want to improve. We don't want to just be a seventh seed.

    "He (Van Gundy) just thanked us all for what we did this year. We went from the lottery to a seventh seed. He was certain we could be a championship team. We do believe in him. We want to win a championship, too."

    With that in mind, the Rockets' players believe they still can improve together. No yearbooks were signed. Plans were made for lunch, not reunions. But amid the confidence, there was uncertainty.

    "With the nucleus of players we have -- myself, Yao, Cuttino, Mo -- hopefully everybody will be back," Francis said. "We all dipped our feet in the water. We've been to the playoffs. The only thing we can do is get better."


    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/2542688
     
  3. Relativist

    Relativist Contributing Member

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    This Stevie quote is interesting. I think he's sincere that part of him wants to return and doesn't want to be traded, but the remark about the NBA being a business to me indicates not only acceptance and self-preparation for being traded, but that part of him wouldn't mind a trade either to a good team where he can play his game.

    I think some of JVG's remarks recently are also interesting. I don't think Stevie necessarily has to go for us to be successful. The problem is that Steve's weaknesses are essentially the most significant example of the team's weaknesses overall. Yes, Steve is turnover prone, but so is the rest of the team. We turn the ball over a lot and can't pass when he's not in the game. To me, that means we need to subtract one of Steve, Cat and JJ from the backcourt (JJ should be in the backcourt) and add two more guards who are good, efficient passers without losing defense and perimeter shooting. If we can do that and acquire a more well-rounded PF, then the offseason will be a success.
     
  4. gucci888

    gucci888 Contributing Member

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    Agree, I really think SF wants to stay here, but he's ready and won't be suprised of there is a deal made.

    Your points about SF and his weaknesses and the teams weaknesses are right on the money. Our whole team is turnover prone, from Yao Ming to Jim Jackson. We've actually seen our team fall apart w/o Stevie out there.

    I want Steve to stay, I think he will really have a great year next season. I however, don't really want to see the same backcourt, I think they are too comfortable with each other. Bringing in a smarter guard, say Brent Barry, would probably help SF more out than Cat would.

    Good Aritlce, much better than that garbage Justice/Lopez puts out.
     
  5. Sane

    Sane Member

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    I think we need to trade Cat for a big PG, and move JJ to the 2. So basically, JJ is the starting SG, with Francis backing him up. Francis is the starting PG, with the acquired player backing him up.

    After that, we need a PF and a SF, and the tools we have to acquire them are MoT and the trade exception.


    Best way to achieve this would be to trade Mobley and MoT to Indiana for Croshere and Harrington. Then immediately trade Harrington and as much of the TE as necessary to Seattle for Rashard Lewis and Antonio Daniels. Sign McDyess for the MLE.

    Yao/Cato
    McDyess/Cato/Croshere
    Lewis/Boki/Croshere
    JJ/Francis/Pike
    Francis/Antonio Daniels

    That's a well-built team IMO. Yao would be in aheaven with the amount of shooters, the improved mid range game, and improved rebounding.

    Our rebounding improves at the 2, 3, and 4 from last year. Shooting improves tremendously.

    I think Francis would finally have enough options to be able to distribute the ball as well as feed off the shooters and big man to get his points. If he doesn't, sit him down for Antonio Daniels, who has a ring from playing with David Robinson and Tim Duncan of the Championship Spurs who ran almost an identical style to ours.

    Wow, even I'm surprised I came up with that.
     
  6. reptilexcq

    reptilexcq Member

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    After thinking about it...I like the Houston to keep Steve because he has so much talents and athletiscm and you can't replace that from anybody. YES the team turnover too much, yes the team don't pass that much but then it's because this team doesn't have good passers...that's why it has the lowest assist/game in the league. I agreed somewhat that breaking up this team will not improve the team but I think there are some players that need to go and some position that need to be addressed for this team to improve.

    First, I think Mo Taylor had to go. Why? He's too selfish on the court...too one-dimensional player. He never look to pass much as soon as you give him the ball. He only had one way to go ...that is shoot the ball even against double teamming...even forcing. I would get rid of him in the offseason. I like his heart and determination though.

    Second, the Rox need another superstar to really improve this team. They need someone like Rasheed Wallace to replace Cato lack of shooting touch from outside to compliment Yao. Cato is good at rebounding, block and defense but Wallace can do that and play offense too.

    3rd, Rox need some solid bench players, Mark Jackson had to go, he didn't do anything to improve the team. Piakowski had to go, the guy is a joke. Adrian Griffin had to go, he ain't good enough. Rox need to bring in an above average backup PG to help Steve. A PG that at least help out there.

    4th, Rox should keep the following players for next year: Yao, Steve, Mobley, JJ, Cato (as backup), Boki, Spoon, Paggett.

    However with all that being said, I am still leaving out the option for some trades though if they're favorable. Like for example, I would trade Francis for McGrady or Steve Nash and i would get Sheed Wallace in here, then the roster would be awesome and ready to go.
     
  7. Stack24

    Stack24 Contributing Member

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    The only way i would be up for McDyess if it is for cheap. He has been too injury prone the past few years and yes he was one of the best PF in the leagues for a while but now he has just dropped off due to injury. If he is cheap i wouldn't mind it.

    The only thing i kind of hate is doing a whole overall of players or changind the lineup too much, We will just end up where we started rebuilding and getting all these players to understand a new system and adapt. I don't mind gettin a few pieces but i don't believe in an overhaul either.
     
  8. RoxBigFan

    RoxBigFan Contributing Member

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    One important thing during offseason is that Rockets is a lot more attractive than previous years. CD also mentioned this somewhere.
     
  9. HAYJON02

    HAYJON02 Contributing Member

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    I really like this lineup, but I think Seattle would want more for Lewis and Daniels. But, yeah, that would be a huge improvement and we really didn't have to give up much. And it'd still feel like our team, and not like we gutted the team of everyone except for Yao, which could become a concern, especially with all the "trade A and B and C for superstar D" trades being speculated.

    We'd have iffy depth and that'd be a huge concern, as we saw this year. Guys get tired, and when you have more options to come in and light it up, you have a better chance of winning than if one guy in your tight rotation just isn't hitting on a particular night.
     
  10. sydmill

    sydmill Member

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    yeah, it looks like Mo, Cato, and maybe Cat might have played their last game as Rockets. I'm fine with the first two splitting, but Cuttino is one of the most cost effective players in the NBA. it will pretty difficult to get a guy that plays as well as the Cat for the $ that he makes. i think that you can get two starting forwards for Cato, Mo and the exception. Rashard Lewis has to be our target at the 3 this summer. his game would fit perfectly in our offense, a younger, bigger, more athletic Jimmy Jackson. i dont know how his defense is, but thats what we're paying JVG for. at the 4, we just need to get a guy that is solid. a guy that can shoot a little bit, defend a little bit, and board a little bit. etan thomas or maybe othella harrinton?
     
  11. Yetti

    Yetti Contributing Member

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    Is JVG blind or possibly drunk?
     
  12. Man

    Man Contributing Member

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    Yao, Cato, Rashard, Jimmy, and Steve would be crazy!!!

    That would be awesome...

    Seattle wants to get rid of Rashard and Antonio Daniels?
    I love Antonio Daniels..he's a good solid player. Rashard is the man!!!

    But I think they would want more than just Harrington...

    Croshere..I'm fine with him.
     
  13. leebigez

    leebigez Contributing Member

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    Houston should go for the big fish,McGrady. The Rockets should come out the box and offer Francis,Mobley,Cato and 6.9te for McGrady,Lue,Hill,and Hunter. After that, they should pay the max money (3m) to Charlotte to take taylor then use the MLE to sign oneof those restricted fa like Etan Thomas or Okur. Use the veterans minimum to sign a guy like Nailon and bring Badiane over.
     
  14. aelliott

    aelliott Contributing Member

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    After that, they should pay the max money (3m) to Charlotte to take taylor then

    Let me make sure that I understand the logic here. Charlotte is going to get $3M in return for taking taylor and having to pay off over $30M in guarenteed money that is still remaining on his deal? I've got to ask, why would Charlotte ever consider doing that?

    It's a great idea for the Rockets, it's just that Charlotte would never do that.
     
  15. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    I doubt McDeyss will be traded by the Suns unless its for a top flight player, He has a huge salary thats gonna come off their books and will give them major mnaueverability salary cap wise.
     
  16. aelliott

    aelliott Contributing Member

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    McDyess' contract in now up. He's off the books. Phoenix doesn't have to trade him, he's an unrestricted free agent.
     
  17. madmonkey37

    madmonkey37 Contributing Member

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    I like the sound of that. I think JJ would fare much better at sg where he doesnt have to guard small fowards. JJ is stong for his size and would do well posting up regular shooting guards. JJ and Francis would complement each other well. We dont exactly need McDyess but if we get him for half the exception or sign him for a short period of time with more I would try him at the PF, and if that doesnt work croshere would bring a good shooter at the 4 but not toughness and rebounding.
     
  18. daNasty

    daNasty Member

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    That's it JVG, sell Francis as HIGH as possible!! Hehe IF you want to trade your player(s), you got to be say positive thing about him so not to scare off people looking for a superstar.
     
  19. IROC it

    IROC it Contributing Member

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    What do you expect from Gargamel?

    He never sees what the Smurfs are really up to. :p
     
  20. canoner2002

    canoner2002 Contributing Member

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    That is why we have a shot at bandling Cat with one of our bad contracts in Cato or MoT to get two reasonable contracts which serve us better.

    We need a PF that can play physical like Cato, but also has offensive game. And we need a guard that has better passing and higher IQ than Cat. Cat's shooting is not that bad, just too inconsistent.
     

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