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ESPN Article on the Rocks.

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Almu, Jun 29, 2004.

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  1. Almu

    Almu Contributing Member

    Feb 14, 1999
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    Insider Article with a break down on the Rockets.

    Can T-Mac rock the Rockets?

    By Chad Ford
    ESPN Insider

    If you're the Rockets, how do you counter the dynamic duo of the best center and best two guard in the league -- Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant?
    You get the league's second-best at each position and hope like hell the Lakers implode. Sometime before Wednesday, it looks like the Rockets could be set on both fronts.

    Sources continue to insist the Rockets and Magic are inching closer to a deal that would send Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines to the Rockets in return for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato.

    The two sides have until Wednesday to make things work before a two-week player movement moratorium kicks in, leaving both teams up in the air about how to approach free agency.

    Francis is expected to arrive in Orlando today or tomorrow for a face-to-face meeting with GM John Weisbrod. If all goes well? McGrady and Howard will be wearing Rockets uniforms by the end of the week.

    With L.A. appearing to be on the verge of implosion, could the inside-outside combo of Yao Ming and T-Mac be the new dominating power in the West? As Insider continues its summer blueprint series, here's a look at what to expect if the T-Mac-for-Francis trade goes down.

    Rockets Summer Blueprint

    DRAFT: The Rockets had only a second-round pick in last week's draft and used it to select Manhattan G Luis Flores. They then turned around and sent Flores to the Mavericks in return for Greek point guard Vassiliss Spanoulis, considered one of the top young point guards in Europe. The plan is to leave him overseas for another year or two.
    FREE AGENCY: If the McGrady trade goes through, the Rockets will be left with a gaping hole at point guard. Lue, if he is included in the trade, likely will opt out of his contract in search of bigger money either with the Rockets or elsewhere. Gaines couldn't get off the bench on the worst team in the league last season. Don't expect Jeff Van Gundy to do him any favors either.

    The Rockets will comb the free-agent market looking for a veteran point guard to run the team. Van Gundy has never used or needed star point guards, so anyone who can play mistake-free basketball will do, especially with the firepower McGrady brings to the backcourt.

    Van Gundy's old buddy Charlie Ward is on the market and available. Sonics free agent Brent Barry also would be a nice addition. He played the point in Seattle for part of the last two seasons and did a solid job. The Jazz's Carlos Arroyo, a restricted free agent, also might fit the bill. Veterans like Jacque Vaughn and Rafer Alston might work, as well.

    The Rockets won't break the bank just to land a point guard, especially when one or two might be available via trade. But considering the team needs depth, at least one of these players likely will find a job in Houston next season. The Rockets also need to replace Kelvin Cato as Yao's backup in the middle and are said to be enamored with Adonal Foyle. However, the Rockets can expect steep competition for Foyle this summer.

    TRADES: Houston's best chance at landing a starting point guard probably will be via trade. Several players, including the Sixers' Eric Snow, the Grizzlies' Earl Watson, the Celtics' Chucky Atkins and the Warriors' Speedy Claxton make a lot of sense.

    What are the Rockets offering? They have several things going for them. One, the team owns at $6.9 million trade exception. That means it can take a salary as high as $6.9 million without sending back a player in return. This might be especially attractive to a team like the Sixers, who have been trying to find a taker for Snow's contract for months. Snow's mistake-free, slow-it-down style would be a perfect fit for Van Gundy.

    The team also is dangling Bostjan Nachbar and Eric Piatkowski as trade bait. Neither player makes much money, and both have just two years remaining on their contracts and could be enticing to a team like the Grizzlies or Warriors.

    Howard also could be used in a trade, as long as he isn't packaged along with other players. The Bulls might be willing to work out a deal with Rockets for Howard. Ditto for the T-Wolves. Both teams tried hard to land him in free agency last summer.

    COACHING: Van Gundy gets the best of all worlds if the T-Mac trade goes down -- a new point, two and four. Van Gundy complained throughout the season about how Steve Francis ran the offense, and most believed it was a foregone conclusion Francis would be traded this summer. After such a terrible season, though, everyone also believed Francis' trade value was at an all-time low.

    Van Gundy also wanted to upgrade the two and four positions. Mobley was undersized to play the two guard and, combined with Francis, took too many shots for the coach's taste. Cato started at power forward all season.

    Moving Francis allows VG to hand pick his new point guard. T-Mac is a major upgrade over Mobley. And Howard, despite all of his faults, is a good fit at the four. If Van Gundy can't win with this team, he's going to be in trouble quickly.

    FRONT OFFICE: Hand it to Carrol Dawson. A month ago it looked like the Rockets might have to give Francis away. Now? It looks like they've landed a top-five player for him. The T-Mac deal, if it goes through, is a home run for the Rockets. It's the type of deal that turns the fortunes of a franchise around overnight.

    As long as both McGrady (who has a history of back problems) and Yao (who will be overworked this summer because of Chinese national team duty) stay healthy, the Rockets are poised to move up in the West, regardless of the additional pieces they add.

    However, with the right move or two in free agency and trade, the Rockets could be on the verge of huge jump into the upper echelon of the West. With the Lakers crumbling, the Kings facing free-agency defections and the Spurs still trying to find a missing piece or two -- there's an opening. One or two nice free agents or trades and the Rockets could be the team to beat in the West next year.
  2. Jeff

    Jeff Clutch Crew

    Feb 14, 1999
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