The Sixth Man: Dark days in Houston
By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Going all-in can mean more than a few things.
In no-limit poker if you have an excellent hand, going all-in is the best way to win the maximum number of chips available or to scare off mediocre players who lack confidence in their own hands. Of course if you have a bad hand, sliding all those chips to the middle of the table means you are bluffing and if someone has the testicular fortitude to call you on it, you're busted.
In the NBA Rockets general manager Daryl Morey came into this offseason with a bold plan to acquire assets in an effort to lure a top-tier center, think Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, to South Texas. He went all-in and now he's busted, at least for 2012-13.
When the Lakers pulled off the blockbuster to acquire D-12 earlier this month, a trade that also sent Bynum to Philadelphia, Morey was left with a major rebuilding project on his hands.
For now Morey is counting on two restricted free agents he had to drastically overpay in order to acquire -- former Chicago backup center Omer Asik and ex- Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.
"I think our goal for this year ... is we fight for a playoff spot, even though it's one of the most challenging years to do that," Morey recently told NBA.com. "The West is strong and if we were to make the playoffs, it means a lot of good things will have happened. Namely Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik or somebody else emerges to become an All-Star."
It better be somebody else since most scouts can't imagine Asik or Lin ever developing into consistent All-Star-level players.
Asik has proven to be a physical presence and solid defender during limited minutes in the Windy City but his only value at the offensive end has been setting teeth-chattering picks. Yao Ming he's not.
Meanwhile, Lin may have given Manhattan a serious case of Linsanity last season but he is probably more hype than substance at this point. In fact it's hard to make the argument that Lin is a better option at point guard than either Goran Dragic or Kyle Lowry, two floor leaders who left Houston in the offseason.
"I think that's a stretch goal," Morey admitted when talking about Asik and Lin blossoming into All-Stars. "But were not going to go into the year saying we're not going fight. Along the way we'll keep trying to take advantage of every opportunity to make moves that will make us better."
To be fair Morey has put the Rockets into a position to acquire a big fish. He currently has the Holy Trinity every general manager craves, cap space, draft picks and young talent, including three first round picks from June's draft (Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones).
That said being ready to pull the trigger when a top talent becomes available doesn't necessarily mean you're on the verge of getting it done. Sports Illustrated reported that many in Orlando's organization, including general manager Rob Hennigan, preferred Houston's proposal for Howard over the eventual four-team deal that landed the All-Star in Los Angeles. Magic team president Alex Martins overruled his underlings, however.
So having the wherewithal to add a franchise player means little to the fans in Space City, who just watched the Rockets miss the playoffs for the a third consecutive season.
Morey is still highly-regarded in NBA circles and his Plan A (acquiring Howard) and Plan B (snaring Bynum) were likely only the tip of an iceberg which has many contingencies. Whether he will be around to complete his vision in Houston, however, is now up for debate.
The NBA is a results oriented business and too many "incompletes" on your report card is just another way to spell failure.
08/31 11:35:51 ET