The Houston Rockets put the ball in rookie Chandler Parsons' hands in countless crunch-time moments during this truncated campaign. In several of those, he heaved the long-distance shots that should have or did tie the game.
Tonight, the franchise will ask the second-round pick from Florida to do something more daunting than knot a regular-season affair with the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. His mission: Get Houston its first top pick since 2002, when the prize was 7’6” center Yao Ming.
If he succeeds, hoops writers should consider anointing him the league’s next MVP.
If the Rockets do the unthinkable and secure the right to select consensus best player available Anthony Davis, it’s only fair that Parsons get the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in return.
Recent history suggests the NBA’s draft lottery will not be kind to a team that knows bad bounces and bad breaks like Jorge Garcia’s character Hugo “Hurley” Reyes from now defunct TV show Lost.
Another 14th pick, or even a modest move up to 12 or 13, will not get anyone in this city excited or raring to run to the Toyota Center box office to snatch up season tickets for the 2012-2013 slate.
Parsons slipping to pick No. 36 in the June 2011 draft was a rare lucky break for the Rockets.
Credit coach Kevin McHale for seeing enough potential in practices to put Parsons ahead of lottery selection Marcus Morris in Houston’s pecking order.
His defensive tenacity and all-around contributions earned him a spot on the league’s All-Rookie second team.
Tonight’s critical proceedings come mere days after a weekend with the sort of Memorial Day fireworks GM Daryl Morey and McHale hoped to avoid.
Instead of inspiring “oohs and ahs,” Kyle Lowry’s recent comments to Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen prompted a collective “ew and aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Basketball fans in this metropolis are sick of riding the coattails of those back-to-back titles in the 1990s and trailing the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks throughout the 2000s when it comes to relevance on a national level.
Given that, I will assume Morey was less than thrilled when the following sentences popped up in Feigen’s story:
“Things have to be addressed,” Lowry said. “If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved.”
Making the playoffs would not have cured all the supposed ills between the point guard and his coach, but the embarrassing collapse from a potential sixth-place finish to a 10th-place termination did that relationship no favors.
Lowry’s season ended with frustration and uncertainty. He suffered a bacterial infection that sidelined him for weeks, just at the time when the Rockets needed a full-strength roster most. His backup, Goran Dragic, spent that span of critical contests earning himself a hefty payday this summer, either with Houston or somewhere else.
Basketball players and their sideline chiefs tend to get along better when they’re winning together.
Lowry’s peevish statements ignore the fact that, for the first two weeks of the season, he led the NBA in assists and his team in rebounding, both feats accomplished with McHale at the helm.
While most supporters’ immediate temptation is to hit up ESPN’s Trade Machine for possible transactions, the best elixir could come tonight or in a few weeks.
The unlikely retrieval of Davis will not cause Lowry’s mind to change. If he takes umbrage with how McHale runs the team, well, he has a problem with the coach, and no once-in-a-generation talent can bridge that damning disconnect.
Morey has said he hopes to re-sign Dragic. He told Feigen he would prefer to keep both point guards. How much Dragic’s other suitors are willing to pay him will dictate whether Morey can make that happen.
This unwelcome development did not make the GM’s job more difficult. He was already trying to walk a tightrope suspended between skyscrapers while juggling bazookas.
That one of them just fired and caused him to lose his footing is just part of the balancing act mandated by owner Leslie Alexander: Rebuild without hitting rock bottom.
His job may go splat first.
What the Rockets need now, much more than a deal to ship Lowry elsewhere, is an elusive stroke of luck.
If that good fortune does not arrive tonight in the form of Davis, it had better come on draft night.
Picking the right lottery talent is never an exact science. Decision-makers must weigh scouting and workouts against guess work.
Morey needs to guess right on a player who falls farther than he should. He needs a trade partner to agree to a swap that pundits will view in a few years as a one-sided, imbecilic exchange. He needs to get lucky.
His roster remains equipped, with or without Lowry, to hover around the .500 mark and stay competitive in a grueling, brutal Western Conference. Morey needs to get a fortuitous break, a really fortuitous break, for the Rockets to do more than they have the last three seasons.
It starts tonight with Parsons.
The rookie did more than most expected in his debut campaign. Now the front office is expecting him to pull Davis out of his Rockets cap instead of just a rabbit. Good luck with that.
As recent NBA history shows, it’s much easier to suddenly produce a bunny than a No. 1 pick.