The clouds are beginning to clear, and the sun is beginning to shine. It symbolizes the passing of winter, and the coming of spring. In other words, it represents the final stretch of a grueling 82 game NBA season with teams jockeying for the ever so important playoff positioning.
In a time where losses are more closely examined, the Rockets have chosen a wrong time to start losing. Having only won five of their last 14 games, playoff hopes have slowly slipped away. Four games out of the eighth seed, and teams like the Grizzlies ahead in the standings, and Chris Paul set to return for the Hornets, the Rockets chance to make the postseason are slim to none.
From a fan perspective, the Rockets won't have the luxury of receiving a high lottery pick, nor the thrill of participating in the NBA playoffs. It bodes the question: What do the Rockets plan to do in what's slowly becoming one of the most crucial offseasons in Rocket history?
There are a multitude of factors to consider, but it starts and ends with Yao Ming.
The general consensus is, when Yao comes back, and the supporting cast the Rockets currently boast could potentially team up to become a champion contender, one good enough to take down the Lakers.
But hasn't that been the case for nearly the past four seasons? The Rockets on paper have always had two stars and role players that did their jobs. Were they as talented as the current Rocket squads? Certainly not, but one good enough to justifiably experience more success than they've had.
It's not just Yao, Kevin Martin has had a career filled with sporadic injuries as well.
The Rockets are putting all their eggs in one basket, and hoping for the basketball gods to be kind and grant them a full season in which everyone remains healthy. If granted, the Rockets would have a legitimate case to be one of the best teams in the NBA. But, aside from health, the Rockets have other things to address as well.
Both Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola are free agents, and both expected to get a rather significant payday from their current bargain contracts. Scola has been playing at an all-star caliber level since the trade, and has nearly 15 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes of action for the entire season with over 20/10 the past six outings.
Lowry's stats aren't as impressive, but with his recent absence from the lineup, the Rockets have realized how important he is to the Rockets success.
He provides the toughness and defensive compliment to the scoring prowess of Aaron Brooks, and overall he is a more pure point guard creating better balance. It's been noted he would like to expand his career, and become a full-fledged starter; one could argue, with the addition of Kevin Martin, that Lowry would in fact be better suited as a starter when Yao returns, but even if that's not the case, he's stated that he's open to resigning with Houston.
Getting a backup center should be a top priority as well, not only in the case of an insurance to Yao getting injured, but a player that can help limit Yao's role during the regular season and keep him fresh hopefully going into the playoffs.
Marcus Camby recently told the media, being that he owns a house in Houston, and often lives there on a consistent basis, the Rockets would be on of his top targets.
And the Rockets would welcome him with open arms. He's older, but still provides an interior rebounding and shot blocking presence. He also has the ability to step in as a starting center, or even play next to Yao as he possesses a solid mid-range jump-shot out to 15-16 feet.
Knowing the craftiness of Morey, everyone knows the Rockets won't just limit themselves to resigning the current players on the squad, and getting a backup insurance at the center position.
A gut feeling of mine tells me, the offseason goal for the Rockets is none other than becoming a player in the drama-filled 2010 NBA free agent class. Specifically meaning: Operation Chris Bosh.
Yes, the Rockets wouldn't have near the amount of cap space to offer Bosh the max, but with Bosh being a Texas native, and the Raptors being no better than mediocre in the Eastern Conference, it seems he's the top free agent that's most likely to leave.
It could very well work out that Bosh resigns with the Raptors, but pretend he were to bolt. The Rockets could potentially offer a combination of wings in Battier or Ariza. They also have Jefferies whom would be an expiring contract, but most importantly future assets such as Jordan Hill, who's shown signs in the last two games, what will be a lottery pick this season, the Knicks 2012 pick, and potentially open to the idea of trading a resigned Scola, or even Brooks perhaps for the services of Bosh.
If that were the case, the team would be hard pressed to find a package better than that if Bosh were to leave Toronto.
That's the key; the Rockets would have MLE to work with in free agency, and a lot of assets to choose from to potentially improve the team by trade. Potentially cashing in on more project situations, such as Hill, for more win now talent that can still grow with the Rockets core.
Ultimately, expect the Rockets offseason to be a busy one, whether it's a rather quiet one by resigning current players on the team and signing one more in free agency, or a prize in acquiring a talent of Bosh's caliber; just sit back and watch Morey do work.
Only one thing's for sure: The Rockets are in for one heck of a ride.
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