Posted Mar 16 2012 1:52PM
HOUSTON -- The poet once said the fog comes in on little cat feet.
In that case, Daryl Morey continues to tip-toe around like a ninja kitten across a bed of marshmallows.
Now that the fog of another trade deadline day has lifted, the Rockets are still left groping in the mist of promise for a brighter, bigger future that seems to constantly get pushed around the bend and over the horizon.
Small steps. In the five years since Morey's called the shots as general manager, the Rockets have taken more of them than a marching band of Munchkins.
Viewed through the short-term prism of the next 6-to-8 weeks, there is little wrong with the acquisitions of Marcus Camby and Derek Fisher, provided both deals come with a supply of prune juice and denture paste.
The 37-year-old Fisher brings five championship rings of experience and wisdom from his days with the Lakers and could be just enough of a backup point guard that's needed behind Goran Dragic while Kyle Lowry continues to mend from a bacterial infection. Even when Lowry returns, there is a likelihood that that the smart, classy, seen-it-all Fisher can bring more intensity and discipline to the Rockets' bench and their locker room than a handful of younger, sprier, grumbling wannabes who think they should be out on the floor playing.
The Rockets have also made contact with the agent for Anthony Carter, who was cut loose by Toronto and played for coach Kevin McHale in Minnesota.
Camby, who'll turn 38 next week, should be a perfect complement to center Samuel Dalembert, bringing length, shot-blocking, all-around defense and rebounding to a front line that will now free up Luis Scola to concentrate on what he does most and best, scoring.
So in a couple of chessboard moves, the Rockets have gone from being the most inexperienced lineup in the NBA to having guys who can sit around on charter flights and practically tell tales of what it was like to hang up the peach baskets with Dr. Naismith and maybe send a few chills up spines from here to Oklahoma City.
As the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference since Day 1 this season, the Thunder are wonderfully young, immensely talented and, at times, shockingly undisciplined. The Rockets, currently the No. 8 seed, have beaten OKC twice already this season -- wiping out an 11-point lead in the final 2 ½ minutes on Tuesday night -- and now they've suddenly become a more mature, tougher out in a potential playoff matchup.
But this is not the NCAA Tournament and being a March Madness bracket-buster is hardly a lofty achievement. Not when the neighborhood is inhabited by OKC, Memphis, the defending champions from Dallas, the rejuvenated Clippers, the reconstituted Lakers and the four-time champs from San Antonio who keep rolling along in another splendid season.
What the Rockets have needed is a lion's roar and not merely coughing up another hairball mix of expiring contracts and additional draft picks. When the league officially signs off on the deals and Morey is permitted to speak to the media, there will likely be more talk of salary cap space, draft choices, flexibility and potential for doing big things in the next offseason. Just like the last one and the one before that, along with what is now the past couple of trade deadlines.
Two summers ago, the Rockets vowed that all of their assets would be right in the middle of the chase for Carmelo Anthony, but Denver never was seriously interested in anything they had to offer. He did have the three-way deal in place with the Lakers and Hornets in December that would have brought Pau Gasol to Houston. That, of course, was blown up by commissioner/owner David Stern. The Rockets were one of several teams trying to force their way into the circus parade that was Dwight Howard's season of torturing the Orlando Magic, if only to land him as a rental with a long-shot hope of getting him to sign an extension.
The Rockets went into the stretch run to the trade deadline willing -- seeking -- to make the kind of bellyflop-into-the-pool move that gets everyone to sit up and take notice. But they ended the day unable to close a deal that would get them closer to any championship outside of the lunch-time senior league at the Y.
It is the prerogative -- and even honorable -- of team owner Leslie Alexander not to give into the temptation to rebuild by intentionally diving head-first into the deep end of the draft lottery for high draft picks. Yet it is one that places a premium on making the kind of big, bold moves that has eluded his club.
It is understandable then that they settled for rolling their shopping cart down the aisles of Geezers 'R Us. The Rockets desperately need a push to get into the playoffs and then make noise with at least a decent showing because much of their fan base has grown jaded from their postseason irrelevance -- one series win -- over the past 1 1/2 decades, moving past anger to a more dangerous place.
Disinterest, too, comes in on little cat feet and small steps.
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