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Thursday February 18, 2010 3:50 PM

Daryl Does It Again


Rockets GM delivers bounty as part of deadline day deal

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - You want to know why so many Rockets fans regard General Manager Daryl Morey with the sort of reverence typically reserved for monarchs, heads of state and Jedi Knights?

This is why.

Because this changes everything.

Go ahead and mark it down in your journal, diary, dayplanner, or whatever: February, 18, 2010 – the day Morey reshaped the Rockets franchise in one fell swoop as part of a blockbuster three-team trade involving the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks (both of whom, it should be noted, also did well to accomplish their stated goals within the confines of this particular deal).

First, the particulars: Houston receives shooting guard Kevin Martin and center Hilton Armstrong from Sacramento, along with forwards Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill from New York, and the right to swap first round picks with the Knicks in 2011 (top-1 protected) and the outright acquisition of New York's first-rounder in 2012 (top-5 protected). In return, the Rockets are sending Tracy McGrady to the Knicks and Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and cash considerations to Sacramento.

Take a moment to think about the ramifications of that deal for a minute. Allow it to marinate inside your brain for a bit. Think about what it means for the present. But especially consider what it means for this team going forward. A GM's job first and foremost is to always operate with the big picture in mind. And today, Daryl Morey just turned that picture into a Picasso.

Make no mistake, Landry is a big loss. He was a consummate Rocket, a fan favorite and a joy to watch. Dorsey, too, showed signs of becoming a player of late. Both will be missed. But as the saying goes, you have to give up something to get something. And this deal was simply too good to pass up.

In Martin, the Rockets have filled a glaring void at the 2-guard spot. And this isn't simply some band-aid, stop-gap solution. Martin is one of the NBA's most efficient scoring weapons, a player who drains 3s and draws fouls in bunches, which has allowed him to post a True Shooting Percentage above 60% for four consecutive seasons. In other words, he's the perfect fit for a team which treats efficiency like it's the Holy Grail.

And Martin isn't merely a fit with management only – having played for Rick Adelman during his early years in Sacramento, he should have no problem sliding into the Rockets' backcourt alongside Aaron Brooks, allowing them to wreak havoc on opposing defenses within Adelman's motion offense. The pair will be able to play off each other's strengths – Martin with his superior movement off the ball and Brooks by terrorizing teams with his speed - while punishing those who dare leave them open from beyond the arc. Then look forward to next season and the return of Yao Ming and everything his presence means – on both ends of the court – and try not to be tantalized by the potential of the Rockets' probable starting five. It's no easy task, that. In fact, it might be downright Herculean.

The argument could certainly be made that obtaining Martin alone makes trade deadline day a huge success for Houston. Throw in the embarrassment of riches which accompany him, however, and the deal begins to take on the feel of a TV infomercial: But wait, there's more!!!

Hill gives the Rockets a lottery-level talent who, while raw, possesses the size and athletic gifts which make scouts drool with desire. His rookie year has gotten off to a slow start but the learning curve for young big men is often steep and Hill would not be the first NBA giant to begin his career crawling, only to find his feet and burst on to the scene later on. Jeffries is a long, lockdown defender capable of guarding multiple positions and doing many of the little things which contribute to winning, regardless of whether or not they show up in the box score. Don't underestimate this. Jeffries' defense – not to mention that supplied by the likes of Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza – will be needed to better allow Brooks and Martin to do their thing on the offensive end of the floor. And for all those constantly clamoring for the Rockets to add size along the frontline, Hilton Armstrong gives Houston a legit 6-11 center.

Then there are those draft picks. Oh, those wonderful draft picks. In the hands of mere mortals, perhaps those selections would not be seen as so seductive. But we're talking about Daryl Morey here – the man who unearthed Brooks, Landry, Budinger, etc… all without the benefit of a lottery pick. We have no idea where those picks will end up in the draft order of course but we do know this: the Rockets now own four first round picks between 2010 and 2012 which give Morey more of an opportunity to weave his magic, be it through savvy selections or additional wheeling and dealing. We're talking about laying down this franchise's foundation of the future here, people; one which suddenly looks so very bright not just for the rest of this year and (especially) the next – but for the years to come as well.

Understand that Morey is probably cringing as he reads this column. He frequently does his best to temper expectations and he knows as well as anyone that even the best of trades come with a significant amount of risk. This deal is no exception, of course. But it still boggles the mind to think that, less than 24 hours ago, various reports had the Rockets haggling with the Knicks over a package similar to the one Houston eventually received from New York – and the general consensus was the Rockets would do well to accept it as is. That Houston ended up acquiring Kevin Martin – an All-Star caliber talent – as well simply leaves one shaking his or her head while summoning the spirit of Vizzini in "The Princess Bride," simply muttering the word "inconceivable!" time and time again.

Come to think of it, perhaps Morey isn't a wizard after all. Maybe he's actually the Dread Pirate Roberts; capable of felling giants, besting Spaniards and outwitting Sicilians with death on the line.Whatever the case may be, he just pulled off his greatest trick to date. The future of the franchise is unquestionably bright and, what's more, it's clearly in the best of hands. Call him Deep Blue, Dork Elvis or whatever you wish. Only one thing matters right now. Daryl has done it again. And the Rockets are on the rise.

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