HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The NBA trade deadline is upon us and the full expectation is Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is set to make a move.
But the questions are with what? For whom?
The worst kept secret in the NBA is the Rockets are in search of a marquee player they can build around. There are couple of big ones dangling out there with Orlando offering up center Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers are making no secret they will move skilled center Pau Gasol for the right deal.
Only problem for the Rockets is they lack the kind of star pieces that will make either one of those deals happen. But credit Morey for trying and according to people in NBA circles he is being aggressive in trying to make moves. He would be willing to give up a lot to land Howard, even with no guarantee that Howard would not opt out after the season is over.
No one on the Rockets current roster is safe. That means Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Luis Scola, Sam Dalembert. Take your pick. Name your combination.
But none of those names, in any radical combination, are sexy enough to get involved when you consider what the New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls and Lakers have to offer Orlando in exchange for the chance to rent Howard for the remainder of the season. The same goes Gasol, whom Lakers seem anxious to deal but only for another big name to team with Kobe Bryant.
All this means is the Rockets likely won’t be in the sweepstakes for the two biggest names out there, but Morey is still likely to do something. While he doesn’t have marquee talent he does have some things that are intriguing to teams looking to get under the salary cap for this summer’s free agency bidding and those are expiring contracts.
Dragic and Lee are the two most valuable players with expiring contracts, which has fueled heavy speculation they might be moved before Thursday’s trade deadline expires. The not knowing has been known to affect the best players but Dragic and Lee said Wednesday night they are trying not to let it bother them.
Lee could draw interest from any number of teams looking for a shooter who can either start or come off the bench as he has done this season for the Rockets.
“I just go about my business as usual, if something is going to happen it’s either going to happen tonight or before the day is over (Thursday). It will be behind us,” said Lee, who dislocated his left middle finger in two places during Wednesday night’s 107-87 win over Charlotte. “It’s just one of those things if you are the guy that has to go or you are being traded, just handle it like a professional. If you are not then just come ready to do your job.”
Dragic, of course, is use to it. He was part of the three-team trade along with Scola and Martin that commissioner David Stern rejected just before the start of the season in December. Morey, however, has a dilemma in moving Dragic right now because he has started the last three games in place of Lowry, who is out with an illness. There is no obvious replacement on the current roster for Dragic, who has played well in Lowry’s absence.
But if Dragic is moved Thursday it won’t be a surprise to anyone. It certainly won’t be to him.
“I’m not thinking about that because in basketball, especially in the NBA, everything is possible,” said Dragic, who was acquired by the Rockets last February in the trade for Aaron Brooks with Phoenix. “I just try to finish this season strong, try to focus in on basketball and what’s going to happen is going to happen. You can do nothing about it but just stay ready. If I have to go somewhere else that’s part of the sport.”
What’s interesting is the Rockets players say they aren’t concerned about the possibility of being traded, but it’s hard not to hear the talk. There is a strong belief the Rockets want to move Martin and that Martin may be ready to go because he is having difficulty buying into first-year coach Kevin McHale’s approach to the game.
There is no secret Martin, a great scorer who plays little defense, has had his best years under Rick Adelman in Sacramento and with the Rockets. But with Adelman now in Minnesota, Martin has been up and down in McHale’s system and prior to sitting out the last two games with a shoulder injury his minutes were actually shrinking.
Martin’s inconsistency has led to speculation he will be traded before the deadline. All of the trade rumors have perhaps weighed on the entire Rockets team which may be why they have struggled in the second half of the season since the All-Star Break.
McHale, however, isn’t buying it.
“It’s as tough as you make it, you have no control over it,” McHale said prior to Wednesday night’s game. “You’ve just got to go out there and play.
“Like I’ve said, in the NBA there are a long list of excuses and there is one of them. Depends on if you use the excuse or you don’t. Somebody will. At some point somebody will use it this year.”
But it seems unrealistic to expect where players may end up and what players may be missing in the locker room doesn’t take a toll on teams.
“We didn’t talk so much, everybody follows the rumors,” Dragic said. “We didn’t talk about it but maybe in the small brains you still got those information. We’ve still got maybe half a day to see what’s going to happen and what kind of players you are going to have.”