After missing out on Chris Bosh, losing Chandler Parsons and dealing away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, the Rockets could use a lot of help.
Sharp shooters off the bench. Bench players in general. Not to mention, you know, that All Star-caliber four they’ve been looking for.
But for starters, a distributing point guard. While Patrick Beverly promises to be a fantastic backcourt defender, he’s not much of a table-setter. Last season he averaged only 3.1 assists per 36 minutes, with an assist rate of only 20.3 percent – 60th among all point guards. You could live with that if Beverly was more of a scorer, like Eric Bledsoe (52), Russell Westbrook (53), Kyrie Irving (56) and Damian Lillard (57), whose assist rates rank right around Beverly’s. But at 10.1 points per 36, Beverly’s just not that guy.
Jameer Nelson, waived by the Magic last month, however, could be.
Only, there’s that thing about those things Dwight Howard once said about him.
Said Howard last season, after muscling a trade from the Magic to the Lakers:
“And I always tell people: Hey my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”
Nelson didn’t take too kindly to Howard’s words:
“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”
Could a reunion work?
It would make a ton of basketball sense. While his scoring and shooting percentages have slipped as he’s gotten older, Nelson has begun to take on more of a role as a distributor, averaging 7.0 assists per game last season – good for 9th best among point guards and the second highest of Nelson’s career.
Throw in 12.1 points per game and assume a little more efficiency, now that he would be coming off the bench. You could do worse with the mid-level exception, which would seem the right price point for Nelson, 32.
At least on the court.
In the locker room, on the other hand…
There are bigger concerns about the potential consequences of Howard’s personality and reputation, past or present, real or perceived, and whether it played a role in the Rockets being spurned by, basically, every meaningful free agent they’ve sought this offseason – the first since Howard’s arrival last summer.
And it’s worth noting, there appears to be no contact between Nelson and the Houston. To date, only the Pelicans have been reported to be interested in Nelson’s services.
But that Howard might have burned a potential bridge with somebody – anybody – who can help save face makes a tough offseason even tougher to swallow.