This offseason isn’t working out as planned for the Houston Rockets, who did trade Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers like they wanted to, but couldn’t land the big free agent they were hoping for, instead settling, maybe out of a little panic, for Trevor Ariza who left the team a few years ago for the Washington Wizards, coming back older yet more expensive.
While Daryl Morey is considered as something of a wiz or genius by some, it’s hard to see his moves as inspiring or correctly calculated. Letting go of Trevor Ariza and then getting him back with an inflated contract. They’ll have to overpay for Chandler Parsons to stay on the team. They’re already overpaying James Harden. They paid too much money for Jeremy Lin, considering they had no idea what to do with him. That’s not smart management. Ariza was signed on a four-year deal worth $32 million.
Ariza, isolated from the larger and wider context, is a smart signing. He is a small forward in his prime, even though there’s the feat that last season was part of the contract year syndrome. Still, the Rockets also have Chandler Parsons, someone they have to make a decision on when it comes to his next deal. The Dallas Mavericks gave him a substantial offer sheet, three years and $45 million. The Rockets were going to keep Parsons but only after they signed Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.
So are the Rockets the biggest losers of this free agency period? Too soon to tell. One thing I feel will become of this period: They’ll regret trading Lin. They just lost their most intelligent player. Maybe he was overpaid, especially considering how badly the Rockets were making use of him. But they didn’t get that major free agency signing they were gunning for, while losing depth in the backcourt, which makes this team even more in the control of James Harden.
Ariza might help defensively. The Rockets need that, everyone knows, especially on the wings. Omer Asik isn’t gone yet, but he will be, eventually. But the Rockets find themselves without any balance in their roster. Yes, they have a special scorer in James Harden and a superstar center, Dwight Howard, who might or might not be past his prime due to injuries and peaking a bit earlier than some expected. There isn’t a feeling that this team got better.
It’ll come down to some smaller signing to decide that, but also whether or not Kevin McHale is willing to improve as a head coach. Who knows, maybe now that the player he has hated the most is gone, we’ll see something else from a head coach that has been one big disappointment so far. You don’t need a hall of famer with plenty of front office experience to simply give the ball to Harden, not teach anyone team defense and hope for the best.
The Rockets built up their case to become a three All-Star team over the last three seasons and failed. They still haven’t gotten past the first round of the postseason in this new “era” and in the loaded West, each summer without actually upgrading your roster is almost a sin. Jeremy Lin didn’t work out in Houston for plenty of reasons, most of them not his fault at all, but you can’t completely absolve him of anything. However, unless the key figures in this play are willing to change something about themselves, the changes made this summer won’t take them to the next level.