Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talking Off-Season with Tom Martin of The Dream Shake

In our first edition of off-season talk, we talked Cavs with Cavs: the blog. Now we're talking about the Rockets, with Tom Martin of The Dream Shake. A tremendous Rockets blog you have to make part of your daily reads.

1. Are you over the whole TMac situation? You talked about the options the Rockets have with him, but which one do you want to see happen? How many good years does he have in him? Are you so over the whole thing that you don't even want to answer?

I'm not over it just yet. I think he needs to come back and prove himself to be valuable for us to keep him past the trade deadline. Not only that, but he must prove that he can adjust his game to fit into Rick Adelman's offense. There is no doubt that a healthy McGrady is a huge asset to our team. The only problem may have to do with team chemistry. He needs to have a much more consistent season. If there are too many roadblocks, I expect us to move him by the trade deadline. If all goes well, you may see him with us through the end before his contract is up.

2. The Rockets always show a lot of fight and grit when they play. While I love watching that, I know that unless TMac is 100%, this is probably not a team that can win the title. What needs to happen for them to make that move up? Is it a trade, or is it just continued development?

We need a very good and quick wing player, as well as a backup center. If McGrady can play the wing with some explosiveness, that's great. If not, look for us to be active in 2010 to try to find someone. I suggested Joe Johnson - he would be the cheapest, youngest option available. Ron Artest and Shane Battier are great, but we need more quickness and explosiveness. The only Rocket who can really throw down at this point is Von Wafer (James White and Joey Dorsey need to get some minutes before I add them to the list).

3. Aaron Brooks had a coming out party in the playoffs. I was amazed by his quickness and his jump shooting ability, especially when they blew out the Lakers a couple times. What is the next step he has to take? What parts of his game need the most work?

He's not really a point guard yet. He's closer than most people think, but he needs to really make the effort to become a great passer instead of doing it because the position asks it of him. There were too many forced shots and lazy passes of his that can be eliminated. He's got all the ability in the world - he just needs to become smarter. Experience helps in that respect.

4. Once the draft is over and done with, the focus will shift to free agency. Crazy idea: would Allen Iverson be a free agent the Rockets should pick up? What I'm thinking is he could be a dynamic scorer off the bench. A guy you might be able to get at a bit of a bargain. Kyle Lowry is a solid backup point, but could AI be the key to a title run?

I don't want Iverson anywhere near Houston. Great player - one of the best scoring guards of all time, but he's not the type of player that we would want on our team. Giving him a boatload of money would handicap our contract situation as well as our future. Yao is almost 30, T-Mac is over 30, and Ron Artest is near 30. We need to start thinking about the future as well as the present. Adding AI would do nothing to address the coming 4-5 years.

5. With no picks in the draft, is there any prospects you'd like to trade for and add to the Rockets? The guy that strikes me as a Rocket is Dejuan Blair, because of his tough, gritty attitude. On the plus side, the Rockets picked a pretty weak draft not to have a pick. Smart move.

You're right, it's not deep at all. I wouldn't want Blair simply because we already have too many Blairs. We love toughness, we love grittiness, but we need some athleticism too. If we see someone we like in the 20s, we may go for him, but I expect us to look at shooting guards in the early second round to push James White. Someone like Wayne Ellington. I can't really think of too many names at this point, because there are not that many.

6. This question was submitted by the Basketball Fiend via Twitter (here's my profile): Who has been Yao's closest teammate over the years?

Yao's closest teammate? Hmm. I've really got no clue. In the good times, he has been close to McGrady, at least from what I can see. I'll assume that he and Shane Battier are friends, if only because they are two of the smartest and classiest human beings you'll find anywhere. Unless of course the whole "opposites attract" rule comes into play and they get bored talking to each other. But that's unlikely.

7. I could go all day about how ugly Chuck Hayes free throw is. I understand offense is foreign to him, but do the Rockets not have a shooting coach? Do you close your eyes everytime he gets fouled in the act of shooting?

For whatever reason, Chuck Hayes will always end up with the ball when the shot clock nears zero. You'll get the occasional floater or even (gasp) jump shot from him every few games or so. He's actually quite the lay-up artist, and he has a decent hook shot in the lane. I've seen Chuck warm up before games, and I've seen him make about five or six three pointers in a row. It's not that he can't shoot - he just doesn't have the same rhythm and timing that other players have. He doesn't focus on offense, because if he did, he may only raise his scoring average by four or five points. Instead, he focuses on improving his defense, which is what gets him paid. I love watching him shoot free throws, because unless Rick Adelman is asleep during the fourth (which has happened before), he won't be in the game when it matters. Cheap entertainment if you ask me.

8. Another question from Twitter, from an Australian basketball fan, DJ Rod: are the Rockets planning on getting their 2nd round pick from two years ago, Brad Newley, to add to their NBA roster this season?

Ah yes, Brad Newley. Daryl Morey actually had a chat this morning with our friends at Sports Radio 1560, and he touched on the importance of storing players overseas in the hope that they may one day develop (like Luis Scola, for example). I don't see Newley having a future as a Rocket, because we have better options. I did like the pick when we made it, but I just don't see us paying him any money that we could pay someone else.

9. With Yao Ming's long injury history, do you think his body allows him to play a whole season healthy? If not, how much is Yao worth if he can't stay healthy?

Yao played in 85 games this season, including the playoffs. I don't know if you can ask much more of him. He played in 82 games per season for his first couple of years before having a few unlucky injuries (knee-bumps). He's a health risk, but it's not like he's really that fragile. Of course, I would like the Rockets to sign a dependable backup center just in case, but if we can see 70-80 games out of Yao for the next few years, that would be fantastic. And really, how many centers in the NBA play more than 70-75 games year in and year out?

10. The Lakers would say ring when they huddled up after games and practices. If you had to create a couple word motto for the Rockets, similar to that one, what would it be?

"Sex Mutombo."

11. Hot-seat time: how far do the Rockets next season? Western conference finals, what?

Sadly, it all depends on health once again. I think we can certainly reach the WCF. At best, we make it to the NBA Finals behind a rejuvenated McGrady. At worst, we lose in the second round. That's my call.

Thanks, Tom. I especially love the answer to number 10. Remember to check out The Dream Shake for all your Rockets fix. Also I need to thank DJ Rod and the Basketball Fiend for their questions. They submitted them via Twitter.