It was the “veto” that sent shockwaves of anger across the association. A blockbuster trade that would have sent Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets was axed by Commissioner David Stern, due to “basketball reasons.”
The deal would have shipped Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic to the Hornets, and in return the Rockets would have received Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers. It was safe to assume that the Gasol acquisition would have snowballed into possibly acquiring coveted free agent Nene; formerly of the Denver Nuggets. The idea in the NBA now is if you have one star, you could get another.
The Rockets over the past few seasons have failed to take the first step in that theory. This trade was that first step, and while no guarantees could be made on potential acquisitions post Pau, the gates were unlocked for change. The after effects did seem to cause some discomfort as one would expect. Gasol made it clear he didn’t want to leave the Lakers, and Kevin Martin showed signs of discomfort.
As we know now, Martin was slowly removed from the Rockets rotation, and Goran Dragic exploded on the scene as a bona fide starter.
The Rockets failed to make the postseason for the third straight time, and now have significant issues to address. Will bringing back Dragic and restricted free agent Courtney Lee be enough? Will having two first round draft picks in the 2012 NBA Draft let this team take the next big step forward? Will the 7-foot Lithuanian Donatas Motiej?nas make a significant impact, as he joins this Rockets team next season?
While the Rockets have some positives, they still remain starless. Recent reports showed that the Rockets were the last team standing in the Dwight Howard rental sweepstakes. If Dwight had decided to officially move on from the Orlando Magic, the Rockets were ready to scoop him up without a commitment.
Instead, the Rockets continued to fight without a closer, which eventually led to another season ending dud.
The Lakers, who are now on summer vacation courtesy of the Oklahoma City Thuder, find themselves in a position for change as well. The biggest name on that list of change is Pau Gasol. If the Lakers were slightly reluctant to trade Gasol before, you can bet that reluctance has diminished. Gasol is set to make $19,000,000 next season at the age of 31 and is coming of another solid year in which he averaged 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, all while shooting 50%. Gasol’s playoff numbers took a significant hit. With only 12.5 points per game, and 9.50 rebounds per game, Gasol was back on the hot seat, being criticized for his “softness” as he is so often.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard continues to report that the Rockets do seem like a logical option for the Lakers to approach, and that the Rockets remain interested in Gasol.
“Houston is looking for a star. They love Pau Gasol,” Broussard said. “Would the Lakers be interested in some type of deal involving maybe Luis Scola, and Kyle Lowry? Lowry is expendable now that Goran Dragic has established himself down in Houston.”
Broussard has reported the Rockets interest in Gasol for months now, and being that the Rockets haven’t changed much since the original trade; it is fair to assume Gasol still may be a Rocket before the season begins. All this depends on whether unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic can be resigned by the Rockets, who are sitting on plenty of cap space. Perhaps with a Lowry trade in place, Dragic is more likely to return to Houston, knowing he will be running the show at the point.
Assuming the trade does involve Scola, and Lowry, the Rockets will need to solidify the backcourt, making Courtney Lee an essential piece to the puzzle. The front court will also need to be addressed. The 38 year old Marcus Camby will most likely be back at a hometown discount, and it’s still a mystery if the Rockets will pick up the $6,700,000 team option on Samuel Dalembert. Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson had a rough year, and the offseason will be a crucial barometer on how the Rockets move forward with him.
Scola, who is a huge fan favorite in Houston, is under contract through the 2014/15 season. The Rockets nabbed Scola from the San Antonio Spurs, and haven’t looked back since. Scola has consistently played hard, but is showing signs of decline, specifically on the defensive end.
Even with the acquisition of Gasol, the Rockets would need more. But would it be a step in the right direction? Does Gasol really carry the interest for a domino effect to take place? Do the Rockets even have the luxury to pass up on a proven big man at this point and time?
For now the rumor mill continues to churn. The days leading up to the draft will be very interesting for this Houston Rockets team, and their general manager Daryl Morey. As the saying goes here in Houston, “trust in Morey.”