The Rockets did not deny they were trying to do much more than choose three more players in the first round of the draft. By draft night, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took to referring to "all that stuff that's been written about" as a euphemism for his pursuit of a blockbuster trade either for a franchise star or a climb to the top of the draft.
They were not, however, making picks to appeal to anyone else. They had no checklist from the Magic or anyone else. Even their efforts to move up in the draft -- and they had extensive talks with six teams with top-10 picks -- were for their own roster.
The final trade option fell through when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went to the Charlotte Bobcats, assuring the Kings that they would get the player they wanted and ending the talks with the Rockets. The Rockets, however, had moved up in the draft to move in position to take Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb. They were not sure if he would make it to their 12th pick, but when he did they took him and considered the draft to be a success despite their inability to get what they wanted most.
They had been more confident that they would be able to get Royce White with their second first-round pick and had checked him out thoroughly, speaking extensively with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, a close friend of Rockets coach Kevin McHale, about White's anxiety disorder. They took White with the hope that with his issue in check, he could be the sort of difference-maker they sought.
They had deals in place to move their final pick to get a pick for a future season, particularly when they have to send a first-round pick (lottery protected) to the Nets. But they were high enough on Terrence Jones that they canceled that idea and took a third player in the first round after all.
That was never the plan. McHale was clear he did not want three more rookies to go with the four players from last season's draft already on the Rockets roster. But when the dealing was done, the Rockets insisted they were happy even if their plans did not work out.
The Rockets began a four-game road trip with wins in Chicago and Los Angeles, making them the only team in the league with road wins against the Thunder, Bulls and Lakers. When they backed up those road wins with wins in a back-to-back at Sacramento and Portland, Goran Dragic was the Western Conference Player of the Week and the Rockets came back home in sixth in the Western Conference and a season-high seven games better than .500.
After a four-game sweep of a road trip, the Rockets were only a few home wins away from returning to the playoffs. In the next three games, all against teams battling them for the final Western Conference playoff spots, they trailed by as much as 18, 16 and 23 points, sending them on their way to a season-long six-game losing streak. After losses to Utah and Phoenix in Toyota Center, they lost both games of a back-to-back with the Nuggets, were blown out in the fourth quarter in Dallas before fading late in New Orleans to go from likely in the playoffs to out.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.