Unable to land Carmelo Anthony — or any other major impact player — Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey went to Plan D. Which apparently consists of starting over.
For that's essentially what the Rockets did at the NBA trading deadline Thursday in pulling off two separate deals that jettison point guard Aaron Brooks and forward Shane Battier. In sending Brooks to the Phoenix Suns for backup point guard Goran Dragic and a draft pick and Battier to Memphis for center Hasheem Thabeet and a future first-round pick, Morey gives the Rockets more time to build a roster that's at least competitive in the Western Conference.
Knowing all the while that this revamped roster — the one with Dragic and Thabeet — doesn't come close to accomplishing that.
Morey got rid of his major problem child (Brooks, the disgruntled reigning NBA's Most Improved Player, the man who walked out on the Rockets during a game earlier this month), but he may have picked up an even bigger one in the other move. Thabeet, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, is already considered one of the bigger busts in recent NBA history, regarded as a supremely unmotivated big man who is averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 rebounds per game this season.
But Thabeet is 7-foot-3. And Morey desperately wanted some type of size.
To get it, he gave up arguably the biggest good guy in the NBA in Battier. Battier's contract is up after this season though and few expected the model citizen to resign with a team that has little hope of contending.
The Rockets weren't likely to be interested in signing Battier — an intangible player who is much more valuable to a solid playoff team — to another large contract either (he makes $7.35 million this season).
Thabeet has something of a Houston tie. Coming from Tanzania, he bounced around to three different high schools in less than a year before finding a home at Cypress Christian School and with a local host family.
Brooks' fall from grace seems sudden — if you haven't been paying close attention this season. After all, less than two years ago, he was driving the LA Lakers crazy in a seven-game playoff series — the same series that changed everything for the Rockets (that's when Yao Ming went down). And just last year, Brooks piled up numbers for a non-playoff team, earning that Most Improved Player award.
But he complained when the Rockets wouldn't renegotiate his contract this summer, got injured and quickly fell behind Kyle Lowry (who Morey did sign to a big deal and obviously believes in) in the rotation. Once Brooks pulled his Scottie Pippen-worthy walk away in the fourth quarter against Memphis, it was only a matter of time until he was dealt.
Of course, the Rockets wanted to deal Brooks in a package for Anthony or some other superstar. Instead, Morey settles for trade deadline scraps and the hope of a restart — with young pieces and draft picks. And Brooks stays a backup — now to the Suns' two-time MVP Steve Nash.
Sometimes, no one gets close to exactly what they want.