HOUSTON — For the better part of the week, putting All-Star Dwight Howard into the middle of their lineup was the stuff of the Rockets’ dreams.
In the end it was strictly fantasy. A pipe dream.
As the draft approached, general manager Daryl Morey was said to be dealing more than a four-armed casino worker. He sent Chase Budinger to Minnesota to acquire an extra first round pick. Then he shipped Samuel Dalembert to Milwaukee in order to jump up two spots from 14th to 12th.
Those were supposed to be just the first dominos falling as Morey kept inching and climbing his way closer to the top of the lottery selections. Could he get the No. 8 pick from Toronto? The No. 7 from Golden State? The No. 5 from Sacramento? Or even the No. 2 from Charlotte?
Put one or more of those choice selections with a veteran such as Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and/or Luis Scola and the idea was to entice Orlando with a nice rebuilding package in exchange for Howard.
So, Magic, how would you like to take your pick among Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones?
That bag of three kids is what the Rockets were left holding after they couldn’t swing a blockbuster deal and wound up making all of their own.
More noise out of the Rockets that produced nothing. This time you could call the reaction that greeted their No. 12 selection in the first round as “The Silence of the Lamb.”
“We tried,” said Arturas Karnisovas, director of scouting.
So did everybody who bought a ticket in last week’s Powerball lottery.
It would seem the swing-for-fences approach on Howard is dead and now the Rockets’ search for an All-Star caliber player to be the foundation of the franchise plods on.
There is, of course, free agency and the entire summer off-season to get something done. But Houston’s roster is not exactly loaded with elite level trade bait. And it was in fact just days a few days ago when coach Kevin McHale said he was not looking forward to adding more youth to his team.
“I would as soon have one or two veterans,” McHale said. “Those guys are going to be like rookies again for us. To add two more – we’ve had that discussion quite a bit. You can only get so young in our league and be successful. It’s that blend of trying to make sure we don’t have all guys who are 19 to 20 years old.”
Yet with Lamb (20), White (21) and Jones (20), the Rockets now have 10 of the current 15 players on their roster who are 24 or under and eight who are under 23 and under.
It was a week that began with the Rockets in pursuit of Dwight Howard to pull their wagon and ended with them needing to buy a minivan so that McHale could drive his kiddie corp to practice.