HOUSTON — The Tigers are already down to their final chance in the World Series because they simply can’t connect with the ball.
Give Daryl Morey credit because no matter how desperate the situation got, he never stopped swinging.
After trying fruitlessly to land a big fish in the free-agent market or by trade for the past several years — Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard — the Rockets general manager finally got his hook into James Harden.
So much of the focus on the stunning deal that was consummated Saturday night will be on Oklahoma City. That’s to be expected when an up-and-coming powerhouse that was in the NBA Finals last June unloads one of its key players. There is instant speculation about whether the Thunder will now be able to hold off a charge from the reloaded Lakers, the returning Spurs, the re-energized Clippers and all the rest in the deep Western Conference.
But no matter if the veteran Kevin Martin fits seamlessly into the picture or the rookie Jeremy Lamb explodes onto the scene or the Thunder have to wait for the handful of first and second round draft picks to bear fruit, a young OKC team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka at the core will have its chance to shine again.
For the Rockets it was just as significant and perhaps an even more urgent move to finally become relevant again. Nobody is expecting that Harden can transform Houston into an instant contender, or even lift his new team into the playoffs this season. Yet he gives the Rockets what they have been missing since the combination of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady crumbled in a heap of broken body parts. In Harden they have a recognizable young star who is entering the prime of his career.
With Harden and Jeremy Lin now together, the Rockets will have a backcourt at least with the potential to make fans want to watch. There is still plenty of heavy lifting to be done in Houston. But the first step was to land someone with cache, who could bring a level of excitement and potentially All-Star skill. For that Morey deserves credit.