Rockets Roll Out Red Carpet For Lakers

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HANG TIME, Texas — If the Lakers require a boost to become a playoff team rather than mere wannabes, the trade deadline deals by the Rockets could be just the leg up they need.

Currently sitting in the No. 8 spot in the West with a 3 1/2 game lead on Team Dysfunctional, Houston is virtually sending a stretch limo and holding open the door for the Lakers.

In trading starting power forward Patrick Patterson for Thomas Robinson, the Rockets did nothing at all to solidify their lineup for the stretch run of the season. By also swapping out Marcus Morris, the final 26 games of the season are being turned over to rookie Donatas Motiejunas, NBA D-Leaguer hustler Greg Smith and whatever Robinson might chip in at the four spot.

“Our goal is to get to the championship,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. “That’s goal No. 1. Goal No. 2 is to make the playoffs this year. The good thing is I don’t think those goals are in conflict with this move.

“We feel like Thomas Robinson has a lot of upside for the bigger goal of getting back to being a contender. And we think we can just just as solid. If we made it harder (to make the playoffs this season), it’s just a little bit harder.”

There is virtually nothing to criticize with what the Rockets did. Patterson and Morris, while solid in their jobs, do not come close to holding the potential of the 21-year-old Robinson, who was the No. 5 pick in the draft just eight months ago and, in the eyes of many, possessed the talent to be taken even higher. The Rockets believe he can be a high-energy, rebounding monster that can run the floor and mesh perfectly with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, while helping Omer Asik far more on the boards and Patterson or Morris ever would. In addition, they picked up a high, second-round draft pick that could be valuable. Plus, the aggregate salaries of the four players the Rockets traded could give them between $15 million and $20 million to spend on free agents next summer.

Already the youngest team in the league, the Rockets are playing the long game and the future suddenly looks very bright. So while hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the playoffs would be a nice bauble, the right to get slapped around by the Spurs or Thunder in the first round isn’t an end.

But it is not exaggerating to say that it could provide the Lakers with the opening they need to save this season and their future. Let’s face it: the chances of getting Dwight Howard to sign a new contract that would keep him around as the foundation of the next generation in purple and gold would be helped by the Lakers making the playoffs. If they finish on the outside, whatever criticism of Howard’s shortcomings that currently exist will only be ratcheted up.

In addition, if the Lakers do manage to claw their way into the postseason, it would mean that they have somehow pulled things together and played better over the final third of the schedule. Unlike the youthful Rockets, who might wander into the playoffs with their jaws agape, a Lakers team with momentum along with Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and a recovered Pau Gasol in the lineup would be least have the veteran puncher’s chance to pulling off the upset and advancing.

Especially over the next few weeks as they move two rookies — Motiejunas and point guard Patrick Beverly — into the rotation, the Rockets have practically eliminated their margin for error and given the Lakers a chance to wipe out all of their wrongs of the past four months.

It’s quite fitting that it’s Oscar Week. The Rockets have just rolled out the red carpet for the Lakers.

18 Comments

  1. IDOL says:

    PUH lease. I am a huge Kobe fan that also loves my Houston ROCKETS but I do not think the lakers will right the ship this season. On the other hand, The Rockets have not even reached their ceiling THIS season let alone their full potential as a team. The core of Harden, Lin, Parson and role players like Delfino, Asik, Beverely, D-MO and now Robinson is enough for Houston to take over 2 3 teams and end up getting the 6th seed. If this happens then it only means the Rockets are firing in all cylinders.

    P.S.- Fran, are you desperately in need of attention or you truly think the Rockets are bad as you think?

  2. nba fan1234 says:

    WOW, the rockets sure are struggling after the trade, coming off a win against OKC and beating the NETS by 10 in brooklyn. I don’t think the rockets are going to better after the trades but if Harden and Lin lead that team then I don’t see them dropping out of the playoffs anytime soon, but one interesting fact that i found out was both the rockets and the lakers final game will be against each other in LA, so it might be interesting just how this playoff race ends up!!!!!

  3. joey boy says:

    ROCKETS pls get AMARE STOUDEMIRE to HOUSTON!!!

  4. K-Smoove says:

    Sir Fran, I believe there is no red carpet laid out for the Lakers given by the Rockets to sneak a playoff spot… Of course, you’ll have to look into the future of the franchise before pulling off a trade. It’s like saying the Rockets beating the Thunder and the Nets are both flukes… As a Rockets fan who have seen it all from great seasons to injury-riddled ones, I like Patterson, Morris and Douglas.. but just because they were traded away elsewhere… I’m hoping they’ll hang on with for a playoff spot this year, and that Robinson will be a big help especially on defense… They needed a defensive upgrade on team which currently has a high-octane offense… It’s also good to see guys like Beverley, Moteijunas and Anderson fitting well in the rotation.. It’s unfortunate, that you’re saying that Harden’s all-star season will be wasted with the Rockets not making the playoffs…

  5. Houston is getting Hard Nosed says:

    Harden, T-Rob, T-Jones, Greg Smith… and good shooters

    Houston my be an 8th seed but they can upset in the playoffs. The future is bright

    …… but can someone take Jeremy Lamb away from OKC. The kid has potential and he’s riding the bench.

  6. Duv says:

    As a Rockets fan, as much as I loved the work ethic of Patterson offensively, I think this is a great trade. It puts us in a great spot to lure top free agents and build around the star of Harden, who I consider to be a top 5 player in the NBA based on current form. I just hope we can still hang on to a playoff spot to (a) give some clutch time playoff exposure to Harden (b) give/give more playoff exposure to the rest of the team. Also, I like what I’ve seen with Monteijunas and I wouldn’t mind seeing what he does with some more playing. I hope Robinson will fit in – haven’t really seen much of him play though. Draft positions are all well and good but who here remembers Sam Bowie and Jonny Flynn?

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Imagine a double-southpaw attack (with Josh Smith and James Harden). That would be incredible.

  7. J says:

    Im guessing he’s missed the past 2 games against OKC and Brooklyn …LOL in case he didnt Rockets beat both without Patterson and Morris so Rockets this red carpet you talkin about doesnt exsist

  8. Sac says:

    Yeah. Because Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris are going to get the Rockets deep into the playoffs.

  9. James says:

    Oh Fran, sometimes i wonder if your blood is yellow and purple, because it is certainly not red.

  10. Ben says:

    Wow, the Rockets sure did struggle in that 10 point win over the Nets…that lack of talent is really taking its toll…

  11. MathSimon says:

    TONY PARKER FOR MVP!
    TONY PARKER FOR MVP!
    TONY PARKER FOR MVP!

  12. Pandaah says:

    great interview morey. the trades were great and im surejust as sure as i was about harden and asik that trob will come in and excel under our gamestyle. his defensive presence and athletic finishing will make asiks job a whole lot easier. i expect rockets will end up with the 6th seed and with in three years be a finals contender. With that said if we sign josh smith and jeremy lin continues to grow as a pg and leader HOUSTON ROCKETS 2014 NBA CHAMPS #red nation !!!

  13. Rico says:

    no love for the rockets? After they beat OKC without ehem WITHOUT Patterson/Morris(who got traded) and Robinson.

    • Rico says:

      o btw he wrote this few days ago.. talking about flip flopping..

      giving the Rockets a puncher’s chance at power forward with the addition of Thomas Robinson — Harden was once again the lion tamer, cracking his whip and taking complete control.

  14. Just-a-thought says:

    This is not the first time Mr. Blinebury shows disrespect to the Houston Rockets, using cheap shots taken at them to try to make his writing more “juicy”…

    Feels more and more like tabloid journalism by Blinebury to me. And I don’t enjoy tabloid quality on NBA.com.

  15. Average Joe says:

    Fran, you’ve always been a doomsayer for many teams but I think this time you’d be spot on. The Rockets, on paper, made a big blunder by trading off some of their more productive players. That being said, Houston still has enough talent to go around with Harden to make it to the playoffs and bump the Lakers out. It’s touch and go, but if Motiejunas and Robinson play up to half their potential, this could be a very interesting stretch run to the postseason.

  16. uoykcuf says:

    Seriously, that’s all you can come up with the Rockets trade? Try to earn your salary by not putting “lakers” at your topic next time.