News » NBA 2009-07-01

NBA 2009-07-01

NBA 2009-07-01
Now we know why Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was trying to trade into the upper reaches of the draft on Thursday night and buying second-round picks after he couldn't get a spot in the lottery level: The Rockets need healthy players.

The surprise is none of the three second-rounders the Rockets acquired were big men.

Who does Rick Adelman start at center next season now that it appears Yao Ming won't be available?

Carl Landry? Chuck Hayes?

If Yao's broken left foot keeps him on the sidelines for the entire 2009-10 season, and perhaps beyond, the team that played the NBA champion Lakers tougher than anyone this spring won't have to worry about trading up to the lottery level in next year's draft. They'll just have to worry about how the ping pong balls pop on lottery night.

Free agency begins at one minute after 11 p.m. local time today. Expect the Rockets to contact the agents for the best big men who might be lured by the full mid-level salary cap exception of just less than $6 million.

One of those is Antonio McDyess, the veteran Pistons center-forward whose off-season home is, ahem, Houston. Even at age 34, he is one of the NBA's most consistent post players. He averaged 9.6 points and 9.8 rebounds last season, when he returned to the Pistons after being part of the Chauncey Billups-for-Allen Iverson deal, loyal to GM Joe Dumars to the bitter end.

Can the Rockets afford not to find out if McDyess would like to finish his career in his adopted hometown? With Yao out and Dikembe Mutombo finally retired, McDyess would play at least 30 minutes a night for the Rockets .

If the Rockets do reach out to McDyess, this could be bad news for the Spurs, also in the market for bigs after moving Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to get Richard Jefferson last week.

McDyess ought to be one of the players on general manager R.C. Buford's call list Wednesday. Still one of the best rebounders and help defenders in the league, he is perfectly suited to be Tim Duncan's sidekick. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich have loved McDyess' skills, competitiveness and team-first approach for a long while.

You've probably heard the rumblings about Detroit's Rasheed Wallace being at the top of the Spurs' free-agent list, but you have to wonder if the full mid-level salary would be enough for a player who earned nearly $14 million last season.

McDyess gave up a lot of guaranteed money to buy out of Denver, but he was slotted to make $6.8 million next season. Accepting the full mid-level wouldn't be such a dramatic pay cut.

Why would he leave the Pistons after returning to them last season? Because Detroit has slipped several rungs in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons won't be a threat to return to the NBA Finals for a while.

The Spurs, on the other hand, showed every free agent they are serious about re-tooling for the final three seasons that remain on Duncan's contract when they snatched Jefferson.

By committing to a player payroll that will require paying millions of luxury tax dollars, majority owner Peter Holt affirmed what most of us already knew but some may have questioned in tough economic times: He isn't merely willing to spend money to keep the Spurs competitive; he is eager to do whatever it takes to win another championship while Duncan remains one of the NBA's best big men.

"Peter has really challenged us to be aggressive in re-tooling the team and adding some youth," Buford said.

Few teams have adopted such a bullish approach. It's the sort of commitment to winning that matters to players such as McDyess who want to begin each of the final few seasons of their careers knowing they may get to play deep into June.

It might even be enough of a commitment to lure Wallace, and the notion of watching Popovich deal with Rasheed's occasional temper tantrums might even sell a few season tickets.

McDyess is one year older than Duncan, but he has played 949 (regular-season and playoff) games, 110 fewer than Duncan.

If Yao's misfortune moves the Rockets to make an impassioned appeal to McDyess' sense of hometown pride, the Spurs may feel a small portion of his pain, too.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: July 1, 2009


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