Houston Rockets Get Up-Close Look at NBA's Bottom-Feeding Lifestyle

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IJanuary 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on against the New York Knicks during the second half at Verizon Center on January 6, 2012 in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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With each loss, the rumblings grow louder and the stubborn fans become more adamant.

The Rockets, they say, should eschew mediocrity and torpedo the season to obtain the highest draft pick possible.

Suck for one year and get lucky the next.

Cash out and admit defeat now. Hit the jackpot next June.

Houston followers disenchanted with the prospect of continuous 40-something win campaigns have embraced the idea of tanking like a four-year-old would a stuffed teddy bear.

The 2012 draft class may rank as the deepest since the all-time great 2003 pool. How about Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond in Rocket Red?

Forget that tanking, for the most part, is a myth. Most teams that lose more than 60 percent of their games, in any sport, are just that abysmal and inept.

The Indianapolis Colts – given a 10-6 record last year that exposed glaring holes on both sides of the ball – stained Lucas Oil Stadium like football feces without Peyton Manning.

The hometown Astros’ front office slashed payroll and dumped the best players in preparation for an ownership change. Houston’s cost cutting, AA-caliber baseball outfit reeked like an expanding landfill.

Bad news suffering Astros supporters: the club does not get to select a sure-fire Hall of Fame player in the next draft as compensation for emptying the cupboard and buttressing the organization’s dignity.

The Rockets witnessed and clobbered two of the NBA’s biggest losers in the previous five days. They host a third example tonight.

The fans in favor of tanking wish GM Daryl Morey would listen to their pleas and move the roster from the seldom-discussed middle room to the basement.

Just as pigskin aficionados in Indy implored the Colts to Suck for (Stanford QB Andrew) Luck, some Houstonians want the Rockets to crumple and exit the main field.

It is, after all, how the team landed both Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson in the 1980s.

The draft lottery and expansion, however, changed the equation. No one in next year’s potential rookie crop belongs in the same stratosphere, or even universe, as The Dream.

Beyond those obvious system alterations, all fans have to do of late to see the flaws and fallacies of their precious strategy is flip on Fox Sports Southwest or head to Toyota Center.

Morey refuses to surrender because, like owner Leslie Alexander, he loves winning. He also bristles and shudders when he imagines bringing up the league’s rear.

The GM would consider blowing up the core if the right trade for the right building block presented itself, but he will not order his employees to lose on purpose.

A former Houston Chronicle columnist wrote last year that Morey attempted to deal “half of his roster” for Ricky Rubio. Rick Adelman, then the Rockets sideline chief, suggested the hoops exec schedule a mental competency exam.

“Are you trying to get me fired?” Adelman asked.

The Washington Wizards have done everything possible to push Flip Saunders to the unemployment line.

The Rockets fended off a fourth quarter rally to handle the Wizards 114-106 on Monday afternoon. Saunders chaperones a miserable roll call loaded with athletic freaks that don’t know how to play professional basketball.

Forget the Statue of Liberty dunk. His young ballers could dunk on the Statue of Liberty.

Just do not ask them to set sturdy screens, execute proper defensive rotations, make the extra pass or care about the details.

The Sacramento Kings made Paul Westphal the 2011-2012 coaching carousel’s first victim. He failed to reach mercurial center DeMarcus Cousins. He failed to point a core stacked with All-Star caliber talent in a triumphant direction.

Legendary execs Jerry West and Pat Riley could not clean up the colossal messes in the nation’s capital and Northern California.

Legendary coaches Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach might squeeze 5 to 10 more victories out of those moribund groups.

Good luck with your train wreck teams, Ernie Grunfeld and Geoff Petrie. You’ll need it.

Comatose Detroit visits Toyota Center tonight. The Pistons are firing on no cylinders.

GM Joe Dumars constructed a rare championship squad devoid of a transcendent superstar. Though the best players all ranked in the top five or 10 at their positions in 2004 and 2005, the absence of a LeBron-like alpha dog separated the Pistons model from others.

Pundits and scribes, including this one, hailed Dumars as a brilliant talent evaluator and matchmaker. He had morphed from a defensive pest at the two spot to a rising star among his decision-making peers.

Then came his chance to dismantle the decaying machine. He clung too long to a roster that lacked the wherewithal to compete for more titles in the new-look Eastern Conference.

Since stumbling at that juncture, Dumars has defamed and defaced his sterling repute by overpaying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. He placed excessive faith in combo guard Rodney Stuckey.

The Pistons have collected some intriguing lottery picks in recent seasons, but the attempted makeover has not yielded success.

Rebuilding the way some Rockets fans want means accepting luggage the size of downtown Houston. Morey prefers to avoid the baggage claim whenever possible.

News flash: It sucks to suck like the Wizards.

All “tanking” did for the Kings and Wizards was prolong the pain of irrelevancy.

John Wall and Cousins still rank as supreme talents worthy of high selections, but neither has any concept of what it takes to win. Both sometimes seem to not give a flip, either.

Wall dropped a career-high 38 points on the Rockets in Monday’s matinee. Kevin McHale, though, blamed his players for “jumping out of Wall’s way.”

The aggregate suggests the Wizards’ newest foundation piece has regressed from his rookie year. Do not judge the statistics alone.

It was clear from his first opening tip that Kevin Durant wanted to get better on both ends and hone his leadership facility.

Cousins and Wall do not flash enough commitment and dauntlessness.

Houston followers can hope for a repeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder and L.A. Clippers situations.

They must understand that stooping to the Wizards level is a likelier consequence.

For every Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan-Chris Paul and Durant-Russell Westbrook-James Harden-Serge Ibaka scenario, there are ones involving Andray Blatche and Jason Thompson.

Yuck. Barf. Gag me now.

Morey chose the most difficult path to a Larry O’Brien trophy. Sacramento and Washington may have confirmed that he picked the right one.

Do I need to quote a certain Robert Frost poem here?

Unearthing a superstar while competing for a playoff spot requires an abundance of patience and serendipity.

He has not lucked out in his quest to stockpile under-performing 2009 lottery selections.

That will not hinder Morey from trying to satisfy his boss’ appetite for W's while pushing for a deal to land a game-changing anchor.

Alexander cannot stomach losing. How would he cope if the Rockets sat at 1-12 like the hapless, clueless Wizards?

Even the Maloof Brothers should wonder how the Kings have won four games with such a toilet bowl roster.

Detroit Owner Tom Gores received a jarring wake-up call when the team his investment firm purchased in April took the floor.

Some Lynyrd Skynyrd seems appropriate here. “Ooooh, can you smell that smell?”

Choose your wishes carefully, Rockets faithful.

You want stink? You can get it faster than attendees at a farting contest in a room with no air vents or windows.

Houston’s lone All-Star level performer is 6’0” point guard Kyle Lowry. He averages 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 9 assists.

Beyond Lowry and what Kevin Martin and Luis Scola can do in stretches, the franchise lacks the kind of crunch-time assassin necessary to make the jump from pursuing the eighth seed to winning 16 postseason games.

That is quite a jump.

The Clippers need more seasoning to land feet first on the other side, but adding Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and Reggie Evans is a good start.

Few can mimic the Clippers. For most of that franchise’s dismal 30 years, that has been a positive thing.

Houston fans suffer from m-induced restlessness. All many of them see is the fruits produced after other lottery losers labored in full-on rebuilding efforts.

What they really want is the payoff without the trials and tribulations.

You might love the Miami Heat’s talent assembly now. Did you share similar affection for the squad that followed its first ever championship with 44 wins and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Chicago Bulls? How about the Heat unit that won 15, yes 15, games?

Morey prefers a larger victory sum. In the organization’s view, 40 outings conquered with self-respect beats challenging for all-time futility.

Please tank. Stop being average.

Detroit offers the third reminder in four games of what happens when going young, or overspending for immediate dividends, goes wrong.

Washington’s season ticket holders coveted more than just some guys who can jump high when the team launched its overhaul project. That, however, is what they are stuck with for a while.

As the Houston fan rumblings grow, so do the reasons for Morey to ignore them.

I can smell that smell. No thanks.


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