Aaron Brooks, Weary Houston Rockets Can Rest During All-Star Weekend
David Stern quickly shut it again. The commissioner instead selected Mavs' point man Jason Kidd to replace the injured Bryant.
Chase Budinger, a productive second-round pick from Arizona, was not picked to play in Friday's rookie-sophomore challenge. He averages eight points as a member of one of the five highest scoring benches in the association.
Brooks leads the 27-24 Rockets in scoring, averaging 19.4 per game, and represents the team's closest approximation of an All-Star. With a signature playoff performance already under his belt, he has continued to display the growth and grit GM Daryl Morey and Coach Rick Adelman needed to see.
The Rockets have a much better shot at the playoffs than Chris Kaman's L.A. Clippers. No one can argue the host Dallas Mavericks played well enough in the previous two weeks to deserve multiple All-Stars.
Yet, I'm not here to champion Brooks or Budinger as this year's biggest snubs. Kidd and Kaman have shown enough to merit Stern's selection.
Kidd can still play at the level that lifted the then-laughingstock New Jersey Nets to consecutive NBA Finals. Five years after he retires, Springfield will welcome him.
Second all-time in assists, Kidd joins Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett on a short list of active, future first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Kaman's monstrous play has been a bright spot for the cursed Clippers in a season that should inspire many in the organization to curse to the point of throat destruction.
Let them play at Jerry World. Let Brooks learn.
Terrific as he's been, his team fell flat last week in Miami. The Rockets lost to the struggling Heat by 33 points, and worse, tied the franchise low for points in a game with 66.
Fatigued and temporarily out of surprises, the last thing the Rockets need is a core player working up a sweat in a game that will not impact the standings.
For the first time in much more than a decade, the Rockets will not field an All-Star representative, and no one in Houston should cry because of it.
Perhaps Stern did the Rockets and Brooks a huge favor. Maybe the Dallas Mavericks did, too.
The Mavs completed a trade this weekend that should bolster an aging roster. Dallas won twice in a two-week span, and in both empty wins over woeful Golden State, the Warriors topped the century mark.
As owner Mark Cuban eloquently put it, "we suck right now."
The Washington Wizards agreed to send Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to the Big D in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton, Quinton Ross, and other considerations.
Some will say the Rockets lost out on Butler's services. But, how much did Morey want him?
It says here, not much.
The Wizards seemed unlikely to do a deal that involved only Tracy McGrady's contract. They might have demanded Brooks, Carl Landry, or another key cog.
Butler would never have been worth that asking price for the Rockets. He would not have helped them much anyway.
A 29-year-old former All-Star on a drowning team, Butler was unable to help Antawn Jamison navigate the Wizards out of basketball purgatory. He is capable of playing above average defense, and he can score in a variety of ways.
No one would confuse him, however, for Bruce Bowen or Kobe Bryant.
Butler still has enough game to help the oldest team in the league. He can do more for MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki than a hobbled Howard, and he might mesh better with Shawn Marion and Kidd.
Howard, for his part, can still play at a high level on some nights. The Wizards cannot do any worse after this swap, and Howard's contract could provide GM Ernie Grunfeld with enough financial relief to accelerate the necessary fire sale and rebuilding job.
McGrady, the player, remains an unknown. Donnie Walsh seems to be the only executive with an ounce of interest in the guard's basketball ability.
With the Rockets in freefall mode and out of the playoff picture by a few games, talk of a shake-up will understandably continue until Thursday's trade deadline.
Some have deemed a change "necessary." Others would call it "probable."
While Morey cannot tout any player, even Brooks, as untouchable, he has promised to make trades that benefit the franchise in the long term.
Cuban pounced on a deal that would not have been ideal for the Rockets.
The Mavericks had given Howard chance after chance to redeem himself. They can afford to surrender a player once considered the second option behind Nowitzki.
The Rockets are fighting with the Grizzlies, Suns, Hornets, and Thunder, not chasing the L.A. Lakers. Had Morey kept the roster in tact and pulled off a McGrady-for-Butler exchange, the undermanned and undersized core would still be gasping for air in Bryant and Pau Gasol's wake.
So, if Brooks sees Cuban or Stern in the coming months, he should thank them instead of shouting obscenities.
It looks increasingly like Morey will not find a trade partner willing to dangle a star-caliber youngster. If he remains unwilling to part with a player not named McGrady or Brian Cook, he could be forced to stand pat.
Even with a payroll as bloated as Kirstie Alley after a day trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet and a roster as cracked as the Liberty Bell, it doesn't make sense for Ed Stefanski to deal Andre Igoudala for McGrady.
The last time Stefanski had gobs of cap space at his disposal, he did not spend it wisely. Elton Brand and $80 million. Enough said.
With Philadelphia still mathematically in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, Sixers management will not gain much by jettisoning the franchise's best player in a salary dump.
Attendance at the Wachovia Center has plummeted in the years following the 2001 NBA Finals.
"We give up" is not a slogan diminishing fans would accept. It pales in comparison to "we owe you one."
No one owes Morey a lopsided deal. With the deadline approaching and his options decreasing, there might not be such a transaction in the offing.
There never was.
When the Rockets resume play Tuesday at home against the surging Utah Jazz, they will likely do so without a savior in tow.
This exhausted, often overmatched group will have to do what it did in playing the league's toughest schedule through December: figure it out.
Brooks must be the guy to lead the charge. Landry must figure out adjusted defenses that have limited his effectiveness inside. Scola must do more.
Adelman will need a healthy Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry.
This weekend, the league afforded Brooks and the Rockets something a $23 million expiring contract cannot buy.
A week of rest could recharge tired legs and re-ignite a fire in danger of extinguishing.
Morey has worked the phones for months trying to find a desperate team willing to unload a marvelous talent. As the lack of action will attest, the conversations have ended with dial tones, not any strong verbal agreements.
As 24 of the world's best athletes dunk and dazzle in a more than $1 billion stadium tonight, capping a weekend of grandeur and excess, the Rockets will sit.
Rest. It might be the best and only deal this week.
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