The Rockets have been like the Cavs of the West for the last couple of years; maybe they were busting their asses behind the scenes, but on the surface the franchise seemed content with making run after fruitless run with their big-name superstar(s) — T-Mac and Yao in Houston, LeBron in Cleveland — while every other relevant team was making significant improvements. Late yesterday, though, the Rockets pulled the trigger on a big move: acquiring Ron Artest from the Kings in exchange for Bobby Jackson, a #1 pick, and a player to be named later, presumably rookie Donte Greene. Artest solves a few of Houston’s problems. Obviously the defense gets better, they get a perimeter guy besides T-Mac who’s willing (often too willing) to let it fly in pressure situations, and they get some toughness and swagger to add to the mix. If you had a healthy Yao on the court and Ron-Ron around to body-up Deron Williams a little during this spring’s Jazz/Rockets series, the Rockets could have definitely advanced to the next round and been a tough out for the Lakers. If only the brand-new Big Three can stay healthy … T-Mac to a Houston TV station: “(Artest) brings a mental and physical toughness. He brings a guy that competes at a high level on the basketball court. Defensively, he’s tough. Offensively, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s probably one of the most difficult guys to guard on the perimeter because of his size, because of his strength.” … From the Kings’ side, we like the trade if in fact the unnamed player is Donte Greene. They’d been trying to unload Artest for a while, and although they didn’t land a bigger name like Lamar Odom, Tayshaun Prince or some of the others that had been popping up in the millions of Artest trade rumors, ask any rebuilding organization and they’ll gladly take draft picks and young talent. Plus B-Jax shores up the point guard spot, previously in the hands of Beno Udrih (are you completely sold on him yet?), second-round pick Sean Singletary, and summer-league signee Bobby Brown … Earlier in the day, the big news was Emeka Okafor coming to terms with the Bobcats on a six-year, $72 million contract, which was followed later on by Luol Deng reportedly agreeing to an identical deal with the Bulls. We definitely were not expecting those kind of dollars for Okafor, who turned down $12M-per last summer and went on to have a contract year that was solid (13.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg) but didn’t blow anyone away. But everyone around the franchise says he’s the key to their defense, and Larry Brown is a defensive coach; he’ll try to mold ‘Mek into what he had with Ben Wallace in Detroit and Dikembe Mutombo in Philly. Deng also didn’t seem in line for that kind of money, but his contract year wasn’t a statistical disaster (17 ppg, 6.3 rpg), and he’s still got the ’07 playoffs on his resume when he destroyed Miami … The Bobcats’ investment in Okafor begs the question: Is he The Man in Charlotte? We looked at who should get the Alpha Dog tag for that team, as well as others in need of an identity, including the Nuggets (A.I. or ‘Melo?), Warriors (Monta or S-Jack?) and Grizzlies (O.J. or Rudy?) to name a few … With Okafor and Deng getting $70M, then Monta and Andris Biedrins falling into the $60M range, where does that leave Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala? A.I.2 seems certain to come back to Philly and make a run with Elton Brand, whereas J-Smoove wants out of Atlanta ASAP (and the team signing his ex-AAU teammate Randolph Morris won’t change that). Even if we don’t know their respective destinations, each can make an easy case for exceeding Okafor/Deng dollars: they were both #2 guys (at worst) ’08 playoff teams … And on that note, do you think Ben Gordon deserves more money than Luol Deng? … As expected, the Knicks waived Taurean Green and Bobby Jones — their haul in the Renaldo Balkman trade — and Green reportedly already has a big offer from CAI Zaragoza (Spain). This is the same club that recently employed Lionel Chalmers and Heshimu Evans, and not so long ago was home to the infamous Lester Earl … Between the Baron Davis signing, the Marcus Camby swindling and the perfectly sensible Eric Gordon and Al Thornton picks in ’07 and ’08, you might be surprised to know that Elgin Baylor is still the Clippers’ GM, and Donald Sterling is still the owner. This has all been so unlike them, you had to assume someone else was calling the shots. Asked about the Ricky Davis signing, Baylor said that after L.A. whiffed on Kelenna Azubuike, it had come down to Ricky Buckets or Devean George. Question: If you’re running a team, would you be the type to gamble on a talented player who is a potential headcase, or would you go with a less-talented guy if you knew for sure he won’t cause any locker-room problems? In other words, are you the Oakland Raiders or the San Antonio Spurs? … Some of the Dime crew spent Tuesday at the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot, held annually at the Knicks practice facility, where the rooks get their pics taken for team media guides and their first trading cards. Here’s a recap of the 2007 rookie shoot, which was the last time any of us saw Josh McRoberts in a basketball uniform. While it’s a good time for the Dime crew to knock out a bunch of interviews and catch up with the guys we hung out with at the Draft, the downside is you sometimes get stuff like THIS. We’ll have a full report later today on the site … Anyone arguing that college athletes need to get paid should use this as evidence: Turns out Roy Hibbert had to wait for that NBA check before he could even get a haircut. Tragic … One story that couldn’t wait: Less than an hour into the shoot, Marreese Speights managed to break a chair by simply sitting in it, then when one of our guys asked him about Elton Brand, Speights said he “really hadn’t seen him play.” The man’s been in the League for 10 years and you haven’t seen him play? The Clips and those terrible post-MJ Bulls weren’t national TV regulars, but Elton was in the playoffs recently and he did play at Duke before that … Airplane farts, dragon breath and things that smell like “hot horse piss.” Who knew Channing Frye was so funny? After reading this, you have to believe Frye spends HOURS watching stuff like “South Park” and Adult Swim … We’re out like Hibbert’s ‘fro …
Smack / Jul 30, 2008 / 3:13 am
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