Rockets not bad, but adrift in NBA’s middle ground without a star to guide them

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There are two parts to constructing a winning team. First, get yourself a superstar or two. Next, get complementary and affordable role players to go around them that fit the system.

The Houston Rockets have the second part of this down, it’s the first part that has Daryl Morey stuck. But he’s trying, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Morey has spent the last 18 months attempting to acquire an impact player of his own. One day, he’s meeting with Chris Bosh, telling him how the Rockets will build around him. He was positioned to make the deal work. He’d gotten the players the Toronto Raptors would have taken in a sign-and-trade. Problem is, Bosh decided to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Lately, Morey has telephoned the New Orleans Hornets about Chris Paul and the Denver Nuggets about Carmelo Anthony. Both teams have told him they’re not interested.

Atlanta’s Josh Smith is on Morey’s radar screen, as are others in all probability. Morey likely will have the New York Knicks’ No. 1 pick in 2011 and is hopeful there could be help coming down that road.

Morey took over a Rockets team that was supposed to have its two superstars — Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. He’s done a very good job of putting quality role players around them (Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and so on and so on). Only to be let down by his stars, those stars let down by their bodies.

The problem is, there are only so many building bock stars, and they don’t come easy or cheap. You need to win the NBA lottery, convince one to come to you as a free agent or find a willing trade partner. And there are 29 other teams trying to do just that. It takes a combination of skill and luck that some guys — Pat Riley, for one — have in spades.

For now, the Rockets are stuck in the NBA’s middle ground — not good enough to really go deep in the playoffs, not bad enough to get John Wall in the draft lottery. It’s a tough spot, all the smart moves the Rockets made while the Wizards made bad ones have left the Rockets with less of a long-term future, without the building block Washington was given.

There’s no doubt Morey is smart. The lucky part, we will wait to see.

Thabo Sefolosha’s lawyer: White police officer targeted black Hawks forward

Thabo Sefolosha
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NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer representing a professional basketball player arrested outside a New York City nightclub has told a jury his client was targeted because he’s black.

Attorney Alex Spiro said Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court that a white police officer saw a black man in a hoodie when he confronted the Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on April 8.

Sefolosha was arrested while leaving a Manhattan nightclub following a stabbing. He subsequently suffered a season-ending leg fracture after a confrontation with police.

A prosecutor said in opening statements that Sefolosha called an officer who repeatedly told him and others to leave a “midget.”

Sefolosha pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The Swiss citizen declined a plea deal from prosecutors.


DeMar DeRozan says he hates talking about free agency, takes pride in Raptors longevity

DeMar DeRozan
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DeMar DeRozan has a $10,050,000 player option for 2016-17. Given the rapidly escalating salary cap, it’s a practical certainty DeRozan will opt out and get a major raise.

But he says he doesn’t want to talk about it.

DeRozan, via Eric Koreen of the National Post:

“I hate that, honestly,” DeRozan said in a one-on-one interview. “I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing (in Toronto). A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me.

“Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.”

This sounds awfully similar to LaMarcus Aldridge, who stated his desire last year to become the great Trail Blazer ever and then signed with the Spurs this summer.

Things change, and the impracticality of an extension ensures DeRozan will hit free agency. I believe he’s devoted to the Raptors right now, but his loyalty might change in the next nine months – especially once he sees contract offers from other suitors.

Toronto’s interest in DeRozan might fluctuate, too. He’s a nice player, but the Raptors haven’t won a playoff series with him despite winning the division the last two years. Depending how this season goes, Masai Ujiri might want to rework the roster significantly next summer, and letting DeRozan walk could create major cap space.

I believe DeRozan wants to return to the Raptors, and I believe they want to keep him. But so much can change between now and when both sides must make that call.