Last Updated: Jul 22nd, 2006 - 13:12:41
THE TEXAS TRIANGLE: Offseason Edition
By Bill Ingram
Jul 22, 2006, 13:06
Bill "The Rocket Guy" Ingram Brings You . . .
Houston: The Rockets will have their heart back in the lineup after 14 months away; What does Kirk Snyder bring? Dallas: The Mavericks bid a fond farewell to a player who helped them tremendously, but welcome an old friend; San Antonio: Does Francisco Elson give the Spurs what they need in the middle? These stories and more in this edition of The Triangle!
The Houston Rockets held a press conference for Bob Sura on Friday, and surprisingly the verdict is that he's going to try to return to the team.
"I've got to convince myself, said Sura. "If I'm able to do it, am I going to be the player I was a couple of years ago? There's a lot of factors to consider. And there's just too much of an unknown to speculate on what's going to happen yet"
Sura, who has been through a series of knee and back surgeries over the last couple of seasons, was leaning towards retirement until a recent series of workouts in Houston gave him hope that he might be able to rehabilitate enough to help the team. He did indicate, however, that if the time comes where it's clear he can't help the team he will step away and allow the Rockets to use his cap money to replace him.
We should expect nothing less from a player who has made a career out of being tough, determined, and team-oriented. He puts the team first, which is what this attempted comeback is all about. The Rockets need his gritty play back in the lineup, even if he spends most of his time on the bench. What he brings off the court is almost as important as what he contributes on the court.
Meanwhile, Kirk Snyder was recently added to the roster. While this was an underwhelming move, you have to give the Rockets credit for adding some potential and giving up nothing. The Hornets were trying to unload redundant talent, while the Rockets were looking to add an outside presence. The only real advantage Snyder has over, say Pat Carroll, is that he's stronger defensively. Carroll would help the Rockets much more on the offensive end, but Jeff Van Gundy is concerned with being able to stop some of the better off guards in the league. Snyder could be of some assistance in that area. He did manage to earn a starting spot for the Hornets last season and shot 36% from down town and averaged 9.7 points per game in the 45 games he started.
"Kirk is going to fit in very nicely on our roster," said Rockets GM Carroll Dawson. "We were looking to get bigger at the guard position and Kirk brings not only size, but very good athletic ability and a defensive presence. He's played in 136 games over the past two seasons and moved into a starter's role around midseason last year."
GM-to-be Daryl Morey recently talked with us about the issues facing the Rockets, and had the following to say about the one area where the Rockets are still coming up short.
"We're looking for a two who can handle the ball and then someone to go with Luther Head at that position," said Morey. "We're concentrating on that area. We feel like we're pretty settled on the interior right now. There may be some minor moves made there before training camp."
Rumors persist that the Rockets will move Juwan Howard, and Luther Head has been involved in many of those rumors, as well. The Rockets love Head, but understand that to get someone to take Howard's bulging contract they're going to have to add value. It seems unlikely that anyone takes Howard, but the Rockets would move him if the right deal came along.
Finally, the Rockets are set to give John Lucas III a three-year deal this week. The point guard who wowed the crowds in Vegas with his passing and his penetrating scoring will be the primary back-up to Rafer Alston. Meanwhile Yao Ming was moving freely without his boot in a press conference in Beijing on Friday. How much he will play for China this summer is still undetermined.
The Dallas Mavericks recently waved farewell to a player who helped them get through what seemed like a completely unreasonable number of injuries last season. Adrian Griffin agreed to a three-year deal with the Chicago Bulls, who think they may have missed something while they weren't playing him in 2004-05. In his place the Mavericks will play an old friend. Greg Buckner, who was drafted 53rd overall by the Mavericks in 1998, will be back in Dallas next season. While he's been way Buckner has established himself as a better-then-average three-point shooter and has also established a reputation for defense. The Denver Nuggets gave Buckner a chance to prove that he belongs in the NBA and he did just that.
Buckner is an Avery Johnson type of player, almost made to be in the AJ system. He's long, he's quick, and he is an outstanding help defender. At the same time, he runs the floor well and he can put points on the board if the opportunity presents itself. He doesn't necessarily look for his own shot, but if he's open on a pass from, say, Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Terry, he has no trouble dropping a three. You may recall that Griffin was not much of a three-point threat and tended to shy away from open jumpers. That was something that hurt the Mavericks' offense at times. Buckner is clearly an upgrade in that area.
Big props have to go to Griff, though. If it weren't for his ability to come in and play big minutes when other players were hurt the Mavericks would never have had the season that they did. His versatility and his heart will be missed in Dallas - but he should be a great fit for the Bulls. We wish him nothing but the best.
One final note, as the Mavericks have surfaced in the Kenyon Martin sweepstakes. Word is the Mavs would sign-and-trade Keith Van Horn and send him to Denver (with a package of other players) for the oft-maligned Martin. Hard to imagine K-Mart playing for a discipline coach like Avery Johnson, so I wouldn't put much stock in this rumor. Far more likely that Martin winds up in New York, where the Knicks are offering the equally mental Steve Francis.
The San Antonio Spurs were thwarted at every turn. They were shocked when Nazr Mohammed opted to leave just days after becoming the Spurs' de facto starting center. The fact that Gregg Popovich wouldn't play him was certainly a factor for Nazr, who was quiet about his disquiet, but made his feelings clear when he took the first boat out of town. That move sent the Spurs into a tailspin, and it took some effort to get out of it.
After pursuing the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Joel Przybilla, Chris Mihm, and even, in an act of desperation, Jackie Butler, the Spurs finally landed someone who might have a fighting chance of filling their gaping hole at the center position. Francisco Elson isn't exactly a top-ten center, but his work ethic did earn him a starting spot in George Karl's Denver lineup. He's not a big, strong player, but he is a seven-footer and he can change things in the paint from a defensive standpoint. He's quicker than Rasho Nesterovic, though not as good at scoring the ball.
Elson, who spent four years overseas before getting the call to join Denver, has shown steady improvement in each of his last three seasons with the Nuggets. He's not going to give the Spurs much offense, but then offense is not what the Spurs need from him. All they need is a player who will try to block some shots, get some rebounds, and make sure Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan get plenty of touches. Unlike Rasho and Nazr, who were capable scorers in their own right, Elson is not one who's going to look to score the ball. In fact, it's probably better if he doesn't get the ball on the offensive end unless it's a rebound. You certainly don't want to see him shoot free throws, but then his 66% from the line will fit right in with the Spurs.
The book on Elson is that he's a solid back-up center, but the Spurs will have to start him barring another move. That means the guy who should be the third option (for the Knicks) will actually be the primary back-up to Elson. Jackie Butler, who the Spurs offered more than even Isiah Thomas could fathom paying for him, will bring his size and potential to San Antonio. He had a nice April, averaging 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Knicks. Can he help the Spurs? Maybe. It depends on whether or not he gets playing time. Sound familiar?
Bill Ingram is Executive Editor for Basketball News Services, powering HOOPSWORLD.COM, SWISH Magazine, and The Five Star Basketball Report.
They guy stole my name!
I can't wait to see the small-ball lineup that Rockets/Spurs/Dallas will sure use in the playoffs:
Should be fun to watch!
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