I watched Game 1 of the New Orleans – San Antonio game earlier tonight, and former Rocket Bonzi Wells played very well (no pun intended), scoring 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes and getting significant time in the always important fourth quarter.
That made me start wondering if the Rockets could have used Bonzi more than Bobby Jackson. As much as I like Bobby Jack, my answer is…”absolutely.” After all, what was the main problem we heard about the Rockets during the Utah series? It was that Tracy McGrady had to take on so much of the scoring load and he didn’t have much helped. That’s because their backup shooting guard — Luther Head — played so poorly (not that big of a surprise), he probably won’t be with the team next year, and they really didn’t get much from anyone else other than Luis Scola. Jackson did have a nice Game 2 with 18 points, and Game 5 with 9 points. But that was about it.
When the trade happened on February 20th, I wasn’t that big of a fan of it, and I wrote this:
I’m actually surprised Houston would trade Bonzi for a 34-year old point guard who is definitely on his last legs. I would have preferred Sam Cassell, who is older, but can still hit the big shot in the clutch. Maybe BJ can, too.
Bonzi was a bargain to the Rockets at $2.284 million per year. Sure, he was likely going to opt-out of his contract after this season, but the Rockets could have certainly used him for this season’s playoff run. He was always a streaky shooter, but he seemed to bring an intangible to the Rockets when they were struggling offensively. Insert Bonzi into the lineup when they can’t make a shot, and he was able to right the ship more often than not.
I also think his rebounds and assists will be missed. The fact that he gave the Spurs fits in the playoffs a couple of years ago might also be missed in this year’s playoffs.
Since they had made so many wise moves in acquiring players in 2007, I trusted Rockets management on this one. But when you look at how it turned out, I think they were playing with matches by trading away a player who could score while McGrady was either struggling or getting a rest. So I think they should have either kept Bonzi, or if Jackson struggled with his shooting, you play Steve Novak more, which the Rockets didn’t do. I believe there was a miscommunication there in the strategy for what to do just in case Jackson’s shooting woes continued to struggle. And it wasn’t like it was a big surprise that Jackson wasn’t shooting well when they acquired him.
Of course, the reasoning for acquiring Jackson at the time was that they needed an experienced backup point guard. But then we heard in these playoffs how Jackson really isn’t a point guard, but more of a scorer. Huh?
I also think the acquisition of Jackson stunted the wonderful evolution of Aaron Brooks we had seen during the 22-game winning streak. Cutting into Brooks’ minutes like that with Jackson needing minutes hurt the Rockets late in the season and in the playoffs.
The Rockets also said they needed a better defender to go up against larger point guard in the league. Not that Jackson’s defense is terrible, but we all saw what Deron Williams did to the Rockets when Rafer wasn’t in the game in Games 1 & 2, and the second half of Game 6.
And if they knew Brooks was too much of a defensive liability because of his size, WHY DRAFT HIM? I love speed as much as the next guy, but if you’re not going to exploit that to your advantage by keeping him out of there because of the size problem, then what’s the point of getting him?
The big thing that happened 5 days after the Bonzi-Bobby trade was that the Rockets found out on February 25th that Yao would miss the rest of the season. It became known that Yao was actually complaining of pain in his foot and ankle before the Bonzi trade, and it took several days for them to conduct all the tests to find the problem, which was right after the NBA trade deadline on 2/21.
I wonder to this day why all those tests weren’t administered before the trade deadline so they could determine exactly what their needs might be if the worst scenario every happened — Yao having a significant injury — which ended up being the case.
I give total props to the front office for getting Luis Scola and Carl Landry in the off-season, and even doing a low-risk deal to get Steve Francis cheap. But the drafting of Brooks (who I love but is a defensive liability) is still a question mark, trading Bonzi (a scorer) for a declining Bobby Jackson is another, and not getting all the testing done with Yao before the trade deadline is another.
Add it all up, and it worked out okay in the regular season, but in the crucible of the playoffs, it was a completely different story.