The Rockets made a deadline deal Thursday, sending their starting point to Orlando in a three-team trade that brings Memphis point guard Kyle Lowry and little-used Orlando forward Brian Cook to Houston.
Memphis will receive a first round pick from Orlando in the deal.
"We feel like we got better today," said Rockets GM Daryl Morey. "Upgrading that position was a goal going into the deadline and we feel like we accomplished it."
The Rockets clearly did this deal for Lowry, who was taken with the 24th overall pick out of Villanova in the 2006 NBA Draft. Morey said the Rockets have had their eyes on the 22-year old guard since then.
"[Villanova coach] Jay Wright thinks he's the smartest point guard he's ever had," said Morey. "He's someone we've had our eyes on for a few years."
The 6-foot, 175-pound Lowry is a good defender and penetrator but has been caught in a numbers game in Memphis, playing behind Mike Conley and at times O.J. Mayo. Lowry's numbers aren't overwhelming (7.6 points and 3.6 assists in 22 minutes), but Morey was very clear that Lowry represented an "upgrade" over Alston.
"We think he could fit in well here and contribute," added Morey. "He's a very good defender and rebounder on both ends. He is one of the top ten guys in the league in getting to the line and can kick it out to shooters. He knows his role and will know he needs to get the ball to Yao. He is really going to do what coach Adelman asks."
The Rockets GM wasn't afraid that the team now depended on two very young point guards in Lowry and Aaron Brooks.
"This gets us a little younger, but as long as the player is an upgrade, we don't mind getting younger," said Morey. "Basketball is about having the better player. If having a young point guard keeps you from winning, then Boston wouldn't have won it last year."
Hard to forget the day when "Skip To My Lou" broke "The Machine", embarrassing the Lakers' Sasha Vujacic
Meanwhile, Alston heads to Florida to play for Stan Van Gundy, which sounds awfully familiar. He also will undoubtedly become the go-to guy for national media over the next year on who the best center in the league is, Yao Ming or Dwight Howard.
It's no secret that I've been a big, big critic of Rafer's. In my view, Rafer is a terrific guy and easily the best interview of the current Rockets. He worked hard every day in Houston and always gave his best effort on the court. He played smart basketball and solid defense. He should be commended for that.
There was one problem: He missed shots. Often.
In 278 games with the Rockets, Alston shot 38.1% from the field. As a sidekick to the playmaking Tracy McGrady, Alston was put in the unfortunate predicament where his strength (creating shots for others) could afford to be a weakness but what was actually his weakness (efficient shooting and scoring) had to be a strength.
Orlando, who just lost Jameer Nelson to injury for the year, fills a need here and Rafer should provide some help to the Magic. I wish him the best out there.
While in my opinion Rafer was a square peg in a round hole alongside McGrady (especially this season as they were arguably the worst shooting starting backcourt in the league), he ran Adelman's offense very well in T-Mac's absence. That might lead to some criticism of this deal as the new young point combo could be set up for potential failure -- the Rockets have a very tough and long stretch of games that goes well into March.
I'm actually in the minority in that I am OK with the trade... initially confused, but have hopes for it. However, my disappointment stems from the Rockets being unable to accomplish their goals pre-deadline of making a bigger move. Will they lose Ron Artest this summer now for nothing?
But it's a fresh look and a whole new backcourt (thankfully). McGrady and all his drama appears out, headed to the microfracture table, and Alston is soon to be seeing palm trees. Brooks and Lowry will both gets their shots, which I'm excited about. Von Wafer will see more time and Artest, who is putting up over 20 points a game with McGrady gone, should see a bigger leading role.
Contenders? Not convinced, but I was convinced they weren't in their previous state.