Yao buzz may help Rockets lure free agent
By JONATHAN FEIGEN
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
The Rockets got a new shipment of Yao Ming tapes Thursday. Yao's representatives sent them, so the Rockets had a pretty good idea what they would find.
Still, it was fun to watch the Chinese center make 21 of 21 shots in a game, take jump hooks with either hand and offer far more low-post strength and style than that Chicago workout could begin to suggest. No surprises. But it was a pretty good way to spend part of the day.
But across town, the buzz about Yao had reached Houston-based agent Carl Poston, who represents Houston-based free-agent forward Rashard Lewis. While politicians posture and the Rockets' front office dances, Poston has considered what Yao will do for the Rockets and, perhaps, for his client. He felt the excitement in town. He imagined the Rockets' improving prospects.
"I would love to see Rashard here," Poston said. "This has put Houston back on the map. There's a lot of factors that go into consideration. But this would have to be something Rashard looks at."
The Rockets' business side has been doing handsprings, often with politicians who should have zero input. Cuttino Mobley popped off Thursday, suggesting the Rockets should deal the top overall pick in the draft for the Clippers' Lamar Odom, who is too great a risk in his own way.
Both need to get used to the idea that the Rockets' basketball people -- remember them? -- will choose Yao to play basketball. All that celebration stuff is fine for May. The trade rumors that circulated last week were amusing to the Rockets because virtually every conversation with anyone in power to make a deal has postponed any real talk until Chicago this week.
It doesn't matter. The Rockets will expect just the right superstar for Yao, and they are not about to get that. He will be taken for his talent to play center.
Poston's reaction could be the next benefit.
The Rockets had been looking at a summer of trying to sell free agents on the idea of joining a team that won 28 games and has no money -- other than the roughly $5 million, mid-level exception -- to spend.
They might still not be able to afford Lewis, who could get far more than the Rockets can offer from the SuperSonics. Poston said Lewis wouldn't be interested in the mid-level exception. But Poston's hometown view could be indicative of how the Rockets' image changed as soon as the right ping-pong balls popped up at the draft lottery.
As for Lewis, an ideal fit for the Rockets, it will be tough. But now he will have to think about it.
"As an agent looking out for Rashard's best interest, you have to look at all the factors and see what kind of impact it would have on my client," Poston said. "Having the No. 1 pick, the more they're committed to winning and being a contender, the more benefit it would be to my client.
"Having a big man will maybe put more focus on having a three. Having Rashard would maybe make them a contender. Every player wants to win a championship ring, to find the best way to do that and to be compensated for it. Those rank very high. (Playing in Houston) ranks third."
The rest of the free-agent class at small forward -- Bruce Bowen, Devean George, Matt Harpring (a restricted free agent), Donyell Marshall, Walter McCarty, Tyrone Nesby, Scott Padgett, Rodney Rogers and Bryon Russell -- is a step down.
But while the Rockets watch tape and imagine Yao in their colors, they might be able to daydream about landing him some help. And maybe even Mobley can join the chorus.
If the Rockets can add Yao Ming and lure Rashard Lewis, they could become an elite team in two years.
SG: Loose Lips Mobley
Who knows...the Mavs could end up the third best team in Texas very soon.
But what this means to Chicago is that with each passing day it appears more likely that Jay Williams will be available when the Bulls pick second.