By JONATHAN FEIGEN
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy spoke of the need for change, which would seem the inevitable conclusion for a staggering 4-12 team coming off perhaps its worst loss of the season.
He did not specify if change must come in the caliber of play of those he is putting on the court or if he must change the players. But Van Gundy said he has "hard decisions" to make.
That could mean many things, but the Rockets have reached the point where they believe there will be changes to the rotation, the roster or both.
"I would think the only people I can be sure they won't change would be Tracy (McGrady) and Yao (Ming)," Rockets guard David Wesley said. "Other than that, it could be me, it could be anybody."
Veterans have seen enough not to be surprised. That was how Wesley came to the Rockets last season after they got off to a poor start that showed little signs of imminent change. They were never this low last season, falling to 6-11 at worst. But the return of point guard Bob Sura and trades for Wesley and Jon Barry helped turn things around.
This season the Rockets can hope for the return of point guard Rafer Alston and of McGrady's good health and usual prowess. But there is a sense that greater change could be coming. Again.
"I would assume," guard Derek Anderson said. "The way the league is going, you change the lineup. Some things you see you can accept, but some things you can't. I've seen it before. It's a business. Things change. You can't be surprised. We'll see what happens."
If they are looking to retool again, the Rockets will not be dealing from a position of strength. They are not 4-12 because many players are playing so well.
Wesley, Barry, Anderson (who has an option for another season) and Moochie Norris are in the last season of their contracts. But teams shopping for short-term contracts usually offer players with long-term deals who are not typically long-term solutions, and those deals are more common around the February trade deadline.
Players who were signed last offseason cannot be traded until Dec. 15. But even if the Rockets are not looking to ship or acquire a player signed in the offseason, deals become more likely after the Dec. 15 date because teams wait to see what else might become available.
Adding a free agent also will be difficult. The Rockets are over the salary cap and slightly over the luxury-tax threshold.