The Philadelphia 76ers are targeting the Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division, but may be better off aiming at the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Sixers fans like myself have reason to be weary at these two New York teams, especially with their various free agency pickups. Yet the Houston Rockets, of all franchises, are getting in the way of their efforts to get stronger.
First the Rockets got in the middle of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, although Howard continuously insisted that he wants to be with the Nets no matter what. Then they gave Knicks icon Jeremy Lin a four-year offer, which New York was fully expected to match. But as of July 15, both Lin and Howard may wind up wearing Rockets uniforms after all.
Houston has put virtually everything it has up for sale or trade to land Howard, in spite of his reluctance to go anywhere but Brooklyn after the 2012-13 season. But at the least, the Rockets are trying to add one other new piece in Lin, although it appeared to be a long shot until this past weekend.
Lin's offer sheet turned out to be richer than expected, as he signed a three-year, $25 million proposed deal on July 14. But instead of matching it right away, the Knicks were rumored to have acquired fellow point guard Raymond Felton from the Portland Trail Blazers. With Felton joining Jason Kidd, that would leave no more room for 'Linsanity' to continue in New York.
All of a sudden, the Knicks seem set to lose the international phenomenon they developed, while the Nets are losing out on the centerpiece that is Howard for at least another year. In both cases, these New York franchises have lost while Houston may very well gain.
The last time the Rockets broke the hearts of a New York club was in their 1994 NBA Finals Game 7 win over the Knicks. These twin defeats wouldn't be so bad, since Lin's long term success is questionable, Howard may still not be enough for the Nets regardless, and the Rockets might well be too shorthanded even with Lin and Howard.
While Houston would get Lin locked up for multiple years, it would only have one with Howard - especially since he is still fixated on going to Brooklyn as a free agent. In that regard, the last laugh may be on the Rockets if/when Howard joins the Nets in 2013, leaving them with nothing to build on but Lin.
Since the Rockets have less room to maneuver in the Southwest Division than the Nets, Knicks, Sixers and Celtics have in the Atlantic, success isn't guaranteed even if all this pays off. So although New York could be in mourning twice over thanks to Houston, the Rockets may be the ones who regret these moves the most by next year.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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