NBA Lottery -- Where Houston Rockets Point Guards Go to Die
Yes. 1.82 percent, to be exact.
Those are the odds that the ping pong balls will fall the Houston Rockets' way tonight at the annual NBA Draft Lottery and they wind up with a top three pick. After finishing the season as the most potent lottery team in the league (much like "Drayton McLane, best Astros owner ever," another tallest midget argument to be sure), the Rockets will likely wind up picking 14th for the second year in a row.
Where the Rockets are picking isn't really the story, though.
In lotteries past, the Rockets have sent their point guards at the time like Steve Francis and, more recently, Aaron Brooks to represent the team on the made-for-television event. Now, I don't know if it's mere coincidence or if there happens to be some sort of virus that David Stern spills into the Rockets booth at the lottery, but it didn't exactly end well for either point guard in Houston.
Francis was traded as part of a package of players for Tracy McGrady, who proceeded to bring his non-playoff-winning ways to H-town. In the meantime, Francis spent one good season in Orlando, was traded to the Knicks for Penny Hardaway's rotting carcass and Trevor Ariza, and he proceeded to wither away into an NBA afterthought over the next few years (including a brief stopover back here in Houston
to steal more of Les Alexander's money where he looked like a version of Steve Francis that had eaten the old version).
Along the way, Francis managed to clock a cool $103 million, topped off by his buyout with the Portland Trailblazers for $17 million. Needless to say, I think the only person who got any satisfaction from the Steve Francis Experience was Francis himself.
Aaron Brooks's downfall was far more pronounced and morbidly entertaining. Fresh off his 2009-2010 Most Improved Player Award, Brooks represented the Rockets at the 2010 lottery. The events that transpired after that, especially when you consider that Brooks always came across as one of the quiet "good guys" in the league, read like an NBA version of the E! True Hollywood Story:
-- Brooks was very vocal during the 2010 offseason that he would like to see the Rockets extend his deal with a healthy raise -- much like they had done for his backup Kyle Lowry. Apparently, nobody explained to Brooks the Rockets' "we will extend you when it is time to extend you" modus operandi, or more likely, he didn't really want to hear about it. Whatever the case, this was the tone-setter for Brooks's disastrous 2010-2011 season.
-- In an early-season game against San Antonio, Brooks was shooting an end-of-the-half, long jumper and came down awkwardly on his left ankle and proceeded to miss about the next six weeks. While he was gone, Kyle Lowry decided to morph into an upper tier Western Conference starting point guard. Brooks was relegated to Lowry's old role of "coming off the bench."
-- Frustration boiled over in February when Brooks left the bench area early in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies (and the fact that his tantrum took place during a win took the steam out of any "frustrated over the team's performance" spin that Brooks could have put on the episode). He would apologize and serve a one-game suspension (another Rockets win, in Denver).
-- At that point, the die was cast and it was just a matter of what Daryl Morey could pull in return for Brooks. It turns out the answer was a "first round pick and Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns." Not bad, actually. And, just like that, Brooks was gone by the trade deadline.
(For the record, Brooks continued his heel turn in Phoenix, including getting tossed from a game for grabbing his genitals and gesturing at a referee. Seriously, if Brooks were in WWE, he'd be their most compelling character on television.)
So what does all of this have to do with tonight's lottery? Well, seemingly not learning from past lessons, the Rockets are sending the aforementioned Lowry to rep the team at the lottery. Truth be told, while getting into the top three would feel like a coup, it's only a two-player draft as far as guys who feel like "sure things" -- Derrick Williams of Arizona and Kyrie Irving of Duke (and even Irving only played about a dozen or so games for the Blue Devils in his one season in Durham).
So rather than put Lowry through the long, torturous road of suck that his career will now inevitably become thanks to the Rockets Lottery Rep Curse, I would ask the NBA and the Rockets to get creative, and make Lowry's demise quick and painless, if the opportunity presents itself. If the Rockets do land the number one pick overall, just have the floor open up underneath Lowry, have him go down a garbage chute Veruca Salt-style and slide a chair into his vacated spot within two seconds containing Irving in a Rockets jersey.
If the lottery is going to sabotage my hometown team, at least entertain me, Stern.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.