If you had to pick the centerpiece of the Houston Rockets this season, it would probably be Trevor Ariza. Errrr, maybe it would be Aaron Brooks. Or Luis Scola. Or Shane Battier. Or Carl Landry. Or Chuck Hayes. In a vacuum completely devoid of traditional superstars, the redeeming value of the Rockets lies in their disregard for the traditional model. There was no desperation to play Tracy McGrady upon his return, or to make a deal for an overpaid quasi-star. Just a team full of professionals working hard and playing in concert, in part because Trevor Ariza, while good, falls short of great:
You could blame a lot of people for Ariza’s stunted offensive development, but it just seems natural for him to exist in his current state. As a Laker, Ariza’s skill set made him not a Kobe wannabe, but a welcome, unique part of a championship squad. And as a Rocket, Ariza’s physical tools would seemingly allow him to step into Tracy McGrady’s shoes, but his limitations allow him to be something so much more. If you were to pick out the teams of the NBA in the truest sense of the word, the Rockets would certainly be among them. Would that be the case if the divide in traditional statistical production between Ariza and his teammates was more notable? If his high number of shot attempts were a product of anything other than necessity?
Hardly. If Ariza had a more diverse offensive game, it’s probable that the Rockets would be improved as well. But everything we’ve come to know about them this season would be eclipsed by convention. Ariza’s mediocrity (which isn’t meant to be an insult) is part of what makes Houston so unbelievably charming, as if each clanging jumpshot or overambitious drive was only further evidence of Trevor being earnest. The Rockets are only the Rockets because of their delightful limitations, and to expect more of Ariza is to wish death upon the Rox as we know them.
Read my full thoughts on Trevor Ariza, the Houston Rockets, and the beauty of their limitations at Hardwood Paroxysm.