According to CBSSports (and numerous other sources) the Rockets have signed Erick Dampier to a one year contract. The seasoned (close) seven footer and defensive presence most likely felt he was a little too seasoned to be going through another training camp.
In Houston’s second regular season game against Golden State, opposing guards had no problem penetrating and getting into the paint. With Adelman refusing to give Brad Miller heavy minutes, waiting until the third quarter to put him in, Houston had a serious problem at the 5 spot. Chuck Hayes started the game at center, just like he started every game last season, but there’s a difference. Chuck has dropped at least 20 pounds in anticipation of Yao’s return. This season we’ve seen a leaner, meaner Chuck Hayes who dropped 16 points against the warriors while racking up 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Chuck’s weight loss is a mixed bag. He no longer has quite the defensive leverage against taller C’s, but at the same time he’s a more traditional power forward offensively and defensively.
With Rick hesitant to try the “Jordan Hill project” at center during the regular season, Houston has been in need of depth. Brad Miller isn’t used to racking up the kind of minutes he would be expected to play with Yao limited to 24 per game and on back to back nights it would be foolish to think Brad would play even more. While I don’t completely understand the Dampier signing, he does fit a need. A veteran big man who can block shots and rebound at a borderline elite level may solve a lot of depth problems for Houston although I can’t help but think this might be a pre-trade signing. We now have Yao Ming, Brad Miller, Erick Dampier, Chuck Hayes, and Jordan Hill as options at center. That just might be too many options.
On a related note, who gets the axe? In order to add Dampier to Houston’s active lineup, one of the players currently on the team isn’t going to be there anymore. Is recent acquisition Ish Smith the victim in this signing? In the first two games Ish has seen limited time and has not been himself. Aaron Brooks has clearly needed relief and Rick Adelman has not given Ish much of an opportunity to do so. From a team perspective, I’m not that comfortable with Ish being cut just yet. I don’t think Courtney Lee should be expected to handle back up point guard duties while Kyle Lowry gets better. Lee is great at everything he does but he is not a distributor and his ball handling skills aren’t at a point guard level. I suppose until Lowry is healthy, this is simply a sacrifice the Rockets have to make in order for more help at center.
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On an unrelated note, I’m starting to lose faith in Rick Adelmen. He’s not known for his defensive tweaking but when an undersized shooting guard is literally unstoppable in the first quarter, you do something about it. Monta Ellis dropped an insane 46 points on us and I’m not sure if at any point in the game Rick tried to double team him or change his defensive strategy at all. And what’s with not putting in Jordan Hill when we’re getting out rebounded at crucial times? He may not be consistent at many things, but he’s very active on the glass. I don’t see the harm in trying him for a couple of minutes. Give him Jeffrie’s minutes for Christs sake. I’m not saying all hope is lost for Rick, but there were way to many errors on the coaching side of Wednesday’s nights game.