Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 6/29/12
HOUSTON After the dust settled from the deconstruction of the Rockets' best-laid plans prior to the NBA Draft, the remaining remnants offered this: What they managed to achieve was far from a settlement. Viewed in a vacuum, the selections of Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (12th overall) and Iowa State point forward Royce White (16th overall) were commendable. Kentucky swing forward Terrence Jones, taken 18th overall, supplies a winning pedigree and defensive vigor, thus adding him to Lamb and White represents a minor coup. But the Rockets weren't operating in a vacuum in advance of the NBA Draft. They had designs on Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, and their inability to acquire him despite their pre-draft maneuvering left a residual bitterness on the palates of Rockets fans. That was before Jones, Lamb and White were introduced on Friday, with the revelation of what might manifest from what did not unfold gaining perspective. "Obviously we have interest in top-level talent," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "We've been very straightforward about what we need to do to get back to being a championship team. We've got to look at adding top-level talent through free agency or trade, or we've got to add guys like (Jones, Lamb and White) who have the ability to be top-level talent players in the league. Obviously they're many years away and lots of hard work to get there." There is intrigue, notably with White, whose combination of size (6-foot-8, 270 pounds) and dexterity makes it easy to contemplate the positive impact of his versatility. The Cyclones initiated their offense through White with stunning regularity, and his ability to do a bit of everything White averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists during his lone season in Ames leaves minds open to the possibilities. For most, White is renowned for being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and his discomfort with air travel. But strictly from a basketball perspective, what he could provide the Rockets seems limitless, particularly given their roster construction and hints from Morey and coach Kevin McHale that an up-tempo offense is in the offing. "I was always able to make certain plays passing-wise because of the size of my hands and being able to move the ball a different way than most guys," White said. "It definitely came from when I got older. I wasn't always as good of a passer or as unselfish as I am now." Selflessness became a calling card of Jones as his sophomore season with the Wildcats developed. Kentucky was the top collegiate team in the nation last season, and the Wildcats validated that status with their eighth national championship in April. Two of Jones' teammates, center Anthony Davis and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were selected first and second overall by the Hornets and Bobcats, respectively. Jones was a key cog to the Wildcats' success, but not a dominating figure on a team that showcased remarkable balance both offensively and defensively. There were times during Jones' freshman season where he seemed an ill fit in that team dynamic. He was a superior scorer (15.7 points per game) and rebounder (8.8 per game) as a freshman, but his maturity improved exponentially as a sophomore despite the decline in raw numbers (12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds). The petulance and impatience that occasionally marred his game two seasons ago essentially vanished. "It all changes with maturity, just to be able to understand what my coach needs," Jones said. "I just was OK with (playing a supporting role) a lot more this (past) year." During his two-year stay in Storrs, Lamb experienced things in reverse order. His freshman season concluded with the Huskies cutting down the nets at Reliant Stadium, with Lamb the emergent freshman star bolstering the Danny Manning-like singular brilliance of Kemba Walker. Lamb wasn't a top-20 national recruit like Jones (No. 13 in 2010) and White (No. 19 in 2009), but the Huskies' tournament run drastically altered perspectives. His length (6-foot-5, 180 pounds) and the ease with which he scored led many to proclaim that he was NBA-ready. Lamb disagreed and returned to Connecticut, where things weren't as good the second time around. Suddenly his placid demeanor became a source for disparaging. Connecticut faltered, and while Lamb produced (17.7 points and 4.9 rebounds), someone needed to bear the brunt of the blame. When the Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Iowa State, the curtain closed on their tumultuous season. Lamb morphed from champion to face of a dysfunctional team. There were lessons learned. "I had a real interesting college career," Lamb said. "One year we won the championship and one year we didn't do anything. My whole first year I got a lot of experience, more experience than just the usual freshman. But my second year was just a learning experience. I think just the whole college experience - winning games, losing games, being on the top and being on the bottom - you can learn a lot from it. "I don't think necessarily that winning the national championship would teach you more than games where you lose and have to look at yourself." Interestingly, the Rockets are a franchise peering into a mirror. They barely had the minutes available for two of the three rookie forwards they drafted last season, and now they'll add two additional forwards (Jones and White) to Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas, with Morris (who rarely saw the court) and Motiejunas (who was in Europe) non-factors during the lockout-shortened season. That's what tempers enthusiasm. For all that Jones, Lamb and White might become, the Rockets were frighteningly young a season ago. They got even younger Thursday and, barring additional personnel changes, are set to push forward with a roster flush with youthful exuberance. "For all the young guys when you get in the league, you've made it to the league," McHale said. "Now what are you going to make of it? What are you going to make of yourself in this league? Making it to the league is not the final thing. Making a name for yourself is what everyone wants to do. A lot of guys get here; how do you leave the league? "Making it to the NBA, that's the start of your journey. Now the hard work begins." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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