The Houston Rockets finished a promising 43-39 season and ... let go of their coach, replacing Rick Adelman with Kevin McHale. How large the on-court shift will be remains to be seen. The Rockets have been active (per usual) ahead of the official start of free agency, which means that the pieces that go into the on-court product could be just as different as the man managing them.
Here's a look at the Rockets' salary cap levels over the past six seasons.
In the Yao Ming era, owner Leslie Alexander has spent right up to the luxury tax and occasionally over it.
Heading into free agency, the Rockets have a cap figure of $48 million with the leaguewide team salary cap set at $58 million and the luxury tax line at $70 million.
The Rockets' sole free agent is Chuck Hayes. He is basically already out of the door, with reports indicating that Hayes is bound for the Sacramento Kings. Hayes' flight only reinforces Houston's need for a center.
The Rockets don't have enough raw cap space to pull in a player like Nene -- who they met this week and are seriously interested in. But the asset stock for the team is deep, from draft picks to young players and back again. It's doubtful that replacing Hayes (an excellent defender) with Nene (a solid defender and better scorer) will push the Rockets too far ahead, but that's where McHale's preference for defense over offense in the rotation could come into play.
Houston also finds itself being mentioned in the bigger rumor mills surrounding 2012 free agents. Daryl Morey certainly won't hesitate to insert his team into the discussion when warranted, but he and McHale have made clear that the Rockets are pushing to make the playoffs this season.
For more on the Rockets, visit SB Nation's The Dream Shake.