On Dwight Howard in the post

In an admirably diligent effort at image rehabilitation, Dwight Howard has been making the rounds of late, first in a televised appearance on TNT (where I thought he came off surprisingly well) and most recently, in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

The MacMullan interview in particular was a treasure trove of bizarre revelations, from Howard’s philosophical views on team-building (“I was saying, ‘Let’s have Magic cereal, Magic vitamins with our players’ faces on it so they can get to know our team.'[??????])” to Howard’s admission that despite having practiced shooting 1,000 shots per day, it was the fear of failure preventing him from actually shooting those same shots when it mattered (“I didn’t want to turn on the TV and see people say, ‘Dwight is taking all those outside shots, he’s screwing around, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to win.'”).

But most noteworthy was Howard’s recount of an in-season interaction with team general manager Daryl Morey:

“I felt like my role was being reduced. I went to [Rockets general manager] Daryl [Morey] and said, ‘I want to be more involved.’ Daryl said, ‘No, we don’t want you to be.’ My response was, ‘Why not? Why am I here?’ It was shocking to me that it came from him instead of our coach. So I said to him, ‘No disrespect to what you do, but you’ve never played the game. I’ve been in this game a long time. I know what it takes to be effective.”’

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The situation (hopefully) remains fluid, but at the time of writing, Mike D’Antoni appears to be the frontrunner for the Houston Rockets’ coaching vacancy.  If you follow me on Twitter, you’re aware of my thoughts on the matter, depicted through a rant on all things D’Antoni, spanning all waking hours of my Thursday.  But to recap: reports indicate D’Antoni has become the frontrunner to land the position, due to the support of team ownership.  Reports stated while general manager Daryl Morey preferred and held interest in Jeff Van Gundy and Frank Vogel, neither candidate even so much as received an interview due to the lack of interest from team owner Les Alexander.  Reports have stated that if D’Antoni is to land the job, the Rockets would seek to assemble a staff with strong defensive oriented minds as uhh…accommodating of his deficiencies.

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Inherent within the decision over whether to re-sign Dwight Howard is the comparison to Clint Capela, Howard’s younger, cheaper likely successor.  Capela came of age during the playoffs of his rookie season, landing a surprise spot in the rotation and impressing.  I thought he’d be a major key to Houston’s season–and he very much was early on–before fizzling later in the year.  I thought it would benefit us to take a look at the numbers of each player this past season.

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We talked in Part 5 about the apparent paradox of the Rockets’ offense: despite our most prominent recollections, the Rockets were a consistently good offensive team in 2016 in all of the circumstances in which we possessed measurable data.  I just couldn’t help myself though.  After watching the team lose what seemed like countless games by missing open 3 after open 3, after hearing commentators repeatedly say that the roster didn’t fit the scheme, and even after quipping myself that “the Rockets [were] a team of bad 3 point shooters playing in a system designed to shoot 3’s,” I had to keep digging.

I compiled the table below via NBA.com’s opponent splits.  Simply put, the stats you see below are how the team fared against each opponent.  ‘3p% against’ is the percentage at which the Rockets shot 3’s against each particular opponent and OffRtg against is the Rockets’ offensive rating against each particular opponent.  Understand that as far as analytics go, this is as rudimentary as it gets – in a data set with just two or three items, one random hot shooting night could completely skew the end result.  But I’m an attorney, not a statistician.  While I’m literate, this is as far as my data manipulation abilities go.

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James Harden spoke of the desire to get more efficient this season, even mentioning the possibility of playing off the ball.  Thus far, all of the attention has been on Harden’s defense, a topic already so thoroughly dissected that I’ll steer clear.  I know he was bad on that end, so I’m not going to waste my time quantifying it.  What I’m curious about is how his offense fared in comparison to a year in which he came runner-up in the MVP voting.

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