Brooklyn Nets @ Houston Rockets on 11/29/2013

I do not remember prime Hakeem.

Obviously, I have seen the YouTube clips and heard the stories.  But I am too young to have watched Hakeem Olajuwon block John Starks, or defeat David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal as it happened.  The Hakeem I first saw was in 1997, a step slower but invincible in the eyes of a young child.  Yet while he teamed up with two other famous, but aging stars in Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler, the Rockets would come up short in that infamous series against the Utah Jazz.

Sixteen years have passed since Karl Malone bearhugged Drexler and ensured that John Stockton would be open for that horrible 3 pointer.  Now things have changed.  The Houston Rockets are a contending team again, but with an average age of under 26, are among the youngest of the teams contending for a title this season.  And tonight, the Rockets will take on what was in a sense supposed to be an updated version of the 1997 Rockets, of old veterans and tough players banding together in one last hurrah of a season, but instead have been caught in a nightmare of a season from the very beginning.

Injury Report:

Injuries on both sides of the court are going to be critical for tonight’s game.  There have been no major updates on Lin, Harden, or Aaron Brooks at the time of this writing, as all three have suffered from leg injuries.  None of them are particularly severe, and Harden in particular I believe should be probable.  That said, the Rockets do have a game the next night against a much more dangerous opponent in San Antonio, which belies the possibility of having the injured players rest.  Greg Smith said earlier this week that he intends to return from his knee sprain for tonight’s game, but that is unlikely to seriously affect the rotation.

Meanwhile, the aging Nets have been utterly derailed by injuries more than any other factor.  Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry, and Andre Kirilenko have all been out for multiple games now with supposedly “day-to-day” injuries, meaning that no one has any idea who will actually suit up for them tonight.  Andray Blatche also sprained his ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, though it appears that he likely will play.

Opponent Scouting:

The Brooklyn Nets are 4-11.  If the season ended today, they would have the 4th pick in the vaunted 2014 draft…only that pick would end up going to Atlanta, courtesy of the trade for Joe Johnson’s contract.  And after 15 games, the arguments of “small sample size” begin to wear thin.

A huge amount of Brooklyn’s problems can be attributed to the aforementioned injuries, but the Nets currently just do not have a lot of talent.  I watched Brooklyn’s game this past Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors, only to be completely flabbergasted as the Nets deployed a lineup of Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson, Blatche, and Mason Plumlee halfway through the second quarter.  For all of the depth which the Nets were supposed to have, they currently only have three players with an above-average PER – Johnson, Blatche, and Plumlee.  The Nets do not have reliable three-point shooting in a league where this has become steadily more important.  They don’t have interior offense without Brook Lopez, they don’t have passing without Deron, and even their defense is not the same with Kevin Garnett having apparently aged 20 years.

It is difficult to tell just how good Brooklyn could be given their injury problems and Kidd’s problematic coaching.  But assuming that the lineup which comes onto the floor of the Toyota Center is the same as the one which faced the Lakers and Raptors this past week, it’s not really about chemistry or Kidd.  It’s just about the very simple fact that despite the ridiculous sums of money which Mikhail Prokhorov has paid for this Brooklyn team, the Nets do not have that much talent on the floor.  And that is what determines games in the end.

Roster Spotlight:

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

Given my ramblings about Hakeem Olajuwon to start this preview, it should be noted that Paul Pierce is not looking much better than the Dream’s final stint with the Raptors.  About the only thing Pierce has done at an above-average level is draw and hit foul shots.  He’s shooting 38% from the field, 28% from long range, and has basically the same amount of turnovers and assists.  In Brooklyn’s last game against the Lakers, Pierce had a disastrous turnover in the final two minutes of the game which created a Wesley Johnson breakaway dunk, put the Lakers up 94-92, and wrecked the momentum from a last ditch Brooklyn rally.

Game tip off at 7:00pm CST.

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Total comments: 15
  • rocketrick says 8 months ago

    The question with the Brooklyn Nets may be how long Jason Kidd lasts as Head Coach. It's been a rough start for him there. It doesn't seem that his players are listening to him, either.

  • Sir Thursday says 8 months ago

    I think people have written the Nets off a bit too early this year. They were atrocious against us, but I think any team would struggle if they were missing 4 of their best 7 players. Do you think the Rockets could expect to compete with teams in championship contention if they were a star guard (Harden), their defensive anchor (Howard), a scorer off the bench (Lin) and a combo 3/4 glue guy (Casspi)? Admittedly I think we have more cover at certain positions to cope with a crisis like that than the Nets do, but at the end of the day you'd be looking at the sort of team that would be struggling to keep up with expectations, as the Nets are now.

    They are in the basement standings-wise, but I expect to see them pull out of it as the season wears on. Teams above them have structural issues that will be difficult to fix (Cleveland/Detroit - poor roster construction/fit, Philadelphia/Charlotte/Boston/Orlando - lack of talent) whereas the Nets problems stem from health, which can improve. Now admittedly given the ages of players on the team it is going to be harder for the team to get healthy, but I for one am unwilling to push the panic button on them yet. They're in the Atlantic Division, so it's not like they're going to have to push particularly hard to make the playoffs this season. As long as they avoid over-working their players to the point that they break down completely during the regular season, I still think they can be the menace that everyone thought they could be before the season started come playoff time.

    ST

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago And we're 1st offensively despite injuries and growing pains, there's definitely a lot to be optimistic about.
  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    I know it was just the Nets (sans Williams and Garnett) but let's take a moment to talk about that Rocket's Defense!

    Check out these TEAM STATS

    My favorites:

    #1 in Defensive and Total Rebounds

    #2 in opp. fg%

    Our opponents have taken 247 more shots than us but only made 7 more than us. Awesome.

    We're still giving up a ton of points, but I think that is a combination of pace and generosity (read turnovers and not guarding the 3 pt. line).

  • Jeby says 8 months ago

    i want to see more games where the rockets shoot around 37%-42% from 3s. it's hard to judge the team when they go from making nothing to making over half of everything.


    I think we've got a pretty good picture by now. When they were shooting poorly they won a few and when they lost, it was close (except for that game against the Clippers). When they shoot really well, they blow teams away. If you shoot 50 percent from behind the arc but only win by 2 or 3, that's when you have to worry a little bit.
  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    I don't know about you but I'll take 45% any night.

  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    let me see if I have this correctly........ you're upset because we're hitting to many 3's ?

    3s dont go in 45%+ every night. they certainly aren't sub 33% every night either. i want to see how the team functions when 3s are going in at an average rate.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    i want to see more games where the rockets shoot around 37%-42% from 3s. it's hard to judge the team when they go from making nothing to making over half of everything.

    let me see if I have this correctly........ you're upset because we're hitting to many 3's ?

  • SadLakerFan says 8 months ago

    Wow. +39 from the three point line. That would generally translate to a W.  Nice game.

  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    i want to see more games where the rockets shoot around 37%-42% from 3s. it's hard to judge the team when they go from making nothing to making over half of everything.

  • Red94 says 8 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 114, Brooklyn Nets 94 - It's not always a struggle
    By: Forrest Walker

    The Houston Rockets had a rough start to their season. They gave up ugly losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers. The Dwight Howard and Ömer Aşık tandem was a disaster. James Harden's foot bothered him for weeks, and the offense never quite came together, to say nothing of the defense. High hopes based on the level of talent and the pre-season performance gave way to tempered expectations and hundreds of articles full of trepidation. Then the Brooklyn Nets came into town and put everything into perspective.

    No team has played as far under expectations as the Brooklyn Nets. The most notable story around the team has been a beverage-based ploy for a stoppage in play by head coach Jason Kidd. They went into the year looking like potential contenders, and now look like little more than chum for the sharks in the Western Conference. Perhaps things will turn around then Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett return, but so far nobody has returned to form on a team full of aging veterans. The Rockets aren't quite up to their lofty goals, but in their obliteration of the Nets they showed that their struggle does have respites.

    Before all else, rest assured that the Rockets nearly hit their turnover quota. They may have missed the twenty turnover mark, but only by a few. With 16 on the night, they continued to prove, in some bizarre social experiment, that they can win by double digits despite huge numbers of giveaways. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Rockets hit an eye-popping 59.4% from the three point line. It also didn't hurt that the Nets didn't seem interested in guarding the three point line. Or doing much anything else.

    The hero of the game was Chandler Parsons, who put up a line that's beyond fantasy. He racked up 21 points, shot a perfect 7-7 from the field, and only one was a two-pointer. He tacked on 6 rebounds and 3 assists to go with a single turnover in a night that saw him live up to his potential as Houston's al-around scorer and defensive "glue guy." Parsons and company also defended Paul Pierce into the ground, allowing only 2 points on 6 shots, something which would have been very impressive in previous years.

    Aaron Brooks, due to Jeremy Lin's knee injury, ended up playing the most minutes of any Rocket on the evening, a mere 28. He continued to summon the power of 2009 Aaron Brooks, shooting 5-8 and scoring14 points to go with an impressive 7 assists. Brooks is proving to be a fantastic insurance policy, as he's still willing to be infinitely aggressive off the bench. Lin might miss two weeks, but Brooks is happy to go a little Linsane any day of the week.

    The bench also produced two more showcase games from Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia, who by this point have played themselves into key rotation minutes. Casspi in particular was a pile of dynamite, hitting all 3 of his threes and going 6-9 overall for 16 points. his 4 rebounds weren't pretty, but his 5 boards and 3 dimes certainly were. Garcia shot 5-7 from downtown (and missed two twos) for 15 points and racked up 5 assists. The entire team logged a completely unthinkable 31 assists on 39 made field goals, largely due to Brooklyn's anemic pick and roll defense.

    Terrence Jones looked good, but that barely registers at this point. He played cleanup and backdoor cutter, racking up 11 points on 8 shots due in large part to 7 rebounds. Dwight Howard only had only 17 minutes, but he made them count, shooting 50% overall, including a double-clutch layup. When Dwight Howard is scoring double-clutch layups, the season isn't going well. James Harden somehow had a quietly powerful night, hitting only 1-4 from the field, but scoring 9 points and dishing out 7 dimes. He looked to pass more than shoot, and it destroyed the Nets all night.

    There's little more to say about a game in which the Rockets rounded a 30 point margin before the coaches emptied the benches. The outcome wasn't in question for the last 36 minutes of the game, a condition the Rockets could only have dreamed of. With a road game against the vicious San Antonio Spurs, a team which has been eviscerating the rest of the league. To have a chance on a back to back, the Rockets needed as many advantages as possible, and they got the rest they wanted for the starters. Tomorrow may be a brutal struggle, but for today, it didn't have to be.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    You make a good point, vonsteve. After Hakeem, every center pales in comparison. Part of this is unfair fan bias. Part of it is actually because he was ridiculously good at everything.

    Couldn't agree more. He had the skills of a SF and quickness, you can't say that about any center today.

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    You make a good point, vonsteve. After Hakeem, every center pales in comparison. Part of this is unfair fan bias. Part of it is actually because he was ridiculously good at everything.

  • vonsteve says 8 months ago

    A shame you didn't get to watch him live during his prime. I remember him clearly from his Akeem days. Watching (and, of course, taking for granted as we're prone to do) his grace, athleticism and control made me judge all following centers very harshly. I have successfully blocked out the Toronto version out of my head, and I prefer to think that was just a bad dream I once had.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago What's Lopez's PER?