Brutal – Over at The Dream Shake, Mike Prada wrote up a brutally accurate assessment of the Rockets’ brutally bad defense. Here’s the jumping off point:
It’s tempting to blame this decline on the team’s wide-open style of play, which puts smaller players on the court to spread the floor offensively. However, in watching the Rockets’ latest costly loss, a 112-108 defeat in Dallas Wednesday, it’s clear the Rockets’ defense suffers from two major problems that have nothing to do with size.
The first: ball watching. The Rockets’ perimeter defenders have an awful habit of losing track of their man when they are defending someone on the opposite side. Your grade-school coach always tells you to see ball and man. Too often, the Rockets’ wing defenders only see ball.
From there, it’s a thorough rundown of examples of comically poor off-ball defense, before exploring the team’s tendency to over-help on ball handlers.
Upside – In his ranking of the top 21-year-old rookies (that sounds like one of Bill Walton’s over-specific superlatives) David Thorpe lists Thomas Robinson and Terrence Jones as the second and third best of their class. On T-Rob:
Only in Sacramento can a “can’t miss” player seemingly miss. Robinson has the tools to be a strong defender, an outstanding rebounder, and an offensive player who can be of value in transition and out on the floor. Packaged in an athletic, strong and long body, that combination screams long-term starting power forward. Should Houston be able to sign an All-Star-caliber power forward this summer, Robinson will move to the bench. Otherwise, he will get the chance to develop his long list of talents next to some very complementary players.
Thorpe goes on to say that Robinson needs to perfect his “tough game,” such as defense and rebounding, before trying to expand his offensive repertoire.
As for Jones, the Kentucky product’s lack of playing time hasn’t soured Thorpe on his potential, comparing him to Darrell Arthur:
Arthur has proved to be a solid rotation player for a very good team. Jones has a similar upside, with perhaps even more offensive talent. He’ll have to settle into a position first, most likely at power forward, where he can use his versatile offensive game to beat slower men off the dribble or overpower smaller defenders inside. Jones has the game to do both. He also has the makings of an excellent shooter, who should eventually be able to knock down 3s.
Cognitive Dissonance – Given the Rockets’ proclivity toward dropping close games, I would have expected the data to show that their defense got worse as games wore on. As Jason Friedman reveals, most of the damage is happening in the first quarter:
But if some of the basics defensive principles still befuddle the young Rockets from time to time, there is hope to be found in the fact that Houston made definite strides on the defensive end Wednesday night as the game wore on – a trend that has manifested itself all season long for Houston. The numbers that speak to that reality are downright jarring, in fact: The Rockets have hemorrhaged points in the first quarter this season, compiling a defensive rating of 108.2, a figure that would rank Houston 28th in the NBA if extrapolated over the course of the entire year. The Rockets’ respective defensive ratings for the next three quarters, however: 103.6, 103.4 and 103.8 – numbers that represent something much closer to the NBA average.
Which brings us to one of my favorite quotes from Daryl Morey, still as timely as ever after more than 3 years:
(I’m sorry, still hyperventilating from the cuteness. You’ll have to read what Dan Devine said at Ball Don’t Lie):
BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING BABY GIRAFFE YAO MING
More on the birth of Baby Yao Ming, a male Masai giraffe, from the Houston Zoo’s official blog.
(Note: People are crazy about baby giraffes. The zoo near where I live showed a live video stream of a baby giraffe being born last year. So many people tried watching it at my workplace that it slowed down everyone’s internet for a day. The only thing Chuck Norris ever lost was a popularity contest against a baby giraffe.)
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