We Are All Donatas Motiejunas – Part 2

Click here for part 1 of this post. 

The Spurs-Mavericks back-to-back last week was interesting. With Harden out, the Rockets three remaining guards were more aggressive (again, no data, you’ll just have to take my word for it). Not only Lin and Brooks, but also Beverley was penetrating with regularity. He even showed off a spin move I didn’t know he had. Motiejunas went into Lithuanian lion mode. He crashed the boards (19 in 44 combined minutes) and showed some tenacity defensively. The team as a whole was much less talented with Harden out, but I’m positive each player felt more ownership over the final product.

That cohesion continued into the Cavs game, in which the Rockets bench ignited two runs and were clearly the difference in the game. My favorite sequence came in the third quarter immediately after Howard was whistled for a 3-seconds violation. On the previous defensive possession, Motiejunas was called for a blocking foul. While Kyrie Irving shot his technical free throw, I could clearly see Beverley talking to Motiejunas and demonstrating defensive positioning techniques. On the ensuing inbounds play, Motiejunas drew a charge on Irving. On the next defensive possession, he made a stop by himself.

My favorite single moment from the Cavs game was immediately after Lin got his triple double. The camera panned over to the elated Rockets bench. The most elated player, who was jumping up and down like a three year old kid, was Aaron Brooks. He played exactly 0 minutes that game but was acting like he just got his own triple double and his mom was cooking dinner for him back home.

What I’m talking about isn’t a mystery. In his book, Bill Simmons calls it “the secret.” Basically, the secret of winning basketball is that it’s not about basketball. It’s about guys who want to be on a team with each other, who want each other to succeed, and are willing to kill themselves for each other. We always hear about players who make other players better. We hear about locker room leaders and glue guys. But you know what? We don’t actually see this happen that often. In fact, we see dysfunction and complete chaos a lot more frequently.

And before anyone suggests that it’s purely a matter of individual ego, consider San Antonio and Miami. It’s awe inspiring how washed up or seemingly middling players go to these teams and magically become indispensable role players. Marco Belinelli is shooting 51% and 48% on threes this year while playing more minutes. He shot 43% last year on the Bulls. Miami’s vaunted bench currently includes two certified nut cases in Chris Andersen and Michael Beasley. In Beasley’s case, he even got a haircut and seemed go through emotional puberty overnight.

Does anyone think Belinelli would be shooting 48% on threes on the Rockets? Does anyone think Birdman and Beasley would be upstanding citizens on the Rockets bench? Their talent is allowing them to succeed, but it’s the institutional culture around them that’s making everything work. Fun thought exercise, do you think Asik would still throw a fit if he had to back up Duncan on the Spurs?

The question is how does a team build that type of cohesive institutional culture? What, you think I have an answer? I don’t. I consider it an accomplishment if I don’t get chosen last for a pick-up game at the Y. That’s the extent of my basketball knowledge as a player.

I do know that that a team’s best players and coaches, the visionaries if you will (though they should never be dumb enough to call themselves that), have more responsibility in this than anyone else. It’s not just about minutes (though minutes help). It’s about how they value their teammates’ roles and the contributions that they do make. OK, so Ronnie Brewer isn’t playing much, but how can he still be put in positions to meaningfully contribute to his team’s performance? Is he valued in as someone to practice with/against? Are his suggestions listened to during team meetings?

Remember 5-6 years ago when Nate Robinson was a bench warmer on the Ubuntu Celtics? Early in the season, Doc Rivers said that, despite riding pine at that time, Nate was going to win a playoff game for them. And then he blew up during a playoff game later that year. Now, Nate Robinson isn’t exactly known as a level headed team player. He’s not just going to say, “Cool. I’ll just sit here and do jack shit, not even get into games, and be perfectly happy with it.” During that season, the Celtics were doing something behind the scenes to actually make Nate feel valued, to allow him contribute, to make him keep trying and wait patiently for his opportunity. Maybe they asked him about his experience playing against certain opponents. Maybe his advice made it into the game plan. Maybe Kevin Garnett thanked Nate for his scouting contributions after a game in which Nate played 0 minutes. I don’t know. These are just ideas I’m making up, but they make sense to me.

That’s why I write about concepts such as selfishness, heroball, and bench minutes. And that’s why I personally focus so much on coaches and Harden. They’re the ones with the most capacity to affect the team’s culture, to make everyone feel valued in their roles and want to contribute. I find it troubling that Harden’s teammates seem to play more freely and rally around each other when he’s not playing. I find it troubling that the coaches haven’t seemed to pick up on this.

The Rockets bench players are valuable contributors, not inconvenient mouths that need feeding. Hopefully this past week was a harbinger of things to come, and not just a happy hour away from the bosses.

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  • redfaithful says 5 months ago

    JG, you're writing is too good to stay only in this forum! Great piece as usual, I also agree from A to Z.

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago Thank you JohnnyGold for a well thought out and written piece! I can't find a single thing you wrote that I disagree with.
  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    I've been thinking about this topic. The original post certainly has a point and for some players would be relevant. We all react differently to stimuli. Some people need a gentle hand while others need a more dogmatic method. Most importantly, we all want to feel like we are wanted and that our efforts matter.

    The implication is that this may not be the case for a handful of Rockets players. This seems to be based off of perceptions of player's body language, personal accounts from games, and whatever hearsay is on the internet. While I don't doubt that people are seeing something that reflects these emotions; I do doubt that correlation implies causation here (to steal the words of the scientists). A psychologist would likely call this projecting. It is something nearly all humans are prone to do. We see something, and instead of waiting to find out what it is we "tell it what it is". This happens so subtly that it is difficult to retrace one's steps and realize that what is now perceived as "fact" was nothing more than a mental projection onto a stimulus that reminded us of a past experience.

    This is part of what shapes my perception of this topic. I grew up in Cypress, TX back when it was largely rural (before Compaq/HP moved in a few miles up the road and changed everything). I often was forced to tag along with my older sister. She was three years older and was far less excited about it than me. We would often head up to the local school yard and there would be boys playing whatever sport was in season.

    I wanted to play, but being younger and less coordinated (I was about 6 to their 9 at this time) I was excluded and teased. Some of the nicer boys let me know that if I got good enough I could play with them. So that is what I set out to do. I practiced and practiced. It took some time, but in a year or so I was playing with the older boys--and playing better than quite a few of them--who were now the targets of the teasing.

    I appreciate that I had to earn my place amongst them. It taught me not only about effort, desire, and discipline. It taught me how to achieve and believe in myself--there was nothing I could not attain if I truly wanted it. In short, it taught me to stand upright, not be held upright.

    Getting back to Houston, this experience shapes my perspective of the Houston Rockets. I don't see an us and them dynamic in the same light. I don't see McHale as the arrogant boss who coddles his "pets" while condescending his "worker bees". I see it the same as it was back on that school yard. If you want to play with us, this is what you need to do. Come back when you're ready.

    I don't think that is all projection. I look at one of the Rockets' Player Development Coaches, Greg Buckner, who played in the NBA for 10 years as a journeyman and defensive specialist. He was drafted in the second round by Dallas in 1998 and played in the CBA (Contintental Basketball Association for a year before getting his shot in the NBA). I don't think this is coincidence. He lived, and succeeded, as a proto-Morey draft pick. Who better to mentor these guys?

    It's not about keeping people under anyone's thumbs. It is precisely about generating a culture of winning through a school of hard knocks and player development. Most players just want to play (thank you, Capt. Obvious!). Houston is delivering on that with the caveat that you must develop to a certain level if you want to play with the "big kids". That's the deal. The promise is this, "If you work hard, develop the skills we tell you to develop, and be patient we will get you playing in the NBA with the opportunity to have a solid career." That is a fair promise and I think they are backing it up. The evidence is mounting.

    Here is an interview with Greg Smith from a while back. I have posted it before and it is a good read. Here is an excerpt:

    JT: When you signed your contract with the Rockets last year, it was only half-guaranteed for this season, and I don't believe it's guaranteed at all for next season. Did they talk to you about the things you need to do as a player to stick around?

    GS: Yes. They told me to work hard, mature, and not having any letdowns or off-the-court issues. Basically just come to work every day and not be late, work, develop. And they love my passion for the game, so I think I'll stick around for a long time.

    JT: Do you think maybe it's a bit of a blessing in disguise the way things turned out, given you landed with a team so focused on player development and that are seemingly very committed to your development?

    GS: Yes, it's a blessing in disguise. I think God put me here and led me to this path and threw me all those struggles to get here and realize and understand why I'm here. I really understand it now, and I'm blessed for it.
    LINK

    I, for one, cannot wait for a healthy Greg Smith to get back on the floor.

    Houston has an affinity for players like this. Patrick Beverley had to pay his dues overseas. In his own way, Lin fits this mold as well. Prior to Linsanity, Jeremy was barely clinging to NBA life. There is a quality to these players and something that no one can take away from them once they have overcome adversity and succeeded. They are learning to stand upright, not be held upright.

    On the other hand is James Harden. Much has been said about the different treatment he receives. He is a bird of a different feather. His adversity never came about naturally like most of the others. His case requires the gentle hand rather than the dogmatic one. He must fail, on his terms, before he will believe what the coaches say is true. With James, I believe they are giving him enough rope to hang himself. I believe he will take it, use it, and come back with a new perspective and attitude. It may not seem fair from the outside looking in, but I believe it will be effective in taking James, and this team, to that next level.

    I see a team that is developing all of its players and doing it successfully. The process can sometimes be difficult to observe for us fans. I think if we move backwards in 25-30 game segments--all the way back through last season it becomes easier to see and qualify the progress our players, and team, have made. Development is occurring. Growth is occurring. Camaraderie is there.

    That mantra of learning to stand upright is not just for the individual players--it will ultimately apply to the team as a whole. Watching them overcome these obstacles is the rite of passage that makes it special. It is what provides the drama, makes us care, and ultimately provides the energy that will swing our hearts pendulum-like to and fro between joy and agony.

    It's not about the "chips"; although, these days it seems that is all that matters. It is about the journey.

    "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    The Rockets played 8 guys. Four players played 36 minutes or more with Lin as the high (44 minutes). The Spurs, with all their injuries and a depleted bench, used a 12 man rotation. One player played more than 36 minutes (Belinelli had 38). In total, the Spurs bench played 26 more minutes than the Rockets bench. Covington and Brewer were healthy but didn't play. No, they're not great players, but neither are Aron Baynes, Jeff Ayres, and Nando de Colo, who all logged meaningful minutes for the Spurs.

    For lots of reasons, this isn't a 1:1 comparison. But it goes to show that the Rockets reaction to a common situation isn't the only possible reaction. Oh, and the Spurs lost the game :)


    I think your last statement answered your initial question. The Spurs chose to play a deeper bench and lost. The Rockets chose to go with a tighter rotation and won. Could have something to do with the Spurs not really caring what seed they get in the playoffs with all the experience they have on their team. I distinctly remember the 1994-95 Rockets finishing 6th in the regular season and rolling to the NBA Title that year. I have no doubt the Spurs will be a force in the playoffs this season no matter where they end up in the standings. You just can't compare the Rockets situation this season with the Spurs situation. That's like comparing apples and oranges, in my opinion!
  • feelingsupersonic says 5 months ago

    Half tangent, I think we really need to contextualize the Rockets injury situation. Whenever we say that the Rockets are only doing or not doing xyz due to injuries, we kind of make it sound like everyone else is peachy while the Rockets are crawling through the trenches. But every team has injuries. Every team's bench is depleted to some extent.

    I'm switching back to data mode here, since statistics nerds love comparison groups. The important mental exercise is to ask if the Rockets injury situation is different than other teams'. If so, how is it different? It it different in how many players are injured, how many starters, how many games they miss? Because it's dubious to say that the Rockets are suffering in x manner due to injuries if other teams are also injured but are not suffering in x manner. At that point it becomes something internal with the Rockets, not about injuries.

    Merging with the topic at hand, take this quick and dirty and cherry picked example, last week I was Daily Diming the Spurs Rockets game. The Spurs were just as injury ravaged as the Rockets, with Splitter, Green, and Leonard out before the game, and Ginobli going down in the second quarter. The Rockets were missing Harden, Asik, Garcia, and Smith.

    The Rockets played 8 guys. Four players played 36 minutes or more with Lin as the high (44 minutes). The Spurs, with all their injuries and a depleted bench, used a 12 man rotation. One player played more than 36 minutes (Belinelli had 38). In total, the Spurs bench played 26 more minutes than the Rockets bench. Covington and Brewer were healthy but didn't play. No, they're not great players, but neither are Aron Baynes, Jeff Ayres, and Nando de Colo, who all logged meaningful minutes for the Spurs.

    For lots of reasons, this isn't a 1:1 comparison. But it goes to show that the Rockets reaction to a common situation isn't the only possible reaction. Oh, and the Spurs lost the game :)

    You ask what is the difference between the Rockets' injuries and other teams' injuries? And to me it's quite simple. All the teams ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference have been together longer with a better understanding for systems and schemes that they have been working on.

    Overhyped in my opinion are the Warriors who have had their core for a few years now (obviously I know they're behind in the standings but it drives me crazy that many have been hyping them). Then there are the Clippers that have had Paul and Griffin together for a few years plus some support players there the whole time as well. The Trailblazers had last year to get acquainted, specifically Aldridge, Lillard, Matthews and Batum and are rolling but could cool off. Oklahoma City has been building it's system around Durant and Westbrook for years with anchors like Ibaka,Collison and Perkins their identity is well established. San Antonio has had their core for a decade and some support players they have are well established. In stark contrast the Rockets James Harden and Dwight Howard have just been put together 50 games ago and along the way Lin is learning to lead the bench, Jones is virtually a new player, Beverley has been thrust in as a starter and many other new developments I don't have to mention have or are taking place. Injuries can take a greater toll on a developing newly put together team than a team with well established chemistry and systems to fall back on after years of experiences in the regular season and playoffs. Just my opinion.

  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    I wasn't saying that they would have been traded immediately but that they might have been traded later on without we ever knowing their potential in a nba setting.McHale job is not to develop talent, but if you have a coach who doesn't play young players at all, especially when you have 2 very good prospect at the 4 without any other options, he chosed to force a line up with Asik. I agreed with doing that to keep Asik happy. He tried it didn't work, but ultimately Jones made immediate impact on his first game as a starter this season. It shows that sometimes McHale is reluctant to plug in young players over veterans despite, (my opinion) those players such as Casspi Garcia won't be in our long term plans next years, why not play Dmo and jones. Dmo didn't see the floor until everyone else was hurt on our front court. That's an example, another one is that even during the first few games when everyone was healthy out rotation was really short. This might be perceived as not an attractive options to others if they would to join rockets as a rotation/bench player.

    Let me set this clear I do think Houston as a franchise is in a pretty set spot and that we are attractive to most players. I just tried to portray a picture what some player might perceive the club. Its not all smelling roses.

    That's fine. I guess we just have different ideas of what has happened and why. I still say D-Mo wasn't getting court time due to his poor defensive rotations. He has gotten better and figured out what it takes to contribute. It is also difficult to argue he wasn't getting used when this is his game log for the season: LINK

    He has played in 29 of our 49 games. 16 of those saw him play significant time.

    I suppose you can say he should have played more--we will just have to disagree there.

    It will be interesting to see how things play out if Asik isn't traded and gets back in the fold for Houston.

  • Buckko says 5 months ago

    I checked Covington's measurements. He's got a 7-2 wingspan! I hope they can really develop him into a fantastic defender.

  • Steven says 5 months ago I think Canaan should have got run when Beverly was out. Every game for two weeks. Deep end sink or swim. You know what AB brings, but it was the perfect time to get the rookie real minutes in NBA games. Brewer is old, why should we play him? I would like to see Covington get some run while everybody and their momma is hurt right now. 10 minutes a night for 10 games. Sink or swim.
  • Buckko says 5 months ago This is a big city, warm weather, no income tax, with the best restaurants and gentlemen's clubs in the country. I'm not to worried about our appeal to young, rich, male athletes.
  • thenit says 5 months ago

    I wasn't saying that they would have been traded immediately but that they might have been traded later on without we ever knowing their potential in a nba setting.McHale job is not to develop talent, but if you have a coach who doesn't play young players at all, especially when you have 2 very good prospect at the 4 without any other options, he chosed to force a line up with Asik. I agreed with doing that to keep Asik happy. He tried it didn't work, but ultimately Jones made immediate impact on his first game as a starter this season. It shows that sometimes McHale is reluctant to plug in young players over veterans despite, (my opinion) those players such as Casspi Garcia won't be in our long term plans next years, why not play Dmo and jones. Dmo didn't see the floor until everyone else was hurt on our front court. That's an example, another one is that even during the first few games when everyone was healthy out rotation was really short. This might be perceived as not an attractive options to others if they would to join rockets as a rotation/bench player.

    Let me set this clear I do think Houston as a franchise is in a pretty set spot and that we are attractive to most players. I just tried to portray a picture what some player might perceive the club. Its not all smelling roses.

  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    There is just so much evidence that contradicts these sentiments versus the subjective conjecture which supports it that my brain is short-circuiting over here. To take such small shreds of support and flesh them out to such huge statements is the equivalent of finding a string on the ground and calling it a shirt--no, a full wardrobe. It's like the emperor's new clothes--he believes he is dressed beautifully when, in fact, he is naked.

    Clearly, there is no use in providing facts. There is no use in pointing to the past or the present in order to show that these allegations simply are not true.

    McHale's job is not to develop talent--they have other coaches for that--his job is to win basketball games. Here is a list of the Rocket's coaches. I believe Chris Finch is also largely involved in player development--though it does not specify that. Heck, Carroll Dawson is in charge of Dwight's player development--not McHale--not Olajuwon--and it's working.

    What is this all about really? The Houston Rockets are an organization that is not player friendly because they don't play the people you guys want them to play in the way you want them played?

    By the way, Jones played short minutes the first 4 games of the year--after that his minutes jumped way up and have stayed up--even while Omer continued playing. The assumption that we would have traded Jones and D-Mo immediately, or at all, had the twin towers worked is just more contrived speculation. Where was this announced? When did Morey talk about that? He didn't.

    The Rockets are the 4th youngest team in the league, but they don't play youngsters. They were the youngest last season (prior to the trade deadline), but they don't play youngsters. Egads, people!

    Comparisons to other teams? OK--go for it. The only conjecture I've seen regarding our health is that we should not read too much into our roster's success (or lack thereof as many are disappointed by their play) as they have had little time to play together at full health, and that our bench rotations are short for the very reasons I mentioned in my previous post. Seriously, raise your hands if you think we should be trotting out Brewer, Canaan (I know you love him, Steven), and Covington while we are in the midst of trying to secure a playoff seed. We are playing the people who can help us win games. The Spurs have forgone playoff seeding for years--if they get it great--if not, they have the mettle to not worry about that stuff. They know they can win a series on the road. If you want a good question, ask how the heck Brewer made the team over the other guys.

    Sorry for the rant--I just find this all amazingly biased in such a negative way.

  • thenit says 5 months ago

    I agree Richard. McHale isn't in it to develop players. Last year he pulled youngsters out as soon as they made a mistake. Rotation is shortened and reason that most players gotten minutes is not because McHaletrusted them, he was forced into it. Look at Dmo a talented 7 footer who can run the floor etc with BIG D weaknesses. He didn't see the floor until Smith, Asik, Garcia got injured. How much trust do you have in a player when you don't even give a talented player a chance? Jones barely saw the floor during the twin tower experiment. And right now we are having conversation that we don't need to upgrade the PF due to Jones and Dmo development. Question I would ask is what if the twin tower had worked and we would have traded these two away and see them flourish somewhere else?

    I understand why McHale has a short leash because last year he was basically coaching for his life and get into the playoffs. This year he had options to evaluate some of the youngsters but never did until the injuries occurred. I do think McHale has done a good job but what Richard states its actually something that other players can feel in the team and be perceived by other players in other franchises that you won't get your minutes here as a prospect.

    This is not an indictment on the franchise, sometimes you have to look through the view of how other people may perceive this franchise.

  • shirtless says 5 months ago

    Half tangent, I think we really need to contextualize the Rockets injury situation. Whenever we say that the Rockets are only doing or not doing xyz due to injuries, we kind of make it sound like everyone else is peachy while the Rockets are crawling through the trenches. But every team has injuries. Every team's bench is depleted to some extent.

    I'm switching back to data mode here, since statistics nerds love comparison groups. The important mental exercise is to ask if the Rockets injury situation is different than other teams'. If so, how is it different? It it different in how many players are injured, how many starters, how many games they miss? Because it's dubious to say that the Rockets are suffering in x manner due to injuries if other teams are also injured but are not suffering in x manner. At that point it becomes something internal with the Rockets, not about injuries.

    Merging with the topic at hand, take this quick and dirty and cherry picked example, last week I was Daily Diming the Spurs Rockets game. The Spurs were just as injury ravaged as the Rockets, with Splitter, Green, and Leonard out before the game, and Ginobli going down in the second quarter. The Rockets were missing Harden, Asik, Garcia, and Smith.

    The Rockets played 8 guys. Four players played 36 minutes or more with Lin as the high (44 minutes). The Spurs, with all their injuries and a depleted bench, used a 12 man rotation. One player played more than 36 minutes (Belinelli had 38). In total, the Spurs bench played 26 more minutes than the Rockets bench. Covington and Brewer were healthy but didn't play. No, they're not great players, but neither are Aron Baynes, Jeff Ayres, and Nando de Colo, who all logged meaningful minutes for the Spurs.

    For lots of reasons, this isn't a 1:1 comparison. But it goes to show that the Rockets reaction to a common situation isn't the only possible reaction. Oh, and the Spurs lost the game :)

  • Buckko says 5 months ago I really want to get Smith back, I see him as a good hustle, energy big bruising body who can give you a few boards and efficient points along with much needed defensive rebounding and depth. He doesn't have a high ceiling but he's got a good floor, I hope we can resign him to veteran minimum this offseason and we probably can considering the rest of the league doesn't really know about him. I see him as a great nick collision role playing big man.
  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    Richard, thanks for coming back and staying involved in the conversation--It adds a lot to the value of your article and the quality of our discussion.

    I see your perspective and agree that certain players could look at Houston as a bad fit for the reasons you mentioned.

    After that, I tend to disagree with most of your statements :P

    RocketRick covered a lot of the points about player movement/development so I'll just gloss over a few additional things.

    I disagree with your view of our alleged trades. Asik only found his way to the trade block by force. Garcia has a no-trade clause (if I'm not mistaken--I feel like this has come up before). Lin was rumored (at best) to be involved in a trade for an elite (albeit injury riddled) PG which is not a slight against him (also, I feel like a lot of these Lin trade rumors are coming out of very ill-informed camps and are pumped up by his huge fan base most of whom desperately want him out of Houston). D-Mo has also asked for a trade to try and get more playing time--not the other way around.

    You seem to perceive this as if Houston is peddling its wares with no concern for player feelings whatsoever. That is just not the case. Sure, you can see what you want to see and so can others, but that does not mean it is the reality.

    Morey would not be doing his job if he didn't listen to offers from other teams and also try to find ways to improve our roster's areas of weakness. The fact that no trades have happened shows that he does value the pieces he has and isn't just trying to move pieces for the "thrill of the deal".

    As for our bench--it's a short rotation because of injuries. Smith, Asik, and Garcia have been hurt. That leaves Lin (who plays), Casspi (who plays), Brooks (who knew his role coming in), D-Mo (who has found his way onto the floor recently by getting up to speed on defense), Brewer (who can't play due to his atrocious offense--yet still finds minutes), and the rookies--Covington and Canaan.

    I guess I see it differently. I don't think the Rockets, or McHale, are reluctant to play guys off the bench. I think they are reluctant to play guys off the bench who are hurt or who hurt the team when on the court.

    I certainly agree with you that these things are worth talking about and I am glad you have opened up the discussion.

    The Rockets have made some tough personnel moves the past few years. Based off of interviews I have read from players and staff, I get the impression that when Houston drafts a player they don't promise them playing time or even a definite role with the team. They promise to help them develop their basketball talents to a point that, one way or the other, they can have a fruitful basketball career. It may be with Houston, or it may be with another team as part of a trade. The players seem to buy into this. They know the odds are stacked against them given the history of successful players in similar draft slots. It's a refreshing approach and one that is working as these guys are motivated to work hard knowing that, one way or the other, that hard work will pay off. You can see the fruits of that in players like Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, Terrence Jones and Marcus Morris.

    Greg Smith has yet to be able to prove himself this season, but talk from the players coming into the season was that he had put in a lot of work and was ready to contribute.

    Guys like James Anderson should not be viewed in a negative context (and for the record, I wish we had kept him, but understand why we didn't). Remember, San Antonio gave up on him first. Houston gave him a try and saw the same thing. Note that Hinkie in Philly quickly picked him up. He knows that James, if he can ever develop consistency, is a top 10 SG in this league. Houston let him go to a place where he could get that opportunity.

    I just don't see the same things here. You seem to be giving James Harden a bit of the Kobe treatment--i.e., people don't want to play with him because he hogs the ball and the minutes. While I agree that James needs to develop a better sense of when to create for himself and when, and how, to get the group going I don't think he is a black hole on offense and he does seem to be developing in the right direction.

    One last thought--and just a personal opinion--I'd be very discerning when it comes to reading, and more importantly believing, any trade rumors on the internet. That stuff is the sports equivalent of Hollywood tabloids.

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    I assume you don't remember how he torched us in that OT loss at Philly...but your point is about right, he hasn't been consistent enough to say that he is making it in the NBA. That was a flyer we took last season and seem that could have possibly worked out, he just happened to play the same position as Harden.

    There's a great percentage of luck involved in everything. I think most of us thought Reggie Williams was going to make the roster instead of Omri Casspi, but he got injured most of the preseason and Omri shot lights out....the point being, Anderson could flourish in that kind of situation: nothing to lose, all about development. We'll see.


    Lin matched Anderson and even had 9 3-pointers that night. Harden was out with injury. Wroten also had a triple-double for the 76ers.

    It seems to happen a lot where an ex-player torches his ex-team the first chance he gets.

    I was excited when the Rockets signed James Anderson last season but really ended up very disappointed as he never made an impression here.

    You are correct, he plays the same position as Harden so he could only have thrived here coming off the bench. He didn't seem to get much playing time with the Rockets, but even when he did he was unimpressive.

    I hope Anderson figures it out and becomes a productive player in the NBA.
  • ale11 says 5 months ago

    My bad, James Anderson plays for Philadelphia 76ers this season. Even as bad as that team is, he's not exactly tearing it up in the NBA. He's still young, so hopefully he will be able to figure things out. If he can't even make a difference in Philadelphia, I'm not sure why anyone would believe he could have been a difference maker for the Rockets.

    I assume you don't remember how he torched us in that OT loss at Philly...but your point is about right, he hasn't been consistent enough to say that he is making it in the NBA. That was a flyer we took last season and seem that could have possibly worked out, he just happened to play the same position as Harden.

    There's a great percentage of luck involved in everything. I think most of us thought Reggie Williams was going to make the roster instead of Omri Casspi, but he got injured most of the preseason and Omri shot lights out....the point being, Anderson could flourish in that kind of situation: nothing to lose, all about development. We'll see.

  • Buckko says 5 months ago Cut brewer and pick up PJ Tucker or Brandon Rush in the offseason for veteran minimum for 3&D wing depth. Resign parsons and resign Greg smith for minimum.
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Your talk about James Anderson made you look like you have zero idea what you're talking about.


    My bad, James Anderson plays for Philadelphia 76ers this season. Even as bad as that team is, he's not exactly tearing it up in the NBA. He's still young, so hopefully he will be able to figure things out. If he can't even make a difference in Philadelphia, I'm not sure why anyone would believe he could have been a difference maker for the Rockets.
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Second, think about the Rockets trade situation from a pretty zoomed out perspective. It seems like most people agree that an ideal piece would be a 3-and-d wing or a skilled big who can defend. Now look at who has been on the trade block this season. There's a big who can defend (Asik), a skilled big (DMo), a 3-and-d wing (Garcia), and Lin. Obviously there are better versions of these players elsewhere, but the fact remains that we actually have the types of players we want to trade for.

    Imagine you are a player that fits one of these molds. Yeah, you don't have much say over where you are traded to, but pretend that you do. What are your thoughts regarding playing for the Rockets? Here's an admittedly one-sided and pessimistic version of what you might be thinking.

    1) There's a player similar to me who either wants out or is being shipped out.
    2) I am going to be a backup. Given the offers so far, there is no way that whoever becomes a Rocket is better than Terrence Jones, and certainly not better than Chandler Parsons.
    3) The Rockets bench is deep and does not play very many minutes. If I am a wing, I'm buried behind two of the top-five players in minutes per game (Parsons and Harden). I will definitely not play as many minutes as I'm playing now.
    4) I will not touch the ball very much.
    5) Other young talented guys have left the Rockets and been very successful.

    It's not the most appealing situation. From the outside in, it does not look like Houston is the best place for round players who don't neatly fit into square holes. If you don't fit exactly into your square hole, the Rockets don't like reallocating minutes and roles to make you a better fit. If you develop additional skills and start expanding outside the limits of your original hole... well, your options might be limited.

    Again, this doesn't mean Rockets players are bad or evil, or that the organization is dysfunctional. I just think that these topics are worth talking about.


    The only player the Rockets have seriously tried trading away this season is Asik. I believe Lin was discussed just for the possibility of bringing Deron Williams to the Rockets and due to the money, it would take more than just Asik's contract to make that deal work. Thankfully the Rockets passed on the Deron Williams trade possibility, if it even happened to be more than just a rumour. Deron Williams has had major injury issues the past few years and I for one much prefer Lin and the 1 1/2 years remaining on his contract. I think Deron Williams still has 3 years left after this season.

    All NBA players, especially the ones that aren't the top one or two on any particular team, realize that part of the NBA is trades. It comes with the territory. They accept it as part of the privilege of being a part of the NBA.

    As a Rockets fan, I would be quite upset with the team owner and the GM if they weren't always trying to find a way to improve the team, thus improve our chances at a ring.

    I tend to believe the Rockets should also try to have some roster consistency and not keep trading players away all the time. I believe they are close to the point where they can have a stable roster to allow team chemistry to build. Still, even with that, there is always going to be that one or two minor trades that still could make a difference. Especially if serious injuries are hampering our team at some point in the future and a solid fill-in player is needed to fill the void to keep the Rockets from missing the playoffs, etc.

    In summary, NBA teams that stand pat with their roster tend to get passed by other teams. Look at Indiana and how close they came to winning the East last season and yet they have made some roster changes this season. Miami won the NBA title and they made some minor roster changes. San Antonio has several new players on their team this year that weren't on their roster last season. This is what is required to win and stay competitive in the NBA.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 5 months ago Your talk about James Anderson made you look like you have zero idea what you're talking about.
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    First, in the past two years several Rockets have left and have become much more productive with their new teams. Dragic and Lowry immediately come to mind, Marcus Morris and James Anderson to a lesser extent. Yes, I recognize there are a thousand caveats here. Chief among them is that James Harden wasn't even a Rocket when some of these guys left, so he can't be used as part of this argument. Additionally, contracts and being able to have more playing time elsewhere factored in. But still, it's worth noting.


    Lowry situation has been discussed thoroughly on this board and I would venture that a clear majority here have no further interest in Lowry due to basically quitting on the team his last season and causing unnecessary locker room issues. Not really sure how you could blame the Rockets for Lowry's lapses.

    Dragic, too, has been discussed pretty thoroughly. The Rockets actually were very close to re-signing him; however, he and his agent insisted on that 5th year player option and the Rockets were only willing to give Dragic a 4-year deal. After this season, Dragic still has 3 more years on his contract. He has fit in very well with Phoenix and I for one am happy for him. I enjoyed watching Dragic play for the Rockets for the 1/2 season he was here. Not sure how you could blame Rockets here. Keep in mind, every team in the league can sign only one (1) player to a 5-year contract. I don't blame the Rockets for passing on that as their plans at that time was to sign game changers like a Harden and a Howard.

    Marcus Morris was given ample opportunity to play with the Rockets. He just never could get into any kind of a groove. I can't remember for sure but wasn't he one of the pieces traded for Francisco Garcia last season? Marcus Morris will never be a top 50, probably not even a top 100, player in the NBA. Sometimes teams like the Rockets have to move on from certain players. Also don't forget that at the time the Rockets had way too many PF's on their roster. They hoped that Marcus Morris could develop into a SF player but with Chandler Parsons already on the roster it still wouldn't have mattered much in the overall scheme of things. Not sure why the Rockets are being blamed for not developing Marcus Morris in this situation.

    James Anderson. Wow, that one is a complete mystery to me. The dude isn't even in the NBA this season so obviously he was not the player the Rockets envisioned when they signed him last season. Whose fault is that, the Rockets or James Anderson? I'm just saying. Remember, he's out of the league so not much more needs to be said about that.

    On the other side of the coin, look at the recent additions to the Rockets that have developed into really solid players: Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Terrance Jones, D Motiejunas and there are 2 exciting rookies tearing it up in the D-League and at some point they too will be given an opportunity to showcase their talents on this team.

    So anyone that feels the Rockets are to blame for Lowry's attitude and other players like Marcus Morris, James Anderson, etc. lack of success and thus being traded away I just absolutely disagree with wholeheartedly. If anything, the Rockets are one of the most successful NBA franchises in developing players these past couple of years. Not everyone that the Rockets draft or trade for is going to work out, that's just the way it is in the NBA.
  • redfaithful says 5 months ago

    We should be careful to draw conclusions on club culture and how players see it based on trade rumors, potential scenarios, supposed conversations. AFAIK, it's possible that Morey's plan didn't include any trade this year, and he uses all sorts of smoke screens to get ready for the post-season opportunities.

  • shirtless says 5 months ago

    Same sources as everyone else. You see trade rumors, potential scenarios, supposed conversations.

  • redfaithful says 5 months ago

    How do you know that anyone except Asik (who asked to be traded) was on the trade block?

  • shirtless says 5 months ago

    I certainly don't think the Rockets are a bad organization. In fact, if I had to rank organizations according to institutional culture (since, you know, I'm intimately familiar with all their locker rooms), I'd probably say the Rockets are above average. Two things, however, give me pause, in addition to everything I wrote in the actual post.

    First, in the past two years several Rockets have left and have become much more productive with their new teams. Dragic and Lowry immediately come to mind, Marcus Morris and James Anderson to a lesser extent. Yes, I recognize there are a thousand caveats here. Chief among them is that James Harden wasn't even a Rocket when some of these guys left, so he can't be used as part of this argument. Additionally, contracts and being able to have more playing time elsewhere factored in. But still, it's worth noting.

    Second, think about the Rockets trade situation from a pretty zoomed out perspective. It seems like most people agree that an ideal piece would be a 3-and-d wing or a skilled big who can defend. Now look at who has been on the trade block this season. There's a big who can defend (Asik), a skilled big (DMo), a 3-and-d wing (Garcia), and Lin. Obviously there are better versions of these players elsewhere, but the fact remains that we actually have the types of players we want to trade for.

    Imagine you are a player that fits one of these molds. Yeah, you don't have much say over where you are traded to, but pretend that you do. What are your thoughts regarding playing for the Rockets? Here's an admittedly one-sided and pessimistic version of what you might be thinking.

    1) There's a player similar to me who either wants out or is being shipped out.

    2) I am going to be a backup. Given the offers so far, there is no way that whoever becomes a Rocket is better than Terrence Jones, and certainly not better than Chandler Parsons.

    3) The Rockets bench is deep and does not play very many minutes. If I am a wing, I'm buried behind two of the top-five players in minutes per game (Parsons and Harden). I will definitely not play as many minutes as I'm playing now.

    4) I will not touch the ball very much.

    5) Other young talented guys have left the Rockets and been very successful.

    It's not the most appealing situation. From the outside in, it does not look like Houston is the best place for round players who don't neatly fit into square holes. If you don't fit exactly into your square hole, the Rockets don't like reallocating minutes and roles to make you a better fit. If you develop additional skills and start expanding outside the limits of your original hole... well, your options might be limited.

    Again, this doesn't mean Rockets players are bad or evil, or that the organization is dysfunctional. I just think that these topics are worth talking about.

  • Buckko says 5 months ago I would add parsons along with Howard and harden FSS, considering he plays the most minutes on our team, runs the longest distance on average in the nba, and our team tends to crash without him.
  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    Nice article, Richard. I respect your view and opinion; although, I have to say I disagree with most of your conclusions and inferences.

    Time will tell regarding this team. Our perceptions, as is often the case, are colored by our experiences in life. You do an excellent job of sharing your experience and showing its effect on viewing our beloved team. The "in" crowd vs. the "out" crowd is a universal motif--and for good reason. It happens all the time. Is that what is happening here? We really don't know.

    For every negative account of grousing, moping, despondency, etc. there are opposing accounts of camaraderie, support, loyalty, and unity. It is easy to focus on and shield our sight from the other. I am no doubt guilty of not seeing the negative--whether it is due to my sub-conscious or because it isn't a real issue I cannot tell.

    Outside of Kyle Lowry, I really can't see any of this "players don't like it here" stuff. I find that to be a contrived argument that ignores context to support the notion that McHale, Morey, or whoever alienates players and will prevent us from being successful.

    I would argue that Houston has just as good of a track record recently of bringing in veterans that are seemingly "washed up" and having them turn into valued contributors. We don't need a list--we all know who they are. San Antonio is not infallible--ask them about Richard Jefferson.

    I agree with those who see this team as an entity undergoing an organic process of development. They are young in their current form and, due to circumstance, have had little time to understand themselves as a singular entity. I feel like that Cleveland game was a glimpse at what the aim is for this collection of players. Everyone contributed (except Parsons, but he seems to be the one Rocket above questioning) and everyone's role was clear both to the eye and in the box scores. The best part--everyone appeared genuinely happy, and not for themselves--for each other.

    As has been mentioned countless times, the playoffs will be a trial by fire that will either forge a bond of unbreakable strength for this team, or will burn them alive exposing these perceived weaknesses. I believe it will be the former, but who really knows?

    Again, thank you, Richard, for the provocative article. It's good to be able to express oneself from the head and the heart.

  • dbd says 5 months ago

    People are impatient because time is not on their side. Even for those who shown a great deal of patient in one doesn’t always have the same on the others. We are who we are. I am right, you are wrong. Yeah, don’t show me THAT stat, I can discredit you with other. (You think Bev has best +/-, yep he has the worst PER among 3 PGs.) I hope our young Rockets don’t waste their time bitching each other like us me.

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    This seems like a very one sided view but of course you are entitled to interpret it however you like. I don't think we can necessarily take the liberty to assign meaning to what Parsons said. He could just as well meant that the Rockets offense suffers so much with Harden out that they have to use more ball movement to get by. The truth as with most things is probably somewhere in between, changing all the time and dependent on all kinds of factors.

    Also I don't believe anyone is owed anything. Players must earn playing time and trust from coaches and teammates. If you are a Rockets player and your name is not Harden or Howard I'd say every time you are at practice you must show that you can be trusted to be on the floor and Jones has earned that less than a year and a half into his career. That is a great job beginning with Morey and his department, McHale and his coaches for developing him and providing leadership and Jones himself for putting in the work. For established rotation players they must show consistency and dedication to the team so that when the game is on the line those who carry this team, Harden and Howard, can trust the players around them. And all this is a process and takes time, maybe a year or two, even though fans would like chemistry to develop overnight.


    No, not overnight, yesterday...........
  • feelingsupersonic says 5 months ago

    Even Chandler Parsons has come out saying that when Harden is out, the Rockets go less iso and have more balanced attack. So obviously the sentiment that Harden plays heroball too much is not just felt by bench players, even the starters know this. I'm sure Dwight knows this too. As talented as Harden is in basketball skills, I haven't really seen him lead this team as lets say a Kevin Durant or Lebron James, even though basketball wise he has as much freedom as he has. I think the two games without him was good for his teammates and for him, hopefully he took some mental notes. Yes he's their best player, but there is no substitute for playing team basketball, you win more often when playing like team rather than a one man show. He's not the only guy on the team who can make plays, and there will be nights when the Rockets will need contribution from a lot of players to help them win, like the CAVS game, in which the starters were struggling and really needed Lin and DMo's spark off the bench. Hopefully this team continues moving towards playing for each other, rather than just with each other.



    This seems like a very one sided view but of course you are entitled to interpret it however you like. I don't think we can necessarily take the liberty to assign meaning to what Parsons said. He could just as well meant that the Rockets offense suffers so much with Harden out that they have to use more ball movement to get by. The truth as with most things is probably somewhere in between, changing all the time and dependent on all kinds of factors.

    Also I don't believe anyone is owed anything. Players must earn playing time and trust from coaches and teammates. If you are a Rockets player and your name is not Harden or Howard I'd say every time you are at practice you must show that you can be trusted to be on the floor and Jones has earned that less than a year and a half into his career. That is a great job beginning with Morey and his department, McHale and his coaches for developing him and providing leadership and Jones himself for putting in the work. For established rotation players they must show consistency and dedication to the team so that when the game is on the line those who carry this team, Harden and Howard, can trust the players around them. And all this is a process and takes time, maybe a year or two, even though fans would like chemistry to develop overnight.
  • Cooper says 5 months ago Team chemistry starts with the players pop couldn't do what he does if Duncan and Parker didnt buy in, same could be said for okc and Miami everyone bagged on spoelstra when in reality he had a system set up for the heat to succeed but lebron and wade were still used to doing there own thing. In okc Westbrook brings it every game and if he feels anyone else is spacing a bit he lets them know. Durant has been on a tear recently but guys like lamb and Jackson are also getting involved and really improving. It's up to harden and Dwight to set the tone and mchale to maintain it.
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Even Chandler Parsons has come out saying that when Harden is out, the Rockets go less iso and have more balanced attack. So obviously the sentiment that Harden plays heroball too much is not just felt by bench players, even the starters know this. I'm sure Dwight knows this too. As talented as Harden is in basketball skills, I haven't really seen him lead this team as lets say a Kevin Durant or Lebron James, even though basketball wise he has as much freedom as he has. I think the two games without him was good for his teammates and for him, hopefully he took some mental notes. Yes he's their best player, but there is no substitute for playing team basketball, you win more often when playing like team rather than a one man show. He's not the only guy on the team who can make plays, and there will be nights when the Rockets will need contribution from a lot of players to help them win, like the CAVS game, in which the starters were struggling and really needed Lin and DMo's spark off the bench. Hopefully this team continues moving towards playing for each other, rather than just with each other.


    Thank you for your insight. Please remember that it took Lebron James and Michael Jordan quite awhile to figure things out. The last I checked, Harden is still much, much younger than those 2 at this point in his career.
  • goRockets says 5 months ago

    Even Chandler Parsons has come out saying that when Harden is out, the Rockets go less iso and have more balanced attack. So obviously the sentiment that Harden plays heroball too much is not just felt by bench players, even the starters know this. I'm sure Dwight knows this too. As talented as Harden is in basketball skills, I haven't really seen him lead this team as lets say a Kevin Durant or Lebron James, even though basketball wise he has as much freedom as he has. I think the two games without him was good for his teammates and for him, hopefully he took some mental notes. Yes he's their best player, but there is no substitute for playing team basketball, you win more often when playing like team rather than a one man show. He's not the only guy on the team who can make plays, and there will be nights when the Rockets will need contribution from a lot of players to help them win, like the CAVS game, in which the starters were struggling and really needed Lin and DMo's spark off the bench. Hopefully this team continues moving towards playing for each other, rather than just with each other.

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Team chemistry is always the final piece after amassing talent. It is also one of the hardest things to really quantify. Pat Riley has a great quote about the "disease of more" that always creeps into championship locker rooms. Bill Simmons brings it up a lot but it is a natural thing that occurs in a room full of hyper-competitive people whose very livelihood depends on their assists per game and their marketability off the court. If one guy is worried about his shoe deal while the next is worried about hitting his stats to make his bonus, winning the next game against a cellar dweller becomes less important. That is what McHale and the staff need to eliminate from the locker room. I don’t see any evidence these guys don’t like each other.


    Am I the only one who thought of this? ;


    My last message was meant for you, what a waste of time because your link proves ABSOLUTELY FREAKING NOTHING because it is not really a useful link. Maybe you are trying to earn money with commercial links or something. I don't understand whatsoever what your goal was here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCi_PIz5ekU
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Team chemistry is always the final piece after amassing talent. It is also one of the hardest things to really quantify. Pat Riley has a great quote about the "disease of more" that always creeps into championship locker rooms. Bill Simmons brings it up a lot but it is a natural thing that occurs in a room full of hyper-competitive people whose very livelihood depends on their assists per game and their marketability off the court. If one guy is worried about his shoe deal while the next is worried about hitting his stats to make his bonus, winning the next game against a cellar dweller becomes less important. That is what McHale and the staff need to eliminate from the locker room. I don’t see any evidence these guys don’t like each other.


    Am I the only one who thought of this?


    Your link totally sucks. I have no clue of the point you are trying to make other than a disparaging thought you might have that nobody has a clue about. What a f'g waste of my time...................

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCi_PIz5ekU
  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Based on this and the same feelings that I have...we definitely need a perimeter defender that is strong as is a neutral to positive on the offensive side. ...but going along with this piece, we also need to make sure that player is a leader, glue guy, whatever you want. Hopefully he is a veteran, like Indiana did with David West, and even Scola, who is mature, respected and holds players accountable. As I have mentioned before...we need a younger version of Battier.
    If Iggy was free that would work wonders but I doubt GS would trade him for anything at this point. I will have to keep thinking about who would work.
    Great article. Thanks for the write up. Although I was really looking forward to some analysis of DMo too.


    Can you please provide examples/specific examples of when Scola respected and held players accountable? I have no doubt that his recent teams, Rockets and Pacers, strive to hold their players accountable. However, your post is purely speculative in my opinion.
  • John P says 5 months ago

    Based on this and the same feelings that I have...we definitely need a perimeter defender that is strong as is a neutral to positive on the offensive side. ...but going along with this piece, we also need to make sure that player is a leader, glue guy, whatever you want. Hopefully he is a veteran, like Indiana did with David West, and even Scola, who is mature, respected and holds players accountable. As I have mentioned before...we need a younger version of Battier.

    If Iggy was free that would work wonders but I doubt GS would trade him for anything at this point. I will have to keep thinking about who would work.

    Great article. Thanks for the write up. Although I was really looking forward to some analysis of DMo too.

  • Chichos says 5 months ago

    Team chemistry is always the final piece after amassing talent. It is also one of the hardest things to really quantify. Pat Riley has a great quote about the "disease of more" that always creeps into championship locker rooms. Bill Simmons brings it up a lot but it is a natural thing that occurs in a room full of hyper-competitive people whose very livelihood depends on their assists per game and their marketability off the court. If one guy is worried about his shoe deal while the next is worried about hitting his stats to make his bonus, winning the next game against a cellar dweller becomes less important. That is what McHale and the staff need to eliminate from the locker room. I don’t see any evidence these guys don’t like each other.

    Am I the only one who thought of this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCi_PIz5ekU

  • Alituro says 5 months ago

    Other than Asik, just exactly which Rocket player(s) are so desperately wanting out of Houston this season because of Coach McHale?...

    ...By the way, Coach McHale's system is good enough to be 3-0 against Popovich this season.

    I agree with all of your points, Rockettrick.

    I believe there is some misconception about Harden's role in building this environment. The source of this misconception is that Harden doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve like others do: Howard, Lin and Brooks, so it's hard to gauge what's going on out there. But, you do catch glimpses: Patting Howard's ass, chest bumps, waving the towel around during a bench unit rally, and even the Shao-Lin handshake that made news last season. Couple that with the camaraderie that he, famously, had built with Durant and Westbrook and you see a player who is probably very easy to get along with in the locker room, and one who fosters a positive team environment. If, that environment didn't exist, believe me, you would have heard about it from Howard already. I think McHale does a good job of keeping this team cohesive also, he seems like a "Players Coach", proof being in the freedoms he gives his players on the court. This team has been with him as he suffered some extreme hardships over the past couple years. These things bring people together and brings his status among the players as being closer to "human" than "revered-basketball-legend-turned-coach"

    You see the opposite situation in the Lakers and Kobe. The successes enjoyed by the Lakers came at times when their roster was so replete with talent that it could overcome any lack of friendly camaraderie. But, you never hear of a player that leaves the Lakers, and wishes they could go back, Shaq, World Peace, Howard and Bynum included. Add a similar personality, like Nash and it's a recipe for disaster.

    Harden walks a fine line as leader of this team. People are so quick to negatively judge him for his late game hero ball, but the flack would come faster and harder if he disappeared late in games, or let's say, deferred to Brooks or Casspi in the clutch instead of making the play himself. His biggest challenge is striking the balance between. He is learning and getting better though.

  • dbd says 5 months ago

    Love it. I hope Morey, McHale anc Co. had a chance to read something like this.

  • rocketrick says 5 months ago

    Great article. Harden is young and will mature. The same though cannot be said of the coach. Frankly, McHale has shown he isn't very good at managing the club house. The players respect him but he doesn't build a positive environment. He's from the old guard and fits the mold of a "spare the rod and spoil the child" kind of coach. How many times do you see players want to leave Houston?


    Other than Asik, just exactly which Rocket player(s) are so desperately wanting out of Houston this season because of Coach McHale?

    If Coach McHale supposedly wasn't building a positive environment, then how did TJones go from hardly playing last season to starting at PF this season? Was that by pure accident?

    And how has Motiejunas found time on the court the past few games? I assume another pure accident.

    For some reason, Coach McHale's system which is pretty much free flowing and allows the players a lot of freedom and is the system pretty much all NBA players would prefer to play in is detrimental?

    If anything is detrimental, it's the short amount of time this roster has been together and the fact our team is one of the youngest in the NBA. There is no magic wand to wave that all of a sudden makes all the growing pains disappear.

    By the way, Coach McHale's system is good enough to be 3-0 against Popovich this season.
  • redfaithful says 5 months ago

    Strong candidate for "post of the year" from my side.

    Looking back a few years, it seems like the club culture is a good one - remember the 22W streak and the over-achieving days of Chuck Hayes and the gang? Many players who came into Houston with low expectations are now considered valuable NBA players. However, adding superstars like Harden and Howard and relying on a very young core create great culture challenges. As I see it things are definitely going in the right direction, and players are fitting in and finding their roles. Regarding Harden - just occurred to me that maybe he was trying to play it a-la-Durant (which was the model he saw as a young player), and he now starts to back off from this approach and do things his way, which is of course better.

    As a fan and forum member, I decided some time ago to put aside the "who should we trade for" approach and move to "what can the Rockets do better". Seems like it happens across the forum - haven't seen KLove or Millsap's name for some time...

  • Futureinterest says 5 months ago Great article. Harden is young and will mature. I think he was a lil full of himself but I already see him improving his attitude which is encouraging. The same though cannot be said of the coach. Frankly, McHale has shown he isn't very good at managing the club house. The players respect him but he doesn't build a positive environment. He's from the old guard and fits the mold of a "spare the rod and spoil the child" kind of coach. How many times do you see players want to leave Houston? Doesn't that strike anyone as being an indication of the coaches ability to relate to his players and make them feel valuable?While that old school mentality works for a coach like Popovich, McHale just isn't very consistent with his application of discipline. What makes Pop great is that he doesn't hold guys to different standards. They're all treated justly, and you just don't see that here in Houston. Trying to mix old school discipline and super star treatment just doesn't work. McHale isn't an awful coach but he is what he is... And I don't see that ever changing. I also don't ever see him leaving while Morey is in charge... So we just have to live with it. Alas.
  • sli says 5 months ago Wow Richard, even without the geeky charts, you still provide tons of thought-provoking insights! :)
  • feelingsupersonic says 5 months ago Great piece Richard and I'd say time is what they all need. In time they will experience successes and failures and they will grow, it's still so early on you know this team is just a toddler, just learning to walk.
  • Opasido says 5 months ago

    Excellent articles. You asked the question "The question is how does a team build that type of cohesive institutional culture?" I think you answered your own question by singling out Harden and coaches. They're the ones who build that cohesive culture. Remember when LeBron got into a fight with Chalmers, but 10 mins later he swallowed his ego and said to Mario "My bad"? That's the type of leadership Harden and Howard need to have. I'm don't think Harden is mature enough for that. It will take a painful playoff loss, like LeBron's 2011 finals loss, to instill that maturity in him. And somebody who could tell Harden that the ego needs to go - ideally that would be McHale. So, i think the problem is two-fold: harden's not mature enough for the leadership position, and McHale's won't put his foot down and knock some sense into Harden

    This article didn't really have anything to do with D-Mo though.

  • thenit says 5 months ago Certainly thought provoking. Need some time to digest it. Great read.
  • Red94 says 5 months ago New post: We Are All Donatas Motiejunas - Part 2
    By: Richard Li

    Click here for part 1 of this post. 

    The Spurs-Mavericks back-to-back last week was interesting. With Harden out, the Rockets three remaining guards were more aggressive (again, no data, you’ll just have to take my word for it). Not only Lin and Brooks, but also Beverley was penetrating with regularity. He even showed off a spin move I didn’t know he had. Motiejunas went into Lithuanian lion mode. He crashed the boards (19 in 44 combined minutes) and showed some tenacity defensively. The team as a whole was much less talented with Harden out, but I’m positive each player felt more ownership over the final product.

    That cohesion continued into the Cavs game, in which the Rockets bench ignited two runs and were clearly the difference in the game. My favorite sequence came in the third quarter immediately after Howard was whistled for a 3-seconds violation. On the previous defensive possession, Motiejunas was called for a blocking foul. While Kyrie Irving shot his technical free throw, I could clearly see Beverley talking to Motiejunas and demonstrating defensive positioning techniques. On the ensuing inbounds play, Motiejunas drew a charge on Irving. On the next defensive possession, he made a stop by himself.

    My favorite single moment from the Cavs game was immediately after Lin got his triple double. The camera panned over to the elated Rockets bench. The most elated player, who was jumping up and down like a three year old kid, was Aaron Brooks. He played exactly 0 minutes that game but was acting like he just got his own triple double and his mom was cooking dinner for him back home.

    What I’m talking about isn’t a mystery. In his book, Bill Simmons calls it “the secret.” Basically, the secret of winning basketball is that it’s not about basketball. It’s about guys who want to be on a team with each other, who want each other to succeed, and are willing to kill themselves for each other. We always hear about players who make other players better. We hear about locker room leaders and glue guys. But you know what? We don’t actually see this happen that often. In fact, we see dysfunction and complete chaos a lot more frequently.

    And before anyone suggests that it’s purely a matter of individual ego, consider San Antonio and Miami. It’s awe inspiring how washed up or seemingly middling players go to these teams and magically become indispensable role players. Marco Belinelli is shooting 51% and 48% on threes this year while playing more minutes. He shot 43% last year on the Bulls. Miami’s vaunted bench currently includes two certified nut cases in Chris Andersen and Michael Beasley. In Beasley’s case, he even got a haircut and seemed go through emotional puberty overnight.

    Does anyone think Belinelli would be shooting 48% on threes on the Rockets? Does anyone think Birdman and Beasley would be upstanding citizens on the Rockets bench? Their talent is allowing them to succeed, but it’s the institutional culture around them that’s making everything work. Fun thought exercise, do you think Asik would still throw a fit if he had to back up Duncan on the Spurs?

    The question is how does a team build that type of cohesive institutional culture? What, you think I have an answer? I don’t. I consider it an accomplishment if I don’t get chosen last for a pick-up game at the Y. That’s the extent of my basketball knowledge as a player.

    I do know that that a team’s best players and coaches, the visionaries if you will (though they should never be dumb enough to call themselves that), have more responsibility in this than anyone else. It’s not just about minutes (though minutes help). It’s about how they value their teammates’ roles contributions. OK, so Ronnie Brewer isn’t playing much, but how can he be put in positions to meaningfully contribute to his team’s performance? Is he valued in as someone to practice with/against? Are his suggestions listened to during team meetings?

    Remember 5-6 years ago when Nate Robinson was a bench warmer on the Ubuntu Celtics? Early in the season, Doc Rivers said that, despite riding pine at that time, Nate was going to win a playoff game for them. And then he blew up during a playoff game later that year. Now, Nate Robinson isn’t exactly known as a level headed team player. He’s not just going to say, “Cool. I’ll just sit here and do jack shit, not even get into games, and be perfectly happy with it.” During that season, the Celtics were doing something behind the scenes to actually make Nate feel valued, that allowed him contribute, to make him keep trying and wait patiently for his opportunity. Maybe they asked him about his experience playing against certain opponents. Maybe his advice made it into the game plan. Maybe Kevin Garnett thanked Nate for his scouting contributions after a game in which Nate played 0 minutes. I don’t know. These are just ideas I’m making up, but they make sense to me.

    That’s why I write about concepts such as selfishness, heroball, and bench minutes. And that’s why I personally focus so much on coaching decisions and Harden. They’re the ones with the most capacity to affect the team’s culture, to make everyone feel valued in their roles and want to contribute. I find it troubling that Harden’s teammates seem to play more freely and rally around each other when he’s not playing. I find it troubling that the coaches haven’t seemed to pick up on this.

    The Rockets bench players are valuable contributors, not inconvenient mouths that need feeding. Hopefully this past week a harbinger of things to come, and not just a happy hour away from the bosses.