Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings http://www.red94.net Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:58:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On James Harden and Team USAhttp://www.red94.net/james-harden-team-usa/14539/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=james-harden-team-usa http://www.red94.net/james-harden-team-usa/14539/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:58:06 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14539 Surely you’ve heard by now that James Harden declared himself to be the best all-around player in the game, some days ago.  Much has been made of the comment, but I personally don’t see a problem.  Obviously, the statement isn’t factually correct, but what does it matter?  I want my best player to exude confidence.  That’s [...]

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Surely you’ve heard by now that James Harden declared himself to be the best all-around player in the game, some days ago.  Much has been made of the comment, but I personally don’t see a problem.  Obviously, the statement isn’t factually correct, but what does it matter?  I want my best player to exude confidence.  That’s a far more preferable scenario than the one in which the early 2000′s Kings found themselves when their star player, Chris Webber, literally ran away from the ball late in games, deferring to Mike Bibby.  You could counter this shows a lack of self-awareness, but I’d offer that maybe this means higher expectations.

But anyways, of greater personal interest were Coach K’s comments about Harden’s leadership with Team USA.  Maybe they’re true?  Maybe they’re a motivating technique?  (Remember how Jeff Van Gundy would routinely praise Kelvin Cato?)  In any event, as I’ve been saying for some time now, the experience this summer can only be a good thing for James.  When Kevin Durant pulled out from the team, I’ll be honest: I secretly hoped Harden would as well.  Seeing Paul George take the spill he did left a lasting impression, and it has not been fun holding my breath afterward every time Harden has driven the lane.  But players can get hurt anywhere.  True, the basket support was directly contributory in George’s case, but you can land awkwardly on the blacktop at Rucker as well.

Durant leaving was sort of a blessing.  Remember the stories about Lebron James getting to see how hard Kobe Bryant worked day in and day out after their summer together?  That wasn’t going to happen here as Harden and Durant are already familiar.  But now, Harden is establishing himself as the go-to player on a team comprised of some of the best in the world.  And he’s learning the way to win under a coach he purportedly respects.  This overall experience, and the confidence borne from it, can be nothing but positive.

If Harden comes back focused, transformed, maybe that’s better than any transaction Morey could have made.  He looks much trimmer in these games.  And as I noted earlier in the week, Dwight Howard already seems locked in.

We’ve been focusing on the personnel game for some years now.  But player transformation has been the traditional path to success.  Hakeem finding inner peace and trust in his teammates.  Lebron reinventing his game.  Harden can be the second best player in this conference.  If he puts in work on the defensive end, he will be.

To date, I like what I’m seeing thus far.  If you asked me now, I’m expecting a big year.

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The Morey Fallacyhttp://www.red94.net/morey-fallacy/14538/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=morey-fallacy http://www.red94.net/morey-fallacy/14538/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:04:40 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14538 I would have been much better served writing this post back in July when the topic was fresh and relevant.  But I didn’t, so now will have to do. In the days following the apex of Houston’s disastrous summer, when the team lost Chandler Parsons after striking out on every major free agent, the critics [...]

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I would have been much better served writing this post back in July when the topic was fresh and relevant.  But I didn’t, so now will have to do.

In the days following the apex of Houston’s disastrous summer, when the team lost Chandler Parsons after striking out on every major free agent, the critics came out in waves, celebrating Morey’s plight.  Some of the assertions made were true.  Many were regurgitated, the same things that had been said before the Rockets’ coup of James Harden and Dwight Howard in subsequent summers.  One critique of Morey, in particular, has consistently been levied throughout his tenure.

It’s said often that the Rockets’ general manager does not value, or does not understand the importance of chemistry.  This charge usually is made in hand with the one that claims he is far too active on the trade front.  Not only is this premise inaccurate, it is based on an unwarranted assumption.

The thinking goes like this: because Morey makes so many deals, he must necessarily be overlooking the importance of team chemistry.  If Morey gave proper worth to chemistry, and just let his teams grow, he’d see that they’d improve on their own.  ”How can these teams ever grow if he just keeps making moves every year?”

What the critics are overlooking is the ceiling analysis.  I’ve used this analogy before and its more apt than ever: if I and four of my readers formed a team, just by staying together, we’d inherently improve over time.  We’d learn each other’s tendencies, we’d gain cohesion.  We’d ‘build chemistry,’ as they say it.  But that doesn’t mean this Red94 team would ever win an NBA title.  Why?  Because the ceiling is limited.  The five of us don’t have the size and talent to compete in the NBA.  What’s the lesson here?  Just because something can or will improve doesn’t mean it’s a goal worth pursuing.  You have to look at the probability of achieving the end result.

For the Rockets, Morey keeps blowing up his roster because he doesn’t see championship upside in any of them.  That Kyle Lowry-Chuck Hayes-Luis Scola team would probably be better this year than it was back then, had we kept it together.  But what would be the point?  They weren’t winning the title.

Now the question of whether a team of Howard/Harden/Parsons could ever win the title is subject for debate.  But if Morey has made that determination that that team can’t ever win it all, then it only logically follows that he blow it up.  If he keeps it together, he’s only wasting time.  Several of you will possibly misconstrue this point, so I’ll reiterate: the Howard/Harden/Parsons trio very well might be good enough to win a title.  But in Morey’s opinion, it is not.  Because he chose to blow that team up doesn’t mean he doesn’t value chemistry.  He blew it up because he made the determination that team’s ceiling wasn’t high enough.

The goal for Houston was to put together a team that had a championship ceiling.  Had they gotten Bosh, they would’ve stopped tinkering.  But Houston’s current course is not about an improper appraisal of chemistry.  To say otherwise is incorrect and a misunderstanding of Morey’s thinking.

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Houston Rockets’ summer assignment list: Part 3, Dwight Howardhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-3-dwight-howard/14530/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-3-dwight-howard http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-3-dwight-howard/14530/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:26:01 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14530 Many of you were very upset by my characterization of James Harden in my last installment of this series.  There, I said that in Harden, “I [saw] a player who is selfish and not as committed to the team and winning as he is to himself.”  I stand by those comments and by that opinion. Dwight Howard [...]

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Many of you were very upset by my characterization of James Harden in my last installment of this series.  There, I said that in Harden, “I [saw] a player who is selfish and not as committed to the team and winning as he is to himself.”  I stand by those comments and by that opinion. Dwight Howard is another matter altogether. To begin, Howard put any doubts to rest last season over whether he was worth the maximum contract to which he was signed.  More than just his dominance in the playoffs, he exhibited a newfound sense of maturity that would seem to bode well for the future. But for purposes of this series, what is Dwight Howard’s summer assignment?By some measures, as was chronicled on this very blog by Richard Li, Dwight Howard post-ups were the Rockets’ most inefficient play last season.  At the same time, the stretch of games where the Rockets’ center looked closer to his mentor than not was undeniable.  Howard also basically ate Robin Lopez for lunch in the postseason.  I’m not sure what to think.

Many have said they hope Howard carries the momentum of his playoff performance into next season.  I’ve countered, asserting that predication of an overall ability assessment of Howard upon the Portland series would be flawed – they were the single best matchup for him out of the seven other playoff teams.  As a representative sample of the opposite extreme, I’d point to his play against the Thunder and Clippers.  The argument then usually goes that those teams’ success against Howard is more an indictment of Terrence Jones (in those teams’ strategy to shift full attention to Howard, off of Jones).  I’d then counter that those two teams are the only opponents who really matter, for the long haul, and for now, it doesn’t look like a power forward upgrade is on the way.

Howard is what he is, at this point.  I can’t expect him to drop 35 and 15 on those conference rivals.  But as I mentioned, the development we saw last season was staggering.  He looked like Olajuwon at times, and I mean that seriously.  The footwork rapidly improved and the touch even softened.  Can he keep molding his post-game and sustaining his dominance for longer stretches of the year?  That would be miraculous, and would lengthen the team’s window.  But it’s house money, and I’m not holding my breath.

What Howard gives us right now is more than enough and it puts us in the conversation.  Further skill development would be great, but its not really a priority or something this team needs to win.  All I hope, regarding Dwight Howard, is that he continues recovering from the back surgery and maintains a high level of health.  Without him, there’s no chance.

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Taking a look at the schedulehttp://www.red94.net/taking-look-schedule/14533/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-look-schedule http://www.red94.net/taking-look-schedule/14533/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:45:18 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14533 The one interesting thing in August has happened: the NBA schedule was released last week. Now that we all have the full schedule at our fingertips, it’s time to take a look at Houston’s slate of games and check for items of note. There are always peculiarities to the schedule each year, and this one [...]

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The one interesting thing in August has happened: the NBA schedule was released last week. Now that we all have the full schedule at our fingertips, it’s time to take a look at Houston’s slate of games and check for items of note. There are always peculiarities to the schedule each year, and this one is no different. Back to backs are back, the Mavs are in for a nasty surprise, and there’s a surprise that’s not so surprising.

How many back to backs are there in this schedule? That’s a good question and it’s one of the first ones people ask. This year there are twenty sets of them for Houston, a fairly unremarkable number. They have nineteen games against teams on the second night of a back to back, so it’s not a huge factor. There are two instances of four games in five nights, one right before the All-Star Break (with another back to back immediately after the break) with another four in five spanning the end of March and the beginning of April.

What this means for Houston is that they won’t be particularly fatigued. The first year of Harden, the 2012-2013 season, contained a horrifying gauntlet of back to back and four in fives, something that really put a damper on the team at the end of the calendar year. This year, like the 2013-2014 season, is lighter on the endurance trials, something the Rockets should be relatively thankful for.

The Dallas Mavericks, however, are getting the opposite of a Christmas present from Houston. As division rivals, the two teams square off four times. The new and improved Mavs get four shots to exact revenge for Chandler Parsons against his old team… except that they’re on the tail end of a back to back every time. The Rockets are also on the second night of a back to back… the last time. The previous three, Houston will have the endurance advantage every time. That’s good news for a team that needs every advantage they can get in a brutal division. On a related note, two of Houston’s meetings with San Antonio come on the second day of a back to back for the Spurs.

The biggest non surprise is that the Rockets’ schedule starts out nasty, as always. The period before the All-Star Break is noticeably tougher than the period after, which features a lot fewer second-round teams. November may be a smooth start, but December and February in particular look to be unpleasant stretches of road for a Rockets team hoping to prove the world wrong.

Next time we’ll look at what the schedule means for Houston’s win-loss record, and I’ll give the best predictions I can. The numbers might surprise you, just like whatever insane trade Daryl Morey’s lining up will.

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The Red94 Podcast: The most boring episode so farhttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-boring-episode-far/14531/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-boring-episode-far http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-boring-episode-far/14531/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 02:18:58 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14531 Today’s was one of the more underwhelming episodes we’ve had in some time, with not much going on, but we did discuss the impact the Team USA experience might have on James Harden.  Also, you know how when the battery in a fire alarm gets close to dying and so the alarm keeps beeping intermittently? [...]

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Today’s was one of the more underwhelming episodes we’ve had in some time, with not much going on, but we did discuss the impact the Team USA experience might have on James Harden.  Also, you know how when the battery in a fire alarm gets close to dying and so the alarm keeps beeping intermittently?  Yeah, that is going on right now in my apartment, where this was recorded.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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On contentionhttp://www.red94.net/contention/14528/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=contention http://www.red94.net/contention/14528/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:27:53 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14528 There are about four questions that people ask over the course of the NBA season. “How does he compare to Jordan” is probably number one, asked about seemingly half the league, with “Will this team make the playoffs soon” at a close number two. The last two, in no particular order are “Will this player [...]

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There are about four questions that people ask over the course of the NBA season. “How does he compare to Jordan” is probably number one, asked about seemingly half the league, with “Will this team make the playoffs soon” at a close number two. The last two, in no particular order are “Will this player get traded” and “Is this team a contender.” Well, Houston’s more or less a playoff lock now, nobody on the team is comparable to Jordan, and everyone is always on the trading block, so that leaves the last question to burn in the minds of Rockets fans. But what makes a contender in the first place? What’s the rubric there, and how do we use it to judge Houston?

To jump to the end a bit, the answer is no. The Rockets aren’t a true contender. (They could potentially win it all but it would take a few major things to swing their way. Some people call these teams “sub-contenders.”) They were in the same boat last year, and probably aren’t greatly different in terms of overall team strength. They’ve changed out parts but what they haven’t changed out are the pieces that a team needs to win it all: stars, elite coaching and cohesive, skilled role-players.

Do you want to know my theory of what makes a true contender? Probably you do, or you’d have stopped reading by now. I briefly outlined it in a recent podcast, and it’s worth a longer look. It’s really a simple mathematical equation. You need at least three points. Star level players are worth one point each. An elite coach and an elite supporting cast are each worth one point each. The math is really that simple. The process of getting those three points, of course, is anything but.

The Rockets, as with a number of teams, are stuck at two points. Those two points are James Harden and Dwight Howard. The supporting cast last season was quite good, but not on the same level as the clockwork that was the San Antonio Spurs or the blue collar perfection of the Pacers (when they were good). That cause was also hindered by not having an elite coach. Kevin McHale isn’t elite. In fact, he was so loathe to use his bench depth that he may have pulled the Rockets back from contention a bit.

This explains why the Spurs are always right there: Tony Parker is a legitimate star, even if Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have slid a bit. Gregg Popovich is a top three NBA coach of all time, and their supporting case is like alien technology so advanced that it seems like magic. Heck, with Tim playing like a star, the Spurs may have achieved the elusive four-star team, which is basically unstoppable. Oh, and look what happened. The Heat, with their three stars initially, bulldozed their way in. It’s largely overlooked, but Erik Spoelstra evolved into an elite coach for that team as Dwyane Wade faded.

The most frightening thing about this metric is that it paints the Dallas Mavericks as potential contenders. Dirk is probably still a star, Rick Carlisle is a top three coach right now, and their supporting cast might be great. If any year has looked like a potential repeat of 2011 for Dallas, it’s this season. It’ll be a roll of the dice, but if Dirk and the role players click particularly well, Houston could have a realistic shot at the conference finals and still end up being the worst team in Texas.

Houston has a similar hope to Dallas, which is that the role players just get it. It’s possible, especially given the number of prospects Houston is bringing in. (And that like Dallas, the coaching won’t be improving… but for different reasons) There are more veterans, too, like Trevor Ariza, who will somehow be a boon to the team, despite some hard feelings from last time he wore Rockets red. General manager Daryl Morey is surely planning a trade this season, and the main question is whether he’ll land that elusive third star or upgrade the supporting cast into an elite squad. Either way, Houston wants that third point this season, and they might just get it. If we’re really lucky, this might be the year we get to see the Rockets lose later than the first round.

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Houston Rockets’ summer assignment list: Part 2, James Hardenhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-2-james-harden/14525/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-2-james-harden http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-2-james-harden/14525/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:53:30 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14525 Read Part 1 where I discussed Pat Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, and Trevor Ariza. James Harden:  First, the obvious – Harden needs to show commitment on the defensive end.  It’s simple, really.  This team doesn’t have a chance until its star player brings consistent effort on both sides of the ball, though the Parsons/Ariza swap should [...]

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Read Part 1 where I discussed Pat Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, and Trevor Ariza.

James Harden:  First, the obvious – Harden needs to show commitment on the defensive end.  It’s simple, really.  This team doesn’t have a chance until its star player brings consistent effort on both sides of the ball, though the Parsons/Ariza swap should mitigate the problem and increase their odds.  As I told a reader last week, when asked my thoughts regarding the reports of Harden’s defense with Team USA, it’s not an issue of ability with The Beard.  It’s the same “too cool for school” mentality that you see so prevalently in any pickup game amongst amateurs.  Certain people think they’re just too cool, or too good to try defensively, and that they can just get the points back on the other end.  Odd considering how much the defensive greatness of Michael Jordan and Lebron James, the two best players of the last thirty years, is lauded and pointed out.

Wrongly or not, Harden has quickly become the most hated superstar in the league, after experiencing a brief honeymoon as a fledgling darling during his first year with the team.  His recent comments regarding his ‘mates added fuel to the fire and of even more recent relevance, the clarification that he and Howard actually do eat with the team saved the row from reaching outright unbearable levels.  Is he aware of the perception?  Does he know that the ten minute production highlighting his unwillingness went more viral than anything Jenna Jameson ever produced?  One wonders why, at the least, such public shame and notoriety hasn’t nudged him to bend his back.

When the deal was made with the Thunder, what now seems like eons ago, some reports surfaced of Harden’s selfishness – that he didn’t fit the “culture” in Oklahoma City.  One story went that shortly after a loss in the Finals, Harden grumbled in the lockerroom over his lack of touches.  At the time, we brushed it all aside, and rightfully so.  As I’ll expound upon later, none of those things should’ve been seen as alarming enough to not make the trade.  But looking back, I see the truth.  Watching this past season, watching James Harden, I see a player who is selfish and not as committed to the team and winning as he is to himself.   You see how he is completely out of shape, huffing and puffing late into games when needing to guard an active wing; you see his disinterestedness in the huddles; and worst of all, you see the body language when things don’t go his way.  When he essentially quit on this team in an overtime loss to Portland in round 1, after Kevin McHale made the call to ride Dwight Howard to the finish line, I remarked that I had never seen anything like it in twenty years as a Rockets fan.  In hindsight, its even more alarming looking back.

Some of you have no doubt recoiled in disbelief over my criticism of Harden.  A reader asked earlier in the year, “why are you trying to run James Harden out of town?”  That’s a pretty simplistic worldview.  You can criticize, but still be supportive.  And more importantly, I don’t suggest these issues are irredeemable or mean he’s fatally flawed.  Harden is still just 25 and there are countless examples of selfishness exhibited by some of the all-time greats.  Remember Scottie Pippen refusing to enter a game after Phil Jackson drew up the last play for Toni Kukoc?  Remember Kobe’s entire career?  Selfishness isn’t prohibitive to winning.  The distinction though, is that those guys consistently brought it at both ends, at least in the postseason.  As has been beaten to death, that’s something that James Harden has yet to do.

Harden is one of the four or five most brilliant offensive players in basketball.  With age, and a style of play nondependent upon athleticism, I expect him to only get better.  His skill level will improve, as is the case with elite wings.  The footwork, already at a high level, will become even more fine-tuned.  The stepbacks from the midrange will become more lethal from different areas, and hopefully more encouraged from the front office as well.  We saw a post game in spots, and that too, hopefully will be built upon.  Might as well put that extra girth to use.

Harden’s offense will be there.  And his attitude towards his teammates may never change.  But that’s ok.  For Harden, the only thing that matters, the only thing standing in his path to realizing full potential, and this team’s full potential, is full commitment on the defensive end.  He’s talked the talk for some time, but will he finally walk the walk?

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Houston Rockets’ summer assignment list: Part 1http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-1/14521/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-1 http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-summer-assignment-list-part-1/14521/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 13:07:18 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14521 The summer before I began third grade, my mother resolved to teach me multiplication before commencement of classes.  I taped the entire ‘times tables’ onto my closet door, every morning drilling through the combinations.  By early August, I had them down cold.  I finished the year with something like a ’99′ average in ‘math’, more [...]

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The summer before I began third grade, my mother resolved to teach me multiplication before commencement of classes.  I taped the entire ‘times tables’ onto my closet door, every morning drilling through the combinations.  By early August, I had them down cold.  I finished the year with something like a ’99′ average in ‘math’, more importantly developing a reputation as a ‘times’ assassin amongst my peers.  We’d play a game in ‘math’–the name escapes me–where all of the students sat in a circle, with one standing up behind someone else.  The pair would battle, getting a multiplication question, with the winner advancing to the next pairing.  I’d absolutely kill it.  9×9.  Boom.  81.  6×5.  Boom.  30.  They didn’t have a chance.  My self esteem was soaring.

Looking back, my mother and I never did this again in any other summer and consequently, I never again enjoyed such a head start over my classmates.  My mother will tell you it was obstinance on my part.  But I wonder what made me so driven that one year.  The point of this story was to attempt to tie in the larger moral that success is built in the heat of July, or something poetic like that.  For NBA players, the greats always come back one notch better having added a new move in their spare time.  The middle class works on flaws, hoping to either take the next step or not get swallowed up by the most competitive labor force in America.

I got to thinking yesterday about what each player on this team should be focusing on this offseason and decided to write this post.  It made sense because there’s only like six players I need to write about.  So here it goes:

Patrick Beverley:  What hurts about the Bosh thing is that it represented resource efficiency.  A simple massive upgrade at the team’s weakest spot.  No robbing Peter to pay Paul.  But all of these other scenarios being tossed about–the likes of Rondo, Dragic, Bledsoe–involve relinquishing assets to improve an area where there really isn’t that much need.  You can win a title with Patrick Beverley as your starting point guard.  As things stand, I’m not entirely sure the same can be said about Terrence Jones.

I made the argument a few weeks ago that Beverley was basically the ideal fit next to Harden.  He protects the ball, manages the game, rebounds, shoots threes, and when he doesn’t have torn ligaments in his leg, is a terror defensively.  (Don’t let Lillard’s output in the first round fool you: it’s not easy moving around on a messed up leg, even if you’ve been cleared to play by the medical staff.  NBA players represent the very cream of the athletic crop.  Every split second, or nanosecond, matters, and when one loses even the slightest bit of reaction time, unlike the case with amateurs, performance can drop off drastically).  Several of you scoffed.  While I stand firm, there is no doubt some validity to the counter sentiment.  How many times last year did the Rockets seem to close out the game with James Harden and four scrubs?  Beverley will never be a player who can attack the rim – while he has the handles and quickness, like his forebear Rafer Alston, he just doesn’t have the body strength to finish near the rim.  What he can do is make himself into a better three point shooter.  Last year he shot 36% from deep, and for a guy whose only job on offense is to hand the ball off to James Harden and stand in the corner, that’s not acceptable.  That number needs to go up to around 39%.  The form could stand to improve.  A few on Twitter scoffed when I brought this up, but its a a very slight subtlety.  Beverley’s wrist doesn’t seem completely taut on the release, introducing variability to the mechanics.  If he could fix this, I think the results would improve, but of course, that won’t happen – NBA players very rarely put in the work to alter their form.

Trevor Ariza:  Trevor Ariza needs to burn every tape of the 2009-2010 season, destroying with it any preconceived notions that his role this time around will be anywhere similar.  Also, he needs to try to somehow hypnotize himself into thinking this is a contract year.  If Ariza duplicates his production from last season, it will be all Houston could have asked for.

Donatas Motiejunas:  I’m not really sure what he can do.  The guy improved drastically upon his biggest weaknesses–defense and rebounding–and still couldn’t get consistent burn.  Maybe he should just work on his people skills and find a way into Kevin McHale’s good graces.  Motiejunas could stand to add more arc onto that flat jumpshot, but as I said earlier, that won’t happen.  The range people had been raving about since before D-Mo was drafted hasn’t really paid off, primarily I think due to the flawed form.  Overall, he just needs to keep his head up and keep trying.  Skill-wise, there is not really much to improve upon.  His problems are that he fouls too much and doesn’t see consistent playing time, with the former being a factor of the latter, I’d argue.  It was a numbers game last year, but with Asik gone this time around, this is Motiejunas’ last chance.  He either breaks through, or that’s it for his Houston Rockets’ career.  In all likelihood, the 7-footer doesn’t pan out, and that’s really a shame.

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On Injuryhttp://www.red94.net/injury/14520/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=injury http://www.red94.net/injury/14520/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 15:44:25 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14520 Injuries are a part of life in the NBA. In fact, injuries are part of any professional sport, and there’s no way to prevent them completely. The latest example of a horrible freak injury in the NBA sphere was the gruesome and tragic leg injury suffered by Paul George at the end of a Team [...]

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Injuries are a part of life in the NBA. In fact, injuries are part of any professional sport, and there’s no way to prevent them completely. The latest example of a horrible freak injury in the NBA sphere was the gruesome and tragic leg injury suffered by Paul George at the end of a Team USA scrimmage. “Leg injury” is extremely euphemistic for the severity of the break he suffered just above the ankle, but my recommendation is to avoid watching footage of it and just leave it at that. It’s a horrible injury, it was a freak accident, he’s already begun the recovery process, and the sooner he heals, the better.

This injury brings up an important topic, which is the reaction to and planning for freak injuries like this. Debates over stanchion placement aside, there’s not a lot of blame to go around, here. It’s normal to want to find the culprit, to rectify the wrong. The only problem is that in the case of most injuries, there’s no such party. Much is being made of this injury changing the way NBA teams and players interact with FIBA, but really this changes nothing. There was a tiny chance a player might get seriously hurt playing basketball anywhere, and those chances haven’t changed. The only difference is that now people can see the difference between a tiny chance and no chance at all.

The Houston Rockets have had their share of injuries in recent memory, spanning from Yao Ming’s tragic career-ending foot injuries to Tracy McGrady’s knee issues to the bizarre infection Kyle Lowry suffered to the lingering thigh problems that apparently cost Omer Asik most of a season. Like any team, the Rockets have suffered at the hands of probability and human mortality. They have, however, suffered less in recent years.

Its possible that the Rockets’ relatively low injury rate is a quirk of fate, but the conscious choice to avoid injury-prone players would be a natural response to the spate of season-ending injuries that plagued the Rockets in the late 2000’s. Injuries like McGrady’s knees and Yao’s feet were chronic, repeated and systemically caused. These are the sort of ailments that can be predicted, prevented, or sidestepped entirely. These are the sort of ailments Houston doesn’t want to see any more.

Acquiring Kevin Martin may have seemed like the antithesis to that plan, but his reputation for being injury-prone was overall undeserved. A groin pull and an ankle injury are two unrelated injuries, and the shoulder tear he suffered while in Houston similarly didn’t correlate with either of the other two. Dwight Howard similarly has become an injury concern, but apart from having to recover from a bizarre incident in which one of his spinal discs herniated (possibly due to a punch) and tearing a shoulder muscle in the process, he’s been exceptionally hale and healthy his entire career. Even James Harden’s worst injury was a result of being elbowed in the head. These aren’t expected risks. These are flukes.

Therein lies the rub. The Rockets seem to prefer players who are free from chronic or predictable injuries. The Phoenix Suns goes one step further and actively prevents them, but avoiding them is also a viable strategy. Freak injuries will happen in either case, from a horribly broken leg to some strange abdominal infection which sidelined Kyle Lowry for months. The important thing to remember about those kind of injuries is that they can always happen. Just walking down the stairs was enough to break Carlos Boozer’s hand. You can’t prevent them all. You can only administer medical care and hope for a speedy recovery when they do happen. Heal soon, Paul George.

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Potpourri for August 4, 2014http://www.red94.net/potpourri-august-4-2014/14517/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=potpourri-august-4-2014 http://www.red94.net/potpourri-august-4-2014/14517/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:34:34 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14517 One thing I’ve always found odd is the flurry of questions regarding the medical exception upon injury to a star player.  ”How much do they get?”  ”What are their options?”  ”Will the Pacers land Shawn Marion?”  This is not to point fault at news providers whose job it is to provide such information.  But why [...]

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  • One thing I’ve always found odd is the flurry of questions regarding the medical exception upon injury to a star player.  ”How much do they get?”  ”What are their options?”  ”Will the Pacers land Shawn Marion?”  This is not to point fault at news providers whose job it is to provide such information.  But why do fans even care?  This happened after Yao Ming was ruled out for the season, as well.  Upon news like that, you just pray for the player and start planning for the future.  Short-term contingencies are of little relevance in the grand or even immediate scheme.
  • You have to really feel for the Pacers who, essentially in the span of mere months, lost their three best players with whatever happened to Hibbert, Stephenson’s departure, and now this injury to George.  This time last year, Indiana appeared poised to remain a mainstay in the Eastern Conference over the next half-decade.  Now, it remains to be seen how they’ll even move forward.  And what about the East?  I hope Carmelo Anthony makes good use of the extra money he pocketed by staying in New York, because he would have had a guaranteed path to the Finals for some time had he left to Chicago.  Now, Cleveland looks like it has the inside track.
    • You know how the more time that passes after you’ve been spurned in some situation, the more you start to convince yourself you’re better off?  That’s how I feel now regarding the Parsons-Ariza swap and I’m really beginning to wonder if that’s a product of bargaining or rather, genuinely objective analysis.  Now, to be clear, Houston currently, as things stand, is an inferior team to the one that finished last season, just by virtue of the simple fact of having lost Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.  But looking at the Ariza-Parsons swap in vacuo of other considerations, I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that Houston ended up with the better player for its team.  I wrote at the end of last season, after one particular loss when Nic Batum and Wes Mathews literally took turns driving into the teeth of the Houston defense, that I was not sure if a Harden-Parsons wing tandem was sustainable long-term.  I think back to that a lot now and wonder.  Age is a wash because Dwight Howard’s prime isn’t too long anyway and Parsons has maxed out his potential regardless.  Ariza is arguably the superior shooter.  The question becomes whether Ariza’s defense adds more to the team than what it will lose in Parson’s playmaking off the pick and roll.  I think it will.
    • I never weighed in on the Parsons-Howard-Harden controversy and maybe it’s too late, but my thoughts: I found the whole thing, particularly Harden’s reaction, extremely peculiar.  To recap, Parsons said he felt disrespected by the Rockets, Howard said Houston wouldn’t really skip a beat, and then Harden one-upped that saying, essentially, only he and Dwight were of relevance, with the other parts being interchangeable.  Now, what Howard and Harden each said was true.  Well, scratch that.  What Harden said was true, maybe not what Howard said.  But in any event, I thought it was really odd that they even said those things because…why?  Why was there even anger directed at all towards Chandler?  It’s not like he bolted.  It’s not like he trashed the team.  He wanted to come back but was told to go seek out an offer.  They can’t fault him for that – he went out and signed the Dallas offer sheet thinking Houston would match, or at the least, knowing that signing an offer sheet was something he had to do.  Moreover, Parsons’ comments were directed towards Houston’s front office, not the team itself.  Dwight Howard maybe, but James Harden does not strike me as a guy who would take offense over someone dragging his general manager through the mud.  Maybe I underestimate Harden.  But that’s how I felt.  So I found the whole thing really odd.  Was there some beef there that we don’t know about?  Probably not because Houston was set to keep Chandler had they gotten Bosh.
    • All that being said, I kind of like it.  Maybe its just wishful thinking, but this is really the first time you’ve sensed ownership from James Harden of not just the team, but of the Harden-Howard pairing.  All along, they’ve seemed to have a very uncomfortable relationship whereby, sure they got along, but it never really seemed like they were the closest of individuals.  You’ve seen the GIF’s of Howard hugging Harden and Harden kind of pushing him away with an annoyed look etc.  And all of that is perfectly fine – you don’t have to be best friends to dominate on the basketball court.  But that bond undoubtedly helps.  This is really the first time he’s even remotely articulately that “Dwight and I are enough” and this is about “Dwight and I.”  That’s important, I think, and sort of exciting.  If they truly embrace each other, they can push each other to greater heights.

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    I’m the cornerstone of this blog. Everyone else is a role writer.http://www.red94.net/im-cornerstone-blog-everyone-else-role-writer/14514/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=im-cornerstone-blog-everyone-else-role-writer http://www.red94.net/im-cornerstone-blog-everyone-else-role-writer/14514/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:01:01 +0000 Richard Li http://www.red94.net/?p=14514 See what I did there? Couldn’t resist! Now that everyone has had a chance to simmer down slightly, let’s attempt to have a somewhat rational conversation about what has recently transpired. Harden’s quote He shouldn’t have said it. Regardless of how truthful the statement is, almost all people would agree that it was better left [...]

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    See what I did there? Couldn’t resist! Now that everyone has had a chance to simmer down slightly, let’s attempt to have a somewhat rational conversation about what has recently transpired.

    Harden’s quote

    He shouldn’t have said it. Regardless of how truthful the statement is, almost all people would agree that it was better left unsaid. Human beings are fascinating and fickle creatures. For some reason we can be perfectly content with knowing something, but blow a gasket when someone has the temerity to say what we all know. When deconstructed, this behavior seems strange, even hypocritical. Nevertheless, for the purposes of maintaining relationships, it is a social and professional code to which everyone adheres.

    For instance, your boss is more important to your organization than you are. He just is. The CEO of your organization is more important than your boss, and definitely more important than you. Every person in your company shares this opinion. No one is fooling themselves into thinking otherwise. However, the CEO is unlikely to publicly announce his/her more important position relative to you. He/she will not send an all staff e-mail proclaiming that he/she is the most important person in the company and that everyone else less important. Nor will the CEO tell anyone this in person. Doing so makes his/her subordinates think poorly of him/her and damages the morale of the company. In fact, most people in such positions will go out of their way to appear humble and “like everyone else.” CEOs might, for instance, work with their subordinates in completing some menial task such as setting up or cleaning up.

    Similarly, the most attractive person in a group of friends is not going to tell everyone else that he/she is the most attractive, even though everyone knows. The smartest student in a group is not going to tell everyone else that he/she is the smartest, even though everyone knows. And the best player on a basketball team is not going to tell his teammates that he is the best, even though everyone knows. Except that he did. Oops.

    The back-patting side of me feels vindicated because I actually wrote about this exact scenario, referencing when my former boss told our then office that he was a visionary while the rest of us were worker bees. Regarding the Rockets’ “inferior” players, I wrote, “They don’t feel like their roles are valued. They think their role is just to run around until the more important guy isn’t tired any more.” Harden’s quote, unfortunately, seemed to dovetail with these sentiments perfectly, and it doesn’t speak well of the team’s chemistry.

    All that being said, I still don’t think it’s a big deal. Far worse mistakes have been made in far worse contexts. Bruised egos have healed before. If anything, this might be the catalyst required for the team to directly address its issues related to its institutional culture.

    Everyone hates the Houston Rockets

    Not really. I completely understand that, through the lens of Houston Rockets fans, it can seem like the team is being attacked from all sides. That’s the inside-out perspective. However, the outside-in perspective is that… well, there just aren’t that many people looking in from the outside. This is a Google Trends chart for the Rockets, Howard, and Harden.

    Cornerstone

    Click for a full-size version

    The reference point for interest is when the Rockets lost Game 6 to the Trailblazers. Nothing in the past 90 days has come close to reaching that level of interest in the Rockets. Lin’s trade to the Lakers comes in second (for the Rockets), at not even 40% as much interest as Game 6. Howard’s episode with the underage woman created about 50% as much interest for himself as Game 6 did for the Rockets. And then we have Harden’s recent quote. You can see the very tiny bump it created at the very end of the chart, generating something like 10% of the interest for himself as Game 6 did for the Rockets. The attention the Rockets receiving matters to us, as insiders. But to outsiders, it’s just a blip.

    I understand the feeling of camaraderie that being portrayed as an antagonist can create, and “nobody likes us” certainly has been an effective rallying cry for many organizations. But let’s not lose perspective, here. There’s enough spin out there in internet land; we don’t need to contribute to it.

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    The problem with Parsonshttp://www.red94.net/problem-parsons/14505/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=problem-parsons http://www.red94.net/problem-parsons/14505/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:30:11 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14505 Daryl Morey runs the Houston Rockets like a fantasy league. That’s one of the rallying cries of Morey’s detractors, along with other bon mots like, “he treats players like assets” and “Houston has a crisis of leadership. The problem isn’t that the detractors are wrong. The problem is that they’re probably onto something, and it [...]

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    Daryl Morey runs the Houston Rockets like a fantasy league. That’s one of the rallying cries of Morey’s detractors, along with other bon mots like, “he treats players like assets” and “Houston has a crisis of leadership. The problem isn’t that the detractors are wrong. The problem is that they’re probably onto something, and it just bit the Rockets in the backside. But why it all blew up? “Why” is the most important question of all, and it’s been lost in the shuffle. The why is something fans of NBA video games have known about for years. The why is staring us in the face.

    There’s a reason that Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry and now Chandler Parsons have found other homes. It’s also the same reason that Ish Smith and Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey are back in Houston. In the end, it’s a problem born out not of failure, but of the hazards of success. It’s a problem that plagues every would-be dynasty in an NBA 2K association mode. It’s the intersection of personal pride, talent evaluation, player development and the salary cap.It’s the video game problem, and it’s not going to stop any time soon.

    Putting aside any speculation about backroom deals handcuffing houston into letting Parsons become a free agent a year early, Parsons is a perfect example of why it’s so hard to hold onto complementary talent for any team, especially the Rockets. Chandler Parsons was picked in the second round and signed to the kind of team-friendly (read: cheap) deal that comes with that territory. He turned out to be a tremendous value for the money, and a total success for Houston. His name became synonymous with second round steals and Houston was lauded for having him on such a low contract.

    What everyone forgot was the thing that Daryl Morey is accused of forgetting: that contract is a person. When Parsons expressed his feeling that Houston should have anointed him as the third star, he taught us that his fate in Houston was likely sealed before the off-season even began. Like so many players in Houston before, Parsons wasn’t a star. He’s a great player, to be sure, and a ludicrous steal at under a million dollars a year, but he’s not now and probably will never be worth the $15 million dollar per year contract he received.

    We know how his situation played out, but what would have happened had Houston exercised their team option and held onto Parsons at under $1 million this coming season? The most obvious consequence is that he would still be a Rocket. The second clearest consequence is that he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, a risk that’s greater than most people care to be aware of. The last consequence is that Parsons would have a different but equally compelling reason to be angry at the Rockets.

    If Parsons was insulted by the idea that Houston wanted to sign another max-level player before re-signing him, if Parsons had qualms with the idea that he couldn’t carry them to a championship as the third star on the team, he would certainly be upset with a team choosing to pay him less than a million dollars yet again. The move that armchair GMs across the nation cite that Houston got wrong was still going to be a problem either way. Kicking the can down the road would probably have been the better call, but the damage was going to happen either way. Overpay and lower your team’s ceiling or insult one of your key players. That’s the option set faced by Houston over and over.

    The reason is that the Rockets are great at identifying and developing talent but lack the team culture necessary to hold onto them. Only the San Antonio Spurs have much success retaining their second and third tier players, and that requires the best Coach in the league and the best locker room guy in history in Popovich and Duncan respectively. For Houston, excellent role players see their game blossom, see the contracts teams want to hand them, and they do what any reasonable person would: they leave. The desire for more money and a bigger role are just normal ramifications of reserves and role players having amazing years.

    Having your bench be too good is a problem players of NBA 2K games have wrestled with for years. Players demand more than the team can possibly give them in role, minutes and money. When Morey allegedly treats the team and players like a video game, should we be surprised that the video games predict the problem? The only real solution in the games is to trade those players, and the same goes for the NBA. The reason the Rockets should have kept Parsons on his rookie contract wasn’t to keep him around long-term, or to avoid offending him. Those were both probably lost causes. The real benefit would have been the ability to package him in a trade before he could bolt. And if Morey is as calculation as people think he is? He’s more aware of that loss than anyone else.

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    History in Hindsight: The Houston Rockets, The Seattle SuperSonics, and Hakeem Olajuwon’s greatest foe.http://www.red94.net/14511/14511/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=14511 http://www.red94.net/14511/14511/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:49 +0000 Paul McGuire http://www.red94.net/?p=14511 On May 12, 1996, the Houston Rockets were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics. It was a hard-fought sweep. Seattle blew Houston out 108-75 in Game 1, but won the rest of their games by single digits. In Game 4, Houston rallied from being down 18 points in the 4th, and 9 points with less than [...]

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    On May 12, 1996, the Houston Rockets were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics.

    It was a hard-fought sweep. Seattle blew Houston out 108-75 in Game 1, but won the rest of their games by single digits. In Game 4, Houston rallied from being down 18 points in the 4th, and 9 points with less than 2 minutes left, to tie the game and force overtime. But Seattle prevailed 114-107, and a sweep is still a sweep.

    It was Seattle’s 13th straight victory over the Rockets.

    In addition, Seattle had also beaten Houston in a tight 7-game series in the 1993 Western Conference Finals – a game which it should be noted had some controversial calls at the end. And as great as the two Houston championship runs were, they did not face Seattle in either year. Both times, the Sonics were upset in the first round of the playoffs, in 1994 as the number one seed. While it is impossible to know for certain, it could be argued that things might have been different if the Rockets had faced Seattle in those two years.

    How did Seattle stymie the Rockets so badly? How did the Rockets respond? And with today’s Rockets built around another (albeit inferior) post player, what possible implications are there for the present? We should first begin by looking at the Sonics. The Sonics in 1993 and in 1996 did not possess the exact same players. But not much had changed. Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were the stars, George Karl was the coach, and the Sonics were much deeper than the Rockets. The Sonics routinely had 6 to 7 players play more than 24 mpg during the Payton-Kemp years. The Rockets from 93-96 normally had 5. On the wings, Ricky Pierce and Derrick McKey were key players for the 1993 Sonics, and Detlef Schrempf and Hershey Hawkins fulfilled the same role in 1996. Sam Perkins and Ervin Johnson filled up the middle.

    Kemp in particular was the biggest problem for the Rockets. Kemp was never as smart as Hakeem, or as polished or coordinated. But he was just as big, just as strong, and possibly even faster, especially by 1996 when Hakeem began to falter. When Hakeem went for the block, Kemp was there for the offensive rebound. He was too athletic for Otis Thorpe and Robert Horry, and Kemp came up huge against the Rockets whenever Seattle needed him.

    But beyond Kemp and Payton was George Karl’s “unique” defense. Up until the 2001-02 NBA season, the league did not allow zone defenses. Double teams were permitted, but players had to commit to the double and were not allowed to hedge. Otherwise, the result was an illegal defense violation. However, the Sonics under Karl used a pressing, trapping defense which had elements of zone. Hakeem was always relentlessly doubled by the Sonics regardless of whether he had the ball. Whether these were legal doubles or otherwise was a controversial matter.

    At best, Karl skirted the line between legal and illegal defenses. At worst, he borrowed the Detroit Bad Boy’s maxim of “we will play as rough as we like and foul as much as we like and dare the referees to foul us out” and applied it to the illegal defense rules. The Rockets were far from the only team to complain about Seattle’s zone defense over the years. Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen stated that the Sonics played a zone defense before the 1996 NBA Finals began, and teams like Sacramento and the Lakers also complained. In 1996, Seattle received by a significant margin the most illegal defensive violations in the league.

    It should be noted that Seattle was not the only team in the league to employ a quasi-zone defense with an emphasis on trapping. The Knicks and the Jazz were other teams who employed similar strategies. The NBA got rid of the ban on zone defenses in 2001 partly because they believed that the discussion over what was an illegal zone and what was not gave too much power to the referees. But the Sonics did it better than everyone.

    (Side note: The legalization of zone defenses is important to understand in the context of Dwight Howard and the frequent question of “where have all the big men gone?” If a big man like Hakeem Olajuwon could struggle so much against Seattle’s zone defense, what hope does someone like Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol have? In addition, the fact is that building around an offensive big man is far more difficult and not as rewarding than has been assumed over the years. Centers and power forwards by the very nature of their position have difficulty getting the ball. One can only look back at the Yao Ming years and recall that however skilled Yao was in the post, getting the ball to him was an utter nightmare. Given these factors, the interest in an offensive big man has declined in favor of dominant wing players who can get the ball more easily and who under current defensive rules are just as capable of getting to the rim.)

    All of these factors led to the 1996 sweep. After yet another loss to Seattle, Rockets management had to ask how they were going to get past them. Time was not on Houston’s side. Hakeem and Clyde Drexler were 33 and 34, while Payton and Kemp were 27 and 28. The Sonics had won 64 games in the regular season, took the best variation of Jordan’s Bulls to six games, and had even managed to keep His Airness in check. It was clear that the Sonics were going to become the team of the future – unless something ridiculous like Seattle signing a journeyman center to far too much money, resulting in an angry and underpaid Kemp demanding out, happened.

    So what was to be done? There was an answer. Seattle was a ferocious defensive team, and on the offensive end they were a terror on the transition thanks to their athleticism. But they were a mediocre half-court offensive team. As noted above, Kemp lacked the offensive skills to be a reliable half-court scorer. While Gary Payton was a terrific defender and is one of the greatest point guards ever, he was a step below other elite point guards like Stockton when it came to creating offense. The Rockets needed a power forward who could work in the transition offense to counter Seattle, was large enough to do a better job defending Kemp than Robert Horry, and yet could also work in a half-court offense. If the Rockets were really fortunate, perhaps this power forward would have a long history of great performances against the Sonics.

    In the 1996 offseason, it turned out that there was one available. A power forward with the Phoenix Suns, desperate for a championship, was interested in playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon. And so on August 19, 1996, the “Round Mound of Rebound”, Charles Barkley, was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Robert Horry, Sam Cassell, and two other players. Barkley would turn out to be the difference, as for the first time in franchise history, the Rockets defeated the Sonics in the second round of the 1997 NBA Playoffs. Barkley scored 20 points on 13 shots and had 14 rebound in the deciding Game 7.

    But in the next round, the Rockets would find themselves up against the Jazz and an even better power forward in 1997. And after that six-game series, the Rockets would be scrutinized for their decision to trade for Barkley, their victory over their seminal rival Seattle forgotten and turned to ash.

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    Will James Harden mature?http://www.red94.net/will-james-harden-mature/14503/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-james-harden-mature http://www.red94.net/will-james-harden-mature/14503/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:06:10 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14503 I was watching some old Youtube clips of Steve Francis this past weekend and reflecting back on that dark era in Rockets history.  When he came in, that rookie year, he was just an absolute sensation, viewed as almost a new-age Isiah Thomas.  He couldn’t handle a zone defense or run a fastbreak* to save [...]

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    I was watching some old Youtube clips of Steve Francis this past weekend and reflecting back on that dark era in Rockets history.  When he came in, that rookie year, he was just an absolute sensation, viewed as almost a new-age Isiah Thomas.  He couldn’t handle a zone defense or run a fastbreak* to save his life, but we ignored that – he was breaking ankles and making posters, a walking triple-double with one of the most exciting games in the league.  We ignored his flaws assuming he’d mature.  As he had never actually played point guard, it was reasonable to assume he’d learn the position with time.

    *Someone always expresses bewilderment upon my making this statement, citing Francis’ catalog of open-court slams.  What I mean when I say Francis couldn’t run the fastbreak is that he didn’t run it in the role of a point guard.  If he was alone, he’d take it in for the slam, which is fine, but if there were any defenders back, his natural inclination was to go to the wings rather than keeping the ball in the middle of the floor as a point guard is taught to do.  This is why it was oh so ironic when he basically described himself as a shooting guard in one of his more infamous quotes, regarding what the team should do with the #1 pick, saying, “With Lamar running the break, and me and Cuttino on the wings, it’s over.”

    But of course, he didn’t learn the position or improve.  He eventually was traded for Tracy McGrady while he actually still held value.  The Magic let him play the way he wanted, and his numbers improved, but when they too cut back his role, again his game couldn’t adapt.  Steve just wasn’t a point guard and didn’t know how to be one.  If he wasn’t the focal point of the offense, he couldn’t really bring much to the team.  (I’ve made the comparison to Jeremy Lin many times previously).

    This brings me to James Harden.  He’s one of the three or four best scorers in basketball, so good that he basically was able to single-handedly assure a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference.  But will he ever bend his back on defense?  Will he stop pouting and be a leader? We made excuses for Harden too, like we did for Francis.  2013 was his first as a go-to option, he didn’t have the energy to play both ends.  But then after getting Dwight, things didn’t improve.  His effort levels improved over the season, before reaching ridiculous lows in the playoffs against Portland.  Not giving effort defensively in the postseason is unforgivable.

    Harden will be turning 25 this season.  I pointed out recently that 25 was the age at which Tracy McGrady was last considered a true superstar, deeming it a reminder of how short opportunities can last.  Many of you rushed to Harden’s defense, pointing out McGrady’s reliance on athleticism, completely missing my point.  What I’m trying to say is that windows are often shorter than they seem; anything can happen, for any reason, not just injury.  The Wolves didn’t think Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett would clash; the Magic probably didn’t see Shaq leaving Penny behind.  Things happen.

    As acknowledged, James Harden’s game will age gracefully.  But will he ever “get it” during Dwight’s prime?  It’s tempting to say Harden’s just 25, giving us a 7-year window, but we actually have a team right now, due to Howard, that can contend.  This team would undoubtedly be better if it weren’t getting a complete ’0′ defensively from one of its wing slots; Howard won’t always be around.  I hope Harden gains some urgency before that window slams shut.  The Rockets can’t control free agency, but they can help themselves in other ways.

     

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    Houston Rockets go down in Summer League title game to Sacramento Kingshttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-go-summer-league-title-game-sacramento-kings/14502/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-go-summer-league-title-game-sacramento-kings http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-go-summer-league-title-game-sacramento-kings/14502/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:57:59 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14502 After leading the whole way HOU has completely collapsed here at the end. Guys should fit in well with the big league team. — RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) July 22, 2014 Don’t even act as if you’ve never admired or felt the urge to admire your own joke. As the tweet indicated, the local JV guys led [...]

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    After leading the whole way HOU has completely collapsed here at the end. Guys should fit in well with the big league team.

    — RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) July 22, 2014

    Don’t even act as if you’ve never admired or felt the urge to admire your own joke.

    As the tweet indicated, the local JV guys led most of the way before completely collapsing down the stretch, squandering the title to the Sacramento Kings.  Just playing the odds, this is the closest the Rockets will get to a championship in the next few years, so this one hurt pretty bad.  Well, not really.  But it did hurt having to watch through this game while laying on my couch when other things were on television, most notably anything else.  There were several points where I found myself falling asleep only to rouse myself up once more out of some self-inflicted sense of duty.  Those of you who didn’t watch this – I bit the bullet for everyone; thank me later.

    First, Motiejunas: while not filling the box score as he had done in previous nights, the big man did a little of everything, once again showing the tantalizing versatility that has left me confounded over his lack of success.  He scored from the post with running hooks, a baby hook over his opposite shoulder that got wiped out, hit an outside jumper, and drove in on multiple occasions from the three point line.  Most encouragingly, as Chris Finch noted afterward, D-Mo stayed big inside and rotated smartly against incoming opponents.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so invested in a Rockets prospect and relatedly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so confused over a prospect’s lack of success.  Why has D-Mo not panned out?  What is going on here?  This is a legit 7 footer who can score inside with either hand, can put the ball on the floor, and who possesses NBA range (well, sorta) who, by all accounts, is a tireless worker.  He’s added significant weight to his frame since being drafted and made tremendous strides defensively last season, as most famously evidenced by one particular outing against Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies.  I just don’t understand.  If he’s not in the rotation by January, or was shipped away for some worthless conditional second rounder by mid-season, we missed a big opportunity.  Were he to have come over this season, I think he’d have been a lottery lock.  While I empathize with the immediate need to win games, I just think players can’t get comfortable if constantly glancing over at the bench upon each mistake.  So naturally, Motiejunas will likely end up on the Spurs and realize his true NBA destiny, spelling Tim Duncan off the bench in helping San Antonio win the NBA title.  Naturally.

    Nick Johnson: I really hope this kid cracks the rotation because I’ve already fallen in love with his game.  Johnson has a smooth jumper, an insane vertical, a tight handle, and a brute force mentality to complement his strong upper body.  He reminded me immediately of Bobby Sura watching him attack bigger guys off the dribble and finish at the rim while absorbing contact.  Simply put, Johnson is a man’s man, a pitbull.  The only problem is that he appears extremely slow-footed, to the point where I worry he won’t be able to create separation at this level, much like his forebear, Sura.  That’s not to say one cannot be an effective NBA guard if lacking quickness (see: Andre Miller), but it’s something of a concern.  Johnson is sort of a paradox, much like former Rocket Chandler Parsons, in that he has incredible leaping ability–which naturally leads observers to label him as ‘athletic’–but not much in the way of lateral quickness.  We’ll see.  But I think he will succeed, if for no other reason than that the guy is a complete badass.  Oh, and also because we currently only have one player on our bench.

    Canaan: Isaiah Canaan didn’t do much of anything in this game, but was in God-mode earlier in the tournament, at one point looking Andrew Wiggins in the eye and high-stepping him straight to the basket.  The jumper was wet and the first step had been unguardable.  It’s hard to know with these types of guys whether they can make it at the next level.  For one, you can’t drive in relentlessly in the big leagues unless you’re historically elite like James Harden.  But secondly, can he defend at his size?  And most importantly, as a point guard, can he make smart reads?  That’s really the thing about evaluating point guards.  Unlike bigs, where you’re just checking to see whether they’re capable of running in a straight line without tripping over, every single man under 6’3 at this level is insanely talented and naturally competitive.  Which ones are NBA smart?

    I think Nick Johnson will end up winning the backup point guard job over Canaan for several reasons, namely that Kevin McHale loves tough guys.  His slow-footedness won’t be much of a problem here as the point guard job description on this team is to simply bring the ball up and hand it off to James Harden.

    Now we wait two more months for the next game.

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    Epilogue: The Houston Rockets’ Chandler Parsons decisionhttp://www.red94.net/epilogue-houston-rockets-chandler-parsons-decision/14497/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=epilogue-houston-rockets-chandler-parsons-decision http://www.red94.net/epilogue-houston-rockets-chandler-parsons-decision/14497/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:11:50 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14497 Sufficient time has elapsed now since the Houston Rockets’ decision to not match the offer sheet signed by Chandler Parsons that I am confident it was the correct course of action.  I guess what they say is true: the passage of time truly does distance emotion. Regarding Parsons’ earlier comments this week aimed towards the [...]

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    Sufficient time has elapsed now since the Houston Rockets’ decision to not match the offer sheet signed by Chandler Parsons that I am confident it was the correct course of action.  I guess what they say is true: the passage of time truly does distance emotion.

    Regarding Parsons’ earlier comments this week aimed towards the Rockets: Initially, he clearly does not have much of a grasp of the rules within which the Rockets were needing to operate.  They had him “wait around” for Bosh and ‘Melo because exercising his bird rights last was the only way they could make maximum use of the cap space at hand.  Either that point entirely escaped him or he simply couldn’t understand why the team would prefer adding another good player along with keeping him rather than just keeping him and calling it a day.  If its the latter, that’s perhaps an even more damning indictment of Chandler.

    But setting all of that aside, the crux of the matter is that Parsons felt he was disrespected and deserving of a bigger role; he says he wanted to be viewed as a franchise player.  That’s perfectly fine and reasonable: one would hope for such competitive pride from a professional athlete in the prime of his earnings.  But for our purposes, that perception of course falls far from the reality.  There’s no use really belaboring the obvious and it would be unfair to pile on.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows Chandler Parsons is not a franchise player or probably even the third best player on a championship team.  He could not even win his matchup of “third best player vs. third best player” last May against Nic Batum of the Blazers.

    But how to properly assess Parsons?  I wrote on September 1, 2013:

    It’s important to clarify here upon the distinction between actual and relative value.  Parsons’ value lies in his contract.  To wit, he is–bar none–the single best value contract in the entire league.  But if that salary were regularized across all players with an inspection upon solely on-court merits, then of course, much of that value diminishes.  I have almost no doubt that if, when Parsons’ contract is up, the team were in the same position that they found themselves in last summer–headed nowhere–and faced with a similar decision as they did with Goran Dragic, they would choose to let Parsons walk–as they did Dragic–rather than shell out market value.  Because they will not be in that similar situation, things get more interesting.

    Ultimately, in that piece, I concluded that in a vacuum, Chandler Parsons was not worth even $10 million per annum, but if faced with the choice, on this team, Daryl Morey would comply.  I obviously was not expecting a $15 million offer.

    As I noted in that 2013 piece, Parsons quickly became extremely overrated upon the Dwight Howard signing as numerous publications mentioned him as part of a Big 3.  That trend has continued this summer in the commentary pursuant to his pay raise.  Parsons isn’t a star and never will be.  He lacks the physical attributes necessary to indicate future growth.  While he could improve his dribbling, he’s simply too slow to ever beat anyone off the dribble.  The brunt of his production comes by way of filling the gaps: he can run the floor, shoot off the catch, and curl around screens.  Square him up against a defender, with a live dribble, and he’s finished.

    The most damning example of Parsons’ limitations is the January 24th home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a career-night in which Chandler hit a record ten threes.  With the game on the line, and Parsons having been on fire all night off catch-and-shoots, Kevin McHale did what you’d expect Kevin McHale’s mind to do: he put the ball directly in Chandler’s hands, in isolation, to decide the game.  Naturally, Parsons was snuffed out, not even getting off a good look on multiple attempts.*

    *A sidenote: this occasion was sadly, more than an indictment on Parsons, an indictment on the gross and total ineptitude of Kevin McHale.  It’s one of those instances where one just asks themselves, “what am I overlooking?  There’s no way he’s this clueless.”  I’ve never played basketball at a high level and I’ve clearly never played in the NBA or coached in the NBA.  Naturally, I err on the side of deference.  If someone is one of the fifty greatest to have ever done it, and he does something completely bewildering, then my natural course is to assume I’m missing something.  It’s like the Parsons opt-out.  I know Morey’s smart.  So when he did something so perplexing, I knew I had to be missing something.  Lo and behold, it has since come out that letting Parsons out a year early was likely a precondition set by Dan Fegan prior to the Dwight Howard signing.  Same thing here: this was so bewildering, as is the case with most of McHale’s out of timeout plays, that I simply had to be missing something.  It’s like you can almost follow the train of thought in his head as the hampster runs on the wheel: “hmm, Chandler has hit ten threes off spot-ups.  Naturally, he’s hot – give him the ball to end it”….completely oblivious to the circumstances through which the shots were made!  But enough on this.

    I think Parsons can improve in Dallas.  He’ll certainly have the best coaching of his career, at least since his rookie season under Rick Adelman.  His stats might decline, however, as some of his production can be taken as pace-inflated.  And there are some hidden strengths in his game that a good coach will pick up on and put to use.  I noticed several times last season, that surprisingly, despite his lanky frame, Parsons has very good balance and body control in the post.  If I’m Dallas, that facet of Parsons’ game is one I’d explore more deeply than the handful of possessions he was given here in Houston.

    He’s also no doubt a capable ball-handler in the pick&roll and usually makes the right decision.  With Carlisle’s creativity (there’s much on the internet to read about Dallas’ efforts in making Monta Ellis as dangerous as ever), you can envision Chandler featured in some highly intricate attacks.  Here in Houston, with perhaps the best pick&roll combo in basketball, the Rockets naturally only ran the play what seemed like a handful of times the entire year.

    Losing Parsons hurts.  If keeping him meant they couldn’t further improve the team, then letting him go was the right decision.  But losing him hurts.  Today, they’re a worse team, if for no other reason than that they lost their longest tenured player.  All of the chemistry built between the incumbent players is gone, as if it never even happened.  It will take time now, at the expense of wins, to gain familiarity with new faces.  But with Chandler they had a ceiling.  If they didn’t feel they could improve the team, they couldn’t pay him what he was asking.

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    The Red94 Podcast: On Parsons, Rondohttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-parsons-rondo/14495/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-parsons-rondo http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-parsons-rondo/14495/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 02:53:34 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14495 In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I break down the Parsons decision; the Rajon Rondo trade rumors are also heavily featured. Download this episode (right click and save) Subscribe to The Red94 Podcast on itunes.  

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    In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I break down the Parsons decision; the Rajon Rondo trade rumors are also heavily featured.


    Download this episode (right click and save)

    Subscribe to The Red94 Podcast on itunes.

     

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    Embracing the voidhttp://www.red94.net/embracing-void/14493/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=embracing-void http://www.red94.net/embracing-void/14493/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:40:03 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14493 This hasn’t been the best week for the Houston Rockets. Starting with the moment Chandler Parsons signed an offer sheet in a nightclub to the moment the Rockets declined to match that offer, everything that could go wrong seemingly went wrong. What at first looked like risky but positive moves have now culminated in what [...]

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    This hasn’t been the best week for the Houston Rockets. Starting with the moment Chandler Parsons signed an offer sheet in a nightclub to the moment the Rockets declined to match that offer, everything that could go wrong seemingly went wrong. What at first looked like risky but positive moves have now culminated in what can only be called a step backwards. It may be in the interest of taking a much larger step forward, but there’s a gap between this Rockets team and the one that stepped off the court in April. There’s a void.

    The natural response is to shy from it, to turn away from that void and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s easy to view this week through any number of lenses that ameliorate the unhappy knowledge that there’s a gap. That gap is there whether we look or not, and depending on the outcome of this summer, the void may spread out and negate the entire season. Unless a major move is made, the Rockets have stepped back from even the marginal contention they were at before. There’s no use in ignoring it. The only option left is to acknowledge this void, to embrace it.

    There will be thousands of words spent explaining why the choices made were the right ones. We’ll talk ourselves into Trevor Ariza again, and we won’t be wrong. There will be fun wins and there will be talk of making a move to contend and there will be unfounded hope. People plus sports will always bring us this. What this roster won’t bring is a Finals berth, but that’s also true for the majority of teams. Only a few ever have a legitimate shot at it. For a few hours, the Rockets seemed to be one of those elite teams, but then reality set in. Now we have the void.

    The narrative of the Rockets this season pivoted at about five p.m. central time on Friday. Instead of the world in which Bosh joined the most terrifying five-man unit in the league, the Rockets are instead a living embodiment of Icarus. The perception in Houston, the feeling in the organization and the world of the more level-headed pundits may be that the Rockets made the right moves and happened to miss out. In a broader sense, general manager Daryl Morey tried to fly to the sun and his rocket ship melted on the way. In some other universe, perhaps most universes, Morey and Bosh are planning their press conference together. In the one we’re forced to live in there’s no Bosh. There’s just an empty spot where he could have been, and another void where Parsons used to be.

    It’s almost too much to comprehend. It would be one thing for the Rockets to swing and miss. Lots of teams swing and miss. Most do, in fact. Each superstar can only be on one team, and some teams have a few of them. That’s not what defies reason. The amazing part of the Daryl Morey Rockets is how they miss. Apart from his major home runs in acquiring James Harden and Dwight Howard, Houston’s failures have been memorable and improbable.

    When the 2009 Rockets pushed the Lakers to seven games without Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady, a brutal run of bad luck in losing two stars turned into a rush of hope. The Rockets would have been a dangerous up and comer… except that their stars were aging, they were in win-now mode and they didn’t know yet that they had seen the last meaningful minutes from their stars. After losing in the first round again and again, at least the Rockets had lost in the second. But even that scant hope would be dashed as Yao Ming’s attempted recovery drew out Houston’s period of irrelevance lottery picks out from 2010 to 2012.

    As insult to injury, the Rockets managed to miss the playoffs with a winning record three years in a row. They did the impossible, however, and blasted back to relevance and potential contention by trading for James Harden without ever tanking out. The Rockets somehow made the playoffs in 2013 against all expectations and even pushed the Thunder to six games before losing in round one. They barely lost two of those games and even looked like they had a shot at coming back from the dreaded 0-3 hole. It was, of course, not to be. This is, of course, to say nothing of the improbable way the Rockets managed, through the hardest of efforts and the most amazing of circumstances, to lose to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games in the first round. Lillard’s .9 second shot in game six of that series is yet another item in the vault for Houston.

    This was only after having a seemingly-completed trade for Pau Gasol go down in flames the year before, and having Dwight Howard summarily turn them down in his first free agency hoopla. The infamous “basketball reasons” struck from nowhere to blindside the Rockets. This time, it was Pat Riley. Chris Bosh, who had spurred Moreys advances (and, famously, his iPad) before, was reportedly in the final stages of working out the finances of his contract when Riley and the Miami HEAT struck. Riley’s supermax offer to Bosh was reportedly a last-ditch attempt to keep him, and it worked. Contrary to endless reports and indications that Bosh was moving to Houston, the deal was shattered. Jeremy Lin and a draft pick were even traded to make way for it.

    What began as an off-season in which the Rockets planned to either gain a star or tweak the roster, the Rockets lost two starter caliber players in Asik and Parsons, lost their own draft pick along with a rotation player in Jeremy Lin and ended with Trevor Ariza and Alonzo Gee. When most teams swing, they either get a base hit or a strike. When Morey’s Rockets step up to bat, every hit is a home run. On the other had, Houston doesn’t seem to be able to get a simple strike. Instead, the ball explodes on contact with the bat and somehow kills the catcher. It’s impossible to ignore this narrative any longer, if Houston ever wants to move past it.

    We can’t pretend everything’s fine in Houston. We can only embrace the void and come out the other side.

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    Houston Rockets decline to match on Chandler Parsons, sun rises Monday morninghttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-decline-match-chandler-parsons-sun-rises-monday-morning/14494/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-decline-match-chandler-parsons-sun-rises-monday-morning http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-decline-match-chandler-parsons-sun-rises-monday-morning/14494/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:07:16 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14494 All of my initial reactions to this story are on Twitter. This is not the end of the world.  Friday, when Chris Bosh spurned the team, was the end of the world. I am definitely shocked by this news.  As I had written over the weekend, I fully expected the team to match on Parsons. [...]

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    All of my initial reactions to this story are on Twitter.

    • This is not the end of the world.  Friday, when Chris Bosh spurned the team, was the end of the world.
    • I am definitely shocked by this news.  As I had written over the weekend, I fully expected the team to match on Parsons.
    • I had been operating under the premise that even after bringing back Parsons, the team would still have the flexibility to make another impact move.  The staff determined that that would not be possible.
    • If bringing back Parsons means that that is essentially your team, that that is it, are you ok with that?
    • In response to the above, many of you have answered in the affirmative, wondering when the tinkering will ever stop.  One reader asked, quite poignantly, “when will Morey’s final team ever happen?”  I’d raise that one notch: Morey is in a race to realize his “final team” before Dwight Howard’s prime expires.  Problem: Dwight Howard’s prime is expiring.
    • Ariza is roughly similar to Parsons, we can all agree.  But today, you’re a worse team than you would have been had you matched on Parsons, simply by not having both Parsons or Ariza.  Though you keep open the hope, albeit slim, of drastic improvement via a later trade.  This whole thing gives rise to fascinating philosophical basketball questions: at what point do you stop?  at what point do you stop trading the present for hope on the future?  The Rockets could have gone all in this year, and they would have been better than they probably will be.  But on the flip side, they would not have been as good as they possibly can be if the right trade comes along.  Is that a wise gamble?  I don’t know.  The clock is ticking on Dwight Howard’s prime.
    • Unless it was the case that letting Parsons hit free agency was a condition precedent to Dwight Howard’s signing, on the part of Dan Fegan, Houston’s handling of the Parsons situation goes down, unequivocally as the biggest blunder of Daryl Morey’s career.
    • The team could have brought back Parsons at a shade under $1million next season.  Now, in hopes of securing him long term, they’ve allowed him to walk altogether, to a conference rival.  A horrible miscalculation.
    • This offseason can only be classified as a complete and unmitigated disaster.  Nabbing a star free agent had been Houston’s ultimate end-game all along, as they had refused to take back multi-year contracts in any trade made in-season (see: fake trade deadline, Asik).  They pushed forward all of their chips and whiffed.
    • There is much ire this morning directed towards Daryl Morey.  I don’t know if that’s justified.  As I’ve been saying, this was a colossal miscalculation on his part, but I can never blame a guy for swinging for the fences.  He had a clear and coherent plan and it simply backfired.  Sometimes in life, when you take chances, they don’t pan out.  I have to wonder whether those of you so furious with Morey would prefer he just aimlessly sign the likes of Mo Taylor and Moochie Norris.
    • It appears the “he only treats his players as assets” brigade has found it convenient to rear its head over this turn of events.  Again, I have to point out, if Morey didn’t “treat his players as assets”, we’d still be rolling with a nucleus of Chuck Hayes, Trevor Ariza, Kyle Lowry, and Aaron Brooks.  There would be no Dwight Howard.  You can’t have it both ways.
    • One wonders what caused Morey to exude such confidence regarding an Anthony/whomever signing by going so far as letting Parsons hit free agency.  It almost makes me feel this was a condition set by Fegan.
    • I have agreed with the plan all along and am still in defense of it, in hindsight.  But I think it has to stop now.  They need to use the flexibility saved in a trade in-season, or towards future trades.  But I do not support an eye towards 2015 free agency.  That game has become too great of a gamble.  What we’ve learned is that Dwight Howard was the outlier, not the norm upon which to bet futures.

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    My worst nightmare realized: Trevor Ariza returns to the Houston Rocketshttp://www.red94.net/worst-nightmare-realized-trevor-ariza-returns-houston-rockets/14492/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worst-nightmare-realized-trevor-ariza-returns-houston-rockets http://www.red94.net/worst-nightmare-realized-trevor-ariza-returns-houston-rockets/14492/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:37:21 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14492 The title is for grins, a running shtick with my loyal followers on Twitter who so kindly checked on my wellbeing upon news of this acquisition.  This was a very good signing.  Make no mistake about that.  If viewed from the prism of Bosh, it is difficult not to be incredibly underwhelmed.  In relation to [...]

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    The title is for grins, a running shtick with my loyal followers on Twitter who so kindly checked on my wellbeing upon news of this acquisition.  This was a very good signing.  Make no mistake about that.  If viewed from the prism of Bosh, it is difficult not to be incredibly underwhelmed.  In relation to the team’s master-plan, coming away with Trevor Ariza instead of Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh, can only be described as a total disappointment.  I can assure you Daryl Morey and friends will not be going out for drinks upon completion of this deal.  But in vacuo of those considerations–as difficult as it is to distance oneself from prior expectations–this was a good signing, especially at this cost.

    When I first saw the news, I was firmly anticipating the numbers to come in at above $11 million per annum.  Trevor Ariza at 8 is very good value, undoubtedly better value than the money the team will be paying Chandler Parsons once they match his offer sheet later today.  Ariza hit 41% on 3′s last season, the highest mark of his career, chipping in a shade over 14 points per game.  He instantly becomes the team’s best shooter and arrives as its sole competent wing defender.  If they match on Parsons, the Rockets today are a better team than the one that closed out the regular season.  (I’m not going to go so far as to say they are better than the playoff version because Asik played a significant role in the playoffs, unlike the regular season, and it remains to be seen if added wing depth holds a greater impact than depth on the frontline).

    I learned a lot about basketball from Trevor Ariza.  He was the first player whose game I ever closely looked into; he was the most frustrating player I’ve ever seen in a Houston Rockets uniform.  Watching him play made me understand the nature of ball-handling and ‘creating’ in the NBA, propositions which were only reaffirmed these past few years during my observations of Jeremy Lin.  Ariza has a functional, aesthetically above-par handle, and plus-level athleticism/quickness.  Upon his initial signing, fans with whom I interacted in those days (this was right before the launch of Red94)(and even the team’s broadcasters), immediately assumed Ariza could be the new torch-bearer, sort of a McGrady-lite.  The thinking went that if you can kind of dribble and you can blow by your man, you were a “creator.” These assumptions were categorically false.

    A lot like Jeremy Lin, Ariza would blow past his initial defender but never know what to do against the second line of defense*.  He’d get caught in the lane, picking up his dribble and having to toss it back out to save the play.  You can’t just always drive in.  This point was reaffirmed by the return of Tracy McGrady, as I wrote extensively, even as a complete shell of his former self.  Go to your local gym and watch a pickup game between amateurs.  Want to know the difference between the very best and guys that are just good?  By and large, most guys with quickness and a competent handle get tunnel vision when driving the lane.  They’re just going straight in without a plan – their entire objective is to get past their own man.  The elite–the McGrady’s, the Paul’s–are playing chess.  They’re not just trying to blow by and get to the basket.  They’re thinking about the second defender, so they’re slowing down their dribble, attacking at different speeds, squeezing off midrange shots, anticipating the help.  I think the most important skill for a perimeter player is to be able to attack at different speeds.

    Due to the presence of James Harden, Ariza won’t be given the opportunity to waste the team’s possessions this time around.  He’ll spot up from ’3′, where hopefully his touch from last year will be retained, he’ll play defense, and he’ll run the floors.  Again, at $8million, this is a good deal.

    The team has other avenues to improve and some other options which they are still exploring.  While the last few days’ chain of events no doubt comes as a disappointment, this signing in and of itself was a good one, and it helps the team.  We’ll see what else they are able to do.

    *In a conversation that I found utterly fascinating, Steve Nash told Bill Simmons that Amare Stoudemire came into his own in the season when he began being able to read the second line of defense before making his initial move.

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    The Kubler Ross Model: Acceptancehttp://www.red94.net/kubler-ross-model-acceptance/14491/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kubler-ross-model-acceptance http://www.red94.net/kubler-ross-model-acceptance/14491/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:49:06 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14491 We’re going to be ok.  I went through the first four stages yesterday, and I think talking things out over the podcast really helped as well.  This is all going to be ok.  Yesterday was a very bad dream and we are going to get through this.  Together.  We got through the Steve Francis era. [...]

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    We’re going to be ok.  I went through the first four stages yesterday, and I think talking things out over the podcast really helped as well.  This is all going to be ok.  Yesterday was a very bad dream and we are going to get through this.  Together.  We got through the Steve Francis era.  We survived The Trevor Ariza era.  Oh wait…

    You know how when someone has a bad breakup, or is spurned, etc., they get over it by vilifying the other person?  Or usually what happens is, the person’s friends start the vilification process for them: “he was a loser anyway, you can do way better!”  I’ve begun convincing myself that Bosh never held genuine interest in the Rockets to begin with and was only using them to coax the max out of Miami.  Who knows if that’s true, but it has made me feel significantly better.  Such are the tactics which must be employed during times of such grief.  Understand that for a solid five hours yesterday afternoon, the Houston Rockets had the best starting lineup in basketball.  Fifty years from now, tell that to your grandkids.  When you tell them about the Matt Bullard-Carlos Rogers-Walt Williams frontline of 2000, the Kelvin Cato “10 block game”, and that Zan Tabak actually went on to be pretty decent, tell them that for five or six glorious hours on July the 11th, the Houston Rockets had the best starting lineup in basketball.

    Chris Bosh spurn photo forrestwalker_zps50b15fa9.png

    The grey is not me, folks.  The grey is not me.

    But today is a new day.  The Rockets can come out from this with a better team than the one they fielded last year.  But time now is of the essence.  They have until tomorrow to make use of the cap space cleared in dealing the contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.  If that window expires without a signing, they can retain Parsons and have access to all of their exceptions, including the sizable midlevel.

    There are complex permutations through which Morey can work.  He’ll have massive trade exceptions generated from the Asik and Lin trades (though they can’t be combined).  He still owns the Pelicans pick.  You can bet good money they spent the night working the phones trying to put something together.  This can be done, but it will be tough.  The time crunch imposed by the Parsons window infinitely complicates matters.  I ain’t mad at ya, but really bro, couldn’t you have held off a little bit longer?

    Luol Deng doesn’t seem interested.  Trevor Ariza at this point might be your best bet.  But rather than overpay a marginal talent, I think they’re trying to make use of their space by talking to teams trying to dump big contracts.  They can still do this post-Parsons, but then they can only take back the size of each trade exception (in addition to the players dealt), an amount close to half of the near $15 upon which they sit right now.  They are scrambling to make use of that space.  If you thought Eric Gordon could again be healthy, would you take a flier there?  I think the risk ratio there is preferable to the upside of Parsons + the midlevel.  Who can you really even get for the midlevel?  Paul Pierce won’t come for that amount, I don’t think.  And with as much as is made of large trade exceptions, how many examples in history can we think of when they were actually used for profit?  I honestly think its better to just take a flier with the space and keep Chandler than to let it burn.

    One thing is clear: they have to match on Parsons.  The Rockets simply cannot enter next year with their team completely gutted.  There’s no one in 2015 worth waiting for and also, we saw how that worked out for us this year.  Do you really want to waste another year of Dwight Howard’s prime?*

    Of all the options, (do nothing; flier + Parsons; Parsons alone and later use TPE; Parsons + MLE; overpay Ariza + Parsons, etc..), it is my belief that a flier + Parsons represents maximum use of the resources available.  Parsons + the MLE is the likeliest.  If the team does nothing, letting Parsons walk as well, they might lose their local television deal.  Oh wait.  Too soon?

    A final note, before the actual final note signified by the asterisk next to Howard:  A lot of tweets filled my timeline with outrage directed towards Morey.  That’s not deserved.  I can never blame a man for dreaming big and swinging for the fences.  He put us in position to form a juggernaut and has us in position to build a 60 win team.  The man had a vision and sometimes those don’t work out.  But I can never cast stones at a man who dreams big.

    It can be surmised that perhaps he overplayed his hand in the Parsons situation.  That is fair-game for second guessing.  But this gamble altogether?  I can’t blame him.

    *Howard: people bring up the Lillard shot, and I’ll be honest, it didn’t really hurt that much.  I mean that sincerely.  There was shock, a little bit of pain, but that was nowhere near the top on my list of worst sports memories.  Why?  The team had exhibited so many flaws over the course of that series, primarily due to coaching, that I was convinced they would get trounced by San Antonio in the next round regardless.  I saw winning as house money.  What hurt though was seeing Dwight Howard.  Understand that a Hall of Fame center is the most rarest of breeds in professional sports, maybe only rivaled by a dominant left handed pitcher.  When Dwight erased Nic Batum on a drive late in overtime in one of the road games that series, recovering off a switch, the euphoria quickly became despair.  How much more do we have of that?  Every last one of these years is beyond precious and cannot be wasted.  There are those, most of you, in denial, claiming Howard is better than ever.  But big men of his type do not age well, at all.  It’s a historical fact.  What makes the Bosh spurn so, so, so much more painful was that had we pulled it off, it would have represented a very real window in the heart of Howard’s two-year prime.  If the team can’t recover for next year, it’s another season lost.

    Follow me on Twitter for regular meltdowns.

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    The Red94 Podcast: The healing process beginshttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-healing-process-begins/14489/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-healing-process-begins http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-healing-process-begins/14489/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 01:23:34 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14489 In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I begin the healing process after Chris Bosh leaves the Rockets at the altar. Download this episode (right click and save) Subscribe to The Red94 Podcast on itunes.

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    In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I begin the healing process after Chris Bosh leaves the Rockets at the altar.


    Download this episode (right click and save)

    Subscribe to The Red94 Podcast on itunes.

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    Chris Bosh leaves Houston Rockets at the altar, 3AM “last call” mode for Moreyhttp://www.red94.net/chris-bosh-leaves-houston-rockets-altar-3am-last-call-mode-morey/14487/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chris-bosh-leaves-houston-rockets-altar-3am-last-call-mode-morey http://www.red94.net/chris-bosh-leaves-houston-rockets-altar-3am-last-call-mode-morey/14487/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 00:10:53 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14487 I don’t have the energy to write about any of this.  No podcast tonight either.  I had a meltdown earlier, so you can just read my thoughts from my timeline.  That’s literally all I have right now.  Maybe tomorrow, if I wake up from this.  Peace.

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    I don’t have the energy to write about any of this.  No podcast tonight either.  I had a meltdown earlier, so you can just read my thoughts from my timeline.  That’s literally all I have right now.  Maybe tomorrow, if I wake up from this.  Peace.

    The post Chris Bosh leaves Houston Rockets at the altar, 3AM “last call” mode for Morey appeared first on Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings.

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    LeBron’s heading to Cleveland, is a Bosh move next?http://www.red94.net/lebrons-heading-cleveland-bosh-move-next/14486/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lebrons-heading-cleveland-bosh-move-next http://www.red94.net/lebrons-heading-cleveland-bosh-move-next/14486/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:49:39 +0000 Forrest Walker http://www.red94.net/?p=14486 The big news has finally hit, and the adage was right: where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and LeBron is back in Cleveland. A mere week ago this seemed like idle speculation and whimsy. Today, however, the news broke via an article by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. Not only is this huge news for the league [...]

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    The big news has finally hit, and the adage was right: where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and LeBron is back in Cleveland. A mere week ago this seemed like idle speculation and whimsy. Today, however, the news broke via an article by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins.

    Not only is this huge news for the league at large, but huge news for the Rockets, who have been waiting to strike at Chris Bosh. Bosh has reportedly expressed a preference to stay in Miami with James, but has also reportedly preferred Houston as a landing spot should that fall through.

    It’a fallen through, now, and the first domino has fallen. Morey and the Rockets front office now have approximately two days to attempt to negotiate not only a potential Bosh signing, but also the requisite cap-clearing moves already lined up. This is only step one, but what a step one.

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    Houston Rockets wait for Lebron James’ decisionhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-wait-lebron-james-decision/14484/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-wait-lebron-james-decision http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-wait-lebron-james-decision/14484/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:57:15 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14484 First, as, at the time of writing, it still shockingly hasn’t become outdated, check out our podcast from last night discussing the Chandler Parsons situation.  I thought for sure news would break last night, rendering much of that conversation obsolete. For now, we sit and wait.  Would Lebron really leave for the World Cup without [...]

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    First, as, at the time of writing, it still shockingly hasn’t become outdated, check out our podcast from last night discussing the Chandler Parsons situation.  I thought for sure news would break last night, rendering much of that conversation obsolete.

    For now, we sit and wait.  Would Lebron really leave for the World Cup without announcing his decision?  I can see it.  Why does he absolutely need to announce within the week?  I get that he’s holding up the rest of the league, but should that really matter?  He shouldn’t rush his own timeline just to convenience others who have hinged their decisionmaking processes upon him.  And he hasn’t even made a spectacle of this.  It’s our own fault for staking out at his house, interpreting the coding on his web site, and speculating upon his every move.  This has only seemed to drag out because we’ve created that situation by holding our breaths.  In reality, it’s been just a few days.

    I honestly think the only person who really looks bad right now is Chris Bosh who is proving he doesn’t have the stones to make an adult decision for himself.  I get that Bosh wants to play with the greatest player in the world, and who wouldn’t?  But he’s holding up the Rockets who are working on a timeline to keep Chandler Parsons.  If he gives them a ‘no’ too late in the game, they might not have the breathing space to enact contingencies.  Some might point out the inconsistency in my beliefs: how can I decry Bosh’s indecisiveness while defending James?  The difference here is that Bosh has a standing offer from the Rockets who are up against a time crunch.  The only parties waiting on James are ones with whom he has no privity (ie: other teams around the league, free agents, waiting to spend cash).

    Still, we’ve known all along that Chris Bosh wasn’t an alpha-dog and that’s fine and well.  We’d still love to have him and he’d fit beautifully onto this team.

    The latest was that Dwyane Wade was on a plane with Lebron James last night, headed back to Miami.  The speculation goes naturally that Wade’s presence is as a closing pitch for Riley.  This really begs the question as to how Wade can hold any positive sway at all.  If I’m James, the mere sight of Wade is reinforcement to the belief that I have to get the hell out of South Beach.  Can the guy even walk at this point without pain?

    I see a tweet right now, as I write this, that Chris Broussard “reports that Lebron still hung up on Gilbert letter.”  You want Machiavellian?  A great way to stick it to Gilbert after that embarrassing spectacle would be consternate like this, leading everyone to believe you’re coming back, and then at the last second go back to Miami claiming you just can’t bring yourself to play under that guy after what he did.  Would Gilbert respond with another letter?

    Lastly, the big news yesterday on the Rockets’ front was that they actually had not received the signed offer sheet from Dallas until mid-afternoon.  Recall that the 72-hour clock does not start ticking until receipt.  When it was reported earlier in the morning that Houston actually did not have the contract in hand, I speculated upon whether Morey would dodge service.  This gave rise to many procedural questions.  Could the Mavs serve anyone on Houston’s staff or did it have to specifically be Morey?  Did the Texas Rules come into play?  A reader suggested if Morey were to, say, get on a plane headed to India, the Mavs could motion for alternative service with the league.  Some suggested publication of the contract as notice.  Ultimately it was revealed that the league had altered its rules, after the Knicks’ shenanigans a few summers back, to now allowing the sending team to serve the contract via electronic mail.  So there you go.  Grunwald and Knicks’ officials evading of the Rockets in Vegas, regarding the Lin contract, still stands as my favorite NBA story of all-time.

    Houston is on the clock.

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