Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings http://www.red94.net Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:26:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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shawn kemp

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?

sonics

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.

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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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The Red94 Podcast: On the Parsons offer sheethttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-parsons-offer-sheet/14482/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-parsons-offer-sheet http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-parsons-offer-sheet/14482/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 00:56:55 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14482 Download this episode (right click and save) Subscribe to The Red94 Podcast on iTunes.

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Houston Rockets on the clock or, “Et tu, Chandler?”http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-clock-et-tu-chandler/14480/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-clock-et-tu-chandler http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-clock-et-tu-chandler/14480/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:19:04 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14480 I went to bed last night, as I typically do, around 11:30 central standard time.  I knew I’d awaken to the news that Chandler Parsons had signed the offer sheet extended to him by the Dallas Mavericks yesterday afternoon.  Instead, I was rudely greeted by this pic of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, with Parsons, retweeted [...]

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I went to bed last night, as I typically do, around 11:30 central standard time.  I knew I’d awaken to the news that Chandler Parsons had signed the offer sheet extended to him by the Dallas Mavericks yesterday afternoon.  Instead, I was rudely greeted by this pic of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, with Parsons, retweeted by just about everyone I knew:

Ugh.

The first time I saw Chandler Parsons, I was ironically staked out in front of Marcus Morris’ locker along with four or five other reporters.  It was the first game of the young big man’s career and I had several questions about his transition to small forward.  I thought Morris was going to be an absolute stud.  Parsons came by, already dressed, tossed some stuff into his locker, cracked a joke, and took off.  (The “scrubs” on a professional basketball team depart the fastest after games because they know no one is waiting to talk to them).  Now the guy is earning max-level NBA dollars.  Amazing.

There are several issues here surrounding this story which need to be addressed.  First, I’ll cut to the point, to the question all of you have been asking me: does this prohibit Houston from signing Chris Bosh or signing both Bosh and Parsons?  The simple answer is ‘no.’  The basic mechanics remain the same.  The team can sign Bosh and then, irrespective of the unexpected size of this offer, retain Parsons by matching the Mavericks’ offer sheet and exceeding the cap through Chandler’s bird rights.

Things get much, much dicier from there.

There’s no use delving into the numbers here in this limited space because there are so many different permutations of how things could play out, with so many unsettled variables, each with significant consequences of their own.  For one, the final construction of the Asik trade still is not clear.  New Orleans simply cannot absorb the Turkish center into space, but sending back a salary match would be prohibitive in the Rockets’ goals; a traded-player-exception is likely going to be generated in that Pelicans deal.  The final details on the 76ers’ Jeremy Lin deal which may or may not have been already been agreed upon (sorry again for that premature tweet last night, you guys) also are unknown.  Then there’s Bosh who can either be signed outright into space (which would necessitate stripping the cupboard bare), or acquired via sign&trade, a maneuver which would allow the team to remain above the cap and retain its exceptions, but would be dependent on the mechanics of the Asik trade, but with the status of the midlevel dependent upon “apron” concerns which have been complicated by the size of this offer….

*takes breath*

You can see why it’s better to just wait at least to see how the Asik and Lin trades play out.  But yes, the Rockets can sign Bosh and retain Parsons.

Would they do that?  I think it’s almost a guarantee that if they got Bosh, Houston would match on Parsons.  Scratch that – I don’t know.  If they have an avenue to get a cheaper replacement, they might consider that route.  But I feel strongly that Houston would match on Parsons.  I’m not even sure getting Bosh alone is worth it without having Parsons along with him in the lineup.

If they don’t get Bosh?  Things get dicier.  I think that in the event Houston strikes out on Bosh, they let Chandler walk.  They won’t blow the precious cap space they’ve been culturing on retaining Parsons.  I suppose they could try to sign Luol Deng to a massive one or two year deal to preserve the “space” as a placeholder, and then re-sign Parsons, but that would require some gymnastics.  The bottom line is that striking out on all of the big names and then losing Parsons ontop of it (or hell, even just keeping him on a bad deal) would represent Houston’s absolute worst-case scenario coming into this offseason.  As I tweeted yesterday afternoon, Houston is very close to realizing their absolute worst case scenario.

Bosh or not, the team could match on Parsons and then look to trade him down the line.  But is that $15million contract tradable?  Hell if I know that, at this point.  I didn’t even think Parsons was worth $10million per annum (a topic regarding which I wrote a near dissertation, spanning the past two years, and about five blog posts)…

Why did Parsons move so quickly on this deal?  In other words, “Et tu, Chandler?”  I need to clarify my thoughts here from yesterday as a 140 character limit isn’t….uhhh….you know, sufficient for nuanced opinions and some of you got the wrong idea.  As you know, Houston now has three days to match, or, in essence, three days to sign Chris Bosh, or all hell breaks loose and I shut down the blog.  Couldn’t he have waited?  Shouldn’t he have waited, if not just to give the Rockets time to work things out with Bosh?  Some of you took umbrage at my insinuation that this development was disappointing, stating Parsons owed Houston nothing and was merely “an asset” in their grand plan.  Realize that Houston let Parsons out of his contract a year early, allowing him to test the market and extract this payday.  They didn’t have to do that.  With that being said–as many of you pointed out and as I did not have the characters left to enunciate–that act was not purely borne from altruism on the part of Houston, as nothing is in the world of hardline economics.  The Rockets stood to gain because they could then control their own fate regarding Parsons, rather than letting the market dictate his destination.  (They probably just grossly estimated their chances in free agency at landing one of the big stars).  In summary, I was simply saying that it would have been kind of nice if Chandler could have simply held off a bit longer rather than just jumping at the crack of midnight to ink his signature.  That observation is not exclusive to the nuances of this ordeal: both sides had their own agendas.

There also is the very likely possibility that Dallas, knowing Houston was in a bind, required this deal get done sooner than later.  There also is the reality that you don’t walk away from someone offering you a bag filled with 46 million $1 bills.

Now the race is on.  Houston has to sign Chris Bosh before the three day window expires meaning essentially that Houston’s fate, the ultimate destiny of The Morey Project, lies in the hands of Lebron James.  Ugh.  I feel somewhat comforted by a report, well, I guess “theory”, surfacing yesterday evening that James was cognizant of Bosh’s circumstances and would not delay his decision unnecessarily in mindfulness of that.  Then I remembered that this is the same guy that crushed the hearts of an entire city on national television and I went back into depression.  Gun to my head prediction?  I think we hear something on Bosh by tomorrow.  There’s no way this thing drags out longer, is there?  Several readers mentioned yesterday that if there truly was a strong possibility of James returning to the Heat, would Bosh really have progressed so far into talks with Houston?  I don’t know at this point.

A last note on Parsons:  I wrote last year, at length, that in a vacuum, Parsons wasn’t even worth $10 million per annum.  He doesn’t defend, is a streaky shooter, and doesn’t have the handles nor athleticism to create his own shot.  He’s essentially a glorified roleplayer.  Having said that, on this team, especially with Bosh in tow, for synergistic value alone, Parsons is worth at the least $10 million.  Is he worth $15 million?  While he might not be, if they land Bosh, the impact of his absence makes it the case that you almost have to keep him.  Those are the realities of team-building in the modern NBA.

Follow me on Twitter for rants regarding free agency, and occasional meltdowns.  

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Jason Friedman leaving the Houston Rocketshttp://www.red94.net/jason-friedman-leaving-houston-rockets/14477/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jason-friedman-leaving-houston-rockets http://www.red94.net/jason-friedman-leaving-houston-rockets/14477/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:57:33 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14477 Chandler Parsons’ offer from the Dallas Mavericks wasn’t the only surprising Rockets-related news of the day: Jason Friedman announced today he would no longer be with the team following this week. We teamed up on numerous collaborations over the years (here and here, and I could’ve sworn there were one or two others but I [...]

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Chandler Parsons’ offer from the Dallas Mavericks wasn’t the only surprising Rockets-related news of the day: Jason Friedman announced today he would no longer be with the team following this week.

We teamed up on numerous collaborations over the years (here and here, and I could’ve sworn there were one or two others but I can’t seem to find them), but I will always remember Jason in association with this post, written back in 2010 on my first day with Toyota Center media credentials.  The phrase “showed me the ropes” is often thrown around by young writers/reporters.  That person for me is Jason Friedman.  I still remember stepping foot into the Houston Rockets lockerroom for the first time while Jason explained pre-game availability procedure.  Not a single word that came out of his mouth registered – Yao Ming, in all his majestic glory, was sitting just a few feet in front of me.  A week later, I emailed Friedman with the query “WAIT WE’RE ALLOWED TO GO INTO THE VISITORS TOO?!?”

I’m a lawyer by profession – I never went to journalism school.  But Jason taught me the little things one wishes they knew before being thrown into the fire.  When and where the coach speaks before the game, how to approach a player, why you should avoid Terrence Williams (okay, I learned that on my own).

Friedman lost a lot of the creative freedom he had previously enjoyed towards the end of his time with the team.  That quickly became clear after his monster weekly roundups, replete with advanced stats, stopped appearing on the team’s web site.  This was a loss to anyone following the team, even those like myself who also covered it.  I admit to having just read Jason’s recaps numerous times when I didn’t have the time to dig into the numbers for myself.  The behind-the-scenes video breakdowns he’d compile regularly some months back were pure cocaine for a Rockets junkie.  Now, we’re losing his coverage altogether.

I don’t know what the future holds for Jason, but I wish him the best, and I hope for all of our sake, the team can find a passable replacement.  I wouldn’t bet on it.

I will resume coverage of the Chandler Parsons situation tomorrow morning.

 

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Random thoughts for July 9http://www.red94.net/random-thoughts-july-9/14475/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=random-thoughts-july-9 http://www.red94.net/random-thoughts-july-9/14475/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:33:17 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14475 For those keeping score at home, Michael Jordan’s decision to extend Gordon Hayward a max offer sheet is very, very bad news on the Chandler Parsons front.   As I just tweeted a few minutes ago, I’m going to completely lose it if one more person suggests the team “focus on its bench and go after [...]

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  • For those keeping score at home, Michael Jordan’s decision to extend Gordon Hayward a max offer sheet is very, very bad news on the Chandler Parsons front.  
  • As I just tweeted a few minutes ago, I’m going to completely lose it if one more person suggests the team “focus on its bench and go after Durant next summer.”  The second Chandler Parsons re-signs, the Rockets kiss cap room goodbye for the duration of the H&H era.  That’s not even mentioning the fact that Durant isn’t a free agent until 2016.
  • That “maintenance program” designed to keep Dwyane Wade fresh for the Finals suddenly isn’t so cute anymore when Josh McRoberts is the second best player on the team and they’re out of the race by mid-December.
  • I’m not too thrilled by the signings of McRoberts and Granger either, but does Cleveland really give Lebron a better chance to win than Miami, next season?  Kyrie hasn’t really shown anything thus far in his career to make one think he’s a primetime player, though you have to think adding Lebron to the mix changes that.  There are numerous examples throughout recent history of high-scoring young “losers” who became impactful winners upon a change of environment/influence.  (I just can’t think of any off the top of my head).  You don’t know what you’re getting from Bennett and Wiggins.  Thompson?  Does Waiters stop trying to fight Kyrie?  And where’s there rim protection after Verajao goes down inevitably in mid-November?
  • Can you really go back to a team that cut guys like Mike Miller to line the owner’s pockets in the middle of a title defense?  You just can’t go back there after that.
  • …can you really go back to a team owned by a guy who wrote an angry letter in Comic Sans declaring his superiority?
  • I don’t really have a problem with Bosh declaring Miami is his first choice, as some of you do.  You guys need to stop being so emotionally volatile.  We’re not looking for a wife here.  It’s a game of transactions and we’re trying to put together a team of players that can win a title.  This doesn’t have to be Chris Bosh’s first option for him to come in and play hard.  Nothing in his history suggests he would do otherwise.
  • If I had to get one stop at that end, I’m putting in Omer Asik and Anthony Davis over Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.  Sorry guys.
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    The Red94 Podcast: On the Bosh pursuithttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-bosh-pursuit/14474/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-bosh-pursuit http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-bosh-pursuit/14474/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 01:02:41 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14474 Download this episode (right click and save)

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    Houston Rockets turn attention to Chris Bosh, face serious prospect of leaving empty-handedhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-turn-attention-chris-bosh-face-serious-prospect-leaving-empty-handed/14472/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-turn-attention-chris-bosh-face-serious-prospect-leaving-empty-handed http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-turn-attention-chris-bosh-face-serious-prospect-leaving-empty-handed/14472/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:46:15 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14472 What a bizarre, bizarre free agency it has been, even in the wake of a summer that saw Dwight Howard claim he had received divine inspiration during a weekend retreat to Aspen steering him toward the Houston Rockets.  When we last left off, the team had lost Kyle Lowry to the homecourt Raptors, lost serious [...]

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    What a bizarre, bizarre free agency it has been, even in the wake of a summer that saw Dwight Howard claim he had received divine inspiration during a weekend retreat to Aspen steering him toward the Houston Rockets.  When we last left off, the team had lost Kyle Lowry to the homecourt Raptors, lost serious momentum in the Carmelo Anthony chase, and put in a call to the agent of the game’s greatest player.  Now it seems the Houston Rockets have fully turned their attention toward one Christopher Bosh, with sources indicating they had “intensified their pursuit” of the All-Star power forward.  If you’re thinking this story seems vaguely familiar, your memory has served correct – the last go-around involved an iPad.

    Initially, we must address the very real prospect of leaving these talks empty-handed altogether.  Two points, the latter more irritating than the first.  1) Many of you have asked me or even suggested the team focus upon building its bench first before pursuing a star, possibly holding out until 2016 when Kevin Durant hits the market.  Realize that if they want to keep Chandler Parsons or make use of their exceptions, this summer is literally it.  The anticipated cap increases should comfortably absorb Dwight Howard and James Harden’s expected annual raises, but after that, any other real spending makes big room in the future prohibitive.  2) More frustrating is this false belief in the wake of the Finals that a supposed team of role-players is somehow a superior model of team-building in this post modern NBA.  The thinking usually goes something like this, “I’m tired of star-chasing every summer.  Didn’t we learn anything from the Finals?  We need to build a good bench and develop our own players like the Spurs did.”  If one can’t truly understand how superbly anomalous that Spurs team was, in the face of the last twenty years of modern NBA history, there’s little I can do to help.

    I’m wary of giving in to hyperbole–(who am I kidding, I love hyperbole)–but leaving this summer empty-handed would be near catastrophic.  The Rockets have recovered quite well from other natural disasters (see: “basketball reasons”), so even the worst catastrophe perhaps cannot be classified as such, but you get the gist.  It would be a tough pill to swallow.  Still, the spirit of the plan cannot be faulted – it simply made sense to cash in on this summer with so many of the top free agents hitting the market.  And no doubt there are various contingencies yet to be enacted.  A Kevin Love trade should not outright be ruled out.  But the dream of building a really, really “super team” by adding a like-totally badass guy and also keeping Chandler Parsons would be gone.  With Kyle Lowry gone, Carmelo Anthony likely having played us, and the real possibility this Bosh news is posturing, those odds have shot up dramatically.  We never really had a chance with ‘Bron to begin with.

    What to make of the notion that “had they thought they’d have a chance”, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki would have been Houston’s first targets in free agency, as claimed in the Stein piece?  I don’t know.  To be sure, Bosh is essentially the tailor-made fit for the Rockets’ outfit.  But perhaps I’ve convinced myself too deeply of what Anthony’s tantalizing offensive abilities could bring to extract sincerity from that statement.  Maybe its true.  Maybe its saving face in the pursuit of a guy who is now your top target after he wasn’t.  Who knows?

    On that note, I don’t think I have to spell out the merits of a Bosh signing.  If one were to envision a big man duo constructed in the heavens to bring good and justice to the world, it would look like Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.  (Who are we kidding – it would be Shaq and Kevin Garnett.  But that sounded good and I wanted to use it).  Bosh would bring the floor-spacing, rim protection, pick and roll defense, and championship moxy that would allow Houston to realistically look the Thunder in the eye with their lineup.  He’s the perfect fit and fills every hole this team had been missing.  Though a part of me can’t help but feel underwhelmed by adding a role-player when I felt an alpha-dog was needed.  Other parts of me know this team would have thrashed the Blazers with Bosh in tow.

    What will happen?  Anthony appears to have never been too interested.  And this recent surge of news surrounding James seems a bit too calculated.  Are we really to believe The King is going to tie his future to that dreadful Cavs team?  Matt Moore had a great tweet yesterday that pretty much summed up the internet and free agency:

    And that’s how things have gone really, right from the get-go, with the narrative shifting drastically day to day upon each of these meetings.  The agents for whomever, say Anthony, after each city, put in a call to everyone and that team shifts to the forefront.  Anthony caroused late into the night with Bulls players, spent six hours with Rockets officials over steak dinner (when only two were expected) stepping aside to have a private chat with H&H; he left the Knicks meeting in sync with that management’s vision of the future (whatever that may be, god help them), and then felt very high on the Lakers (curiously after Knicks officials made it known they were weary of giving him the max).  Only Dallas really never got its time in the sun and so at least for that, we can rejoice.  Who likes anything good to happen to Dallas?

    James is set to meet with Riley later this week and then the dominoes could fall.  Would Chris Bosh, so amicably labeled as “Lebron James’ lap dop” by Stan Van Gundy four summers ago, really jump ship before James’ decision?  I highly doubt it.  But we’ll see.  At this point, there’s no use even trying to guess what may happen.

     

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    Houston Rockets, Twitter threaten to destroy holiday weekendhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-twitter-threaten-destroy-holiday-weekend/14470/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-twitter-threaten-destroy-holiday-weekend http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-twitter-threaten-destroy-holiday-weekend/14470/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 16:21:08 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14470 I had planned to relax and enjoy today, spending time with family.  If yesterday was any indication, that likely will not happen. I was out of commission yesterday for three hours during a commute that kept me out of reach from Twitter.  (Why does radio not report on breaking news from the Twitterverse?  It’s not [...]

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    I had planned to relax and enjoy today, spending time with family.  If yesterday was any indication, that likely will not happen.

    I was out of commission yesterday for three hours during a commute that kept me out of reach from Twitter.  (Why does radio not report on breaking news from the Twitterverse?  It’s not even an old-school/new-school issue like the one where the mainstream pretends that blogs and other alternative media sources don’t exist.  If guys like Marc Stein, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Sam Amick–the three most respected newsbreakers in the industry–are recognized as mainstream, which they are, does it not make sense to make mention of breaking reports on air rather than blindly speculating for hours on stuff that was reported a day ago?  I will never, ever, ever understand this industry known as journalism, thus thankfully, I’m a lawyer in real life.)

    When I reached home, I was greeted by the remains of what appeared to be a fake Woj bomb which had done great destruction while I was out.  Apparently a fake Wojnarowski account reported that Lebron James’ preferred destination was the Houston Rockets, the tweet was retweeted by several reputable accounts, and hell broke loose for what appears to have been a few minutes.  Surveying the debris, I thanked the Gods I was not around at the time.  I was lucky this time and may not have made it.

    A lot of other stuff happened as well.  Reports had surfaced earlier in the morning that Carmelo Anthony would be on hand during Pau Gasol’s meeting with the Knicks to pitch the Spanish star on a union.  One wonders how Anthony could truly believe that an aging Gasol could lift the Knicks into contention, but I’m out of answers.

    The real fun was just beginning.  News broke later that Houston was one of a select group of teams that had already met with Rich Paul, the agent for Lebron James, earlier in the week.  Later reports indicated that the Rockets had merely been given a phone call and were lasered in at the time on Anthony.  It then later broke that if Houston were to strike out on Anthony, they would turn their attention towards Heat forward Chris Bosh.  In the meanwhile, the Jeremy Lin crazies continued their onslaught upon my timeline.  It was quite a day.

    What to make of all of this?  Initially, it was fairly odd to grant Houston a phone call and not a full-fledged meeting.  The thinking would be, if you’re going to allow communication, why be restrictive?  I assumed that news lent weight towards the aforementioned rumor circulated that Lebron James and Dwight Howard held a mutual dislike for one another.  Cleveland made sense, Phoenix too with its ability to pair James with Anthony and hell, even L.A. would have as well due to their “storied franchise” status.  But why Dallas and not Houston?  What did Dallas have to offer that the Rockets didn’t?

    Several readers surmised the theory that perhaps the contact restraint was from Houston and not James.  It would seem to make sense.  If you’re James, even if not interested in the Rockets, you at least take the meeting for no other reason than that they are a viable suitor – on the open market, you can’t have enough of those to make Pat Riley sweat into decisive action.  But more importantly, if you’re Morey, and you feel you are closing in on Anthony, you might not want to jeopardize that progress.

    Let’s step back and consider what I just said.  What may be unfolding is the exact scenario I’ve tossed around numerous times on Red94 since the end of The Finals.  James is the greatest player in the world, and might go down as the greatest ever.  This is rare.  An event such as the free agency of a player of this status, right in the prime of his career, just does not happen.  Jordan was not unrestricted until his 30′s.  Kobe was unrestricted once and, sorry Laker fans, Kobe Bryant is no Lebron James.  We throw around the phrase “shift the balance of power in the NBA” around rather lightly – we did it last year upon Dwight’s signing, but in reality, it didn’t really shift anything.  Houston got better, but there wasn’t exactly a power surge.  James’ departure from Miami to any destination would legitimately destroy the league’s current competitive structure.  How huge this is cannot be underscored enough.

    And James is undoubtedly preferable to Anthony.  That point is not in dispute.  But if you feel you’ve legitimately closed in on Anthony, I don’t think you can abandon that effort and turn your attention to James, especially when James might still be a longshot.  Anthony is not Kyle Lowry or Luol Deng.  He’s a big enough fish in his own right that I think you take that bird in the hand.  If they never win the title, with Anthony, Morey might have sleepless nights, wondering what might have happened had he held out for James.  But I think he plays the odds here.  It’s the ultimate game theory determination.

    Think of it this way.  Is Lebron really interested?  (Note that this is all assumptive of Anthony’s sincere interest.  If he’s just using us too, this is a moot point).  James is like the ’10′ who has no real interest in you but keeps teasing you with flirtatious glances every few weeks. Hell, we’ll go further: she might let you take her out to a fancy dinner here and there.  But if Anthony’s interest is sincere, that’s wife material.  You go with the woman that actually likes you back and you don’t risk losing her on a pipedream.  That’s how I feel on this anyway.

    To Bosh: had you asked me, anyone, ten months ago, Chris Bosh would have stood at the top of the list as ideal Rocket power forward target.  For some reason, the perception of him has altered.  He’s considered washed up.  Is he really?  If he isn’t, why was he so underwhelming in the Finals?  I’m really torn.  I know what Bosh brings.  He’d be transformative on this team defensively, and has the range to fit perfectly on offense.  But for some reason, I’d still much rather have Anthony.  Maybe I’ve just convinced myself of what the latter’s offense would bring.

    Love is another issue as well.  I think Love is superior to Bosh, but getting Love would mean sacrificing Chandler Parsons and the Pelicans’ lottery pick.  Getting Bosh would let you plug Parsons back in at small forward and add more fresh blood later.

    As I said last night, when you’re fighting over who to pursue between Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, and Chris Bosh to be your third best player, times are good, man.  Times are real good.

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    The Red94 Podcast: On the Lin Tweet and the Melo Meetinghttp://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-lin-tweet-melo-meeting/14467/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=red94-podcast-lin-tweet-melo-meeting http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-lin-tweet-melo-meeting/14467/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 02:15:27 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14467 In today’s episode, I discuss the grave injustice suffered by Jeremy Lin as well as the team’s long-awaited meeting with Carmelo Anthony. Download this episode (right click and save)

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    In today’s episode, I discuss the grave injustice suffered by Jeremy Lin as well as the team’s long-awaited meeting with Carmelo Anthony.


    Download this episode (right click and save)

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    Houston Rockets to court high school crush today after meeting with ex on Tuesdayhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-court-high-school-crush-today-meeting-ex-tuesday/14466/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=houston-rockets-court-high-school-crush-today-meeting-ex-tuesday http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-court-high-school-crush-today-meeting-ex-tuesday/14466/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:09:07 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14466 Just a few years removed from seeing him turn his nose up at their overtures, the Houston Rockets today will finally have their date with Carmelo Anthony.  They’ll get to make their pitch on their home-court and show him their newly renovated facilities.  Anthony then will get on a plane and head to Dallas where [...]

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    Just a few years removed from seeing him turn his nose up at their overtures, the Houston Rockets today will finally have their date with Carmelo Anthony.  They’ll get to make their pitch on their home-court and show him their newly renovated facilities.  Anthony then will get on a plane and head to Dallas where Mark Cuban will do much of the same, except with a presumptuous look on his face.  There won’t be any late-night dinner and soaking in of the Houston skyline (?) as there was last night in Chicago.  But still, Houston will get the shot they hadn’t gotten before.  They’re thin now and their acne has cleared up.  They now hope to project that newfound confidence upon Anthony with Dwight Howard in the room.

    There are those who believe that the timing of these meetings holds no significance, that it is merely a coincidence of geography.  I tend to disagree.  It means nothing that he visited Chicago first, with its proximity to New York.  But that Anthony spent the entire day with the Bulls while only apportioning half-day meetings with the Rockets and Mavericks should give reason for pause.  His heart is in Chicago: the glitz and glamour the big city has to offer, the same stuff to which he’s become accustomed over the past few years.  The duration of these meetings should not be seen as insignificant.  If all else were equal, I think Anthony would already be a Bull.

    But all else isn’t equal as signing Anthony would require some cap gymnastics.  It appears that even after trading highly valuable swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls could only offer Anthony a contract starting at around $17million.  Giving Anthony something closer to his actual max would require the Knicks taking back Carlos Boozer in a sign&trade, something they, at the moment, appear unwilling to do.

    Houston, on the other hand, from most indications, can free up close to $20million after unloading the contracts of Jeremy Lin, Donatas Motiejunas, and Isaiah Canaan.  This ontop of the tax savings makes Houston the more preferable destination, financially.

    This whole decision could be in Phil Jackson’s hands.  We’ve beaten the merits of each destination firmly into the ground.  Would Phil budge on taking back Boozer if Mirotic is included?  Keeping Boozer altogether would put the Knicks in luxury tax hell, but they could look to trade him as an expiring later in the year.  I don’t think ‘Melo can use the bluff of signing with Houston outright to bait Phil into a sign&trade: letting Anthony walk is preferable to taking Boozer.  But what if Houston offers its own sign&trade package?  Would a package featuring Jeremy Lin and the Pelicans pick convince Jackson to lend a hand?  If Carmelo Anthony wants his money, this thing very well could come down to what package Phil Jackson is willing to take.

    In any event, Houston will have its meeting with Anthony later today.  It will go well and the Rockets will come out confident because that is how everyone in the history of meetings has described themselves to the media afterward.

    -The other news yesterday was that Houston tried to smooth things over with former point guard Kyle Lowry.  The team reportedly made an offer, which Lowry is mulling over, also approaching Toronto with a sign&trade.  The whole scenario leads one to wonder what the hell is going on or whether some of these reports are inaccurate.  Had Lowry committed to signing with the Rockets into their cap space, the Anthony dream would be over; had Lowry been acquired for Lin, the Anthony dream would be over; had Lowry been swapped for Chandler Parsons, well, this whole thing would be really awkward…Houston reportedly plans to make its pitch today to Anthony with Parsons’ presence on the roster as a part of the presentation.

    You can bet money that Daryl Morey has drawn up several contingency plans upon which to act in the event of any number of preceding events.  He’s been playing chess for some years now: he’s not exactly going to get caught with his pants down if striking out on Anthony and say, “f*** it, I’ll offer Jordan Hill 5 years at $50million.”  The guy that would have done that is now enjoying a senior consulting role within the organization, very, very safely away from these decisions, please rest assured.  My hunch is that the media has simply caught wind of various fragments of conversations, from different parties, and the result, manifested in these reports, is a scattered plan.  Houston may very well strike out, and the odds lean in that favor.  But they won’t panic and any move made will be rational.

    -A final note, on Marcin Gortat, who just extracted $60million at 5 years.  I think Omer Asik will command a higher annual figure.  But more strangely, lately, I’ve been personalizing these contracts to a degree at which I never had before.  Can you imagine the feeling of signing a contract that will guarantee you receive $60million?  I simply can’t.

    There will certainly be news today.  Follow me on Twitter if you haven’t.  I’ll rant about something.

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    Report: Houston Rockets in pursuit of everyonehttp://www.red94.net/report-houston-rockets-pursuit-everyone/14464/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=report-houston-rockets-pursuit-everyone http://www.red94.net/report-houston-rockets-pursuit-everyone/14464/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:00:35 +0000 rahat huq http://www.red94.net/?p=14464 Free agency officially got kicked off at midnight last night with Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey traveling to Philadelphia to pitch Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry on being the team’s third highest priority (after James, Melo, Love) during this summer season.  This marks the second point guard whom Houston has relinquished and then later [...]

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    Free agency officially got kicked off at midnight last night with Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey traveling to Philadelphia to pitch Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry on being the team’s third highest priority (after James, Melo, Love) during this summer season.  This marks the second point guard whom Houston has relinquished and then later pursued.  The team also is rumored to have made contact with the representatives of Paul Pierce and James Johnson in addition to navigating the awkward waters of the Chandler Parsons situation.  As has been known since the season ended, Houston also is in pursuit of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Love.  Anthony, specifically, will meet with the Rockets on Wednesday in Houston before taking a short nap and meeting with Dallas.  Or maybe Dallas first, then the nap, then the Rockets.  In summary, Houston has targeted most of the major names on the market.  Jeremy Lin has hired a realtor.

    As I stated some days before in my running commentary on the Anthony/James pursuits, I’ve always been rather curious to know how the semantics play out in these simultaneous pursuits.  It’s clear, at least logically speaking, that the Rockets visited Lowry first because they won’t see Anthony until Tuesday.  The thinking would go that they then might as well put that first day to good use and feign excitement and priority over someone else.  Lebron James is only accepting FaceTime calls via Rich Paul’s iPhone, so Lowry is the natural choice.  But how does that conversation go?  ”Hey, we love you, we still have your jersey, we got your back if you and Kevin get into it again, we’re willing to overlook the tantrum you threw when Goran Dragic outplayed you, we want you back.”…”Okay, sign me up.”…”Oh wait, wait, wait, wait…can you just, you know….hold off on that a bit?  We need to, uh…talk to a few other people.”

    The last time we brought back a star point guard after trading him away for a cornerstone shooting guard, Steve Francis ended up playing like a total of four minutes the entire season before seeing his career spiral downward entirely culminating in a rap video which I will NOT link to on this blog.  It appeared last night that the initial bid on Lowry’s services would begin at $14.5million before it was discovered that someone had scammed Yahoo!’s Marc J. Spears into the report.   This, of course, coming on the heels of the uncomfortable circumstances last week when former ESPN correspondent Ric Bucher reported that a deal between the Raptors and Heat to swap Lowry and Chris Bosh was already in the works, a rumor that turned out to be categorically false.  Makes one wonder what the hell is going on up there in Canada.

    Aside from the surreality that the obscure fat kid we got back for Rafer Alston is actually one of the top players on the market, I have mixed feelings overall on Lowry.  He’s tremendous, yes, but does he really represent that great an upgrade over Patrick Beverley to warrant a salary 12x the amount earned by the team’s incumbent?  Beverley, at this stage, is better defensively, (far, far, far better if Lowry is anything close to the matador he became in his final year in Houston), and comparable or even better on the boards, depending on which way you skew the numbers.  Lowry is obviously superior on offense.  But would he fit next to Harden?  Would this not be Jeremy Lin all over again?  The distinction, of course, is that Lowry likely would not back down from The Beard’s intimidating gestures, but is that even a good thing?  I’ve stated in the past that, salary considerations included, Pat Beverley was the ideal fit at point guard next to Harden.  That statement is inclusive of both skillset and interpersonal dynamics.  Can you upset that?

    It’s obvious what’s going on here, I think.  You can’t deal Asik, one of your most valuable pieces, and then strike out with nothing heading into one of Dwight Howard’s last seasons.  Lowry represents an upgrade, and if maybe not at the ideal spot, he still gives the team another player.  Too often at the end of games last year, the lineup looked like James Harden and four guys who could do nothing on their own.  Beverley isn’t exactly an offensive threat.

    If you strike out on Anthony and Love, (let’s forget about Lebron), and you trade Lin into capspace, you open up close to $20million, as we’ve delineated and as has been established by the internet.  It seems $12million will be the going rate for Lowry, leaving you with $8million to get someone else.  Is that enough for Deng or Ariza?  Bringing back Trevor Ariza was a nightmare I’ve woken up from far too many times ever since the day he was traded; I don’t think Deng goes for just $8million, though we offer the chance to contend.  A smallball lineup of Lowry, Harden, Howard, a re-signed Parsons, and Deng at the ’4′, is, umm, fearsome.  But again, I am not of the opinion that Deng goes for just $8million, especially with the Hawks looming.  I also am not sure $12million is enough to get Lowry.  You are most likely looking at something like Lowry, Paul Pierce, and Spencer Hawes.  You could do far worse, but not exactly the scenarios I had envisioned after a Melo coup.

    Other thoughts:

    -Someone is about to overpay drastically for Chandler Parsons.  I’ve prepared myself mentally and emotionally for news of an offer approaching over $12million/annually, especially when giving consideration to how many teams have or can have cap space this summer.  If the Rockets are able to get commitments from their other targets, the extra couple of million I do not think will be a concern.  Being over is being over, so long as your owner is willing to foot the bill.  (Still, we have yet to see whether Les Alexander truly is willing to pay the tax, despite his very public proclamations on that matter every summer).

    -The team meets with Anthony tomorrow in their facility, hoping to use, as the Chronicle put it, “gadgetry”, in their pitch to the star free agent.  A few things should be noted: 1) it absolutely baffles me when reports come to the surface as to what appeals players find substantive.  In my mind, all that matters is money, winning, and location, in whatever order you want to put it.  But when you have the Lakers pitching Dwight on their historical legacy (and subsequently Houston as well), and now Houston showing off their lockerroom, it really makes one pause, shedding light into the mind of a professional athlete.  Houston campaigned hard last summer on the back of the premise that Dwight would be the latest in a legacy of centers spanning from Hayes, Moses, Hakeem, and Yao.  And it worked!  I know there was other stuff to the pitch, but by all accounts, it seemed that part of it was appealing to him!  Why?  Why does that even matter?  Similarly, how is having a state of the art video room a significant consideration in this process?  It baffles me, but if it works, that’s what you do, and that’s what the Rockets are doing.  And as we’ve learned, the Rockets under Morey usually know what they’re doing.

    2) Second point, on Anthony.  It speaks volumes to how far technology has advanced, and at the rapid speeds at which it has and does, that just four years ago, an Ipad–i.e. the one that was so famously presented to Chris Bosh–was considered a luxury item.  That that event was so widely mocked at the time also speaks volumes to how far the Rockets have come.

    Follow me on Twitter by clicking the button below for all free agency updates and random rants regarding the Houston Rockets.

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    Rockets Daily – June 30, 2014http://www.red94.net/rockets-daily-june-30-2014/14461/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rockets-daily-june-30-2014 http://www.red94.net/rockets-daily-june-30-2014/14461/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 05:01:58 +0000 mitchell felker http://www.red94.net/?p=14461 More Draft Stuff - Now that we know who the Houston Rockets have selected in the draft, we can go back and catch up on some of the coverage we may have overlooked heading into the draft.  Most of this content is ESPN Insider material, so I though I would pass on some of the [...]

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    More Draft Stuff - Now that we know who the Houston Rockets have selected in the draft, we can go back and catch up on some of the coverage we may have overlooked heading into the draft.  Most of this content is ESPN Insider material, so I though I would pass on some of the more important tidbits from ESPN’s top-secret files.  But first, Chad Ford’s grades for the Rockets from draft night.

    HOUSTON ROCKETS | GRADE: C-

    Round 1:Clint Capela (25)

    Round 2:Nick Johnson (42)

    Analysis: The Rockets are busy trying to clear cap space for a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Again, I’m not sure how likely it is they land either guy, but both players are worth the effort. So the Rockets took a player in Capela, whom they can leave in Europe to develop — and he needs the time. Capela is long and athletic, but very raw. His analytics numbers were off the charts for Kevin Pelton, but watching him in games was pretty painful. He has a ways to go.

    Johnson, who is tough and super-athletic, could help now if the Rockets have a roster spot. He defends and can shoot it a bit. If he were a few inches taller, he would’ve gone much, much higher.      

    A few things to note here.  To start, the C- grade seems a little unfair.  As Ford himself says in the intro, grading teams this early is subjective and unfair.  The Rockets were operating under a different set of criteria than most teams do on draft night.  We all know they needed to maintain as much cap space as possible and taking a foreign guy was always going to be their move.  And as for Nick Johnson, Ford admits that the undersized shooting guard would have gone much higher if he were a few inches taller, but if he slots in as a starting-quality point guard next to another ball-dominant shooting guard?  That could really improve this grade on its own.

    Even More Draft Stuff - Pre-draft analysis on international prospects can be pretty daunting if you try and study up on all of it.  Most of the foreign players drafted won’t come to the NBA immediately, if at all.  And it’s much less exciting for fans when their teams take a guy they’ve never heard of over a college player you’ve been watching all year.  There’s just too many sleepers, fallers and dream-picks to keep track of, which means you may have overlooked someone like Rockets’ pick Clint Capela.  But fear not, the internet really had this guy covered.

    The first piece I remember seeing Capela’s name was in a piece on Grantland by Mark Titus in which he made an International All-Star team by judging prospects by just their YouTube mixtapes.  It’s accessible to everyone so I won’t spend too much time on it, just know that in it Titus admits, “his mixtape DID make me cover my mouth twice, and I said “Holy balls!” once. That means something.”

    For more in-depth Capela-coverage, Kevin Pelton had three different pieces making the case for Capela.  In the first, Pelton uses his SHOENE metric to determine the projected WARP for the top-ten international prospects.  And you’ll never guess who beat out Dante Exum (3) and Dario Saric (7) as the top-projected prospect.

    1. Clint Capela, PF, Chalon (3.4 projected WARP)

    Capela’s star has lost much of its luster since a disappointing effort at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, but it’s worth remembering why he was once considered a likely lottery pick. Before age 20, Capela was one of the best players in the French ProA League and put up similar numbers in Chalon’s brief EuroCup stay. He projects as a high-percentage finisher, a plus rebounder and a good shot-blocker from the power forward spot. SCHOENE compares Capela to former No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors during his rookie season.

    There’s something else Rockets’ fans should take note of in this piece.  Pelton uses the same metric to list the top-10 international prospects from 2006-2013, of which only Ricky Rubio cracks the top-5 of this year’s list (albeit at number 1).  But look who’s at number 8.

    TOP 10 INTERNATIONAL PROSPECTS BY WARP (2006-13)

    PlayerYearPickWin%AgepWARP*
    Ricky Rubio20095.48018.53.7
    Nikola Mirotic201123.48220.22.9
    Rudy Fernandez200724.52122.02.9
    Jonas Valanciunas20115.44619.02.7
    Lucas Nogueira201316.47420.72.4
    Danilo Gallinari20086.47320.72.4
    Andrea Bargnani20061.48521.52.3
    Sergio Llull200934.48221.42.2
    Sergey Karasev201319.42919.52.0
    Brandon Jennings201010.44420.61.8

    In his second piece, Pelton lists the top 30 prospects by their projected WARP.  Former Oklahoma State and now Boston Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart tops the list, but Capela is a surprise at number two.

    2. Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
    Win%: .497 | Age: 19.9 | WARP projection: 3.4

    As I noted in last week’s analysis of the top international prospects in the draft, which highlighted the overall strength of the group, Capela performed well both in the French Pro A league and in his team’s brief stint in the EuroCup against more challenging competition. He is an excellent shot-blocker for a power forward and is arguably the best finisher in this year’s draft, as reflected by his projected 54.4 percent 2-point accuracy.

    Now, take this list with a grain of salt because even though Pelton adjusts the metric for differences in the level of competition, three of the top four on his list are international prospects, ahead of thoroughbreds like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.  It’s all pretty much the same information as the first article, but it really shows how highly Capela grades out to the rest of the draft class according to the analytics.

    In the last piece, Pelton sums up Capela’s game and declares the Swiss big man the potential steal of the draft.

    To start, Pelton highlights Capela’s three elite skills: 2-point shot percentage, rebound percentage (especially on the offensive end) and block percentage.  He also compares Capela’s stats to players (Alexis Ajinca and Rudy Gobert) that appeared in games in both the NBA and the French Pro A League last season.

    Other players who have gone back and forth from the NBA to the French Pro A League offer some context for Capela’s stats. Alexis Ajinca played in both leagues last season, starting the year with Strasbourg in France before signing with the New Orleans Pelicans in December. The 7-2 center put up similar block and rebound numbers, but he did not shoot as high a percentage from the field as Capela. He averaged 17 minutes per game in the NBA, starting 30 games for the Pelicans, and posted a 14.6 PER.

    Ajinca isn’t exactly Hakeem Olajuwon, but he did start 30 games in the NBA last year and a 14.6 PER is nothing to scoff at.  And keep in mind that Capela was only 19 years old.  Pelton also compares how Capela’s converted numbers from last season stack up to other NBA players at a similar age.

    After conversion, Capela’s translated 2013-14 performance features 54.0 percent 2-point shooting, a 16.1 percent rebound rate and a 3.7 percent block rate. Check out the NBA big men who have cleared similar bars (52 percent shooting, 15 percent rebound rate and 3 percent block rate) before age 21:

    PlayerTeamYearAge2P%Reb%Blk%
    Andris BiedrinsGSW200620.1.638.160.034
    Andrew BynumLAL200820.5.636.193.051
    Tyson ChandlerCHI200320.6.531.155.042
    Anthony DavisNOH201320.1.521.170.051
    Andre DrummondDET201420.7.625.226.040
    Dwight HowardORL200620.4.532.206.030
    Serge IbakaOKC201020.6.543.171.055
    Al JeffersonBOS200520.3.533.172.039
    Amir JohnsonDET200821.0.558.183.084
    DeAndre JordanLAC200920.7.633.180.057
    Jonas ValanciunasTOR201321.0.557.150.042
    Not everyone on this list is an All-Star, but as Pelton says, all of them are NBA caliber players; even Andris Biedrins was one of the league’s most promising young big men once upon a time.  One other note from Pelton that highlights the real value of getting Capela at 25:
    Usually, getting a prospect such as Capela requires a lottery pick. Of the 11 players in the group listed, eight went in the top 15 picks. But because Capela struggled in front of NBA scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, and has performed poorly in workouts, his stock — once lottery-worthy — has slipped down the first round.
    It was already the parallel I’d kind of envisioned beforehand, but especially after reading all of Pelton’s analysis, there seems to be a lot of DeAndre Jordan in Capela’s game.  He appears to have that kind of athletic ability.  Of course he’d have to add quite a bit of weight and strength to his frame, but as Mark Titus noted in the Grantland piece, Capela’s body changed size just during the time span that was his highlight video.  It may take 2-3 years to come to fruition, but if Kevin Pelton is even partially correct, that C- is going to come back to haunt Chad Ford.
    In other news regarding the Rockets’ 2014 draft class, Milano defeated powerhouse Siena 74-67 in Game 7 of the Legabasket Serie A Finals.  Rockets’ draft pick Alessandro Gentile, purchased from the Minnesota TimberWolves on draft night, led all scorers (18 points) for the second straight game and was named Finals MVP.
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    The Amazing Aberration that is the San Antonio Spurshttp://www.red94.net/amazing-aberration-san-antonio-spurs/14458/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amazing-aberration-san-antonio-spurs http://www.red94.net/amazing-aberration-san-antonio-spurs/14458/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 03:44:24 +0000 Richard Li http://www.red94.net/?p=14458 Sup. Thought I’d pop in to nerdify things a bit before everyone goes bananas over LeMeloLove. Like everyone else, I watched the NBA finals completely slackjawed. If you were not clapping for the Spurs out of admiration, or at least begrudging respect, then I will dedicate my next chart to showing how statistically dead to [...]

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    Click for a full-sized, interactive version

    Click for a full-sized, interactive version

    Sup. Thought I’d pop in to nerdify things a bit before everyone goes bananas over LeMeloLove.

    Like everyone else, I watched the NBA finals completely slackjawed. If you were not clapping for the Spurs out of admiration, or at least begrudging respect, then I will dedicate my next chart to showing how statistically dead to me you are. Anyone who has ever complained about isolation-happy heroball watched those finals with a few tears welling up in their eyes.

    Afterwards, the internet was somewhat split over what the Spurs victory portended. On one hand, it might be a harbinger of things to come–more teams would employ ball movement, passing, and all that good stuff. On the other hand, it might portend nothing because the Spurs are a complete anomaly that cannot be replicated. Rahat agrees with this opinion.

    It’s time to look at the data.

    It probably says something about the state of basketball that this is the first year for which passing stats are kept. I mean, passing is pretty much the 3rd most basic basketball move, right after running and jumping. Yet, until this year, we didn’t care enough about it to record who makes how many passes.

    The link at the top shows a chart that graphs teams’ offensive ratings against their respective passes per possession. Right away you see that the correlation (the red trend line), contrary to what might be popularly believed, is negative. That is, fewer passes per possession is associated with a higher offensive rating. The Houston Rockets are pretty much right on the trend line. Meanwhile, the Spurs are in no man’s land in that top right corner. Also surprising is that the Spurs aren’t even tops in the league in passes per possession. They’re 4th, behind Charlotte, Chicago, and Utah.

    This analysis, however, is a little misleading, because not all possessions are created equal. Teams that are more fast break oriented, for example, might have more but shorter possessions in which one pass or no passes are made. Slower, half-court oriented teams might have fewer but longer possessions in which many passes are made. Both types of offenses, in theory, can be effective.

    In order to account for different types of possessions, I created a second chart, which you can access by clicking on the second tab in the graph link. This chart shows teams’ offensive ratings against their average seconds of possession per pass. Basically, how long are teams holding the ball before they make a pass. Once again, the trend line is negative, though the slope is less steep than the previous chart’s trend line. The Rockets are now above average in ball movement, holding the ball less long before passing than most other teams. The Spurs do lead the league in seconds of possessions per pass, followed by Philadelphia.

    That both trend lines are negative is somewhat alarming. More and quicker passing does not correlate with better offense. From a statistical perspective, this is what makes the Spurs a true aberration. By passing the ball and being offensively efficient, they are essentially going against the grain of the NBA. Three teams pass more per possession, and their offenses are all below average. Philadelphia, who hold onto the ball almost as little as the Spurs, has the worst offense in the NBA. On the other hand, the Thunder, who do not pass much per possession and hold onto the ball quite a bit, also has a pretty good offense.

    I’m probably the most guilty person on this blog of advocating for more ball movement and less ball holding. However, the data shows that passing doesn’t magically lead to easier scoring opportunities. Often making lots of passes might be a sign that no one is talented enough to score. Or excessive passing can just as easily be a sign of a broken system and confused players. The Spurs have a rare combination of talented players who are willing to be unselfish and a system that rewards it.

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