Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings http://www.red94.net Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:26:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 James Harden vs. Tracy McGradyhttp://www.red94.net/james-harden-vs-tracy-mcgrady/15680/ http://www.red94.net/james-harden-vs-tracy-mcgrady/15680/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:26:36 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15680 Tracy McGrady’s best year in a Rockets uniform came in 2004-2005, his first in Houston, when he was 25 years old.  McGrady averaged 25.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on the year.  He shot 43% overall, 33% on 3’s, and 47% on 2’s.  He got to the line for 7.1 free throw attempts per […]

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Tracy McGrady’s best year in a Rockets uniform came in 2004-2005, his first in Houston, when he was 25 years old.  McGrady averaged 25.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on the year.  He shot 43% overall, 33% on 3’s, and 47% on 2’s.  He got to the line for 7.1 free throw attempts per game.  By comparison, James Harden this season, at age 25, is averaging 27.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game.  Harden is shooting 45% overall, 38% on 3’s, and 49% on 2’s.  He’s getting to the line 9.6 times per game.

McGrady turned the ball over 9.5 times per 100 possessions; Harden’s rate is at 15.3.  Each player has a usage percentage of 31% for the respective years in question.

McGrady shot 37% of his field goals from between 16 feet and the 3 point line, at an accuracy rate of 44%.  His next highest attempted area was from beyond the 3 point line, where he took 26% of his attempts, at 33%, as aforementioned.  Harden, on the other hand, takes 38% of his shots from beyond the 3 point line, shooting them at 38%.  Harden’s next highest attempted area is at the rim where he takes 31% of his shots, with a 62% accuracy rate.  (McGrady shot 57% at the rim in ’05).  Also, Harden takes only 13% of his shots from between 16 feet and the 3 point line, McGrady’s favorite area on the court.  Harden is shooting 34% from that area.

I never thought we’d see a shooting guard in Houston better than McGrady’s inaugural season.  At the time of his acquisition, he was arguably, at worst, the second best player in the entire league.  But James Harden, already, at a similar age, (though with lesser experience since T-Mac jumped straight from high school), is putting up numbers better than anything T-Mac did with the Rockets. Harden has gotten better during his time here while McGrady, sadly, peaked in that first season, and slowly deteriorated from then onward.

Unlike McGrady, you expect Harden to age gracefully with continued improvement.  While his reputation was as a dunk artist, what’s misunderstood is that by this point, McGrady was already finely skilled in the intricate aspects of basketball.  In fact, his strengths in the mid range could even be taken as detrimental as he shied away from the paint more and more over the years.  Harden, on the other hand, is just now figuring things out from the mid-range.  McGrady, at 6’9, could just rise over any opponent for a jumpshot whenever he wanted it.  Harden, however, has to step back, or step out, to get a clean look.

The strides Harden has made this season are pretty incredible.  The ball-handling is crisper, but he’s also worked hard to improve on some of his glaring tendencies.  As recently as even the beginning of this season, he’d almost always drive left and step out to his right.  This became predictable, with smart defenders jumping on his spots.  As we’ve seen recently, Harden is now driving with both hands, and stepping out in both directions.

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Houston Rockets 105, Cleveland Cavaliers 103: Intensityhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-105-cleveland-cavaliers-103-intensity/15677/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-105-cleveland-cavaliers-103-intensity/15677/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 00:38:04 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15677 No big deal here, it was just the most exciting and meaningful Rockets win of the season. LeBron James and his Cavaliers super team just happened to swing by and deliver the most intense and scrappy battle Houston has seen this year, and James Harden just happened to deliver item number seven thousand in his […]

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No big deal here, it was just the most exciting and meaningful Rockets win of the season. LeBron James and his Cavaliers super team just happened to swing by and deliver the most intense and scrappy battle Houston has seen this year, and James Harden just happened to deliver item number seven thousand in his ever-growing MVP resume. It was pure coincidence that this game went to overtime, giving the world five more minutes to watch two of the best players in the world literally struggle against one another. And, somehow, in the end, the game came down to free throw shooting, but not in the way you might think.

This was a fun, tight, exciting game throughout the first half, with neither team gaining a double digit lead. And then the third quarter started, and Patrick Beverley tried to take a charge against LeBron James. That it was eventually called as a blocking foul was immaterial. The ensuing scuffle, however, set a tone that would persist throughout the remainder of the game. As LeBron James fell to the floor, he placed his hand on Beverley’s chest, something which Patrick seemed to take objection to. A shouting match upgraded to some kind of mass scuffle, and double techs were issued. The game was back on.

And then things got intense.

Both teams were heated at this point, with a series of increasingly hostile interactions leading up to an overtime finish. Timofey Mozgov and James Harden fell to the ground while scrambling for a loose ball, a scrum which ended with Mozgov grabbing James Harden’s foot to foul him and prevent a fast break. Trevor Ariza, in turn, got into Mozgov’s face in a later possession, for which he was issued a technical foul. (for which LeBron missed the free throw, in a shocking pattern.) This string of events would come to a head with Harden scrambling for a loose ball while James comes after him, resulting in an angry kick from Harden directly into LeBron’s groin. Surprisingly, Harden was let off with a mere flagrant foul, but the Rockets have found themselves in the sights of yet another team.

This game turned into a battle for MVP votes somewhere along the way, and the short answer is that James Harden won it. The longer answer is that they two players had eerily similar stat lines, with a couple glaring exceptions. LeBron James scored 37 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished 4 assists and surrounded that with 3 steals, 3 blocks and 4 turnovers. Harden’s line was a similar 33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 5 turnovers. The difference came in efficiency. LeBron James shot 15-35 to get there, including 4-12 from deep, and most notably he missed 8 of his 11 free throw attempts, including two consecutive misses at the end of the game. Harden, for his part, shot 8-18, 2-6 three pointers, and 15-18 (!!!) at the stripe.

The game ended not with a bang, but with a weird confusing few possessions in which Harden at one point hooked LeBron and tried to use him like a puppet to get a foul, which didn’t work. After LeBron failed to hit free throws, Harden did indeed seal the game, but missed on purpose with .6 seconds left in order to burn the clock. After a review, the Cavs were given a final .3 seconds to shoot a three for the win, but couldn’t get the shot off in time, which Josh Smith blocked for good measure. The rest of the plays for the Cavs were largely isolation for LeBron James, in a dark mirror of Houston’s plays for James Harden. Trevor Ariza proved up to the task however, and even James Harden had success guarding LeBron. It turns out that Harden has always been a solid one on one defender, and that hasn’t changed.

It was an up and down game, and the team largely played the way it needs to, though the bench embarrassingly  gave up an 8 point lead in a mere 90 seconds to start the fourth. They also helped key in a vicious third quarter in which the Rockets hovered at an 8-10 point lead. We got the best of Josh Smith and the worst of Josh Smith. Terrence Jones grabbed rebounds and dunked like crazy. Donatas Motiejunas shook his man in the post. Trevor Ariza defended with the best of them and Corey Brewer fired it up off the bench. If this team can keep up this intensity, they’re going to be a holy terror this post season. Oh, and they’ll get Dwight Howard back, too.

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A glance at the Houston Rockets’ schedule for the week of March 1 through March 7http://www.red94.net/glance-houston-rockets-schedule-week-march-1-march-7/15640/ http://www.red94.net/glance-houston-rockets-schedule-week-march-1-march-7/15640/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 17:06:34 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15640 Five games in seven nights, including three in a row against three of the strongest finals contenders in the league.  The East’s representative in late May will surely be one of Cleveland or Atlanta.  Take note that the game against Cleveland today will begin at 2:30, rather than the 6PM listed originally on the Rockets’ […]

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Screenshot 2015-03-01 10.47.06

Five games in seven nights, including three in a row against three of the strongest finals contenders in the league.  The East’s representative in late May will surely be one of Cleveland or Atlanta.  Take note that the game against Cleveland today will begin at 2:30, rather than the 6PM listed originally on the Rockets’ web site, as it was picked up by ABC.

The Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving, but are just as dangerous, with Lebron James on a mission.  After his performance last week against the Warriors, one can expect James to take similar aim at the Rockets’ James Harden.

That Tuesday/Wednesday back to back will be murderous, and Houston would have to feel good about even getting a split.  And then, with a back to back against Detroit and Denver, in games you would expect the team to win, the fear is that the exhaustion from the week will reflect in the results.

Screenshot 2015-03-01 11.00.09

Having now gone 7-3 in their last ten, and winning four straight, the Rockets have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, a feat truly remarkable considering their injury status.  Houston could even conceivably catch Memphis, with just two games separating the teams.  But they’ll have to get through this week first, and that will truly be a test.

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Houston Rockets 102, Brooklyn Nets 98: 40 before 20http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-102-brooklyn-nets-98-40-20/15635/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-102-brooklyn-nets-98-40-20/15635/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:02:00 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15635 I have made it clear in past recaps and roundtables that I have real issues with certain aspects of this Rockets squad – their three-point shooting is not strong enough and they do not have enough size without Howard among other concerns. Even though Houston has the rarest and most important part of a championship […]

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I have made it clear in past recaps and roundtables that I have real issues with certain aspects of this Rockets squad – their three-point shooting is not strong enough and they do not have enough size without Howard among other concerns. Even though Houston has the rarest and most important part of a championship team, a true MVP candidate, their flaws will likely prevent them from winning the championship this year. Nevertheless, I remain irritated that the Rockets continue to be overlooked as a championship team for reasons beyond said flaws. Even the Spurs, a team that has never looked this bad in the Duncan era, are given more credibility. The reason seems to be nothing more than a shallow declaration of how the Rockets are soft and Harden does not have “it” – just like Dirk did not have “it” before 2011 and LeBron before 2012.

Well, maybe winning 40 games before losing 20, Phil Jackson’s mark on what makes a contender, will change the tone. Only the Hawks, Warriors, and Grizzlies have accomplished the same, while Portland could at the time of this writing. And if that was not good enough, the Rockets did not have to ask Harden to shoulder everything tonight. The Beard was not the scoring machine that he usually is due to his sprained ankle, but Houston still prevailed over an inferior Brooklyn with a true team effort.

But even though the Rockets won, the Brooklyn Nets led for the vast majority of the game. The Rockets started off slow and fell behind by double digits early in the first quarter, but the Rockets bench erased that lead by the 3:30 mark of the next quarter. But whenever the Rockets grabbed a small lead and seemed poised to make a run, their offense sputtered. Harden was relentlessly double-teamed for the entire game, and so the Rockets struggled to find other scorers for much of the night.

Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley stepped in to fill the offense, a welcome answer as they returned to playing at a level resembling NBA basketball. Ariza in particular was on fire from long-range for the second straight game, and finished with 20 points on 11 shots. Beverley struggled to shoot for most of the game, but he showed up when it counted most by hitting a wide open three pointer with a minute left to complete a late 12-4 Rockets run that tied the game. Both of them did struggle to guard Brooklyn’s wing lineup – Joe Johnson and Alan Anderson are big swingmen who repeatedly outbigged Ariza and Beverley – but it was still a great bounce back game from the rest of the season.

And of course, there was Terrence Jones. The Nets have some good big men, and Brook Lopez toyed with the Howard-less Rockets for most of the fourth quarter, especially on the offensive glass. Motiejunas scored points with that baby hook shot of his and Josh Smith had some great blocks, but Terrence Jones ran around carrying the frontcourt and the Rockets tonight. Rahat and others have compared Jones to a young Josh Smith, but Jones comes with the advantage of not thinking he’s a three-point shooter. All nine of his made field goals came close to the basket, including a shot where he double clutched to prevent getting blocked by Lopez.

And thanks to Jones, Joey Dorsey only played 2 minutes tonight after not playing at all against the Clippers. The Rockets rotation is readjusting itself in the aftermath of the trade deadline, with Prigioni finally getting rotation minutes at the point guard spot. K.J. McDaniels may have been the more visible acquisition from last week, but Pablo Prigioni is here to fill a very big hole in Houston’s passing.

P.S. Hi, Smith. You had your period when you shot 3’s well. That was pretty cool. Now don’t do it again. Don’t take 5 three-pointers in a game. You were doing well enough when you played inside the rim, and maybe you should continue to do that.

Tonight was not a pretty victory, and it was a game in which the Brooklyn Nets led for most of the time. But the Houston Rockets accomplished the bare minimum and hit the right shots to achieve victory over the Nets, thanks largely to Ariza and Jones. And now they sit with the fourth-best record in the NBA. Harden may be the rock on which everything rests – but it will be nice to see if people pay attention to the Rockets and not just him.

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Lineup data to this pointhttp://www.red94.net/lineup-data-point/15631/ http://www.red94.net/lineup-data-point/15631/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:33:13 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15631 After seeing Houston pull away last night to start the fourth, my hypothesis was that the Rockets’ offense is at its best with Corey Brewer in the lineup.  I set NBA.com’s parameters to a minimum of 10 games played together, and found that the top Rockets quintet is Ariza/Harden/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry, with an offensive rating of 143 […]

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After seeing Houston pull away last night to start the fourth, my hypothesis was that the Rockets’ offense is at its best with Corey Brewer in the lineup.  I set NBA.com’s parameters to a minimum of 10 games played together, and found that the top Rockets quintet is Ariza/Harden/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry, with an offensive rating of 143 in 23 minutes together.  For lineups that have played at least 35 minutes together, the top quintet is Brewer/Harden/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry with an offensive rating of 127 in 36 minutes.  The common theme there is that the team seems to be at its best offensively with Motiejunas/Smith/Terry/Harden and a wing.

Strangely, defensively, for lineups that had played at least 35 minutes together, the stingiest unit was Ariza/Brewer/Jones/Smith/Terry with a defensive rating of 72.9 in 40 minutes of shared court time.  For lineups that have played 10 games together, the stingiest unit is Ariza/Brewer/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry with a defensive rating of 74.8 in 37 minutes player together.

Interesting to note above the glaring omissions of Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard.  And in Howard’s case, its not that he hasn’t played enough to qualify for the parameters – he can be found in some of the later units.

Obviously, small sample size alert.  And a lot is lost in the numbers.  But some of the combinations seem to meet the eye test.  Once a sufficiently sizable sample accumulates, I’m very curious to see how lineups with Terrence Jones fare in general to the other combinations.

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Houston Rockets 110, Los Angeles Clippers 105: Avengedhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-110-los-angeles-clippers-105-avenged/15626/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-110-los-angeles-clippers-105-avenged/15626/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 04:27:02 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15626 James Harden might not have dropped a monster game on the Clippers, but he got something even more important: the second win against his hometown Clippers in his tenure with the Rockets. Even as the clock ran down and the Rockets led by double digits, Los Angeles refused to submit, coming back to within four […]

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James Harden might not have dropped a monster game on the Clippers, but he got something even more important: the second win against his hometown Clippers in his tenure with the Rockets. Even as the clock ran down and the Rockets led by double digits, Los Angeles refused to submit, coming back to within four as Houston escaped with a precious victory. The turning point of a close game was a breakout run by the Rockets bench in the fourth quarter, creating a gap that was just too wide for the Clippers to overcome. Even when Harden is struggling, even when Dwight Howard is missing, even against a team that seems to have their number, the Rockets were able to put it together for a national audience.

As heartening as this victory was for the team, there are still causes for concern. The Clippers were also without Blake Griffin, and the Rockets still seem to have no answer for J.J. Redick. Houston was lucky that he only did 15 points worth of damage given that he shot 50% from deep (and overall). Chris Paul will always get his, and DeAndre Jordan’s demolition should be curtailed somewhat when Dwight Howard returns, but Redick is a savvy player without the ball and a ruthless shooter when he does touch it. It’s good to know that the Rockets are physically able to beat the Clippers, but they still would be a tough out in the post season. And, of course, they’re currently slated to be Houston’s first round opponent, because the Western Conference can never stop being ridiculous.

Corey Brewer and Josh Smith continued their reign of running and jumping, causing chaos and generally disrupting the Clippers’ game plans whenever they were on the court. Smith shot only 2-9, but his 9 points (barely) justified that many shots and his 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks were, as always, the more important part of his line. Seemingly freed from the onus to be a primary scorer, Josh Smith has become the bigger, tougher Leatherman style tool next to the sleek Swiss army knife that is Corey Brewer. Brewer scored 20 points on 17 shots, had 6 boards, 2 assists, a block and a steal to go along with them, and pushed the pace at every opportunity. The Clippers don’t mind pushing it at all, but Brewer was key to the backbreaking run by attacking before the defense was set. If he’d been on the Rockets all season long, he might be a serious contender for sixth man of the year.

Pablo Prigioni also played a few minutes due to a tightened rotation (which featured 8 players and a ghostly whiff of Joey Dorsey at 0 minutes with 0 stats in the box score), and his 16 minutes were critical to the team. He may only have shot 1-4, but the one he hit was a three, and a couple others were layups he somehow missed. He only notched 3 assists, but his 2 steals were a great boon, and his levelheaded play was important in that crucial bench run. He’s likely to get more minutes as he proves to head coach Kevin McHale just how cagey of a veteran he is.

Harden ended with a solid night after starting 0-6, and earned himself more than a few MVP chants by closing strong. 4-13 shooting isn’t exactly impressive, but with free throws his score ballooned to 21. His 10 assists showed that he moved into a facilitation mode most of the night, something that’s been increasingly important for a spotty Houston offense. The scariest Harden moment was when he jumped off of a turned ankle and rolled on the ground seemingly in agony. Whether due to ankles of steel or a penchant for embellishing injury, he got up, walked it off, and finished out the game. He may need a couple days to rest his ankle once he stops walking on it, but he was able to bury a nasty dagger late in the game despite clear discomfort. The beard does not go quietly.

Jason Terry was the lone member of the more-shots-than-points club in the starters, ending with 8 points on 10 shots. His three pointers have been iffy lately, but this is the nature of the three point shot. Terrence Jones was aggressive and came away with 14 points and 8 rebounds. His partner in the paint, Donatas Motiejunas, was stroking it from three point range (3-4) and came away with 18 points, 9 rebounds and some very good defensive plays. Trevor Ariza had a Trevor Ariza night, shooting 5-9 behind the arc, scoring 17, and providing 4 each of rebounds and assists. This was the kind of game the other starters needed to have, and hopefully a preview of how things will go in May.

A lot of things had to go right for the Rockets to beat the Clippers, but they happened, the Rockets won, and James Harden has some scant revenge. While questions about Dwight Howard’s return and longevity loom over the team, for now James Harden and an elite bench are enough to cruise against teams like the Clippers. The Rockets don’t want to lose that third seed, and tonight they distanced themselves a little more from the pack. They avenged their last loss to Los Angeles, and that’s good enough for today.

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On Terrence Jones’ return to the starting lineuphttp://www.red94.net/terrence-jones-return-starting-lineup/15612/ http://www.red94.net/terrence-jones-return-starting-lineup/15612/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:39:54 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15612 It was only a matter of time before Terrence Jones supplanted Joey Dorsey in the Houston starting lineup.  Since coming back from the nerve issues which derailed his start to the season, Jones has slowly rounded back into form into the player the Rockets hoped he would become.  On the year, he’s now averaging 9.8 […]

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It was only a matter of time before Terrence Jones supplanted Joey Dorsey in the Houston starting lineup.  Since coming back from the nerve issues which derailed his start to the season, Jones has slowly rounded back into form into the player the Rockets hoped he would become.  On the year, he’s now averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 24 minutes per game.  Diving deeper into the numbers, we can see how Jones has done his damage.

While he’s shooting 64% from within less than five feet, Jones astoundingly is just 5 for 33 from the field for 15% on all jump shots.  He’s also made just 3 three pointers all season.  What’s more, Jones has taken just two corner threes all season, missing both.  I’ll have to watch more closely now that I’ve seen these numbers, but it seems the Rockets no longer want to use Jones as a ‘stretch 4′ and are allowing him to play a traditional role, to his strengths.  That would make sense: with Dwight Howard sidelined, and Donatas Motiejunas and Josh Smith (sort of) able to provide spacing, there isn’t really that much reason to worry about Jones clogging the paint.

I’ll be curious to see how things play out when Dwight returns.  If these trends continue, it might be indicative of a desire to keep Jones inside the paint at all times.  That would mean less court time with Dwight.

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LA Clippers @ Houston Rockets: feat. Law Murray of Clipper Bloghttp://www.red94.net/la-clippers-houston-rockets-feat-law-murray-clipper-blog/15607/ http://www.red94.net/la-clippers-houston-rockets-feat-law-murray-clipper-blog/15607/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:13:57 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15607 Teams: Los Angeles Clippers @ Houston Rockets Time: 7:00 p.m. CT Venue: Toyota Center, Houston, TX Television: ESPN Notes: Since Dwight Howard joined the Houston Rockets, they have not beaten the LA Clippers in six tries.  The primary reason?  James Harden.  Harden just can’t figure out how to score against the Clips.  He’s only averaged 17 PPG, shot just over 30% from […]

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Teams: Los Angeles Clippers @ Houston Rockets
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Television: ESPN

Notes: Since Dwight Howard joined the Houston Rockets, they have not beaten the LA Clippers in six tries.  The primary reason?  James Harden.  Harden just can’t figure out how to score against the Clips.  He’s only averaged 17 PPG, shot just over 30% from the field and only about 10% of his 3’s.  In several of those games, JJ Redick has really caused problems for Harden on both ends of the floor.  But Harden also struggled when Redick was out, so I’ll be curious to see if it’s the match-ups that have slowed Harden or if it’s something scheme-wise that Doc Rivers is cooking up.

Howard has missed both games against the Clippers this season.  In his absence, DeAndre Jordan has given the Rockets fits.  He’s averaged a +/- of +17.5, with 15.5 PPG and 70% FG, 16.5 rebs (5 offensive), and 14.5 FTA.  Especially in the last game, in which Blake Griffin didn’t play, Jordan’s length and athleticism wreaked havoc on the boards, as he kept multiple possessions alive on offense.  And on defense he was downright Russell-ian, with 3 steals and 2 blocks, while keeping Harden and the Rockets out of the paint more than usual.  

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Injuries: Patrick Beverley is still listed as day-to-day and will be evaluated at shoot around.  Kostas Papanikolaou will miss the game with a sprained ankle.

Blake Griffin still has about a week left of rehab after surgery on his elbow and will miss the game, while Austin Rivers should be suited up for the Clips.

Insider’s View - Q&A with Law Murray of Clipper Blog. Follow Law on Twitter @LawMurrayTheNU.

MF – Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry has an interesting new piece on defensive assignment tracking and how players affect shot attempts and shooting percentages from the 13-14 season. Chris Paul is kind of the star of the article (we won’t discuss James Harden), but there seems to be a bit of an overall backlash against Paul this season, mostly since the referee comments. Has there been any kind of slippage in his game, or are people just finally tired of his Napoleon act and he’s really still great?

LM – Paul is in his tenth NBA season, and he turns 30 in May. For the first time in his career, he didn’t enter this season as the clear-cut best, most valuable player on his own team. The silly and tired “best point guard” discussion is more crowded than ever. And the images of Paul’s shortcomings have become more glaring, whether it’s the lack of team success (three postseason series wins) or his own untimely miscues (Monday night’s turnover parallels Paul’s Game 5 turnover against the Thunder).  The reality is, Paul has been as good this season as he usually is. He’s been even more valuable due to his durability, appearing in all 57 games so far. He’s not getting to the line as much (career-low free throw attempts per game) and he’s not leading the league in anything for the first time in awhile. But Chris Paul hasn’t changed; basketball consumers’ conversations have changed.

DeAndre Jordan has really shouldered the load since Blake Griffin’s injury, but hes also an upcoming free agent. If the Clippers don’t get over the hump this year, do you think its a given he comes back next season (on a presumed max deal), or might he be the “shake up” every team makes when they can’t take the next leap?

With the lack of flexibility given Los Angeles’ situation, and with Jordan showing increased value with his production sans Griffin, it’s not a given that Jordan will be back with the Clippers. In fact, I think he probably walks. Some team is going to blow Jordan away with a major offer, and he turns 27 in July. That’s not an age where you “take one for the team”. The Clippers aren’t getting to the Conference Finals, and it will be interesting to see how the team would handle Jordan’s next deal in that case.

With all the players bouncing around at the deadline, do you think Austin Rivers was the right move for this team, or did Doc Rivers the GM handicap Doc Rivers the coach?  

The Austin Rivers experience has netted a career-night (28 points in a blowout win vs. Sacramento Saturday night) and a big letdown (a donut in a three-point loss the very next game vs. Memphis Monday night). Rivers is in the best situation of his fleeting career. His three years have been humbling, to say the least, and without a guaranteed contract for next season, he’s trying to show he belongs while being the nominal eighth guy in the rotation. Rivers has been marginally better than the guy he replaced in that spot to start the season, Jordan Farmar. But no, Doc Rivers as the primary personnel executive has not helped Rivers put a better team on the floor. There is just too much flotsam on the roster.

The West is crazy this year and I believe it really will come down to matchups in the playoffs. What is the key to the Clippers offense when the starters are sitting, and how confident are you in the Clips bench to make it through 3 rounds of the Western Conference?

When starters sit, the key to the offense for the Clippers has been Jamal Crawford, the two-time Sixth Man of the Year. Crawford’s something close to a physical marvel. He turns 35 in March, yet he’s pulling in a career-high usage rate off the bench. Crawford has never been known for his efficiency, and he’s not shooting the three or getting to the line as well as he did a season ago. But he’s leading the league in points per game off the bench while protecting the ball with a career-low turnover rate. And yes, the over-reliance on Crawford’s bench production is another reason why the Clippers aren’t touching the Finals in 2015.

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The ever-evolving James Hardenhttp://www.red94.net/ever-evolving-james-harden/15601/ http://www.red94.net/ever-evolving-james-harden/15601/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:26:03 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15601 Per http://t.co/HXe2FZJ30D, James Harden is 63 of 124 on stepback jumpers this year, for 50.8%. Is 21-36 on stepback 3's for 58.3%. Wow. — RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) February 25, 2015 Last year, Harden was 67-147 overall on stepbacks for 45.6%; 13-37 on stepback 3's for 35.1%. — RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) February 25, 2015 That’s pretty frightening.  I […]

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Per http://t.co/HXe2FZJ30D, James Harden is 63 of 124 on stepback jumpers this year, for 50.8%. Is 21-36 on stepback 3's for 58.3%. Wow.

— RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) February 25, 2015

That’s pretty frightening.  I was expecting the figure to be significantly lower, but this seems to be a case where the data backs up the eye test.  My guess going in was that the Harden stepback was a creature similar in nature to the Kobe game-winner.  We think he’s making most of them because when it happens, we remember it.  But this is really happening.  If they’re tracking this accurately (I don’t have time to go through all 124 logged attempts), Harden is actually hitting the majority of these types of shots.  That’s absolutely incredible.  It’s almost mind-boggling.  This means James is connecting on the majority of his attempts at the most difficult shot in all of basketball.

We all saw what he did last night to Ricky Rubio, putting the Spanish guard on skates with a vicious jab step.  It makes one wonder what the future holds for Harden.  I’ve noted numerous times that his game should age like fine wine, over time.  He’s basically a case study in building from the ground up, from a solid foundation.  In his early twenties, he mastered the basics of the game–at even a historic level–doing his damage at the rim and from deep.  Now, as he ages, he’s fine tuning the details, maximizing upon the areas defenders had been giving him.  Most of the chatter has surrounded his commitment on the defensive end this season.  But if you’ve been watching closely, Harden’s offensive skill level has dramatically improved.  Obviously the stepback is there, as I noted above.  But the ball-handling is also more deft, with the Beard now more often going to a Tim-Hardaway double cross between the legs as his move of choice.  In recent weeks, I’ve also seen Harden stepback more and more to his dominant hand, arguably the hardest thing in all of basketball to do.  (Harden used to only stepback to his right, a much more comfortable motion because the ball can simply be brought back over to the shooting hand).

It’s exciting to wonder what can come next if he stays healthy.  Harden’s game isn’t reliant upon athleticism, but rather strength and skill, two traits which don’t deteriorate.  To reiterate my thoughts from the past, I’d like to see him come back with a postup game, because I do think that could be very effective from the few times I’ve seen him do it.  Operating from down low could also take some tread off the tires and help the Beard conserve energy.

James has become such a good one-on-one player that it makes me wonder how this will play out in the postseason.  Most people would agree that in today’s age, with the sophistication of NBA defenses, one can’t win a title playing isolation basketball.  We just saw the Spurs crush the Miami Heat playing a free-flowing team game.  The Rockets surely won’t change things in the postseason.  And how could they?  They can’t take the ball out of Harden’s hands the way he’s been going.  But if it doesn’t work, will he adjust next year?

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Minnesota Timberwolves 102, Houston Rockets 113: As Expectedhttp://www.red94.net/minnesota-timberwolves-102-houston-rockets-113-performed-expected/15595/ http://www.red94.net/minnesota-timberwolves-102-houston-rockets-113-performed-expected/15595/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:46:10 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15595 The Minnesota Timberwolves loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night dropped them to 12-43, dead-last in the West.  They are not a very good team.  And as such, the Rockets’ win, playing at home, shouldn’t be much to write home about. Having said that, it felt like last night was the best punch the […]

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The Minnesota Timberwolves loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night dropped them to 12-43, dead-last in the West.  They are not a very good team.  And as such, the Rockets’ win, playing at home, shouldn’t be much to write home about.

Having said that, it felt like last night was the best punch the Wolves could muster; and the Rockets took it in stride.  Birthday boy Andrew Wiggins scored 30 (Can’t we just call him Ender already? He’s as advertised), former Rocket Kevin Martin got his usual 21, and Ricky Rubio flirted with a triple-double.  In fact, all five Wolves starters scored in double digits.  But it just wasn’t enough.

Credit Minnesota for hanging tough, but the game never really felt in danger for the Rockets.  James Harden was what he has been all season: MVP-worthy.  He had his second triple-double of the season (more on that in a bit), with 31 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes and 4(!) blocks.  He started slow, missing all six shots he took in the first quarter, but was 7-14 (5-8 on 3-pt) for the rest of the game.  He hit killer threes at the end of the second and third quarters, and the latter, which nearly re-tore Rubio’s ACL, was the NBA’s play of the night.

The rest of the Rockets were no slouches either.  Every starter except Jason Terry, who was filling in for a sick Patrick Beverley, scored in double-digits (JET had 9).  Josh Smith shot too much from the outside, but had 17 points off the bench and filled the stat sheet before fouling out.  Corey Brewer’s 11 points off the pine outscored Minny’s bench (10 pts) all by himself.  D-Mo did what he could defensively against massive General Zod Nikola Pekovich, and managed 12 points, while Trevor Ariza was cold from the outside (2-8) but made up for it with his usual defense (4 steals) and by crashing the boards (8 total).

But the real story, other than Harden, was Terrence Jones.  In his first start since November, Jones was all over the place to the tune of 15 pts, 15 rebs, a steal and two blocks.  The Wolves could do nothing to keep him off of the glass (9 offensive) and his shot chart is truly impressive.

image-94

Someone show that puppy to Josh Smith!  Jones never settled and attacked the rim every chance he got.

The Rockets really struggle with long rebounders, especially without Dwight Howard (see: Chandler, Tyson; Jordan, DeAndre).  But they have to lead the league in true power forwards who can take the ball off the glass and run a successful fast break.  Jones (and Smith) ran several such plays Monday night.  T.J. seems to be the safer ball-handler, and Smoove the much more creative passer.

But back to James Hardens’ triple-double.  At a time when Russell Westbrook has really stepped up for the under-manned OKC Thunder, Harden needed a night like this to stay at the forefront of the MVP race. ESPN Stats and Info dug up some very interesting bits on Harden’s big night:

James Harden notched his 2nd triple-double as a Rocket. He became the 1st player since Steven Francis in 2001 with multiple triple-doubles in a single season and the 4th Rocket since 1996-97. The other two…hall of famers…Clyde the Glyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen.

[+]

From Elias: It was a high-scoring, poor-shooting triple-double for James Harden. Harden finished with 30 points, but shot only 35% from the field. The last player to * Have a triple-double * Score at least 30 points * and shoot 35% or worse from the field in the same game was Pete Maravich for the Jazz against the Lakers on March 5, 1975.
Hakeem Olajuwon and Harden are the only players to score 30 points in a triple-double in Rockets franchise history. Hakeem did it 5 times.
Quick Hitters on Harden’s big game * Had 2 career triple-doubles entering this season (all with Rockets) * 6th player with multiple triple-doubles this season * 1st Rockets player with multiple triple-doubles in a single season since Steve Francis in 2001-02 * Joins Kobe Bryant as only players with a 30-point triple-double this season * NBA-leading 25th 30-point game this season * Rockets are 21-4 when Harden scores 30 points this season; 9-2 when he has 10 assists

While it’s true Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge have also missed significant time due to injury, the fact that Harden has not only kept the Rockets in the playoff hunt without Dwight Howard (and Chandler Parsons, for that matter), but that they currently sit in third place has got to be the storyline of the Western Conference so far, Warriors be damned.  The Rockets continue to sit squarely on James Harden’s shoulders, and 56 games into the season, he’s managed the weight spectacularly.

Side Notes From The Next TV Over: Rudy Gobert is AWESOME.  We finally get to see what Shawn Bradley would have looked like if he wasn’t flat-footed dunk-bait.  How often in his career has Tim Duncan had a HOOK SHOT blocked?  And he can run the floor?  Here’s hoping Dante Exum isn’t really the next Kobe (he’s not), because the Jazz have something special in Gobert.

Also, presented without comment:  Isaiah Canaan.

 

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The much maligned Joey Dorsey: Why he’s not as bad as you thinkhttp://www.red94.net/much-maligned-joey-dorsey-hes-not-bad-think/15579/ http://www.red94.net/much-maligned-joey-dorsey-hes-not-bad-think/15579/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:21:46 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15579 Joey Dorsey has never really been appreciated as a member of the Houston Rockets this season. From the beginning of the year there were doubts that he could be a useful NBA player – he just about fought off Jeff Adrien to scrape the last roster spot behind Tarik Black. At various points it has […]

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Joey DorseyJoey Dorsey has never really been appreciated as a member of the Houston Rockets this season. From the beginning of the year there were doubts that he could be a useful NBA player – he just about fought off Jeff Adrien to scrape the last roster spot behind Tarik Black. At various points it has seemed as though the only think keeping him on the team is his guaranteed salary. But he has played through all that and as the season has gone on has been put into a critical role for the Rockets team. With the injury to Dwight he has been thrust into the starting Centre spot as the only player on the team with the height and weight to match up with some of the league’s biggest and is counted on for 12-15 minutes per night of solid defence. So like him or loathe him, you’re stuck with him in the rotation for the foreseeable future. In this post I’ll take a look at some of the things he does well and why despite his deficiencies there are reasons to like having him on the court.

Fast Hands

This is possibly Dorsey’s number one asset. He is very quick with his hands and can use it to surprise opponents who don’t expect such speed. He uses this to great effect to get deflections and bother players who try to face him up. Doing a little Basketball Reference study reveals that he is #3 in the league in Steals per 100 possessions amongst players who are 6′ 8″ or higher. (Incidentally, the two players above him: Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer. This is a category where the Rockets are very well represented!). You could go as far as to say that forcing steals is his elite skill in the NBA.

Here are a couple of examples Dorsey getting good deflections by getting his hands in the passing lanes:

You can see he’s got the basketball instincts to know where the ball is going. This is particularly noticeable in the first clip where he backs off from Cousins to cover the inevitable attempt to take advantage of Harden’s man on the back cut. That lead to one of the more memorable highlights of the season with D-Mo passing the ball behind his back to Harden on the break.

Here are several examples of Dorsey surprising players with his quickness:

Whether it’s point guards or big men, Dorsey is very quick to go after an opponent who is careless with the ball. He has the element of surprise on his side, and when he sees an opponent has picked up his dribble he knows it’s his chance to be super-aggressive. It often leads to good results and is a very good fit with the Rockets’ defensive scheme. Defensively the Rockets have been trapping on side pick-and-rolls a lot, usually when Motiejunas is the big man. Dorsey isn’t quite as laterally mobile as D-Mo, but he’s faster than a lot of people give him credit for and is still capable in that role.

Watch him bother Nowitzki into a very difficult shot here:

Dorsey is keenly aware of the lack of time remaining on the shot clock, so when Dirk catches the ball he knows that he can be more aggressive than usual as he doesn’t have to worry about getting driven past. He gets close to Nowitzki and makes it difficult for him to get the space he needs for a good shot. You rarely see Nowitzki as bothered by opposing defenders as much as this.

In this example, Dorsey knows that with the shot clock running low he can leave his man to pursue Lowry. His bull rush forces Lowry back uncomfortably and the hounding defensive pressure forces him to throw up an airball.

The running theme in all of these clips is Joey’s opportunistic streak on defence. He seems to have a really good grasp on when the man in front of him is in a disadvantageous position. Maybe it’s that they’ve picked up their dribble, or that they’re in a spot on the court where they aren’t as comfortable with the ball. Maybe it’s that the shot clock is draining them of their options. But whatever it is, he’s able to hone in on that disadvantage and blow it up, causing turnovers and poor shots, and unlike a lot of players it very rarely feels like he’s breaking from solid defensive positioning to do it.

Offensive Rebounding:

Dorsey may not have a particularly polished offensive game (that’s putting it generously), but one area where he helps out offensively is his tenacity on the boards. With his wide body he’s able to carve out good space under the basket and makes like difficult for opposing big men. The team grabs 30.5% of all available offensive boards when he’s on the floor – this is the highest percentage for anyone on the Rockets and is 15th in the NBA amongst players who’ve seen at least 100 minutes this season, according to Basketball Reference. Watch him steal a rebound despite having three Dallas players around him here:

Dunks

When Dorsey is on the court, the Rockets don’t ask him to do too much on offence. One of the things he has got pretty good at though is hanging around in the slot on the weakside baseline. When the defenders rotate to contain penetration, he is left alone and often get opportunities for dunks and putbacks. At the beginning of the year he was often hesitant and would not go up strong, but as he has recovered from the injury that slowed him down during training camp his tentativeness has melted away. Now he jams it. Hard.

Hopefully this article will help you think of Joey in a more positive light. Yes he can’t always be counted on to make a layup, but he makes up for it in other ways and in certain facets of the game is actually one of the best at what he does. He’s no Dwight Howard, but he’s what the Rockets have got right now and we should learn to appreciate him.

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The Red94 Podcast: Episode 71http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-episode-71/15587/ http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-episode-71/15587/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 03:03:59 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15587 The post The Red94 Podcast: Episode 71 appeared first on Red94 | Houston Rockets news and musings.

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A glance at the Houston Rockets’ schedule for the week of February 22 through February 28http://www.red94.net/glance-houston-rockets-schedule-week-february-22-february-28/15580/ http://www.red94.net/glance-houston-rockets-schedule-week-february-22-february-28/15580/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 18:38:58 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15580 Houston should take two out of three this week, with pushovers at home against the Timberwolves and Brooklyn.  But if there’s one other certainty additional to death and taxes, in life, it’s that the Clippers will beat Houston, regardless of the circumstances or venue.  Even without Blake Griffin, in the teams’ last matchup, DeAndre Jordan […]

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Screenshot 2015-02-22 12.27.49

Houston should take two out of three this week, with pushovers at home against the Timberwolves and Brooklyn.  But if there’s one other certainty additional to death and taxes, in life, it’s that the Clippers will beat Houston, regardless of the circumstances or venue.  Even without Blake Griffin, in the teams’ last matchup, DeAndre Jordan had his way against the Rockets’ undersized frontline.  I don’t know what else to say, really, except to hope these two teams don’t meet in the postseason.

Screenshot 2015-02-22 12.34.33

For all the gloom and doom surrounding Houston’s recent slump (6-4 in their last 10), there they are sitting in third in the conference.

As for the other usual portion of this discussion, with the Suns dismantled, and Oklahoma City gaining its legs, the Rockets will be picking somewhere in the lottery this June, having not made use of that asset last week.  Even if the Thunder overtake the Spurs, things are shaping up to feature the most epic 1-8 matchup in history.

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Houston Rockets 98, Toronto Raptors 76: Leave it to Brewerhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-98-toronto-raptors-76-leave-brewer/15575/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-98-toronto-raptors-76-leave-brewer/15575/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 04:23:35 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15575 The circle is unbroken. It doesn’t seem possible to beat a team coming off a bad loss the day before, and Houston paid the pain forward from Dallas to Toronto. It was as ugly a game as you’re likely to see between two games on the second night of respective back to backs, but in […]

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The circle is unbroken. It doesn’t seem possible to beat a team coming off a bad loss the day before, and Houston paid the pain forward from Dallas to Toronto. It was as ugly a game as you’re likely to see between two games on the second night of respective back to backs, but in the end it became a Houston blowout, paving the way for unlikely minutes played by new Rockets Pablo Prigioni and KJ McDaniels. Both teams spent the first half fumbling and stumbling, but the Rockets came out with energy in the second half, inspired by Corey Brewer, who apparently bought some VC and raised his stats at halftime.

How good was Corey Brewer tonight? He led the team in scoring (26), field goals (12), field goals attempted (19), minutes (35) and steals (5!!!) and was one short of a team high in rebounds with 10. He was everywhere, knew everything and did everything. Sure, he had three turnovers, but each team had a revolting 23 turnovers each, and with the sheer amount of awesome basketball Brewer was playing, that’s a small price to play. He took advantage of a tired team and he brought the Rockets that spark and that tenacity that Houston expects from their new, high-power bench. The Raptors are a good team, and a deep team, and they were obliterated by Houston’s bench unit.

Speaking of the bench unit, Josh Smith and Terrence Jones continued their recent trend with very good games in the circumstance. Nobody could hit anything, but Smith and Jones managed 8 points on 7 shots and 11 points on 9 shots respectively, with Smith grabbing 5 boards and Jones pulling down 9. They had three blocks… each. They’re not Dwight Howard, but they’re both athletic, fast, and big enough to switch and help in most situations. If one of them isn’t coming for your shot, the other is. Terrence Jones should get an honorary headband, because he’s joining in the party and his reserve contributions are going to be critical for Houston’s playoff run.

The bench wasn’t the only group getting it done tonight, however. In the third quarter the Rockets came alive and snuffed out the Raptors hopes to close the period up 15 after starting with a mere 4 point lead. The third quarter was keyed by James Harden’s offensive explosion, scoring 16 of his 20 points in that quarter alone. He earned a lot of rest by effectively closing the game in the third, and by facilitating others. His 7 assists have become just another Saturday for Harden, as with his 5 rebounds. Even his two steals don’t move the needle any more, and without this level of easy excellence, Houston would be sunk.

The Rockets couldn’t hit their open threes again this game, but at least they had the excuse of dead legs. When they did finally hit a few to climb to 20.7% on the night, it put the game away because they’d made up for their ugly offense on the defensive end. 23 turnovers is simply horrible, but it’s a lot less horrible if you force the other team into matching that number. Houston’s defense was aggressive and on-point all night, and quite simply it kept them in the game long enough for the offense to come around.

After a bad loss against a good team, it’s always heartening to see a gutty win against a good team, and that’s just what the Rockets brought us tonight. Corey Brewer remains a genius pickup for Houston, and if he can have more games like this, the Rockets might just make it somewhere. It’s good to know that even if Harden is having a so-so evening, sometimes you can just leave it to Brewer.

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The Red94 post-trade deadline roundtablehttp://www.red94.net/red94-post-trade-deadline-roundtable/15557/ http://www.red94.net/red94-post-trade-deadline-roundtable/15557/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 13:30:41 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15557 McGuire: As we work to pick up the fallout from the NBA trade deadline, we should first start by focusing on the two players Houston got – K.J. McDaniels and Pablo Prigioni. I want to start by focusing on Prigioni. What I have seen from Twitter focuses on the fact that he is a 41% […]

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McGuire: As we work to pick up the fallout from the NBA trade deadline, we should first start by focusing on the two players Houston got – K.J. McDaniels and Pablo Prigioni. I want to start by focusing on Prigioni. What I have seen from Twitter focuses on the fact that he is a 41% three-point shooter for his career ( he is 37% for the season), but Prigioni is also a good passer, with a career assist-to-turnover ration of around 3 to 1. Harden has never played with a true pass-first point guard in Houston ( and I guess not in OKC as well). While one could argue that Harden must dominate the ball, I think Prigioni could be a nice change of pace for a team which does not really have good passers – there’s Harden, Smith ( and both of them turn the ball over far too often), Motiejunas to a degree, and that’s about it.

Felker:  Bingo on the Prigioni analysis.  He obviously doesn’t create out of the slash-and-kick, but like old Jason Kidd used to do for the Mavs, Pablo never misses the correct pass.  Jason Terry’s veteran savvy aside, I still don’t fully understand why Isaiah Canaan couldn’t lock down the backup point guard role.  I’ve always said that one of Kevin McHale biggest weaknesses is that he doesn’t take the time to season young players.  Gregg Popovich would have definitely thrown Canaan to the wolves and let him figure it out.  Canaan is soon-to-be elite at one of the most important skills in today’s NBA, and he’s only going to get better.  Having said that….

Walker: Can we talk about KJ McDaniels for a moment? Fantastic name aside (Not a lot of KJ’s out there, a bold two letter nickname), he’s hyper-athletic, shows a lot of promise on defense, and deserves rotation minutes right this second. The Rockets now have A Bench. Prigioni, McDaniels, Brewer, Jones and Smith are probably a better unit than some teams have starting. KJ is gonna get burn yesterday, and you don’t trade for Prigioni if you want him to sit on the bench, right? Of course, those minutes have to come from somewhere, and Jason Terry has to be looking over his shoulder right about now.

Felker:  As I told Paul in an email shortly after the trade was announced, KJ McDaniels is Morey’s second go around at Gerald Green.  He cut Green a few years ago, and rectified it by trading a solid prospect for McDaniels this time around.  Lesson learned.

McGuire: Well, I am not sure whether a comparison to Gerald Green is supposed to be a good thing. Green is certainly better compared to when he was first drafted, but he is just as likely to shoot you out of a game as he is to help you.

Now as for McDaniels: Forrest is right in that those minutes have to come from somewhere, but I remain doubtful as to where. Harden-Ariza-Brewer are going to gobble up the vast majority of those 96 swingman minutes, especially so in the playoffs. McDaniels has potential and has been talked about more this afternoon than Prigioni, but he does not do much to fix Houston’s real weaknesses – and while I may disagree with Rahat’s statement that “The Rockets are the only team among the west’s top tier about whom you can say they have a very clear glaring weakness”, they have real flaws which will hold them back this year.

Li: We should also not forget to mention the most important statistic concerning either of these two players. Prigioni is 37 years old. He’s basically the Argentinean Jason Terry.

That being said, Prigioni’s three-point shooting is going to be the most important part of the Rockets’ trade haul. Yes, he shoots a career 41%, but his volume isn’t spectacular (6.2 3PA per 100 possessions). This season Jason Terry is shooting 39% on 10.0 3PA per 100 possessions. Of the two, the latter figure is more impressive since it indicates similar efficiency on presumably more difficult shot selection. Of course, Prigioni has been shooting on the Knicks, not exactly a free flowing offense that produces great three-point looks. The potential for Prigioni to find a nice comfortable role outside of the arc with the Rockets is definitely there.

Just to resurrect a horse that’s already been beaten to death, count me in on the “are we giving our players a fair shake?” bandwagon. Canaan, obviously. Rahat also mentioned how only injuries forced DMo into receiving playing time (remember he didn’t play a single minute in the playoffs last year). I’m also going to throw Robert Covington into the mix. This year he’s shooting 39% on 10.9 3PA per 100 possessions, WITH PHILADELPHIA! That’s great efficiency on incredible volume in a basketball desert. You’re telling me a 6’9” wing who can shoot like that and makes less than $1 million can’t find a role on the Rockets? Can you imagine a Smith-Jones-Ariza-Brewer-Covington lineup? They’re all 6’9”! They can switch onto whomever they want! But I digress, it’s just spilled milk now.

Walker: Eh, nothing good ever comes of looking at your ex’s Facebook page, and there’s little use in worrying about how traded players are doing. Covington wasn’t going anywhere in Houston, and apparently neither was Canaan (perhaps for different reasons). I would love to see Prigioni eat up all of Terry’s minutes and for McDaniels to help reduce the minutes load on the starters in general. It’s become increasingly evident that regular season minutes maintenance matters in playoff time, and the closer to 30 minutes a game for the starters the better. McDaniels may or may not get burn in the postseason, but he can save some burn now. The fresher and more energetic playoff Harden is, the better Houston’s chances of winning four games in a series, and the less injury done to my liquor cabinet.

McGuire: Maybe this is because I was one of the captains of the “Motiejunas is not very good” wagon, but I don’t agree with what Rahat said about Motiejunas and McHale at all. Motiejunas got playing time last year. He even started a few games. And he was a mess defensively who fouled far too often, the hook shots which are his bread and butter now were not going in, and he was a worse three-point shooter. I know quite a few people suggested that McHale should have thrown Motiejunas against Aldridge last year against Portland. I think that is Monday-morning quarterbacking at best, and downright lunacy at worst.

But to get back on topic, I do think Rahat is right to be concerned about this team’s postseason potential. Two of the other Western teams scare me to death ( Golden State and the underrated Clippers), I would rather not face Memphis, and Dallas is really the only team that I am confident that we can beat. I would not go so far as to agree with my friend Brandon Davis from House of Houston in his declaration that “The Rockets won’t make it to round 2”, but I will not say I am not worried.

Dover: My guess with Prigioni is that Morey looked at the team and decided that we needed someone who could genuinely be called a “point guard” to back up Beverley. We forget because of where he has played for us this year, but up until this season Terry was predominantly a shooting guard. And for all that Canaan showed promise, there’s a reason he is sometimes referred to as an ‘SG trapped in a PG’s body’.

Up until now that has led for a rather chaotic approach when the starters sit – the bench mob can be incredibly effective when they’re generating turnovers and getting out on the break, but often struggle in the half court. Prigioni has a career’s worth of experience in managing the game and getting his team into its sets. With him on the court you can have structure to your offense and trust that the players who should get the ball get the ball. You might actually see Motiejunas get some touches when he’s on court with the subs!

The other thing I like about Prigioni is that he’s explicitly not a ball-dominator. While I haven’t seen a ton of Knicks games, the times I have watched them he has been very willing to surrender control when it makes sense. He does not over-dribble, he does not look for his own shot at the expense of the rest of the team, and he is quite happy to let a teammate control the ball if need be (this was particularly obvious in New York where he played quite a bit with JR Smith). That skill set means that he will be a good fit if and when he is called on to play next to Harden, something that can’t be said about a lot of the PGs that were on the market.

I don’t really care that there’s not a big ‘move the needle’ acquisition coming in at the deadline. Morey got that work done early by adding Corey Brewer and Josh Smith to the team, and that’s the way I like it because it gives those guys a lot more time to come in and get acclimated. I’d be worried if we were counting on a game-changing player arriving today and being expected to fit in with no issues come playoff time. The reality is that getting the pieces to fit together takes time – just ask Cleveland! Now is the time for shoring up the fringes of the rotation to put the overall roster in good shape come April, not for doing something drastic that will mean the coaching staff and players spend the rest of the season trying to get on the same page.

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Dallas Mavericks 111, Houston Rockets 100: If you’re not worried, you should be.http://www.red94.net/dallas-mavericks-111-houston-rockets-100-youre-not-worried/15555/ http://www.red94.net/dallas-mavericks-111-houston-rockets-100-youre-not-worried/15555/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 05:13:04 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15555 Red94 will be releasing a post-trade deadline roundtable early tomorrow, and I observe in it that the Mavericks are the only team which I feel confident beating in the playoffs. I am not alone in my observation that Dallas appears to be a step below the other Western teams: the always knowledgeable Haralabos Voulgaris said […]

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Red94 will be releasing a post-trade deadline roundtable early tomorrow, and I observe in it that the Mavericks are the only team which I feel confident beating in the playoffs. I am not alone in my observation that Dallas appears to be a step below the other Western teams: the always knowledgeable Haralabos Voulgaris said as much in Friday’s BS Report.

So what does it say when the Rockets start the post All-Star period by getting blown out by those Mavericks for three quarters before making a cute little rally at the end? The answer is that this is a fundamentally flawed team which lacks size, passing ability, and above all, shooting. Houston has focused heavily on defense since the loss to Portland and “defense wins championships” is a nice catchphrase which coaches use in practice – but the reality is that a championship team needs both offense and defense. And I sure don’t know where the former will come from when teams gang up on Harden a la 2006 Kobe.

Let us point out one thing immediately – even at the end of the third quarter when they were down by 20, the Rockets outscored Dallas in the paint 32-30 and shot more free throws. This held up for the rest of the game, even though Houston barely made more free throws than Dallas thanks to Brewer and Smith going 2-5 and 0-4 respectively.

But the problems I mentioned above did the Rockets in. Ariza at this point needs to just copy Shane Battier on the offensive end, which means “camp the corners and do nothing else.” The Rockets dominated the paint in the fourth quarter at around the same rate as they did for the previous three quarters, but Ariza and Jason Terry’s three-pointers started to finally go in. Houston went from shooting 11% from long-range late in the third to 32% at the end of the game. But Ariza somehow can vary between hot and cold shooting from one minute to the next. While he hit some shots to bring Houston back into the game in the fourth quarter, he then took some poor three-pointers which sank any chances of finishing the rally. And because I am tired of banging on Beverley game after game, I will just note that he went 1-7 from the field, 1-5 from three-point range, and leave it at that.

On the passing front, the Rockets had more turnovers than assists, while Dallas had 26 assists to 17 turnovers. Houston’s significant passing/turnover problem is why while there has been more discussion about K.J. McDaniels since the trade deadline, I believe Prigioni is much more likely to play a valued role for Houston this season. Both Harden and Smith, the closest this team has to passers, had more turnovers than assists tonight (and Smith had 5 turnovers to 1 assist).

As for Smith: no one besides Harden and Joey Dorsey (yes, seriously) had a good game, but the ways in which Smith played badly reflects many of Houston’s problems. Smith’s basic weakness is not his three-point shooting (he went 1-3 from three-point range tonight, with the two misses taken early in the shot clock). Smith’s basic weakness is that he tries to play like a guard instead of a big man far too often. It can work here and there, but it results in bad turnovers and sloppy shots way too often. If that was not enough, Smith only grabbed 4 rebounds in 26 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu and Tyson Chandler gave Houston fits on the offensive glass with 5 each, and Smith could do more down there if he stopped trying to do so much on the perimeter.

I’d like to close out tonight’s recap by pulling out a paragraph from the past:

“Houston leaves Ariza AND Fisher open to defend a two-man game with Odom and Kobe. Kobe throws it out to Fisher in the corner — brick. Houston gets the rebound. Dating back to Game 74 of the regular season, Fisher has missed 33 of his past 40 3-pointers. For the Lakers to win this series, Houston has made it clear that either Ariza, Fisher, Walton or Vujacic must nail 3s or Kobe is going to have to go old-school Kobe and beat everyone one-on-three. Smart. I like it”

Bill Simmons wrote these words when he was talking about Game 1 between the Rockets and the Lakers back in the 2009 playoffs (which turned out to be Yao’s final great game), but update it to 2015, switch it to the Rockets, and it is perfectly applicable. Of course, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were a far better frontcourt than even a healthy Howard, and the Western Conference was not as vicious as it is today. But those facts just make things even starker: if Ariza, Beverley, and the Rockets around Harden continue to shoot and perform on offense as they have, Harden may have to make a superstar push comparable to 2007 LeBron and 2001 Iverson. Given how unlikely that is, it is time to worry about this team.

 

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Houston Rockets acquire Prigioni and McDaniels, Goran and Zoran to Heat for a bunch of guys; also, the ballad of Isaiah Canaanhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-acquire-prigioni-mcdaniesl-goran-zoran-heat-bunch-guys-also-ballad-isaiah-canaan/15547/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-acquire-prigioni-mcdaniesl-goran-zoran-heat-bunch-guys-also-ballad-isaiah-canaan/15547/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 00:59:18 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15547 So this of course didn’t end up playing out how everyone was hoping.  But the team added two guys who figure to strengthen their bench, Pablo Prigioni in particular.  Most of the excitement thus far has stemmed from the K.J. McDaniels acquisition, but it remains to be seen if he can crack a wing rotation […]

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157264183_crop_northSo this of course didn’t end up playing out how everyone was hoping.  But the team added two guys who figure to strengthen their bench, Pablo Prigioni in particular.  Most of the excitement thus far has stemmed from the K.J. McDaniels acquisition, but it remains to be seen if he can crack a wing rotation which already includes the league MVP, Trevor Ariza, and Corey Brewer.  If he can, arguably the league’s best bench got even more athletic, with the potential to run second units out of the gym.  The related after-effect of these moves, or more appropriately, the non-move, is that the Josh Smith and Terrence Jones duo will remain intact for the stretch run and into the playoffs.  Upon Jones’ return, aside from James Harden, I felt that pairing was Houston’s biggest strength, with the length and speed to overwhelm opponents.  Those two players are staying together now, so the Rockets will maintain that edge.

The big story, of course, was the Rockets’ failure to acquire Goran Dragic.  Looking at the package the Heat surrendered, one would have to think that had Daryl Morey wanted, he could have had Gogi.  That New Orleans pick Houston holds alone is more valuable than the two second-rounders Miami gave up in the deal; or maybe the Suns are just that in love with Brandon Knight.  The latter is certainly possible and we probably won’t ever know.  But assuming Morey held back from playing all his cards, the turn of events offers an interesting glimpse into the philosophy of Houston’s head man.  Had it been me at the helm, as I wrote yesterday, I would have absolutely rolled the dice on a Dragic rental.  But this is Daryl f***ing Morey, man.  That’s not how he rolls.  In some ways, this incident, and the concomitant self-control (to put things positively) is perfectly microcosmic of everything for which Daryl Morey stands.  When everyone else sees panic, when everyone else senses a “moment”, he lays back, for better or worse.  Everyone thought this summer the Rockets were doomed to eternal despair if Chandler Parsons walked but Morey gave zero f***s.  And now, in the face of an acquisition that could have put his team on the cusp of championship contention, Morey just saw odds.  Odds that his team still probably wouldn’t have won, because the odds of any team winning are already so low, and odds that he’d be left with nothing in the summer after Dragic walked.  Had it been me, I would have said “screw it” and gone all in.  I want the title now.  But that’s Daryl Morey, man.  (Of course, in their quest to employ every point guard currently in the NBA, maybe the Suns just wanted Brandon Knight more than Terrence Jones and the Pelicans pick, rendering everything I just wrote in this paragraph irrelevant…but the narrative I presented was far more enlightening).

**

If I could ask Kevin McHale any one question, it would be “wtf exactly happened with Isaiah Canaan?”  (Actually, I’d never ask McHale that, or anything even nearing such levels of confrontation, as, the last time I was in such a situation, back in law school when I was still living in Houston and attending practices here and there, after a stretch where the team dropped a string of games due to what seemed like lackadaisical play, I asked McHale if he thought maybe the schedule was contributory to the team’s lethargic state.  He looked me squarely in the eye, with a straight face, and responded, “seriously?”)

Canaan was a player who, after an early season explosion against Golden State, in a post I can’t seem to find at the moment, I proclaimed would one day be the team’s future at starting point guard.  Canaan’s play in the ensuing contests cemented that belief in my mind, until he went down with injury, only to never be heard from ever again.  The Canaan story is absolutely perplexing.  This was a guy, who, in theory, had every tool the team needed in a backup point guard.  Three point shooting?  Check.  Shot creation?  Check.  Fearlessness to attack the rim?  Check.  I seriously thought this guy was the team’s future at the position.  Instead, his Rockets destiny apexed with being captured on camera having his genitals clasped by Dwight Howard on the Houston bench, on national television.  Seriously, what happened?  Does anyone know?

Clearly some issues took place behind the scenes and I’m sure we’ll be fed those morsels in the coming days.  But I won’t give in easily to just trusting the staff in personnel management, as we’re implored.  There are those who say, “oh, the coach knows best, stop complaining.” And sure, the staff is of course privy to far more, infinitely, of the inner workings than the public.  But I won’t just trust that the right move was made.  I quipped last year, repeatedly, back before he became GOATiejunas, that if Motiejunas were on the Spurs, he’d probably have Pau Gasol’s career trajectory.  Some pointed out to me today that no one could have predicted Motiejunas’ ascendance this season.  And that’s true.  I didn’t think he’d become GOATiejunas.  But I emphatically believed he was far better than the chance he had been afforded up to the point in time when Kevin McHale was forced into playing him by necessity.

Think about that for a moment.  Had Terrence Jones not gone down, and also Dwight Howard, D-Mo would probably be playing in Poland somewhere right now or working at a local Chuck E. Cheese.  (Okay, he’d have promptly been picked up by some other team, but that alternative doesn’t quite hold the same rhetorical power – you get the gist).  My point is this: how can I trust that the Canaan situation was handled properly when, had a force majeure not effectuated, McHale was on track to bungle the managing of the team’s current third best player?  Okay, I’m getting off my soap box, for now.  But I couldn’t let the Canaan situation just pass without mention.

Looking forward, the team is probably better, with Prigioni sure to offer a steady hand and a sure jumpshot, from the point guard position.  But we’ll see.  I don’t know that I like this team’s chances in the postseason without a second playmaker, but that’s why they play the games.  And oh…I should probably start watching college basketball; the Rockets will probably be picking like 12th this June.

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The Houston Rockets should roll the dice on a potential Goran Dragic rentalhttp://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-roll-dice-potential-goran-dragic-rental/15494/ http://www.red94.net/houston-rockets-roll-dice-potential-goran-dragic-rental/15494/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 00:23:41 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15494 Update below at 7:25PM To begin, know that I’m composing this against my better judgment.  I am fully aware that all of my efforts could be rendered completely useless upon the arrival of just one mere tweet.  But alas, to lay prisoner to fear…ah screw it, you guys get the point; a Woj-bomb is due […]

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goran-dragicUpdate below at 7:25PM

To begin, know that I’m composing this against my better judgment.  I am fully aware that all of my efforts could be rendered completely useless upon the arrival of just one mere tweet.  But alas, to lay prisoner to fear…ah screw it, you guys get the point; a Woj-bomb is due any moment now so I’m typing fast.

I thought about it all night, and then I thought about it most of the day, and the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that dealing assets for Goran Dragic, even significant combinations, would be the appropriate course of action for the Houston Rockets at the present moment.  It is true that the risk would be supreme as reports have indicated that Dragic would not commit long-term to the team upon an acquisition.  But I think in this case, the potential benefit outweighs the risk.

If acquiring Dragic, Houston absolutely would be in the thick of the title conversation with a roster as enviable as any in basketball.  To those looking to the future, I’d point to the last twenty years of Rockets history as proof of how rare true contention in basketball really is.  As I’ve been saying, if you aren’t willing to go all in during the year you have the league MVP, what situation would you really deem sufficient to push forward your chips?  You collect assets for chances such as these.

Moreover, the greater concern is Dwight Howard’s health and the reality that he may be nearing the end as a primetime component.  Sure, this could all just be a blip on the radar and he could just as well come back as dominant as ever, and anchor the paint for the Rockets for the next 4 years.  But its just as likely that we see a greatly diminished Dwight next season and beyond until the end of his contract.  If you refuse to believe that there is reason for concern regarding Dwight’s health and long term prospects, you simply have your head in the sand.  Again, he may be fine.  But planning requires taking all possibilities into consideration.

This is also likely the last year of Josh Smith in a Rockets uniform with the team only owning early bird rights on the free-agent-to-be.  We’ve already seen what the mercurial forward has been able to do against playoff foes when matched up against inferior second units.  Simply put, when Dwight Howard returns in a few weeks, the Rockets may not have, for some time, a team as deep as this one could be with Goran Dragic.  A backcourt combination of Harden, Dragic, Beverley, flanked by Ariza and Brewer on the wings, with Howard, Motiejunas, and Smith inside is as lethal a rotation as any in basketball.  Daryl Morey may not have the chance to assemble talent like that again in the near future.

Even if the Rockets do lose Dragic in free agency, the players’ union’s rejection of the cap-smoothing proposal this weekend, should offer some hope for a quick rebuild.  With the cap expected to jump to $90 million in 2016, if eventually there is no smoothing altogether (ie: if a new iteration is not introduced, and the sides come to terms), Houston could just look to restock the cupboard in free agency that summer.  It would hurt to lose Dragic, and also the lottery pick, to be sure.  But to pass up on a chance like the Rockets have currently out of fear of what may happen would hurt far more.

Update at 7:25PM

  • It is not insignificant that the agent for Goran Dragic also represents one Patrick Beverley, a minor detail which at the very least, holds some ramifications on this process, and at most, is directly contributory to the concoction of Dragic’s supposed “list” of preferred destinations.  I’ve written at length regarding these conflicts of interest, and the grip they have on the game, alarming personally to me in particular as an attorney myself.  We already saw this summer how such backdoor machinations can work, with Chandler Parsons let out of his deal prematurely because of the deal Daryl Morey had to strike with Dan Fegan.  Bill Duffy, no doubt, would prefer Dragic far away from Beverley, for fear of marginalizing the latter client, and dimishing the earnings that might be to come.  Even if nothing is going on, the whole thing is disgusting, and one wonders why and how the league–one marvelously built upon a system of laws–hasn’t found processes to curtail such undue influence.  The appearance of impropriety shouldn’t even be possible.
  • We are seeing in this whole thing how asset collection can go wrong with Phoenix absorbing Isaiah Thomas this summer into cap space with the thinking a good value deal could always be traded away later.  They didn’t expect, though, to royally piss off their best player and push the franchise to a crossroads.
  • The Reggie Jackson situation is interesting because he’s a much better player than he’s looked this season, and in a vacuum, you’d think Houston would give a look.  But his value lies in a “no man’s land” where he isn’t worth the Pelicans pick, but probably couldn’t be had for the pair of second-rounders Daryl Morey possesses.  Besides, unless blown away by a sweetheart offer (say: the one the Rockets are dangling in front of Phoenix for Dragic), one can’t imagine Sam Presti subjecting himself to the ridicule sure to come by facilitating a Jackson-Harden backcourt, especially if the free-agent-to-be thrives.
  • What is the cost for Ty Lawson?  Surely more than Houston can afford.  Most seem to think he’d be preferable to Dragic, not because he’s the superior player, but because Lawson is still locked in to reasonable money after the expiration of this year.  If in theory, it would take the Pelicans pick and Terrence Jones to get Dragic, how high could the ante be upped for Lawson?  And what need does Denver even have for a deal?  The point of rebuilding is to shed bad contracts and aging players, neither category being one into which Ty Lawson fits.
  • If it happens, Dragic-Harden would at worst be the second best backcourt in all of basketball, a thought which has me salivating for the remainder of the season.  We’ll know in under 24 hours if the dream becomes reality.

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Rockets Roundup: 02/18/2015http://www.red94.net/rockets-roundup-02182015/15470/ http://www.red94.net/rockets-roundup-02182015/15470/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:27:04 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15470 A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days.  Sports Illustrated. James Harden, the NBA’s unlikely MVP. “The private plane that transported James Harden into Texas on the morning of Oct. 28, 2012, was silent except for the muffled beats leaking from his chunky headphones… He had just spent the […]

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A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days. 

Sports IllustratedJames Harden, the NBA’s unlikely MVP.

“The private plane that transported James Harden into Texas on the morning of Oct. 28, 2012, was silent except for the muffled beats leaking from his chunky headphones… He had just spent the summer on the U.S. Olympic team, with Thunder running mates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, fantasizing about the championships they seemed destined to capture. What do I do now? Harden asked himself. He was going from sixth man on a budding dynasty to leading man on a bubble team…”

Nylon Calculus. The Rockets without Dwight Howard.

“James Harden put on a one man show against the Phoenix Suns last Tuesday with 40 points, 9 assists, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. He did all while his would-be partner-in-crime Dwight Howard looked on in an, as noted by friend of the site Charles Barkley, an equally impressive suit. Other than lacking some of the post moves of traditional bigs, Howard has seemed the perfect complement to Harden in a Moreyball system that keeps Harden slashing to the basket or behind the three-point line and Howard rolling out of pick-and-rolls like a man possessed.”

AZ Central. James Harden reflects on ASU maturation with number retirement.

“After Arizona State beat UCLA six years ago, James Harden was standing atop the Wells Fargo Arena scorer’s table as ASU students surged onto the floor celebrating the Harden-led Sun Devils’ victory in a rare top-20 home matchup. Harden will be back in Tempe Wednesday for the ASU-UCLA game but it is ASU’s turn to lift Harden to new heights. Harden’s No. 13 will be raised to the rafters at halftime…”

 

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The Red94 Podcast: Can the Rockets get Dragic?http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-can-rockets-get-dragic/15405/ http://www.red94.net/red94-podcast-can-rockets-get-dragic/15405/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 23:26:18 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15405 Download this episode (right click and save)

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Download this episode (right click and save)

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Is Goran Dragic worth the max?http://www.red94.net/goran-dragic-worth-max/15385/ http://www.red94.net/goran-dragic-worth-max/15385/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 16:01:15 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15385 I’ve had a few tweets directed towards me, and seen some others retweeted by people I follow, underscoring the disparity in Goran Dragic’s career averages.  Essentially, he played out of his mind last season, and has regressed to his career median again this year.  I’m not exactly sure what’s being insinuated here.  This isn’t exactly […]

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I’ve had a few tweets directed towards me, and seen some others retweeted by people I follow, underscoring the disparity in Goran Dragic’s career averages.  Essentially, he played out of his mind last season, and has regressed to his career median again this year.  I’m not exactly sure what’s being insinuated here.  This isn’t exactly some novel discovery here.  I thought it was pretty common knowledge that he had a career year last season and has tailed off in 2015 in having to play off the ball alongside two other point guards.  What’s everyone’s point?

The question of value is a recurrent theme in sports, especially in the NBA where an artificial cap pervades.  In a vacuum, Dragic isn’t worth the contract it will likely take this summer to keep him in Houston, if the Rockets are able to swing a trade.  In a vacuum, maybe Chris Bosh wasn’t worth it either.  Very few players are absolutely worth their max figures, in vacuo of external considerations.  James Harden fits that bill; Dwight, even despite his injury problems, probably still is as well, for what he brings defensively alone.

Dragic means more to Houston, in theory, because he would represent what they would believe to be their missing piece.  They would be willing to pay more than he is actually worth because they would believe he would complete them.  Moreover, compounding this point are the time constraints and financial realities of the salary cap.  Houston can’t wait around for someone who might truly be worth the max to become available, because they are operating on Dwight Howard’s diminishing timeline.  Further, and even more importantly, the longer the Rockets wait, the longer they remain in the holding pattern they’ve been in for years whereby they have had to sacrifice continuity for the sake of flexibility.  For instance, let’s say there’s only ten other guys in the league who you feel are truly worth a max contract.  If you think you’re not going to move until one of those guys becomes available, you can’t resign any of your role players in the interim, the way the Rockets had to let Chandler Parsons walk this summer.  If Houston gets Dragic, it can work to keep Corey Brewer and Josh Smith as well.

So the question isn’t whether Goran Dragic is worth the max.  In a vacuum, he’s not.  The question is whether he can be the final piece of a championship core that already includes James Harden and Dwight Howard.  Resoundingly, I think that answer is yes, especially when weighing the odds and difficulty of acquiring anyone else.

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Suns preferring to move Thomas?http://www.red94.net/suns-preferring-move-thomas/15359/ http://www.red94.net/suns-preferring-move-thomas/15359/#comments Sat, 14 Feb 2015 19:32:06 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15359 Word is Suns more apt to try to move IThomas before trade deadline, to restore last season’s roster balance, rather than surrender GDragic — Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 14, 2015 The above from Marc Stein this morning, just as I was warming up my coffee.  Such a course makes sense and is the route I […]

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Word is Suns more apt to try to move IThomas before trade deadline, to restore last season’s roster balance, rather than surrender GDragic

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 14, 2015

The above from Marc Stein this morning, just as I was warming up my coffee.  Such a course makes sense and is the route I thought all along would actually come to fruition.  The thinking there would be that Dragic is the superior player but Thomas could yield the higher return in trade.  Why trade Dragic for pennies on the dollar?  There are, of course, other variables.  If you trade Thomas, and then lose Dragic in the summer, you’ve really screwed up.  I think the question revolves around a determination of Thomas’ value.  He’s instant offense, locked up long term on a very cap friendly deal.  But on the other hand, he offers little else, has gotten a bad reputation, and really isn’t even amongst the top 20 point guards in the entire league.  By comparison, Aaron Brooks is making the league minimum.  Would someone be willing to give Phoenix an asset more valuable than New Orleans’ pick for Thomas?  I highly doubt it.

I think understandably, Phoenix will shop Thomas first and see what is being offered.  Concurrently, Morey offers the two second rounders he owns for Dragic.  If the Suns find something they like for Thomas, Morey calls them up and ups the ante, offering the Pelicans pick and a chance to avoid the scenario of losing both players (if Dragic were to leave outright in the summer).  And the Suns probably know he’s ready to play this card.  If someone blows Phoenix away with an unexpected offer for Thomas, that is obviously the best course of action.

It would be plausible for Phoenix to just hold onto both players for now and reassess the market this summer.  The risk there is that Dragic has made no indication toward loyalty, stating he will test the market.  What if they can’t find a deal they like for Thomas in July and Dragic walks?

Houston has to like its chances.  Understand that if they acquire Dragic, it would absolutely be with the intent of retaining him long term.  Further, this would be it and this would be their team.  They’d be locked into a core of Harden/Howard/Dragic and would then hope to retain the likes of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer.  Is that team good enough to sacrifice flexibility?  Absolutely.

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More on Houston’s Goran Dragic chasehttp://www.red94.net/houstons-goran-dragic-chase/15344/ http://www.red94.net/houstons-goran-dragic-chase/15344/#comments Sat, 14 Feb 2015 00:34:02 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15344 From ESPN: The Lakers, meanwhile, also have coveted Dragic for some time and likewise are said to be intent on testing the Suns’ resolve when it comes to their Slovenian point guard. Sources say L.A. plans to chase Dragic this summer anyway with an aggressive four-year offer that would be valued as high as an […]

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From ESPN:

The Lakers, meanwhile, also have coveted Dragic for some time and likewise are said to be intent on testing the Suns’ resolve when it comes to their Slovenian point guard. Sources say L.A. plans to chase Dragic this summer anyway with an aggressive four-year offer that would be valued as high as an estimated $80 million if it approaches max-contract territory.

Other suitors for Dragic are sure to emerge, too, even though the Suns’ first choice is believed to be pursuing other trades that balance out their guard- and wing-heavy roster and re-establish Dragic as more of an offensive focal point.

The article also reiterates Houston’s interest in the Suns point guard, as reported first yesterday.  Though the Lakers mention is interesting.  I don’t know why they’d desire to offer the 30-year-old a rich max offer, though I guess they haven’t had much luck getting anyone to go over there of late.  In any case, L.A.’s interest is fortunate, as without a viable threat to lose him outright in the summer, the Suns might not have been willing to trade.

I have a difficult time seeing other suitors emerging because, as I noted yesterday, what team would want Dragic?  Only a contender would be willing to trade real assets for a potential rental, and all of the contenders already employ All-Star caliber  point guards.  I suppose there is the possibility of a rebuilding team such as maybe Boston hoping to keep Dragic long term.  But that would be odd given his age.  For now, it’s a pretty terrible market for Phoenix and I’d have to think the Rockets have the strongest odds to land the Slovenian.

A couple of things: I’ve seen several of you mention or ask me whether I’d trade Motiejunas in such a deal, a question in response to which I must simply shake my head.  I don’t mean to overvalue him, but D-Mo absolutely is more valuable than the New Orleans Pelicans draft pick which Houston possesses.  Don’t agree?  Try finding a two-way 7-footer with post-up ability at #12-14 in the draft.  It took D-Mo himself three years to reach where he is right now.  I’d have to think that in Dragic discussions, everyone but Howard, Harden, Motiejunas, and Ariza (and of course Smith) is available.

Lastly, regarding fit: it is true that while not the potentially catastrophic pairing which Harden-Rondo would have been, Dragic-Harden is not the ideal fit.  In a perfect world, Harden’s backcourt mate would have clamps defensively, elite shooting ability, and some ability to create for himself.  But the fact that this is not the ideal fit is not reason enough to pass up the opportunity.  Houston desperately needs an upgrade at the position, a second ball-handler, and a third option in general, and time is running out.  Daryl Morey can’t sit around and wait for “the perfect fit” with Dwight Howard’s window closing rapidly (if it already hasn’t), especially in a year when the team may have the league MVP.  If the Rockets can get Goran, they absolutely have to roll the dice.

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More on Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howardhttp://www.red94.net/donatas-motiejunas-dwight-howard-2/15342/ http://www.red94.net/donatas-motiejunas-dwight-howard-2/15342/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 20:35:24 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15342 I previously wrote about the differences between Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard. Defensively, they are comparable. Offensively, DMo is much more capable. I dug up some additional data that supports the latter conclusion. In the first piece I wrote, I mentioned that DMo’s FG% increases by almost three percentage points when he dribbles, whereas Howard’s decreases by […]

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dwight-howard-text-1416403517I previously wrote about the differences between Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard. Defensively, they are comparable. Offensively, DMo is much more capable. I dug up some additional data that supports the latter conclusion.

In the first piece I wrote, I mentioned that DMo’s FG% increases by almost three percentage points when he dribbles, whereas Howard’s decreases by almost six percentage points. This suggests that DMo is much better at putting the ball on the floor, such as posting up or driving, than Howard is. It also means that Howard should concentrate on catching and finishing, rather than manufacturing offense himself. Amazingly, despite these differences, Howard still dribbles and holds the ball more than DMo and almost every other center.

According to SportsVU and NBAsavant.com, Howard has attempted 327 shots this season and has dribbled 290 times before those shots. His FG% when he takes 0 dribbles is 72%. When he takes JUST ONE DRIBBLE, his FG% is 44%.  When he takes two dribbles, he’s down to 38%. His average number of dribbles per shot (0.887), is seventh in the league among all centers, and that’s only if you consider Boris Diaw a center.

DMo, on the other hand, has taken 482 shots and dribbled 378 times during those shots, for 0.784 dribbles per shot. When he dribbles once, he shoots 46%. When he dribbles twice, he shoots 60%.

Also worth noting is how long Dwight holds the ball when he touches it. On average, he holds it for 2.377 seconds each touch. That’s 8th in the league among centers. Holding the ball increases the risk of turnovers (you’re all nodding) and the chances that he’s going to dribble, which we’ve already established is a bad idea. DMo holds the ball for 1.872 seconds per touch, 24th in the league.

Just to offer some comparison, take Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan,who have defined what it means to be a defense, rebounding, and dive to the basket center. Pretty much everyone who writes for this blog thinks that the team would be better served with Dwight playing more like these two because he would actually be better at doing what these two do. Chandler has shot 303 times this year, and dribbled 35 times on those shots. Jordan has shot 333 times and dribbled 58 times on those shots. They hold the ball 0.886 seconds and 0.761 seconds per touch, respectively. This catastrophe can be summed up in the following table.

PlayerShotsDribbles on shotsShot/dribble ratioAverage time per touch
Howard3272900.8872.377
Chandler303350.1160.886
Jordan333580.1740.761

 

If you’re going to use possessions in the manner that Howard does, you better produce results. We already know that he doesn’t. Here’s data to prove it. Unbeknownst to me, Synergy data is now available through NBA.com. Ready for Dwight’s post up data? Avert your eyes! Hide the women and children!

PlayerPost up freq. %PPPFG%TO frequency %Score frequency %
Howard50.70.7241.6017.339.6
Motiejunas28.11.0356.811.752.2

(That score frequency stat is the % of post ups that result in the team scoring at least one point)

Look at that! It’s just so bad. And now I’m going to make it worse. Here are their league rankings in these stats among the 48 players with at least 100 post ups.

PlayerPost up freq %PPPFG%TO frequency %Score frequency %
Howard346374444
Motiejunas1811261

 

Uhh. UHH. UHH. (Throws papers into air). Someone’s going to stop this madness… right?

 

 

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Wait…Dragic can be had for a draft pick?http://www.red94.net/wait-dragic-can-draft-pick/15327/ http://www.red94.net/wait-dragic-can-draft-pick/15327/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 00:41:47 +0000 http://www.red94.net/?p=15327 Hearing Suns want a first-rounder for Goran Dragic and, rest assured, they’ll get it. Rockets got to be tempted. — Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) February 12, 2015   There it is.  For months now, there’s been speculation surrounding this sort of thing, but no concrete report until now.  I’m shocked….but I’m not?  I had given up […]

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Hearing Suns want a first-rounder for Goran Dragic and, rest assured, they’ll get it. Rockets got to be tempted.

— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) February 12, 2015

 

There it is.  For months now, there’s been speculation surrounding this sort of thing, but no concrete report until now.  I’m shocked….but I’m not?  I had given up hope completely some weeks ago that Phoenix would part with its star point guard, but after their recent slide, it looks like maybe they’re seeing the writing on the wall.  If they think they’re going to miss the playoffs, and might lose Dragic anyway, it’s better to deal him now.  The logic makes sense but damn, I didn’t think it would come to this.  If I were Phoenix, I’d be looking to deal either Eric Bledsoe or Isaiah Thomas, either of whom could fetch more than Dragic on the market, for the sole fact that those two players are locked into long-term deals.  Then I’d ante up for Dragic in the summer.  Why sell low on Goran in such a terrible market?  But hell, why am I rationalizing this?  If they’re really thinking of dealing him, I’m in.

To those who were asking me, this is of course as close to a no-brainer as it gets.  While it’s true that you may not want to go “all in” this year, given Dwight Howard’s health, if you’re not willing to go “all in” in the year that you have the MVP, when the hell will you?  Moreover, Houston won’t be able to create the type of cap space it would require to acquire a player of this caliber in the summer in free agency without gutting its team.  And until they get that “third guy”, they remain in that holding pattern of needing to value flexibility.  For once, they have enviable depth.  If they can lock up that third guy, they can start going over the cap to keep other pieces around instead of letting guys walk.

What would it take?  The Pelicans pick and I’d bet one of either Terrence Jones or Big Papa.  If they can keep Jones, you’re looking at a rotation of James “the MVP” Harden, Goran Dragic, and Pat Beverley in the backcourt, Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer on the wings, and Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas, Josh Smith, and Terrence Jones up front.  Oh my god, my mouth is watering.  Please God let this happen.  For all of the heartache I experienced this summer when we didn’t get Bosh, please God let this happen.  While there would certainly be questions over whether Dragic and Harden could share the ball together, it would not be the awkward fit the Beard and Rajon Rondo would have been had the latter been acquired by Morey, given that Dragic can actually shoot.  And besides that, we’re at a point where we can’t worry about that.  This team desperately needs a second ball-handler.  But you don’t need me to sell you on Dragic, so enough on that.

The question is whether this can happen.  Who else out there even wants a point guard?  And a rental at that.  The only other team that was looking for a point guard was Dallas and they just got Rondo.  (Do you get now why Morey didn’t push his chips forward for Rondo?  This is for all the Mavs fans that swamped my timeline gloating about Cuban getting over on Morey.  Wait, I shouldn’t gloat yet, this hasn’t happened.)  Other than that, there’s no one out there willing to part with real assets for Dragic.  So essentially, I’d think this just simply comes down to whether Phoenix wants to deal.  If they do, as the report indicates, I don’t see any other destination but Houston.

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