Quick programming notice for those who’ve seen the “Notes on a String”: I’m going to be shifting this column’s nature over to that of an all-purpose notebook column, more like the “Rockets Daily” column of olden times. Now that you’ve been reprogrammed, read up.
- In a sweet bit of formality amidst a year full of informal sabotage, Dwight Howard finally decided to be a sweetheart and kill this season after slowly torturing it like a Takashi Miike villain in every face-palmingly obtuse way possible by shutting dow n his season thanks to back surgery. Firstly, the Indiana Pacers may thank their lucky stars that, though they may have only had to face a Magic team that was such (a team) in name only, they avoided even a diluted, half-hearted version of this league’s second-best player, given the matchup problems Howard has created for Indiana’s Ent-like Roy Hibbert thanks to his speed and agility in comparison to Hibbert’s… not those things. Secondly, at least Van Gundy will get to go out with his head held high, unworried about stepping on the notoriously fragile toes of this organization’s “franchise player” (who has shown no interest in this franchise beyond this obligatory upcoming year) and free to rant, fulminate and generally stew on the Orlando sideline to his heart’s content while wondering which new team he’ll have overachieving come next winter. Most importantly, though, is the actual reasoning behind all of this; the difference between a self firebombing and an actual back injury, the kind that lingers for years and hinders mobility to no end (which fans of both Houston and this Orlando team probably know), is vast and could change the future of not just this team, but this league. Either the league’s best big man has been injured in a way that might permanently affect his game and impact, or the league’s biggest primadonna just pulled one of the most brazen power moves in recent sports history; either way, this announcement mattered more than an impact on the outcome a series between a three and six seed.
- The Houston freefall has been less than fun, but hey, at least this feels familiar, right? That entire month of Dragic looking so calm and collected in the waning minutes of a barnburner felt so… foreign, a far cry from the generally frantic scurrying involved in Rockets clutch-time possessions. Tripping over itself against a team almost certainly hurting its own interests by beating Houston seems entirely more apropos.
- Andre Drummond is a very large, very talented young man; Harrison Barnes and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist look like very different kinds of the future at the wing position, one at which the Rockets have been desperately since the departure of Tracy McGrady’s athleticism, which preceded the departure of Mac himself by a few years. This year might be stacked enough that when a franchise picking in the top 10 inevitably finds itself looking at picking someone too early to avoid roster redundancy, shipping a couple of picks in the middle of this same talent-stuffed draft along with a contributor on a cheap or expiring contract could be good enough to bring back someone with serious star potential. For those Rockets fans still dressing their wounds from the numerous bruises accumulated along the bumpy, sudden fall out of the playoff picture, all of this draft talk may be coming too soon, but this particular draft may provide Houston with the organic chance at a star that this team’s avidly chased for about three years.
- Though Jeremy Lin’s emergence this year frustrated some in Houston who were under the misguided notion he’d have gotten anything close to the chance or specific opportunity that he got in New York thanks to a complete vacuum at the point guard position, nothing about it appeared particularly germane to life as a follower of the Rockets, at least no more than it should have to any fan of an NBA team; however, the rise of Steve Novak is a different matter altogether. He’s second in the league in true shooting percentage, which is less than surprising given his 47% from distance (GAH… 47 fricking percent! Actually a real number), but he can now play more than three or four minutes at a time without his team literally imploding from the lack of defense, something that forced Jeff Van Gundy, who’s gone on record as saying that Novak has the best jumpshot JVG’s ever seen, to never play the 6’10″ “power forward”. Apparently, Novocaine’s even becoming respectable on that end of the court. Plus, he’s submarining the Rockets’ chance at even better picks with each made three-pointer that helps the Knicks tally another W. So…much…ambivalence…
- Picking the Western Conference feels like the damn NCAA Tournament at this point. Grizz, Clippers, Lake Show… they all seem like contenders at this point. Hmmm… this would probably be a good year to get a cushy low-playoff seed and see what happens. Maybe the Rockets could… oh yeah.
- Larry Brown will be coaching a college team next year, SMU to be specific, and I’ll be damned if that just doesn’t sound like the worst idea possible. The old man can’t be excited about the prospect of recruiting, and even the possible incoming talent who might be geeked to learn from a legend will almost certainly be outnumbered by those who would like to learn to “play the right way” for more than the two years he’ll be there en route to his next NBA patch-up job. Had it really gotten this bad on the coaching market for Larry frigging Brown? Is there no owner who just wants to kind of make the playoffs and get some gate receipts? I forgot, Herb Kohl already has one of those coaches.
That’s all for now, kinfolk. You can read this column every Friday, and I can be followed on the regular on Twitter here. Thanks for the read.