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Howard-Asik experiment could already be over

I wrote back on September 4 that finding a way to make the Omer Asik-Dwight Howard pairing work should be the Rockets’ top priority.  To Houston’s credit, they took a stab at it, trying desperately for eight games to fit a square peg in a round hole.  Kevin McHale may have finally seen enough with sophomore forward Terrence Jones starting the second half at power forward on Monday night.  The Chronicle reports that a change now could be coming to the starting lineup.

With matchups against the smaller lineups of the 76ers tonight and Knicks on Thursday ahead, Rockets coach Kevin McHale apparently decided it is too big to succeed, at least for now.

McHale would not specify the lineup change he had in mind, but said there would be a change to go smaller than the combination of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik that has started every game this season.

In the 93 minutes the two centers have appeared together thus far this season, the team has posted a -15.8 net rating, scoring just 87 points per 100 possessions while giving up 103 points per the same amount.  Even more egregiously, in the 48 first quarter minutes in which the pair has appeared, the team has posted a -49 net rating, scoring just 71 points per 100 possessions while giving up 120 points per the same frame.  The marriage has been a downright disaster.  But hold on a minute.  In 45 third quarter minutes, lineups featuring the pair has produced a +21 net rating, scoring 106 points per 100 possessions and giving up just 85.

That third quarter production seems to indicate that it can work, that the pairing is not fundamentally flawed.  Kevin McHale seemed to feel the same, stating the other night prior to tipoff against the Clippers that the team just had not come out with any urgency in first quarters.  Still, it appears he may have seen enough.  If he truly has decided to scrap the experiment, it’s difficult to blame him.  It’s difficult enough winning games in this league; it becomes almost impossible when having to claw back from big deficits night after night, especially against good teams.

It’s anyone’s guess what happens going forward.  One solution–which I posed in this week’s podcast–might be to pair Howard/Asik together during a middle part of the game, when offensive flows have already been established and might be more difficult to disrupt.  If that doesn’t happen, it would mean relegating Asik to the ten or so minutes Howard is resting on the bench, a definite waste of the former’s value.

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About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.