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Huq’s Pen: I’m bored and Omri Casspi has pushed one of the sophomores out of the rotation

  • If the preseason were The Dark Knight, we’d now be at that point where Rachel dies/Harvey loses it and things should be coming to a natural close so we can move on with our lives…but with there actually still being another hour remaining of forced analogies and contrived dilemmas until the actual culmination.  Yea, that’s kind of where we’re at with still three games left on the schedule and no real timeframe in sight on when the only relevant question still left unanswered–whether Omer Asik and Dwight Howard can co-exist–will be solved.  I’m getting bored and anxious.
  • Speaking of Asik, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe thinks a deal of the Turk for Chris Bosh makes sense for both sides, a proposition with which I fully concur, but a scenario I could never envision fully unfolding, even if a sturdy rim protector like the Rocket center is exactly what the Miami Heat are in need of.  But setting aside Riley’s obvious reluctance, how ironic would it be for Morey to eventually end up with his two biggest targets–two players who spurned him in leaner years–three seasons later?  Talk about getting the last laugh.  But as I said, I don’t think that’s a deal that has any chance at happening; but hey, I wrote a twenty part series on the Dwight Howard chase, spawning from a snowball in Hell (when the first whispers of unhappiness in L.A. began), so starting from now, anything merits attention.
  • I’ve written at length as to why the team should retain Asik (48 minutes of elite rim protection) and at even greater length as to why that objective will prove futile (Asik’s impending free agency and real salary explosion to $15million in year #3) and nothing that has happened in recent weeks has changed my opinion on either front. I do think an Asik deal will happen sooner than later with the big man’s value dimishing with each passing week on the x-axis labeled time.  The Bogut-Barnes scenario is an interesting one in that it gives the club a backup replacement for this season, but when he walks at summer’s end, then what?  You just traded a top 5 rim protector for Harrison Barnes?  I like Harrison Barnes but something gives me an Al Harrington this guy is a future star until his twenties are over and everyone realizes that he’s never going to become a star and is just a pretty good role player vibe…that’s dangerous to trade for, especially in exchange for someone with as meaty an RAPM (+4.5) as Asik.  When the deal eventually is made, it’s going to be structured in the same manner as so many other of Morey’s have been, with Asik being sent out for a power forward, but with some unknown, unheralded shot-blocking center prospect coming as well, from some third source to fill the gap.  One thing is for sure, as a reader recently said, one can’t really know what to expect because Morey is really, really smart and he’s just getting smarter with SportVU technology at his fingertips, a world of data which we won’t ever even sniff.

  • Omri Casspi has been the preseason’s biggest revelation, shooting the leather off the ball but more importantly, rebounding and defending well enough to justify prolonged minutes at the ’4′.  On Wednesday, Casspi started next to Garcia and the other three regulars, and the end result–I thought–was tremendous.  They were sloppy, yes, unable to find Dwight Howard in the post after Orlando began fronting, but these technical errors are ones which will be easily rectified with time and the return of Chandler Parsons.  And of course, they weren’t exactly facing the Chicago Bulls defense, going up against an Orlando team whose expected best player is just a calendar year removed from his high school prom.  But in inserting the versatile Casspi in place of a conventional ‘big’, they got basically any look they wanted, whenever they wanted.  As Jason Friedman recently pointed out, while Casspi’s career three-point shooting percentages have never caused anyone to blush, he’s a career 44% shooter from the corners, a spot from where Chandler Parsons converted last year at a 50% clip.  I envision the team putting Parsons in one corner with Casspi in the other, and having Howard up top setting picks for the ballhandling James Harden or Jeremy Lin.  Options galore dependent on the defense’s decision.
  • The other major development of this exhibition season is the unfortunate realization that at the least, one of, but possibly even both Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas will not even be in the rotation this year for the Houston Rockets.  This is not to say that neither player will ever have a productive career.  But at this point, on a team with championship aspirations and little margin for error, neither player has shown thus far that he can be relied on to contribute consistently, still making the same mistakes from a year ago, rotating slowly and getting lost in defensive schemes.  The only purported downside to the small “Delfino” lineup is on the defensive end, but if Motiejunas/Jones aren’t much of an upgrade (if even at all) in that department, what’s even the point?  The team is far more potent playing four small players and there’s Asik for those rare instances when a bruising power forward must be stopped.  No one has ever said, “we sure are getting killed on the boards…we need to bring in Donatas Motiejunas.”  It’s been the capability of Omri Casspi to rebound and defend competently, not his shooting, that has effectively pushed the sophomore power forwards out of the picture.  When the games actually count, I expect one of Jones/Motiejunas to see ten minutes a night (perhaps even as the starter), the other on the bench and out of the rotation, with the rest of the time at power forward split between Asik, Garcia, Casspi, and Parsons.  And that’s being conservative because I think that if Asik shows anything in the way of being able to coexist with Dwight, I think both Motiejunas and Jones are out altogether.  This will be the case until Asik is eventually dealt for a stretch-4 but that deal will almost inevitably include one of the sophomores for salary matching purposes.
  • I spoke to Greg Smith briefly Wednesday night and he did not seem nearly as upbeat as he usually had in the past during our conversations.  Can’t really blame him with as much that’s transpired in between from looking like the team’s big man of the future to becoming, essentially, bait for whoever is looking to unload a second round draft pick.
  • If you haven’t been watching/listening to these team previews Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose have been creating on Grantland, you are really missing out.  Fewer propositions are more laughable than the one popularly held by current and former players that only former players are equipped to analyze basketball or manage its personnel decisions.  If you’ve been paying attention over the years, you don’t need me to spell out the laundry list of evidence opposing this assertion (ie: every move Michael Jordan has made, every statement Charles Barkley has ever uttered).  But the person of Jalen Rose is proof of something non-players can never provide: the experience of playing basketball and living life as a basketball player in the NBA.  That to me is a perspective that is utterly fascinating.
  • Some data visualization of each team, courtesy of Best Tickets Blog.

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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.