Huq’s Pen: Ramblings from June 9
- I couldn’t think of a title because I honestly have no idea where I’m going with this post. When you haven’t written in some time, you just feel an urge to dump everything out at once rather than focus immediately on one topic. So this could be about the Parsons contract, about Lebron, or even about the new X-Men movie.
- To the above point, I apologize deeply for having abandoned you all for the past few weeks since the Rockets’ elimination from the postseason. I had some other projects which required my attention, but more importantly, after the manner in which Houston’s season ended, I just needed a mental health break.
- I’m so glad the Heat won and I’m so glad Lebron did well. I’ve never particularly enjoyed watching James play but I became a big fan of his after The Decision just simply in reaction to the stupidity surrounding him. People become all sorts of stupid when discussing the topic of Lebron James and that held true once again after Game 1 of the Finals. But I won’t waste any more of this space addressing that.
- I’ve been saying this every year for like ten years now, so it doesn’t even hold any meaning, but man, “The NBA Finals are back!” As I noted, in reality, they’ve been back for quite some time now, but the point needs to be underscored. I guess the source of my amazement/appreciation is the fact that the final series was a dud throughout my childhood and adolescence, years you could call my formative period, so my mental associations with certain things are engrained. The Jordan years were obviously a treat, but after that, people my age grew up in an era where the Western Conference Finals was dubbed “the real finals”, with East representatives such as the Iverson 76ers, Lebron’s Cavs, the Sprewell Knicks, the Nets, and the Pacers. Man, we had some absolutely dreadful Finals’. But its been an absolute event now, as it was intended to be, for quite some time now, to the point where I don’t think most basketball fans even allow themselves to miss a single minute. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I guess this run of “good Finals” started in 2004 with the Pistons’ upset of the Lakers.
- In any event, this has been must-see TV, with the greatest team in professional sports pitted against a contender for “greatest player of all-time.” The two teams are such a beautiful contrast that a basketball junkie such as myself almost experiences overload trying to take everything in. You have the Spurs cutting all over the floor, being defended by Miami’s hyper-aggressive trapping defense juxtaposed against the Heat’s ‘spread the floor off Lebron/Wade’ offense. It’s beautiful. And while most of the talk regarding visual aesthetics gravitates towards the Spurs, I’ve come to understand that there’s maybe nothing I find more compelling than a beautiful manifestation of team defense, the likes of which the Heat displayed in the fourth quarter last night. (Maybe that’s why the Rockets drove me to require taking three weeks away from my blog?) The aggressive trap of the ball-handler (though not like they used t0), the switch, the rotations, the close-outs. The trust. The f****** trust, with every man knowing exactly where he needs to be. And the fascinating thing about beautiful defense is that single mistakes look so much more glaring and evoke such exaggerated responses, as evidenced by Chris Bosh’s gaffe last night in failing to close out hard on Tony Parker. You knew that was a mistake because you saw what they were doing all along and Lebron was livid. Contrast that with the Rockets where you really have to go back to the film to glean anything because you don’t really even know what they’re trying to do and judging by the players’ reactions to made baskets off of open shots, neither do they. In fairness, Houston doesn’t have the ability to put a 6’8 juggernaut on the opponent’s point guard, but one can still play solid defense without good perimeter defenders, as long as one has a rim protector. See: the Francis/Yao/Van Gundy Rockets.
- Probably weird that I wrap up a segment about defense by segueing to Carmelo Anthony as I’m about to do on this bullet point, but whereas I think this team has a long way to go defensively, I also don’t think they have enough offensive talent as currently constructed. Those two objectives are not mutually exclusive and can simultaneously be tackled through different means. And you’re not going to lose anything dropping off from Terrence Jones to Carmelo Anthony on defense.
- Last point is on Chandler Parsons who will become a millionaire one year earlier than expected. I had previously stated that I had my doubts whether Parsons and James Harden could coexist on a team with championship aspirations, especially if a similarly-minded player such as ‘Melo were acquired to man the ’4 (or hell, if they just keep Jones). But an interesting theory has arisen which surmises that perhaps Parsons, once having gotten paid, might divert more energy towards the defensive side of the ball as he did during his rookie season. I think it’s possible that that could happen, but I don’t know if its likely. Simply put, the glamour of high scoring is infectious. But on that point, has there ever been a more intelligent willful utilitarian decision by a player in recent Rockets’ history than Parsons’ avoidance of defense? Maybe the time Hakeem said Mo Taylor was just as good as Chris Webber (in theory freeing up cap space that could have been used to re-sign the Dream, had they chosen). But seriously, think about it. If Parsons keeps exerting full-on energy as a ‘defensive stopper’, as he had been doing his rookie season, he probably averages like 12 or 13 points per game, and his market value this summer probably ends up at around $6-$7million/year. A 25 year-0ld defensive specialist with some offensive ability and not even particularly elite defensively? Yeah, $6-$7million, I’d guess, or whatever Thabo is getting. But 17ppg with no defensive effort to speak of? He’s going to get $10million a year with everyone raving about his abilities, and with the only people noticing his defensive warts are Rockets fans with too much time on their hands. The team suffers but who cares if he isn’t getting any of the blame? It was a smart, smart decision.
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