Motiejunas dazzles, Robinson disappoints in respective debuts

To begin, it is probably unfair to describe Thomas Robinson’s performance last night as ‘disappointing.’  It was his first game wearing red, and after only, I believe, two practices.  There weren’t really expectations.  But if we’re being honest, he didn’t look good.

Robinson finished the game with a -18, collecting three fouls in his seven minutes (to go along with 2 points and 1 rebound.)  After he checked into the game, late in the first, the team’s lead all but evaporated.  He did not return in the second half.

What most struck me about Robinson was his height.  There’s no way he is 6’9 as listed.  When he first checked in, I caught myself wondering who the new small forward was.  I thought, “when did the Rockets sign Andre Iguodala?”

Of course, this was a mere observation – his height is immaterial as he has already proven a capable rebounder as evidenced by his adjusted rebounding production this season.

Robinson will get better, just through familiarity with the team, but for now, one struggles to see where he can fit.  Without a dependable jumpshot, his presence takes away a lot of what the Rockets like to run.

Motiejunas, on the other hand, dazzled, finishing with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in just 25 minutes of play.  Were it not for a few missed ‘gimmes’, the Lithuanian would have easily gone for 20.  I hesitate to say this, just because it’s so early, but I am fairly confident he will become an offensive star.  At this point, the only way I can see him failing to reach that expectation is if his defense/rebounding prove to be so egregiously horrendous that they keep him off the floor altogether.

He knocked down a 3, showed some nice hands around the basket, and drove in off the pump fake on several plays, on one occasion even spinning to the hoop.  However, the most impressive thing I’ve noted is how aggressively Motiejunas posts up.  There was one play which comes to mind where he beat his man down the court and pinned him right underneath the hoop, held his hands up, and caught the pass.  I believe he was then fouled.  This early, off-ball pindown is something very rarely seen in young players.  Recall that it took years until Rockets brass was able to program it into Yao’s muscle memory.

I talked to Motiejunas a bit after the game, asking him what he meant specifically when he said he “wanted to develop skills no one had developed in their life.”  The first word he mentioned was passing, interestingly.

I repeat: this is a 7 footer with aggression, postup skills, range on his jumper, and the ability to drive with either hand who, when asked about by his coach, has only been described as “so hard working that we had to find a way to get him on the court.”  How can he fail?  Motiejunas seems like a sure bet.

It’s going to be interesting to watch his development.  We know what he can do offensively.  But when it mattered most, he was on the bench with Delfino at the ’4′.  Again, the Rockets lost because they could not secure a rebound.  If Motiejunas is to become more than an offensive star, the 7 footer will need to gain his coach’s confidence that he can be dependable on the glass, at least enough to be kept in the game during critical moments.

A final note: While driving home from the Toyota Center, I heard a caller on the 790 postgame show make an interesting point.  He asked, to paraphrase, “where the hell is Terrence Jones?  They played this guy Thomas Robinson after just a few practices while Terrence Jones, who has been here all year, hasn’t even sniffed the court.”

I found this interesting.  In convention, it’s not too surprising that Robinson got the nod.  He was the fifth pick in the draft.  But since when has Kevin McHale cared about pedigree?  Had you asked me, I would have thought you’d see Terrence Jones before Robinson.

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  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Bosh is averaging 9 throgh his career, the reason his number is down to just below 8 a game with the heat is because LBJ and Wade grabs a lot of rebounds as well. If we can get 7-10 a game from the pf it would be great next to asik

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    Bosh is NOT a decent rebounder. He's a below average rebounder.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Also Bosh is from Texas that helps too.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm all in on Bosh, he can spread the floor and has an decent inside game, good passer and decent rebounder. He is also mobile and can finish round the rim with good defence. Asik and Bosh would be a great combo, I'm not sure we can wait until 2016, but if Lebron leaves and Wade keeps declining maybe Heat will try to shed some salary?

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Which is basically the same dilemma LA has: trading Pau without the certancy of having Dwight back next year....

  • Dmes says 1 YEAR ago @Sir Thursday It's impossible to expect that Asik will stay once rockets lands Dwight Howard. He will force his way out. no way he wants to be in Dwight Howard's shadow after emerging out of Joakim Noah's shadow. I don't see that he will stay just to chase a ring. Tom Thibodeu once said asik and his agent always look for opportunity to start. This is what makes thenit's concern reasonable. if howard doesn't return to former self, Rockets will indeed be crippled.
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Howard has an excellent post game - the knock about him not having one might have been true 4-5 seasons ago, but it's clearly false now when you watch him play. Yeah he never matched up well with Yao...but what does that prove? I don't see another player like him coming through the door to challenge Howard's supremacy any time soon.

    The athleticism hasn't been there for much of this season, but it's starting to return now - by the time the season finishes we should have seen enough of his play to evaluate whether or not the explosiveness and quick leaping will return. Even without being as mobile and springy as he has been in years passed, he's still been an All-Star calibre player this year - just not an MVP calibre one. And he's still only 27, remember! It's not like he's into his 30s and on the decline.

    It is a valid point that he won't fit all that well next to Asik given his skillset. But I don't think that counts him out as a target - at the moment we're struggling to find someone to anchor the defence with the second unit...well there's already someone here who has done that before back when he played in Chicago ;).

    ST

    I absolutely agree with everything said in this post.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    I wouldn't sign Howard because you don't know what you get with him. Usually when a big man loses his athletic ability or his body just wears down of injuries they don't come back to their former self, and signing him a max deal will cripple houston for years. Also he doesn't have a good post up game imo. Remember how Yao always had the better of howard. Remember rahat put up head to head stat and Yao owned him.

    Howard can't shoot jumpers or post up or FT. So unless he becomes superman again and that is a BIG IF, i rather try for Bosh. I think thats a player we can get, and he be excellent next to asik.

    Howard has an excellent post game - the knock about him not having one might have been true 4-5 seasons ago, but it's clearly false now when you watch him play. Yeah he never matched up well with Yao...but what does that prove? I don't see another player like him coming through the door to challenge Howard's supremacy any time soon.

    The athleticism hasn't been there for much of this season, but it's starting to return now - by the time the season finishes we should have seen enough of his play to evaluate whether or not the explosiveness and quick leaping will return. Even without being as mobile and springy as he has been in years passed, he's still been an All-Star calibre player this year - just not an MVP calibre one. And he's still only 27, remember! It's not like he's into his 30s and on the decline.

    It is a valid point that he won't fit all that well next to Asik given his skillset. But I don't think that counts him out as a target - at the moment we're struggling to find someone to anchor the defence with the second unit...well there's already someone here who has done that before back when he played in Chicago ;).

    ST

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Hard to argue with that...Big bodies rarely recover....Bosh would be a nice fit.....how exactly do we get him away from Miami?

    Edit: Wow, is Bosh worth a max contract though? He is scheduled to make $20M in 2014 and $22M in 2015. That's tough. I could see him being the piece that pushes us into championship status....need to think more on him....

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I wouldn't sign Howard because you don't know what you get with him. Usually when a big man loses his athletic ability or his body just wears down of injuries they don't come back to their former self, and signing him a max deal will cripple houston for years. Also he doesn't have a good post up game imo. Remember how Yao always had the better of howard. Remember rahat put up head to head stat and Yao owned him.

    Howard can't shoot jumpers or post up or FT. So unless he becomes superman again and that is a BIG IF, i rather try for Bosh. I think thats a player we can get, and he be excellent next to asik.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Lakers couldn't have scripted a worse season this year and only two back. Kobe declared "It's go time."

    Yeah they're definitely making a push, and with these 2 recent losses, our playoff push just got a bit tougher (in terms of holding -- gaining ground is about the same since 6-8 are so close). Next 10 games, I'd feel good if we came out 8-2; if we came out 7-3 I'd feel aight. 6-4 and I'm worried. Easy teams but a lot of repeat plays; after the next 10, remaining teams are not as easy to down.

  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    When I saw him strip Jamal Crawford's crossover on consecutive plays, I knew everything I needed to know about his defense.

  • Kade says 1 YEAR ago

    I sure hope LAL doesn't. I'd still put money though that we make the playoffs over LAL :P Good news is it is just 2 games, though I agree that Wiz are better than their record w/ Wall back, and Bucks have a team of shooters -- they'll have these streaks where they just shoot their way to victory. Will also have games where it doesn't fall and they collapse miserably. Sad tonight was not the latter.

    Lakers couldn't have scripted a worse season this year and only two back. Kobe declared "It's go time."

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    This is probably the #1 allure for a Josh Smith signing....his defensive abilities paired with Asik, Parsons, and Beverley would be pretty solid late in games....presuming Harden is playing the 2 that would be a great closing line-up....sorry, but I would go with Beverley over Lin here (for now)....There are still solid scoring options on the floor and that would be three elite defenders, one solid defender (Parsons), and James Harden plays decent D in the closing minutes. Again, I think a one-year signing of Smith for that kind of test drive would be a no-brainer....D-Mo will still get minutes (this way he can go full throttle) and could be part of a lethal second unit that included Beverley, Anderson, Ohlbrecht, and Delfino (maybe). More and more I am hoping Howard stays with the Lakers so that we don't sign him and we either roll with who we've got, or give Smith the 1-year look-see.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I would almost put him as the best 1on1 defender of all the rockets. The problem is his size so he can really only guard pg and small 2s. If he was a few inches larger and a maybe 25 pounds heavier he would be able to guard the wings and pgs.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, his defense and 3 pt. shooting are excellent off the bench...Is he the wing defender Houston has been looking for?

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    One last thing...Can anyone say enough good things about Patrick Beverley? It seems the one knock on him before getting to the NBA was his lack of outside shooting....looks fine to me. The guy defends really well, gets rebounds, gets others involved.....his on court/off court numbers alone (per 82games.com) are quite impressive. He is sporting a 17.7 PER and is fairly consistent in his play from night to night...(unlike certain streaky Argentinians)

    If you discount his time playing the 2-guard his PER jumps to 22.2 as a pure PG.

    Morey scores an A+ for this signing...and he is locked in for the next two years at a nice salary with team options.

    I agree beverley has been a great signing and a cheap one too. He is a sparkplug, but I don't see him running the offense as a starting pg. But he acually might be a better fit with Harden due to being a superior shooter to Lin. But that means you are basically switching harden to pg and beverley playing the 2.

    His numbers are pretty good, but he is usually playing against the backup pgs and having harden run with the ball. I watched almost every game this season and when beverley is in there without Harden, and he has the ball in his hands, he doesn't create much. His passing is average and vision as well. Haven't seen a lot of nice assist from Beverley this season. His defense is excellent but I think it will be hard to play plus 30 minutes as a starter with that kind of intensity. I actually think he is the perfect backup pg in the nba. Great defence, can hit shoots, tons of energy where he fights for the ball a lot.

    Even when beverley has played plus 20min in a couple of games his stats has never jumped up once. He is pretty consistent but he doesn't have a breakout game where he puts up points or assist in big numbers that Mchale would sit Lin. A few times he has out played Lin so that he finish the game, but its usually due to his defence and Lin struggling bad.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    One last thing...Can anyone say enough good things about Patrick Beverley? It seems the one knock on him before getting to the NBA was his lack of outside shooting....looks fine to me. The guy defends really well, gets rebounds, gets others involved.....his on court/off court numbers alone (per 82games.com) are quite impressive. He is sporting a 17.7 PER and is fairly consistent in his play from night to night...(unlike certain streaky Argentinians)

    If you discount his time playing the 2-guard his PER jumps to 22.2 as a pure PG.

    Morey scores an A+ for this signing...and he is locked in for the next two years at a nice salary with team options.

    I will close with two pictures of Beverley being awesome

    940x.jpg

    512x.jpg

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Yes, Yes, and Yes. Agree that Delfino ISO plays should be discouraged. Agree with your takes Sir Thursday...Agree that T-Rob is D-League bound sooner than later....I'd like to see what Ohlbrecht brings to the table. Our small ball line-ups are being exposed on the defensive end in a terrible way.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm with you about having D-Mo at the 5 with the small lineup, let's just hope McHale just spent the night playing with his new toys and will revert back to more effective rotations sooner than later. Does anybody have any thoughts on Olbrecht and what kind of relief he may be able to bring Asik? Hopefully T-rob's insertion was a test to see if he needs some d-league time, or if he was ready to go... the former is the case obviously. I look to see him toying with Jones a bit now hopefully.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    While I loved what I saw from Motiejunas for the most part, there was one section where he struggled mightily on defence - the period where he was put on Sanders as a C with four smaller players. The Ellis-Sanders pick-and-roll tore the defence to pieces on consecutive possessions, and they really had no answer for penetration. The results were so unencouraging that I would very much prefer it if McHale doesn't go back to that lineup ever again. Usually it won't be possible because D-Mo won't be able to match up against a proper Centre (Sanders is more of a 4 body-type who plays C because of his shotblocking talents, in my estimation), but it should be avoided at all costs.

    This loss was painful because it was close, particuarly on the back of the Washington game. For a long stretch (most of December and a lot of January) we managed to go without playing in many close games at all. It's much easier to take when it's resolved early rather than with a prayer shot at the end. Close games are decided a lot by the bounce of the ball, and we didn't get it at the end (although it was completely the team's fault for allowing the game to get to a situation where there was a chance for that to happen in the first place).

    So, back to back games losing having been up 17 at some point. Personally I don't mind that statistic too much because in both cases the leads were made in the first half. When you have a lead at that stage it is never safe, there's just too much time left in the game. If the point-scoring asymmetry was fuelled by hot-shooting, then the reverse can always happen. I would argue that actually the Rockets' early burst in the game came rather from excellent execution and a permissive defence, because all of the shots were at the rim. But their defence tightened up at the time when ours loosened, so the lead was eroded anyway.

    ST

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I don't mind all that much when he plays the 4, although he should play less minutes there. But, can we all agree that Delfino should stop running ISO plays. He's not all that good at them. That 28-30 foot 3 pointer with 12 seconds on the clock was a HORRIBLE shot.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    First, I would like it very much if Delfino stopped playing PF. It's bad for everyone involved. Is he really a better choice than anybody else???? I don't like when he starts jacking up shots just because he has the ball in his hands....he is better when there is motion happening....at a glance, the rockets are better when he shoots fewer shots per 82games.com

    Other than that, I am overall pleased with the game (obviously not the end result). D-Mo had the 7 rebs. and I saw him get a hand on at least 4 more...also had a couple shots rim out--all in all very pleased.

    I am loving Patrick Beverley....I keep finding myself thinking, "should he be starting?", but then Lin comes back in and does something which reminds me why he is the starter--even though he was sub-par last night.

    Mostly, this game came down to the Bucks knocking down a lot of jumpers and us clanking a lot of free throws...oh, and that abysmal execution at the end....ugh.

    The -18 for T-Rob is both funny and depressing.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    On the bright side, the starting squad, during the first 7 minutes totally ruled. One spread the floor, active 7 footer in Motie and a HUGE inside presence from Asik is going to cause a lot of matchup problems for opposing teams. I was disappointed that we didn't really see anymore of this the rest of the night. What's up with that? Do you think McHale is blowing off these first few games trying to find his preferred rotations? It seemed that after the first 7 minutes, Asik and D-mo didn't share the floor anymore, or if they did for a few minutes, it was with PB and CD instead of Lin and Parsons. Asik really impressed me last night.

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Motiejunas dazzles, Robinson disappoints in respective debuts
  • rocketman51 says 1 YEAR ago I meant PB had 3 pts in 19 mins.Clyde really misses TD. "Best P
  • rocketman51 says 1 YEAR ago Well written, 12 TO by Harden and Parson hurt big time. Poor ft shooting also hurt. Robinson is not ready for prime time. Wish we would have kept MM. TD 19 minutes and only 3 points.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    just looked at the box score and was surprised to see all the starters with a positive +/- except for Harden.

  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    yeah gotta go outta the way to watch them. and to me, pulling up a stream isnt hard, but its going outta the way compared to what id prefer which is switchin on the HD and flipping to the right channel.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    disgusted....took the time to hook the laptop up to a tv to watch. ive watched both of the last two games. ill skip the next few.

    Haha I understand the feeling, but hopefully HOU pulls out of this nasty funk. Missed the OKC and Nets right before though eh? :P bad timing

  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    disgusted....took the time to hook the laptop up to a tv to watch. ive watched both of the last two games. ill skip the next few.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    I sure hope LAL doesn't. I'd still put money though that we make the playoffs over LAL :P Good news is it is just 2 games, though I agree that Wiz are better than their record w/ Wall back, and Bucks have a team of shooters -- they'll have these streaks where they just shoot their way to victory. Will also have games where it doesn't fall and they collapse miserably. Sad tonight was not the latter.

  • Kade says 1 YEAR ago

    Felt like a recurring dream all over again like we were playing Wizards the other day. That's two losses in a row that any playoff bound team should never have lost. Awful. Now Lakers will make up ground on us.

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Milwaukee Bucks 110, Houston Rockets 107: Someday, this team will win a close game.
  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin played good defense on the last play, and Ellis just hit a circus shot. We should have closed the game when we had the 5point lead.

    Parsons and Asik had good games. Harden was okey for his standards. The 7 turnovers by him hurt us a little and when he stole the ball and got blocked by sanders and then sanders runs the floor and tips in the game, changed the game. Just a great play by sanders, someone should have let Harden know that saders was trailing there.

    Lin had a good first quarter, really poor 2nd and 3rd, and an ok 4th he seems passive not sure why. Delfino shoot poorly too.

    Rockets can always score but we need to be able to make stops without Asik. Best signing of this off season for this team.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago

    Asik, Motie, harden, parsons had nice offensive games, even trob was good in limited time but the defense was garbage when asik wasn't on the court.


    I think that is the reason they signed the guy from the RGV vipers. They know that they have given up 5 more points per 100 possessions w/ Asik out. And the guy is a tall body who might be able to help that. They let a win slip through their fingers tonight.
  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Asik, Motie, harden, parsons had nice offensive games, even trob was good in limited time but the defense was garbage when asik wasn't on the court.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    That was great defense by Lin on that last play, and I think it was Parsons who didn't close out on Ellis. But it was a circus shot, but still, the guy was open even if was from 30 feet.

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Is it just me or Delfino seems a bit pissed for losing the starting job in favour of Motie?

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    It all collapsed when they took Asik out though :(. Hopefully the Rockets can cut the turnovers in the second half - the Bucks have had active hands and have made it awkward to get a flow going.

    D-Mo and Beverley were both tremendously fun to watch though, as they have been for the past few games. Looking forward to seeing more of these guys!

    ST

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Thats the best 7 min I've seen the rockets play in the first quarter. Dmo with a couple nice assist and asik on a alley oop