On Yao, the current path, and the CBA

  • The feeling I observed a few weeks back from Cowboys fans upon news of Tony Romo’s latest injury was a familiar one.  I felt that way too after the injury that forced Yao Ming to finally give in and hang it up.  It’s a strange place when losing the player that represents hopes of accomplishing anything of significance triggers, not impending doom, but rather, casual resignation.  Its a realization that the writing is on the wall and that it is time to move on.  In those days, I am partially ashamed to admit, I had advocated trading Yao to reclaim any value he may have had; I did not think he would ever be able to stay healthy.  Ashamed because of the ambassador for the game he turned out to be – a reality only reinforced through the hindsight benefit (or misfortune) of witnessing the dramatic end of the Dwight Howard era.  But trading Yao, if possible, would have been the right basketball move.  Who knows, however, if they ever would have explored it given the foreign business opportunities the big man’s presence on the roster opened up for the big boss.

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No progress on the Donatas Motiejunas front

I wrote two weeks ago on the Donatas Motiejunas contract negotiations, a process that has been and will be in limbo until October 1, the date when, unless its extended, the Rockets’ qualifying offer to Motiejunas expires.

Finally, last night, it seems there was some news on that front, but unfortunately for Motiejunas, rather than actual interest from another team, the soundwaves were nothing but frustration expressed by his agent:

“He wants me to make an offer and I’m not negotiating against myself,” Armstrong said. “Daryl (Morey, the Rockets general manager) and I are talking, but at this point there’s nothing to discuss. You know the value of a player. You know the value of a starting center in the NBA. There is no back-and-forth because of the rules. They’re using the rules to their advantage.”

Of course, as I explained in that September 1st piece, there’s no reason for Morey to negotiate against himself either.  If that October 1 deadline passes and Motiejunas still hasn’t accepted the qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent.  And to our knowledge, with no outside interest to date from other teams, he and his agent appear to have little to no leverage.  As I delineated in my earlier post, if Motiejunas has soured on the Rockets or wants to bet on himself, he can take the qualifying offer, and test the waters again next summer, but as an unrestricted free agent.  More from Armstrong:

“The Rockets are using the rules of restricted free agency to their advantage instead of focusing on what I would hope is the only thing that I would think is important to everybody, which is winning games,” Armstrong said. “I hope with coach (Mike) D’Antoni and the staff that they want to put the best team on the court to help the organization win games. If that’s the case, let’s get past the restricted free agency and the rules and put the best players on the floor to help him win basketball games.

I get the intent here, but for a professional with a fiduciary responsibility over another individual’s financial interests, Armstrong just sounds incredibly unsophisticated in the highlighted quote.  To be clear, there are instances when playing the press game can be beneficial.  He could’ve claimed the Rockets weren’t dealing in good faith had they spread details of Motiejunas’ medical records, as Carl Landry’s agent alleged some years ago.  Or he could have made the oft-repeated charge that Morey viewed his players as assets, something that actually did take legs, and for which the Rockets did take a public relations hit.  But here, Armstrong just comes off as if he doesn’t understand the basics of the collective bargaining agreement.  “Winning” and financial responsibility aren’t exactly mutually exclusive ends.

It’s unfortunate.  I like D-Mo a lot and hope he’s back, but this will end about as bad for him as it can for someone who will still probably rake in at least $8 million a year, I predict.  Hopefully the two sides can have a meeting of the minds on a figure that’s in line with what they each think he’s worth.  Because the market has spoken and the only noise is deafening silence: there most likely isn’t going to be a price to match.  Armstrong should work on fixing that instead of embarrassing himself further with quotes like the above.






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On Yao Ming

With Yao’s induction into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, I looked back on a piece I wrote back in 2010 regarding the Houston big man.  The Mandarin scattered throughout appears because, in an experiment which failed miserably for reasons beyond my control, I had arranged to have the piece translated for wider accessibility.

I touched very briefly on Yao in Episode 104 of the Red94 Podcast, but realized after re-reading the 2010 piece that I had forgotten many interesting details involving his Rockets career.  Most notable among these was his utter dominance of former Rocket Dwight Howard in head to head match-ups.

basketballreference.com

basketballreference.com

In nine games against Howard, Yao averaged 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on 56% shooting, with 2.1 blocks, going 7-2.  Howard averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds on 45% shooting, with 1.7 blocks.

The significance wasn’t just that Howard was thought of at the time as the game’s premiere big man, but that, as I explained in the piece, the statistics dispelled the most common misconception regarding Yao.  Yao was derided by his critics as soft and incapable of withstanding physical play.  In actuality, anyone who actually followed him closely knew that he always played his best against the biggest players – it was the small ball lineups that gave him trouble.






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Donatas Motiejunas’ rookie debut

I wrote last week on the Rockets’ waiting game regarding Donatas Motiejunas, explaining that they seemed to have all of the leverage in the current situation.  While in hindsight, successfully trading Motiejunas to Detroit would have been the more advantageous move, readers will remember that I was extremely upset following initial word of the transaction.

While doing some housekeeping in preparation for the new season, I’ve been digging through the archives from the past few seasons, and have stumbled across some gems.  I found a February 28, 2013 piece which was apparently written the night of Thomas Robinson and Motiejunas’ respective debuts.

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Forecasting the Houston defense

I’ve mused since the signings that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the team repeating its success from 2015.  Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon represent the first pure shooters James Harden has played with in Houston, making an already potent offense even more dangerous.  But I’ve also said the team is nearly as likely to be a complete disaster.  As Ian Levy of Nylon Calculus noted recently, in a piece titled ‘Are the Houston Rockets headed for a terrible defensive season?‘, in adding Anderson and Gordon, the 21st ranked defense in the league is adding two players who, by box plus-minus, were estimated to be among the 40-worst defenders in the league.

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