Houston Rockets @ Charlotte Bobcats – January 10, 2012 6:00PM

The gist: The Rockets are still winless on the road and are losers of their last four outings. The Bobcats have dropped their last three, the most recent coming off a loss in Madison Square Garden when they allowed the Knicks’ starting lineup to combine for 88 points.

Key matchup: Luis Scola vs Boris Diaw

Despite having one too many hors d’oeuvers, Diaw can still produce if the defenses slack of him, as it was evident in their two meetings with the Knicks. With a defensive slouch like Scola, don’t be surprised with Diaw runs amok and gets his share of numbers across the board.

X-factor: Jordan Hill

Kevin McHale has chided the Rockets for a lack of road intensity. To be able to compete with gusto, energy must come from the big man, McHale’s students of the game. There are no more excuses for allowing hosting opponents to crush the Rockets with an average of 110.2 points a game. It starts with post defense.

Code Red: D.J. Augustin is surprisingly the Bobcats’ top scorer but he is shooting well under 40% from the field. If he suddenly gets his act together in this game, the Rockets will be in trouble.

Posted in game coverage | Tagged | Sharethis | Permalink

Hooplaw: Game Time vs. Jail Time

Below is legal analysis of Kyle Lowry’s predicament according to a local criminal defense attorney, Joel Hayter:

Kyle Lowry’s misdemeanor battery charge in Nevada will likely not seriously interfere with his game time.  Although he faces up to six months in jail if convicted, this does not necessarily mean he will be out for the season.  Sure, this would happen if he were to plead guilty at his court date in February and get sentenced to the full six months right then and there.  But he will no doubt spend some money on a good criminal defense lawyer.  Besides the possibility of having a misdemeanor conviction on his record, missing game time will be a concern that Lowry and his lawyer will take into consideration.

Read More »

Posted in essays | Tagged | Sharethis | Permalink

Does Daryl Morey’s focus on stats cause him to overvalue offense?

Last night, espn.com’s recap headline for the Lakers/Memphis game read “Kobe led Lakers beat Grizz.” In the game, Kobe led all scorers with 26 points. While I’m not disputing the fact that Mr. Bryant is and has been the unequivocal leader of the men in purple and gold, his scoring is not the only reason why the Lakers won this or any of their games. In that particular contest, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol gathered 15 rebounds apiece and held Pau’s brother to 2 points on 0-9 shooting.

It’s easy for us as fans to focus only on offense because high flying dunks, circus lay-ups, and contested threes are the moments we remember and talk about when the games and seasons are over, and as we get even nerdier with box score dissections, most of what’s easiest to measure are offensive stats because these plays largely are a result of individual successes.

Defense on the other hand is much more difficult to quantify. A center rotating to cut off a driving lane, an expert close-out, a timely double-team, or a flawless switch are mostly subjective distinctions. A defensive player can guard his man perfectly and still watch 35 points fall easily in front of him. The effect of defense is more cumulative and more often the result of how teammates work together (especially now that the zone is no longer illegal) than of how well a single player performs.

I’m not Daryl Morey. I’ve never been inside the Rockets’ team offices or facilities nor have I laid eyes on the specific stats the team collects. But I am a huge nerd for this sport and have tried myself to put numbers to the affect/value of individual players’ contributions on the court, and without question, the sheer volume of available offensive data far exceeds the number and reliability of defensive stats.

Since Morey became the Rockets’ general manager in 2007, the team’s effective acquisitions, players who’ve received at least 10 minutes a game for a season (not including this season), have been as follows: Luis Scola, Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Meta World Peace, Trevor Ariza, Von Wafer, Kyle Lowry, David Anderson, Brent Barry, Jordan Hill, Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson, and Chase Budinger. Among those 15, only four are decidedly good defenders, and 9 of the 15 offer only offensive contributions, actively hurting the team on defense.

This trend is consistent with Houston’s attempted moves as well, from the overnight Chris Bosh courting, to our toothless interest in Carmelo Anthony, to the failed Gasol trade, to the team’s rumored interest in Nene. The Rockets’ front office seems to place significant value on players with high-powered offensive skill sets, regardless of their defensive acumen.

Each consecutive year that Daryl Morey has been the Rockets’ GM, the team’s defense has gotten worse. Houston so far this season has ranked dead last in opponents’ field goal percentage, allowing opposing teams to convert on 49% of their attempts. John Hollinger’s more advanced team defensive efficiency rating places the Rockets second to last, just barely edging out Charlotte.

Decision making in an NBA front office is a complicated process, I’m sure, and many factors must certainly weigh into a team’s philosophy on a small and large scale. When Morey took over the Rockets, Houston had the 3rd stingiest defense in the league and was in desperate need of offensive production from anyone not wearing 1’s on their jerseys. Adelman is an obviously offensively minded coach who must have worked closely with the front office in most, if not all, personnel decisions. The team was built around the expectation that Yao and T-Mac would actually play out their primes, and when they didn’t, their complimentary parts had to become what disparate, broken pieces never can.

I wonder if Morey is like me in that when comparing Carmelo and KG, he might privilege Melo’s spectacular numbers because, like diamonds, they sure do look pretty. But also like diamonds they sure do cost a lot and don’t serve much of a practical purpose.

Posted in essays | Leave a comment | Sharethis | Permalink

Pocket Rocket – January 3-9, 2012

  • The Rockets are protecting the ball well, only coughing the ball up 12.6 times, third-best in the league. However, they are also dead last in free throws attempts and conversions, going roughly 13 out of 16 from the line. It’s too bad, as the team is fifth-best in terms of percentage but they aren’t taking advantage of it.
  • The team is obviously facing a conflict of interest. Driving to the lane may result in more turnovers but it also will get them to the line more, putting opponents into foul trouble. Aggression is a prerequisite; they cannot keep relying on Kevin Martin to hoist ill-advised 18-footers, especially with the “rip move” removed.
  • Over the past four games, the Rockets have allowed opponents to score 31.3 points in the first quarter, outscoring them by 8.3 markers. Suffice to say it’s difficult to play catch-up for the remaining 36 minutes.

Stat of the week: Kyle Lowry – 22 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists (January 3 @ Lakers)

Posted in columns | Sharethis | Permalink

Post-game interviews: 01.07.12

Posted in multimedia | Sharethis | Permalink