When asked what the absolute worst part about being a 7’2” human being was, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert had no complaints about being forever uncomfortable squeezing into the front seat of a car or plane, finding appropriate clothing unless suited with a personal tailor, or eternally failing at games of hide and seek. No. In the mind of Hibbert, there exists a curse much, much worse for modern America’s super tall African-American male.
“People coming up to me asking me if I’m Hasheem Thabeet. That’s probably the worst thing. No offense to him, but I look nothing like him.”
In his very short, soon to be brief, NBA career, the Rockets center has been through a lot. We already knew heading into this season that the expectations of being selected No. 2 overall in the NBA draft were entrenched as his worst enemy, but for the hopeful optimists who saw a gigantic human—armed with gigantic hands, wearing gigantic upside as a personal parachute—things weren’t yet at rock bottom. But right now, 10 games into his third NBA season, it’s safe to say they are.
Thabeet is basketball’s overgrown mascot of failure. At least the likes of Darko Milicic and Kwame Brown have made careers for themselves. They’ve clung onto the coattails of incredible size, beastly strength, and moderate hand eye coordination for million dollar payouts. Where they both were at one time mercilessly mocked by those who didn’t even watch basketball, Thabeet is simply ignored
The development for Thabeet looks to be over. He’s D.J. Mbenga with a college education, Michael Olowokandi without the hilarious nickname. Hasheem Thabeet is a lost cause; a 7’4” overgrown child with a wingspan reminiscent of prehistoric airborne reptiles. He has yet to prove to anyone with any gleam of influence within the league that he’s worthy of placing two feet on the court. It’s beyond embarrassing and sad. Right now it teeters on tragic.
This would be marginally acceptable if it weren’t for the fact that right now Houston is down on their hands and knees, begging and pleading each day and night for some sort of defensive presence to maintain sanity in their front court. On paper, Thabeet would be the perfect answer. On paper, he’d lead the lead in blocked shots. On paper, he’d strike tremendous fear in the hearts of every daring adventurer who thought snooping around the rim was a good idea. Unfortunately, this is real life, and Hasheem Thabeet in a professional basketball game is a plastic bag softly floating beside an idle jet engine.
Right now Houston is allowing the 6th highest eFG% in the league, and only two teams are allowing more points. It’d be more than fair to proclaim them one of the NBA’s least capable defenses. Against the Lakers last Tuesday night, they bled a slow painful death at the hands of the NBA’s new Goliath, Andrew Bynum. 24 hours later, the Clippers unloaded 48 minutes worth of Tommy gun bullets, spraying hundreds of holes both inside and out.
Yes, both those teams are very good, and yes, the second game was at the end of a back-to-back, but when the answer to all your woes remains seated on your bench during games like those two, unable to tap into the genetically gifted potential that’s placed him where he is in the first place, it’s beyond frustrating.
When discussing potential and upside in terms of rebuilding a franchise, it gets to the point where cutting your losses and admitting your mistakes becomes the smartest decision on the table when the asset you covet just isn’t what you thought he could be. Thabeet doesn’t play, but he’s symbolizes so much of what’s wrong with the Rockets right now. When acquiring a young talent who someday can contribute heavy minutes, you want your team to get it right every single time. To their credit, Houston hits doubles when other teams are forfeiting at bats (Chandler Parsons, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger), but on the flip side, they appear to be popping out when others are safely reaching base (Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, Jonny Flynn).
The low cost, high reward signing isn’t a bad strategy, but when there’s no reward time after time it tends to grow stale.
Sitting in front of Thabeet is Jordan Hill, another first round bust who’s making us reevaluate the meaning of “shrinkage”; Sam Dalembert, a big man signed in pure desperation; and Luis Scola, a pure power forward who’s been asked to play the five simply because those previous two aren’t very good at it.
Then there’s our massive Roy Hibbert look-a-like, sitting on the bench night after night, minute after minute. To date he’s registered 6 points, 2 fouls, 3 rebounds, 0 blocks, and 0 FTA in 11 minutes of work this season, resembling a 64” plasma TV you’ve placed in a room with no electrical outlets. So far McHale has experimented with his lineups, tightening them up last night, and loosening them over the weekend, yet there he remains—not worth the risk when there’s nothing left to lose.