Hasheem Thabeet Fail

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.

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Rapid reaction: San Antonio Spurs 101, Houston Rockets 95 (OT)

Houston Rockets95FinalRecap | Box Score101San Antonio Spurs
Luis Scola, PF 38 MIN | 9-21 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | -8At the end of the night, his stat line will look respectable, but Scola had a pretty precipitous fall after a 7-10 first quarter where the Argentinian scored 14 points, shooting a combined 2-11 after that first period (obvious for those who know how to subtract, I know, but glaring enough to point out). Scola’s had a recent trend of coming up short in second halves.
Chandler Parsons, F 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | -4Basically anything coming out of this position at this point for Houston is gravy, and so goes Parsons’ career as of yet. With low expectations, his epic putback slams and somewhat capable wing defense (against a team with no capable wings) have come as a mildly pleasant surprise in a season full of groan-worthy inevitabilities.
Kevin Martin, SG 44 MIN | 7-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -8Kevin Martin without a three-point shot can be reasonably compared to T-Pain without Autotune: even the few of us paying attention in the first place want no parts of it. Martin’s line might not look that bad, but the difference in impact between last year’s Martin and this one feels infinite.
Kyle Lowry, PG 44 MIN | 8-19 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 22 PTS | -7Lowry, like Scola, had a better night on the stat page than he did on the court, basically ceding ground to a dominant Tony Parker at every turn, but as the only Rocket to drain a three in a game in which Houston went an anemic 3-21 from behind the line, Lowry essentially did his part keeping Houston in a game in which, after an exceptional first quarter, it had no business being.
Jordan Hill, C 18 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +1Did very little, but after last night’s 12 rebounds and five blocks and some timely rebounds tonight, Hill deserves a pat on the back. Or a trip to the D-League. Whichever.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Wooo. Rockets fans got to see a close game, which is great, even if it resulted in yet another road loss, the team’s sixth of the year, which is miserable. Overtime was sort of miserable offensively (first points were scored by Duncan at the 2:41 mark on a free throw, after he had just missed three consecutive ones at the charity stripe), but it’s always nice to see some meaningful basketball, even when the faithful Rockets red have to walk away sighing.
  2. For the first time against a team in what seems like ages, the Houston Rockets started a game off well Wednesday night, dropping in 27 in the first quarter to lead the Spurs by four. Houston shot 65% in that first quarter, including Scola’s aforementioned 14 points on 7-10 shooting.
  3. As great as that 13-20 first quarter shooting was, those 27 points were emblematic of the Rockets’ biggest flaw on offense in this era of Houston basketball: these guys just shoot jumpers. Though a couple of Scola’s buckets came off of layups, almost every made field goal in that first quarter came from outside of the paint, thereby exemplifying the exact reasons for the fickleness of the Rockets’ offense. Sometimes those jumpers will fall, and sometimes they won’t; regardless, the current Rockets will have to keep taking them without a legitimate post presence or elite pick-and-roll player.
  4. That Tony Parker, eh? While San Antonio grasps at straws for some play-making in the wake of Manu Ginobili’s purportedly season-killing injury, Parker came through with 24 points and seven assists against one of the league’s best point guard defenders in Lowry, who had consistent trouble staying in front of Parker and fighting through screens, leaving his big men on an island with the Frenchman. You can guess how most of those ended.
  5. Yikes. This Rockets’ center rotation really looks to be about the worst in the NBA, producing a whole lot of not much against a couple of productive bigs in living legend Tim Duncan and adequate Brazilian backup Tiago Splitter. Hill got in some decent minutes, but no Rockets big could contain Duncan in crunch time. Can’t imagine this problem will get much better against big combos in Portland, Los Angeles and Memphis out here in the West.

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On the NBA: Til the Wheels Fall Off

Image courtesy of Neil Kremer via Flickr

When Mike Brown first occupied the movie director’s throne left by Phil Jackson in Los Angeles in the summer of 2011, a bevy of legitimate and nonsensical worries began to crop up about the former Cavaliers coach and Spurs assistant. Some thought he wouldn’t be ready for the magnifying glass (and mischievous child trying to start a fire known as the press accompanying it) that goes with working not only in the nation’s second-biggest market but also with the NBA’s most storied franchise. Others worried that the Lakers’ de facto leader and seeming misanthrope Kobe Bryant would not take too kindly to taking orders from anyone other than the best coach of all-time, who he still battled with on a constant basis. The silliest problem followers of the purple and gold had with the hire stemmed from the fumbling, kid-gloves approach that Brown and he rest of the Cavaliers organization took to handling superstardom in Cleveland, where LeBron James and his camp appeared to run roughshod over anyone in the Midwest who stood between them and what they wanted, which were mostly warmer French fries apparently. That fear looked to be completely lacking in context, altogether unaware of the wildly different situations in LA and The Forest City. The only thing all onlookers were sure of the Brown signing was that it meant more prominent roles in the team’s offense for the Lakers’ bigs, a move ostensibly quite obvious given Bryant’s age, Brown’s conservative playcalling and the immense talents, both literally and figuratively, present in the Lake Show’s interior. This all seemed painfully clear to everyone, everyone except Bryant who is leading the NBA in shots attempted per game and might just be tanking one of this current Lakers teams’ last chance at a ring. Read More »

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Houston Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs – January 11, 2012 7:30PM

The gist: The Rockets, albeit ugly, won their first road game against the Bobcats, 82-70. The Spurs, on the other hand are coming off a 106-103 road loss to the Bucks but remain an impeccable 6-0 at the AT&T Center. TJ Ford (strained left hamstring) and Manu Ginobili (broken left hand) are the casualties for this game.

Key matchup: Chandler Parsons vs Richard Jefferson

Jefferson has been blistering from outside, converting on 56.1% treys this season. If Parsons gets the starting nod again tonight over Chase Budinger, he will have to do two things: (1) close out Jefferson from the arc and (2) make his free throws, as he is shooting a Chris Dudley-like 20% for the season.

X-factor: Kevin Martin

While Martin has been a pedestrian 40.7% from the field, he torched the Spurs in their last outing, gunning 10/17 for 25 points.

Code Red: For all the reps the Rockets have been getting as an offensive juggernaut, the Spurs are fourth in scoring, averaging 100.9 points thanks to streaky downtown shooting and unselfish basketball. The Rockets cannot expect to trade baskets, especially knowing that they are on the road.

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Rapid Reaction: Houston Rockets 82, Charlotte Bobcats 70

Houston Rockets82Final
Recap | Box Score
70Charlotte Bobcats
Luis Scola, PF 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +12

The normally consistent Scola finally had a down game, but I suppose that’s excusable. Boris Diaw is a BEAST.

Chandler Parsons, F 31 MIN | 9-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +7

After the Bobcats cut it to 5 with just under 3 minutes left, Parsons hit a huge three, then a fallaway two in the corner. After Kemba Walker came back with a jumper of his own, Parsons put it on the floor and finished with a nifty reverse lay-up. He was the team’s closer tonight, leading them in scoring and playing an all-around great game. It’s good to see Morey’s found yet another ruby searching through second round sewage.

Samuel Dalembert, C 26 MIN | 2-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | +18

Dalembert was solid on the defensive end, but saw a bit of trouble against Byron Mullens, who led the Bobcats in scoring.

Kevin Martin, SG 42 MIN | 5-19 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 17 PTS | +11

Martin had a terrible shooting night, and managed 17 of the ugliest points you’ll ever see.

Kyle Lowry, PG 41 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 11 REB | 8 AST | 6 PTS | +19

It was weird to watch Lowry not look for his shot tonight. He finished second on the team in rebounds and had a respectable number of assists, but the results didn’t feel like his triple double flirtations of the past.

Goran Dragic, PG 12 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -6

Dragic just didn’t bring it tonight. From the start he looked wobbly, finishing with 3 turnovers and 1 assist in 12 minutes. With the Spurs coming to town tomorrow night, Dragic’s lack of sobriety forced McHale to play Lowry over 40 minutes.

Three Things We Saw

  1. This may have been the most repulsive excuse for a professional basketball game the league’s put on display this season. Was the lockout a possible reason for it? Maybe. The two defenses heading into tonight’s game ranked at the NBA’s bottom, yet Houston shot 38.6% and Charlotte 34.1%. Offense simply did not want to show its face.
  2. The Rockets had 22 turnovers, but Luis Scola was called for traveling 97 times. Weird.
  3. As gross as things were, the Rockets won the basketball game, and did so with their second round draft pick leading the team in scoring, and closing the game down the stretch. That’s great news as the team prepares for its eventual major roster turnover next season.

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