I have about fifteen minutes before tipoff so I thought I’d write something to kill the time. Tipoff is at 6pm but I got here at 4pm hoping to get in some questions with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. As I made my way to the visitors’ lockerroom, I was told that none of those players speak pre-game. Wish I had stayed home and had dinner. I’ll try to get those guys again after the final buzzer, but it’s never the same. Certain questions aren’t really appropriate right after 48 minutes of battle.
I was live-tweeting the Kevin McHale presser just now, so I hope you caught that – there was some gold. He talked about Chris Paul, how the point guard is almost daydreaming on the court with his brilliance. He talked about the mind and the body, the fun in realization of that point when one consistently begins drawing double-teams. As we scattered, Clutchfans founder Dave Hardisty, in the spirit of this weekend’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, inquired of McHale’s thoughts on analytics. McHale was surprisingly candid, and quite frankly, his answers left me dumbfounded. You have to watch @clutchfans’ video because I can’t remember the exact quotes, but McHale said, regarding the conclusions analytics draws, such as the importance of rebounding/inside scoring, “I could have told you that.” It really makes one wonder. Is K-Mac using the data that’s being passed down? Most speculated that he was hired due to his receptivity to the numbers. (In fact, in my interview with Daryl Morey prior to the season, the general manager talked about that very open-mindedness from McHale.) But this interview would lead one to believe the stuff is going straight to the wastebin. If that’s the case, it would be quite the waste of resources – the Rockets have invested quite a bit of money into the program.
I just got back from Rockets practice, the first one which I had time to attend all season. Sam Dalembert said that they had a ‘players only’ meeting earlier today because of last night’s embarrassment. Also said, when I asked him if the trade deadline affected his psyche, that it didn’t and that he was “thankful to have a job.” Just a very nice guy which leads me to ruminate, as I have in the past: it’s so different doing this these past two years than it was that first year before I came to Houston and had the credential. When you meet a person, interact with them, get to know them, are subject to their polite attitude and respect, how can you turn around and rip them? But I have to. I’m supposed to write this blog to provide direct analysis on the Houston Rockets. That entails honesty. And the blunt truth is that Dalembert has, with his play these past few weeks, affirmed the negative labels which have followed him his entire career. After a torrid start, he’s been part of the problem in many of these losses. It pains me to say that about such a good guy.
If you haven’t yet, take the time to listen to Bill Simmons’ interview with Daryl Morey from the Sloan Conference. There are some incredibly interesting nuggets. Probably not a surprise as Bill has always been on-point with his interviews.
The two points I wanted to discuss pertained to ‘tanking’ and trades.
1. Hearing that interview, in concert with other public statements made by Morey over the past few months, makes me almost positive that the decree to ‘keep a foot in both doors’ and try to rebuild while remaining competitive came down from Les. Listening to Morey, assessing his tone, I think you’d have to infer that were he to have his choice, he’d take the path of least resistance and sink to the bottom for a quicker rise to the top. He says to Simmons, regarding the ‘dual-approach’, that “it’s actually frankly never been done.” Later, while responding to Simmons’ supposition regarding avoiding the middle path, Daryl says, “we’re adding a degree of difficulty to our turnaround,” though adding “I do think it can be done.”
Before the season began, ESPN NBA Insider David Thorpe gave us five players he thought would explode on the national scene as improved, positive forces for their respective teams—young players who would see statistical spikes in production, an increase in playing time, and just a better overall understanding of how to be consistently successful in the NBA.
One of those players happened to be Houston forward Patrick Patterson, a well-coordinated cinder block of muscle, currently chugging through his second season. Before the season started, the decision to include Patterson was slightly out of left field. Thorpe reasoned his selection on the grounds that Patterson’s playing time would intensify due to the shortened season and its affect on Luis Scola’s aging legs.
Only four years ago, Kevin Garnett and the swirling, almost malevolent defense of his 2008 Boston Celtics helped make Pau Gasol look the part of a child lost in a labyrinth, keenly aware of the snarling beast that awaits at every corner, causing Gasol to tiptoe and over think just about every move until rendered ineffective. In 2012, somehow this image of Gasol remains somewhat branded into the memories of the more casual NBA viewers, those who still use the words “soft” and “European” interchangeably. For the rest of us, though, we’ve seen what the big man can do. We saw the following two Finals in which Gasol looked every bit the part of the Finals MVP, posting ridiculous numbers in both series and even dispatching Garnett himself in 2010’s seven-game bloodbath of a rematch between the Lakers and Celtics. Including his MVP-like start to the 10-11 year, Gasol has given NBA fans plenty of reasons to respect his versatility and toughness since that initial failure in Los Angeles, easily placing himself among the league’s 15 best players; given all of that validation, the Houston Rockets’ fanbase’s reluctance to accept him as a franchise player in proposed trades leaves me wondering, “Why don’t Rockets fans trust Pau Gasol?” [read more…]