Every team has a player who embodies its soul; its essence and make up. This doesn’t have to be the best player, a supreme talented, or the most tenured, but every team has one guy who symbolizes a fundamental word that comes to mind when that team’s nickname arises in conversation. Tim Duncan is the Spurs: slow, methodic, boring, efficient, consistent. Kendrick Perkins was the Celtics: intimidating, rugged, fearless, confident.
Determined, imperfect, ambitious, downtrodden. These words describe Chuck Hayes. Chuck Hayes is the Houston Rockets.
Sitting on my front porch last night, I was talking with my neighbor who at some point suggested she was thinking of getting into sports. She said she’d like to have something to pay attention to, something to care about. She knows I’m a basketball fan and claimed the biggest obstacle to her interest is the fact that she just hates athletes, saying they remind her of politicians.
My first instinct was obviously to defend sports in general and basketball specifically, but as I rolled into my standard argument about the beauty of its fluid movement like dance and about how much more honest sports are as human drama than say your average 22 minute sitcom, I stopped myself.
Why should I try to convince her to value a thing that currently doesn’t even exist? Why should she (or any of us) care about childishly squabbling (b)millionaires who are daily demonstrating how much they don’t care about the people who fill their bloated bank accounts? Why is it that I spend so much of my time (time I could spend learning about physics or paleontology or curing a terrible disease like polio or maybe one that hasn’t been cured yet) watching, thinking, and reading about basketball?
To solve this existential sports dilemma, I’ve decided to do the most rational thing and make a pro/con list.
If you had to select one NBA team most associated with advanced statistical analysis, Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics, and the transcendental phenomenon that is “Moneyball”, it’d be the Houston Rockets. From their forward thinking general manager to being the subject of an enthralling, Michael Lewis branded work of narrative non-fiction, the Rockets are as “groundbreaking” in NBA circles as Oakland was to MLB. This is both kind of cool (it makes the Rockets feel ahead of the curve—at least they were—and trendsetters in a profession crawling with copy cats), and very unfortunate. Read More
Only two teams, the Spurs and Heat, scored more points per possession than the Rockets did last season. In contrast, nearly two thirds of the league gave up fewer points per possession, and of those teams only one, the Knicks, made the playoffs (the rest combined to win a woeful 35% of their games).
So defense is important (clearly, this is news to no one). But what will be different this up-coming season for the Rockets? Can we expect an improved defense? And what about the offense?
Superficially, it seems like the biggest difference between the Rockets we saw last season and the team we might see this December, barring any major (paging Dr. Howard) roster moves, will probably hinge on the disparity between Rick Adelman’s and Kevin McHale’s coaching styles.
At one point he was the most athletic player in college basketball. A man among boys, able to dip his toe in whatever waters his team found to be most shallow, and single-handedly fill them up. This was his physical reach; this was his gift. When Terrence Williams was at Louisville, nobody could guard him, and he could guard everyone—his athleticism, more so than his mindset, made him the nation’s most versatile player. Not the most talented (although he was close), but the most well rounded.
He never excelled in any one area because he didn’t have to. He wasn’t the best rebounder with the nicest box out technique, nor could he fill it up in a variety of ways with the game’s smoothest jump shot. He never played the game like he had eyes in the back of his head or was seen as the most technically sound perimeter defender (although Jonny Flynn once said playing Williams defensive led Cardinals in college was like “being chased by eight pit bulls, and you just got to keep running for your life.” Read More