Are the Rockets a contender?

The season grows up so quickly, doesn’t it? It feels like just yesterday, the 2013-2014 NBA season was in its infancy, just crossing the threshold into November. Continuing the analogy, the season is finishing up puberty now, right at the one third mark. Sample sizes are extending from small to large, players are shifting to new positions, and notable players are coming out of unexpected places. The season is starting to give us an impression of the end of year standings, and we can finally try to figure out which teams are contenders and which have some more growing up to do.

A few teams tower above their peers, clear favorites to meet in the Conference Finals. The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers dominate the Eastern Conference with an undeniable superiority. Nobody else in that half of the league even has a shot unless some truly cataclysmic injuries or trades take place. The Western Conference is a bit messy, though a hierarchy is beginning to take shape. The same as the last few years, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are the rulers of the Pacific side of the country. Unlike in the east, there sits a group of usurpers right beside them, ready to claim that throne themselves. Where, then, do the Houston Rockets land? Are they a contender? [read more…]

in essays


Well, this could get interesting

Last night’s game was unreal.  I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams would have ever imagined Dwight dominating a game in the post in the manner in which he did, against a good opponent.  The argument all along had been that even if he gave nothing in the post, just from his defense, rebounding, and scoring off the pick and roll, Dwight was worth the max.  But if he’s capable of this?  Well, things could get interesting.

Dwight last night, like he did in spurts against Portland and Indiana, decimated Andre Drummond, scoring in a variety of ways.  He went to the sweeping hook across the lane, the baseline spin, the Olajuwon reverse pivot, the backdown and baby hook….aside from the Olajuwon turnaround, he pretty much did it all, displaying a touch much softer than anyone might have expected.

First, it’s clear this is no fluke.  He’s done this now in multiple games, when facing single coverage.  The confidence is building and it is clear the daily work Dwight’s been putting in with Kevin McHale has been paying off.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise – McHale has proven results in the form of Kevin Garnett and Al Jefferson, two other notables whom he extensively mentored.

Right now, Dwight’s biggest problem is double coverage.  Not just double coverage on the ball but the swarms of arms in the paint Hakeem and the TNT guys didn’t have to deal with.  He’ll have to get better at seeing the court because, if he keeps doing this, not too many teams will continue to play him straight up.

Another problem I notice is post positioning.  Dwight almost always sets up near the three point line.  I don’t know if this is due to poor point guard play or Dwight’s own fault.  He undoubtedly has a very weak lower body.  Right now, because he’s catching the ball so far out, he’s having to make multiple dribbles through the lane, leaving him prone to getting stripped by the help defender.  If he could set up closer, he could turn and immediately make his move.

The implications of Dwight’s development are far-reaching.  Apart from the fact that the Rockets won’t be as reliant upon Harden, the team’s window of contention could be longer.  If he continues progressing, Dwight will remain effective even as his athleticism slowly erodes.  He’ll still need the quickness, but it won’t matter as much that he can no longer jump through the roof.

in musings


DwightLife – Chapter 9: Schooling

Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston signals the arrival of one of the most dominant players in basketball, along with one of the most polarizing personalities in sports. Here at Red94, we are embracing the drama of Superman’s first season as a Rocket with a weekly column: “DwightLife.”

Saturday night’s game against Detroit wasn’t meant to be remembered.  It was a lopsided matchup in a half-empty arena. Local broadcasts only.

Dwight Howard changed all that by kicking his successor in the teeth. [read more…]

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