Beyond the compilation and gelling of talent, beyond the fine-tuning of playbooks and familiarities with self and other, comes another level of NBA challenge—pace. The undoing of many a title competitor, knowing when to ease off and slam down on the acceleration pedal throughout the slog of the season is often the difference between having or not having the most important factor of all on your side. Health.
Much is made of the Chicago Bulls’ incessant pressing of this pedal. Fans and pundits alike have suggested it to be the cause of their never-ending injury problems. It’s not just Derrick Rose—the team’s other four starters have already missed a combined 16 games this season. And we can all remember what malnourished version of themselves they were by the time they got to the Miami Heat last year.
It would seem insane that Tom Thibodeau and his cast of excellent heads could not figure out that their hard work ethic, their ceaseless pressing in practices and games, is potentially their achilles heel. But at the end of the day, it’s also the source of the edge his teams have had.
Laying off the pedal is a privilege granted to the mega-talented in this league. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have showed their aptitude to spin their vaunted on-off switches as needed, but it’s a team skill for the very elite, the most crème of NBA outfits. Before developing a touch with one’s speed-shifting, a team must first do the hardest work of all and create a system of patterns and roles effective enough to warrant speeding and slowing.
The Situation – In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Lemme explain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.”
The team was also without Coach Kevin McHale, who the Houston Chronicle reports is due back on Wednesday after time off due to the death of his mother.
All That Power – The Rockets fell to 8th in Marc Stein’s Power Rankings after this week’s losses to Portland and Sacramento. Stein writes:
Houston has held it together pretty well through the Omer Asik saga, sporting a mark of 11-6 since Asik’s demotion from the starting lineup. You get the sense, though, that the other Rockets are more than ready for this thing to be over with Thursday as we’ve all been promised it will be.
The Rockets got the same no. 8 ranking from John Schuhmann at NBA.com:
On Thursday, the Rockets outscored the Blazers 66-36 in the paint … and lost. On Friday, they got outscored 66-40 in the paint by the Warriors … and won. Paint points may be overrated, but rim protection is still important, so it will be fascinating to see what Daryl Morey gets for Omer Asik this week. A first-round draft pick would be nice, but a perimeter defender would make an impact right now.
As of Monday night, the Rockets are seventh in the Hollinger Power Rankings, so they miss the Power Ranking trifecta by just one spot. [read more…]
When the James Harden trade was announced last October, the world changed for the Houston Rockets and their supporters. In the three years prior, the Rockets had lost something crucial that they had been looking for ever since. It wasn’t scoring or wins or defense or cap space. All those things can help, but they aren’t the prize itself. Until James Harden arrived, the Rockets were missing relevance. Now, with a double shot of superstar talent in James Harden and Dwight Howard, the Rockets are as relevant as they’ve ever been, and the world is paying attention.
Houston has the holy grail of mass media appeal, and have a path to contention and domination, if everything goes right. That’s the good part. The bad part of having all eyes on you is that all eyes are on you. And sometimes, that’s the worst thing of all. Teams, like people, struggle to get into the discussion, to enter the debate, to be in the eye of the people. The spotlight can warm, but it can also burn, and we’ve seen that happen plenty. We need look no further than the Eastern Conference of the NBA for the dark side of anything.