I haven’t written regularly in so long that I thought about making a useless list to rank items in preparation for the season.  We’ll call it “the keys to the Houston Rockets’ season”, and cap it at five items because, who knows how long my attention span will last with this thing before I get tired and decide to end the series.  Spoiler: I already have all five items in mind.  So without further ado, I present to you, number 5…

Length

I keep thinking back to a quote from Kevin McHale sometime early in the season, on the radio, after Houston lost to Golden State.  It was before the Corey Brewer and Josh Smith acquisitions.  McHale, when talking about the game, said something like “in the second half, they went small, so we had to adjust, except all of their smalls are 6’8.”  A few weeks or maybe months later, Daryl Morey landed both Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, transforming the dynamics of the roster.

We saw the benefits of the Rockets’ length in the early rounds, against Dallas and L.A., when the opponents simply couldn’t match up.  Anywhere you looked, there were Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, and Terrence Jones, jumping into passing lanes, running the break, and switching pick and roll coverage.  Unfortunately, Houston ran into an even longer team, the aforementioned Warriors, in the Conference Finals, more pertinently, running out of firepower.

Ariza, Jones, and Brewer (thank God) are all back, but Josh Smith now resides with the Clippers, the team he tormented in guiding Houston to the Final Four.  In Smith’s place are free agent pickup Marcus Thornton, and 6’6 sophomore K.J. McDaniels whose rights Houston secured for $10 million combined over the next three years.  McDaniels is particularly tantalizing, and its easy to see why Daryl Morey agreed to pay the former second rounder a sum befitting of a late lottery pick.  He’s already shown glimpses of elite defensive ability and when given a chance, his athleticism should further fuel what looks to be, yet again, a devastating Houston fastbreak.

This is without even mentioning 6’7 rookie Sam Dekker who many predicted would be drafted in the lottery, but will likely have to earn his time in the D-League this season.

Ariza, Brewer, and Jones are cogs in Houston’s rotation, and should bring the same merits to the table which they did last season.  But will McDaniels crack the lineup?  If he can bring anything, even a few minutes per game, it will allow Houston to keep James Harden fresh, a task deemed almost impossible last season.  But to warrant playing time, the former will have to improve upon his disastrous accuracy (29% on 3’s) or opponents will pack the lane, daring him to shoot.

Yes, Brewer and Ariza alone will ensure Houston’s athleticism on the wings, but the emergence of McDaniels–just one more added weapon–would lift Houston to a different stratosphere, helping close the gap with Golden State.  They could mix and match weird lineups, playing Harden at the ‘4’, with two fellow wings, or even Harden at the ‘1’, with three accompanying small forwards.  They could trap, switch everything, and put length on star point guards for the minutes when Patrick Beverley isn’t hounding them.

Again, length will be a key for the Houston Rockets, as they enter the 2015-2016 campaign.  How it seems just yesterday Carlos Delfino was the team’s sole swing option off the bench.  So much has changed.

In the next installment, I’ll look at #4: the evolution of James Harden






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The Red94 Podcast: Episode 81


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In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I break down the stunning acquisition of Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson.






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Morey, you magnificent bastard.  At the time of writing, the Houston Rockets just acquired Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson for literally the four worst players on their roster.  Recall that at free agent’s commencement, I repeatedly stated that I preferred the avenue that saw the Rockets trade for Lawson over even potential acquisitions of Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge.  And that rationale was assuming the team would have to give up Terrence Jones or the #18 pick.  Instead, because of “the DUI discount”, as Forrest Walker put it, the team has landed a fringe All-Star at their weakest position, for basically a bag of trash.

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Josh Smith is going to the LA Clippers. After one half-season of erratic but awesome play, he’s off to the team whose hopes he crushed in the playoffs, and Rockets fans are left wondering what to make of him.

To me, it’s obvious who to compare him to.  I’ve been a Rockets fan my whole life, but I would say that I became a crazy one ( ie. one able to name every single player on the roster without breaking a sweat) in the 2008-09 season. That season, we brought along another semi-star with a history of spotty play  who also really shot too many three-pointers.

And Ron Artest was just all kinds of awesome.

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Houston Rockets offseason check-in

  • I can’t even apologize to you guys anymore for being MIA because it keeps happening.  I’m like Will’s dad on Fresh Prince in that episode where he keeps promising that they’ll hang out and getting Will’s hopes up and then canceling.  Remember that episode?  That was like one of the greatest Uncle Phil moments in the history of the show, at the very end.  Anyways, I don’t really know what to say.  I just got married at the end of May and work’s gotten pretty crazy of late.  But I will get it together again.
  • I just went to the car wash and saw the weirdest thing: I’m in line, in my car, and in front of me, there’s this guy who I perceived to be the car wash manager, standing next to a worker.  So the manager is this burly ape of a fellow while the worker was this short pudgy little creature.  So the manager is berating the worker, saying “I didn’t tell you to do it.  I told you to just show me where the hose is.”  But the worker is like still holding onto this hose-like thing that is hanging from the ceiling.  And the manager is going on and on about this.  Suddenly they get the hose down and hell breaks loose as the two men begin struggling, each tugging at this hose, trying to rip it out of the other’s hands.  I have no idea what the hell was going on.  Everyone in the vicinity just stopped and observed.  The worker, being of vastly inferior size, strength eventually succumbed, but not before the end of the hose hit a nearby car against its door, rather violently.  The weird thing was that the two men didn’t even go to blows after that, as you’d expect.  The worker just sort of cowered away.  My wife and I reversed and went to a different car wash.
  • Okay, on to basketball.  If you follow me on Twitter, you already know where I stand on things, so I haven’t completely gone MIA.  If you don’t follow me, why not?  I’m not really too down about missing out on Aldridge.  I mean I guess it would have been really cool, but I don’t exactly know that that was what this team needed.  I think an improving Motiejunas and Josh Smith are enough at the ‘4’ for this team.  What this team needs is a new point guard.  So in that sense, this was nothing like last year when several of you had to check in on my well-being after the Bosh announcement.
  • While recanting that episode above at the car wash, I just suddenly remembered the Ron Artest quote after the brawl, when he, now infamously, asked Stephen Jackson, “do you think we’re going to get in trouble?”
  • It kind of shows where you are as a franchise, and as a fanbase, that the pursuit of a third star sort of leaves you apathetic.  Christ, remember when Kevin Martin was this team’s best player?

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