Houston Rockets 101, Milwaukee Bucks 95 – Shaking the rust off

The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t a very good basketball team. At 9-40 heading into tonight’s matchup with the Houston Rockets, they laid claim to the worst record in the NBA, and in the anemic Eastern Conference, no less. It’s possible that there’s a worse team in the league, and that’s a fairly charitable thing to say. With Ömer Aşık returning to action in Milwaukee, with the Rockets on a four game winning streak, with the team playing better than it has in a long while, it should come as no surprise that the Rockets very nearly lost the game. When inconsistency is the only constant, sometimes a win is just a win. After week-long period in which the Rockets only played one game, sometimes there’s some rust. And after a two-month-long injury, sometimes a player like Ömer Aşık has some rust of his own.

So, what of Ömer? How did he fare in his first game back? The answer is largely that he barely played. He saw the floor for eleven minutes, matching the time when Dwight Howard rested. He attempted no shots in that time, grabbed five boards and picked up two assists. He also changed a few shots, but that was mostly during his second six-minute stint. He looked a little slow and a little ungainly, even by his standards. Aşık seemed to get more comfortable as he played, but is clearly not exactly in game shape and will take a little while to get back up to twenty or so minutes per game. It was far from his best performance, but it was also a surprisingly hard job with the aggression of Zaza Pachulia and Nate Wolters. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of a sigh of relief. There’s a backup center again.

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Player Power Rankings: Week 15

Every Friday, I rank every active Rocket (who sees the floor) based on his performance from the previous week. If you missed the most recent installment, here you go.

9) Robert Covington (Last week: 10)

27 seconds of action towards the end of Wednesday night’s victory over Phoenix. That’s Robert Covington’s badge for entry on this week’s list, though it’d be nice to mention he was named a D-League All-Star on Monday.

8) Omri Casspi (Last week: 9)

Casspi can be really fun, particularly when he’s moving up the floor with a live dribble, flanked by two teammates. He generally makes the right decision in these situations, and most of the time that decision is to pass. He’s so unselfish, even his perfectly-timed cuts into the paint feel more like assists than baskets after he bails out a teammate who either lost his dribble or is about to be double-teamed.

Unfortunately, he can’t be counted on for more than six or seven points a game at this point, and defenses are starting to smile whenever he launches a three. But the Rockets generally play better on both ends when he’s out there. He seems like such a pleasure to have as a teammate.

7) Donatas Motiejunas (Last week: 7)

I really don’t enjoy writing about a player’s “confidence” because who the hell knows what a guy’s thinking except the guy, and even then, sometimes, the answers aren’t easily identifiable. But Donatas Motiejunas had several post-touches midway through the shot clock against Phoenix and instead of making the move he’s capable of in single coverage, he opted to pass out and force Houston to scramble for a good look elsewhere.

Motiejunas post-ups aren’t the most desirable shot in the world, but it’d be nice to see him take what the defense is giving. And when Alex Len is guarding him 10-feet from the basket, it’s a sign that the defense is giving him an opportunity to score. Read More »

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The Rockets Daily – February 7, 2014

Sorry about my absence yesterday, dear reader.  To make it up to you, I doubled down on today’s Daily to get you through all the “work” you’re going to do today in anticipation of the weekend.  Enjoy.

Shooting Supreme - Ricky O’Donnell over at The Dream Shake has a pretty good breakdown of the crop of young shooting guards to come into the league in the last few years, finally bridging the gap from elder statesmen like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and Ray Allen. The conversation started with the head-of-the class: The Beard.

James Harden, still just 24, is the household name here. So much attention was focused on what initially looked like a paltry return for Oklahoma City in the trade that sent him to Houston, but the real lesson of Harden’s situation lies in the benefit of added opportunity for young players. Harden showcased a full offensive arsenal as a member of the Thunder, but he wasn’t going to get the touches required to be a superstar with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sharing the floor. In his first game with the Rockets, Harden dropped 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals. He’s held the belt as the best shooting guard alive ever since.

As the likes of Bryant and Wade entered the golden years of their respective careers, 2-guards began to rival centers as the position with the least marquee talent in the Association.  Once upon a time OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon and Brandon Roy were considered the future of the position.  And while Roy was robbed of his chance at supplanting Kobe as the next great thing, the rest all fell short of expectations, leaving the position barren of anything resembling a young star at the position He created.   Read More »

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The Red94 Podcast: Episode 34

In today’s episode, Rahat discusses Dwight Howard’s dominance against the Phoenix Suns, and also revisits the Goran Dragic free agency decision.

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Omer Asik: The Unsightly Obstacle

Yesterday we learned that Omer Asik might be 7-10 days away from returning to practice. With the trade deadline racing up on us in just a few weeks, this news is a few things: peculiar, predictable, and, to be honest, a little insolent. Who’s disrespecting who is another story.

During a recent nationally televised broadcast on ESPN between the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, Jeff Van Gundy went on one of his signature mini-rants about Asik’s spotty playing time:

Van Gundy: [Omer Asik] is basically holding the Houston Rockets hostage because he is not starting. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s still not unable to play and it’s wrong. So much of this game is mental. Asik was one of my favorite players because of his defense and rebounding ability, but if you’re not mentally right, you can be of no help.

Breen: And that’s a question mark with Bynum.

JVG: Exactly. Now it’s a question mark with Asik. Play for your team, play for your teammates. It’s been three months.

This was the first time I can remember hearing anyone publicly acknowledge what’s felt so obvious these past two months, but before we go there let’s break down three possible explanations for Asik’s absence. Read More »

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