The Gift – Kevin McHale was absent from practice on Tuesday for personal reasons, which meant that assistant coach Kelvin Sampson had to step in and run practice and handle interviews. Dear readers, it’s a gift when Kelvin Sampson does interviews. He is candor con carne, and he offers insights about what the team wants to do that McHale and the players usually don’t. A few gems from Tuesday on the teams official site:
On the offense:
“We’re reading that better and we’re learning how to play around Dwight. I thought early on we were probably force-feeding him a little too much. Now we’re being a little bit more selective and Dwight is doing a good job of passing. Dwight can get a lot of touches – that doesn’t mean he’s going to shoot it a lot – Dwight’s a very willing passer. So we’re playing through him (better) and then James – James has just been a lot more efficient.”
On the question of how Jeremy Lin looked in his first practice back from a knee bruise:
“I saw flashes of the old Jeremy, but you can’t be out that long and not have some kind of effect, whether it’s cardiovascular, or trusting his injury, or trusting his physicality. You know, it’s sort of like wading your way into water. You know, you go from two feet up to four feet, and for him it’s just getting comfortable.”
I think it’s improving. I think when you add–you know there’s pieces and there’s pieces. You know, we didn’t just add a piece; we added Dwight Howard. And we’ve had to learn to play with him, and he’s had to learn how to play with us. And while we’ve been doing that it created a chemistry issue, but I think our chemistry is better today than it has been at any point. I feel good about our chemistry.
Injury Statuses – In case you didn’t click on the link above, Jason Friedman reports that Lin is back and feeling pretty good, Omer Asik and Greg Smith will still be out against Portland, and Chandler Parsons is only partially participating in practice because of his back spams.
Huge grain of salt here. Huge. But I thought this was fun. I have data from NBA.com dating back to the 1996-1997 season, and the Rockets’ current 47.7% field goal percentage is higher than the team’s final percentage in any of the years during that time frame. Impressive considering how much better defenses have gotten in the modern era. Incidentally, the second highest accuracy was that ’97 team that went to the Conference Finals, having shot 46.8% over the year. Of course, it’s only been 22 games thus far and this year’s mark could possibly regress or b) one of those previous teams might have had a higher mark at this point in their season. Having said that, I do think this 22 game sample size is a very accurate reflection of this team’s prowess.
Looking at the data, this year’s 107.8 offensive rating stands as the second best during the period cited. The 43-39 2010-2011 team posted an offensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions. That previously cited ’97 team only scored 105.8 points per possession. That difference is likely largely due in part to the fact that those geriatric Barkley/Drexler Rockets walked the ball up the floor and threw it into the post every trip down, at a snail’s pace. Oh wait. I forgot, scratch that; offensive rating (i.e. points per possession) is inclusive of pace discrepancies unlike the archaic “points per game” numbers you see cited on your local broadcast.
This year’s team also has a much higher net rating than any of the previous Rockets teams included in the data. That ’97 team had a net rating of +4.4; the McGrady ’07 team ten years later posted one of +6.4 On the flip side, Francis’ 2001-2002 team posted a net rating of -6.1. Oh dear. I think that might have been the year they started Walt Williams and Matt Bullard in tandem across the frontline. I’m too horrified to look.
Okay, that’s it. That’s all I have for today. I’m going to go get ready for work.
All That Power – Houston climbed to 5th in Marc Stein’s ESPN Power Rankings, one spot higher than (gasp) San Antonio. The committee of one writes:
The sense I get, as noted in this Stein Line Live post, is that neither Houston nor Portland is very interested in exploring an Omer Asik trade at the moment. But the Rockets visit the Blazers on Thursday … so brace yourself for a fresh round of Asik-for-Robin Lopez speculation regardless.
At the time of this writing, Houston is 5th in the Hollinger Rankings as well, so the consistency gods are smiling on ESPN. But wait! Here comes NBA.com and John Schuhmann to take our beautiful power ranking uniformity and blow it all to hell. He ranks Houston 6th:
Pace: 99.0 (4), OffRtg: 107.8 (3), DefRtg: 100.0 (8), NetRtg: +7.8 (4)
James Harden was a victim of some brutal blow-bys earlier in the week (see here and here, for example), but has since vowed to actually try on defense. And the Rockets’ D was so good in wins against the Warriors and Magic over the weekend that it didn’t matter that their bench shot 2-for-21 from 3-point range. Of course, that kind of shooting might provide more motivation to get something for Omer Asik.
I’m really hoping for a power ranking hat-trick (the same ranking from Stein, Hollinger’s computer and Schuhmann) before the end of the year.
On The Block – Kevin Pelton (ESPN Insider) ranks the top 11 trade candidates in the NBA. Not surprisingly, Omer Asik is one of them. [read more…]