ESPN: Life After Yao Ming

My take on life after Yao Ming for the Houston Rockets.

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ESPN: Best, worst coaching hires

via NBA — Best, worst coaching hires – ESPN:

There were rumblings of a disconnect between Adelman and the Rockets’ front office with the former having been not so receptive to analytical data nor enthusiastic about the call for a youth movement. In McHale, Daryl Morey gets a man open to his ideas but who carries a big stick, bringing instant credibility to the sidelines.

Myself and four others weigh in on the recent coaching changes in the NBA.

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Cuttino Mobley hopeful of return to NBA

via Fox26:

Former NBA guard Cuttino Mobley, who retired in 2008 because of a heart ailment, would like another shot at playing in the NBA.

Mobley played for 11 years with four NBA teams, but was forced to leave the game after he was traded by the L.A. Clippers to the New York Knicks.

After a routine physical following the trade, Mobley was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

It is the same condition that led to the deaths of basketball players Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis.

Click the link for interesting quotes.  Mobley’s the one former Rocket about whom, moreso than any other, my feelings completely evolved over the course of his tenure with the team.  His first year, when he won the starting job at the ’1′, I was ecstatic.  After suffering through the Matt Maloney years, I had been hoping for an athletic, scoring point guard.

But after he switched to the ’2′ upon Steve Francis’ arrival, he quickly became insufferable to watch.  He’d force bad shots and the play where he’d hold the ball, stare down at his opponent’s feet before forcing an off-balance jumper made me tear out more hair than has grown back.

Strangely, after Jeff Van Gundy took the reins, my feelings for ‘Cat’ morphed back to admiration.  No one benefitted more from the former Knick coach than Mobley.  Where Steve Francis’ game took a nosedive, Cuttino improved in ways thought otherwise unimaginable.  He became more efficient with his ball control, made smarter decisions, and learned to make use of his already impressive defensive gifts. Mobley became the perfect complementary shooting guard and he was the guy I was most disappointed to see leave in the McGrady trade.

When he became a free agent a year later, I hoped desperately that he’d opt for a return to the Bayou City. With his defensive prowess and three-point shooting abilities, Mobley would have fit this team like a glove, allowing Tracy McGrady to slide over to his more natural ’3′ position.  But alas, he chose the Clippers, forming my favorite non-Rocket backcourt of All-time (alongside Sam Cassell).

Here’s a toast to Cuttino Mobley, a true Houston Rocket.

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What might have been – Part 1

We talk a lot about the Yao-McGrady Rockets and what might have been.  It’s been beaten to death.  But what we forget is how much potential the first version of the ‘Yao Rockets’ had.  I am here to remind you of that and push you closer to jumping off that ledge.

Let’s start with Francis.  This was–at the time–a guy who at the least, was considered to be on the level currently occupied by Russell Westbrook and thought by some to be a legit superstar and the second best point guard in basketball.  Francis was Isiah Thomas in the making; he would only get better with age and already was pretty good. When healthy, he was carrying–by himself–teams that ran the likes of Walt Williams and Matt Bullard at the forward spots to respectable records.

Move onto the other guards: Mobley made up the other half of what was thought by some to be the best backcourt in basketball.  Supremely competitive, a heady defender, and young.  Consider this: the ’02 Rockets were adding a true center prospect to a core that included the best guard duo in the league.  That sick feeling in your stomach is returning. Moochie Norris is easy to crack on after having gained a good 75 lbs., but looking back, the then 24-year-old wasn’t thought of too differently than how we now think of Goran Dragic – a damn good change-of-pace backup point guard who was only getting better.

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From the Ninetyfourums: Yao or Amare?

This was interesting.  In response to my latest Yao feature, a reader, KingJosh, wrote:

Rahat do you really think Stoudemire was the correct choice over yao? Even today I would still have taken yao 9 times out of ten, even with the power of hindsight.

Amare has a current career average of 22/9, 4 pts better than yao – yet he is half the defensive presence of yao. His team’s success has always been accompanined by 1st tier talent (Nash, J.johnson, Marion etc) and has had injury problems of his own. This year we saw amare attempt to lead his team by his own and only barely squeak into the playoffs in a piss weak Eastern confrence. There is denying that he is NOT a superstar. However when healthy, yao definitely WAS a superstar. 22 and 10 while anchoring a top 5 defence? Prime yao was a top 10 player, and a center at that.

Scoring PF with no defence are a dime-a-dozen these days, hell the rockets aqcuired one for v.span. Give me 7 years of a transcendnet superstar center anyday.

With the benefit of hindsight, was Yao the right choice?  Yao finished with a career PER of 23.00; Amare is at 22.6, so the two are comparable in overall production.

Yao anchored some of the best defenses in basketball while Amare probably couldn’t guard his shadow.  With that said, against certain matchups, Yao became an absolute liability on the defensive end.  That was the case when Dallas went small in ’05 and against Boozer in ’07.  (Chuck Hayes shut down whichever of Boozer/Okur he faced in that series.)

You couldn’t take Amare out of a ballgame – he’d always be a presence; put a 6’8 guy on Yao and the latter might as well have been on the pine.  How much of that was due to the vastly superior talent Amare enjoyed by his side?

What about the postseason and clutch play?  Yao averaged 19 and 9.  Was he ever truly dominant.  He struggled against Shaq in his first trip – that’s completely forgivable.  But he was neutralized in the critical home games against Dallas when the Mavs went small and failed to punish the Jazz in ’07 for not doubling – he got his averages but we needed him to roast Mehmet Okur in single coverage.

Lastly of course, there’s the small issue of health.  Amare is still going while Yao Ming has called it a career.

In hindsight, would you have chosen Yao or Amare?

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