The Rockets should feast on these upcoming opponents this week, but then again, it’s not clear what to expect from the Rockets this past month.  Thursday’s game specifically is particularly intriguing as Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon take on Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas.  If Houston goes less than 3-0, I will be sad.


If it weren’t for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin’s respective injuries, Houston would have already relinquished their claim on the third seed.  It feels like just the other day when Houston was within a hair of the second seed, but barring some catastrophic injury to Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have probably put away sufficient distance between themselves and the Rockets.  And look out for Utah – now that the Jazz are getting healthier, that’s probably the most menacing contender to Houston’s homecourt chances.  If the Rockets don’t snap out of this funk, and get it together in the second half, they will quickly find themselves in sixth and opening the playoffs on the road.

in from the editor

Reflections on Yao Ming’s jersey retirement

I choked up a little bit watching Yao Ming’s jersey retirement last night if for no other reason than that it was a painful reminder of my age.  Yao, in giving his speech, displayed the wit for which he became known almost as much as his abilities on the basketball court.  Incredible for a man who first communicated solely through the use of an interpreter upon his landing on these shores.  I don’t recall ever seeing another honored guest record the ceremony from his phone while on stage the way Tracy McGrady did, nor have I seen a man age as quickly as has Steve Francis, though that latter point has been beaten to death, in merciless ways across the world wide web.  Did anyone think Shane Battier would be a franchise great when he was acquired for Rudy Gay?  I certainly did not while tossing my remote through my television set at the time.  The same goes for Mutombo who really should not have been physically capable of providing more than ten minutes per game.

One of my favorite moments from the speech was after analogizing sharing the court with Francis and Cuttino Mobley to something regarding military vehicles, Yao abruptly stated, “and then T-Mac joined us,” as McGrady smiled and Francis looked over at the former through the corner of his eye.  Nothing will ever top the T-Mac trade, not even the return of Josh Smith.

I’m reminded of the hopes upon Yao’s drafting and the frustrations endured through his final days.  Ultimately he broke down, just like the pessimists warned, despite the case made in distinguishing his lower base against that of the much thinner Shawn Bradley.  To me, the apex of the Yao era was not the series victory over Portland but rather the 2-0 lead taken over Dallas in 2005.  At that point in time, there had not yet been any cracks in the armor; McGrady and Yao were invincible and success would come with just a matter of time.  The rest is history.

in musings

Don’t jump off the bandwagon yet

Last night’s loss was of the type where the doubts start to creep in again, long after we had put said doubts to rest as unwarranted.  The Rockets reverted to their old bad habits and let one player–and not even a really good one at that–torch them and take them down in defeat.  That was an embarrassing display last night; that was not the 2017 Houston Rockets.  But I’m still not off the bandwagon yet.  This team still to date has played arguably the most difficult schedule in the league.  They desperately are in need of the All-Star Break, in a way that the All-Star Break has never been needed before.  If they fall flat after that, and continue their wretched ways of January well into the second half, then you can call them a pretender.  But for now, I believe, like Frederick Douglas, the Rockets will be recognized more and more.

-Another thought: Yao Ming would not be playable against Golden State, in today’s world.  Draymond Green would front him, the way Al Harrington and Antoine Walker fronted him, and the Rockets would be run off the court.

in game coverage

James Harden DRPM

2013-2014 -2.84
2014-2015 -0.16
2015-2016 -0.98
2016-2017 -1.22

To my knowledge, RPM is probably the best statistic we have at our disposal in the public domain, particularly for defensive measurements.  RPM seeks to neutralize against variables such as teammates and bench replacements.  Based on the annual data above, James Harden has actually been even worse defensively this season than he was last season, though that narrative has not emerged.  It goes to show the role team success plays in shaping not only public perception but also institutional agenda.

However, Harden has been even better this year offensively than he was last season.  Last season, Harden’s ORPM of 5.37 brought him to an RPM of 4.39.  This year, Harden has an ORPM of 7.01 and an RPM of 5.79.

By the way, Damian Lillard had a DRPM of -3.16 last season, but you never heard about it.  (It’s improved to -2.19 this year).  Fellow MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas has a DRPM of -4.44, but there haven’t been any clips there either, to my knowledge.

in musings

Road weary Rockets

Credit to the reader cited above for bringing this to my attention.  As I said in Episode 118, it’s tempting to look at Houston’s 4-6 record over their last ten games and conclude the team has reverted to its true self.  But the above figures suggest a different conclusion.  The Rockets are just tired right now and its showing.  Still on a 56-win pace, I expect things to normalize a bit, particularly after the break when tired legs will finally get a chance to rest.

in musings

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