Defending the Houston Rockets – Part 3

As you know, what has made the Warriors so great these past few years is that they combine the league’s best offense with probably its best defense.  They’re the one team in the league that can confidently score with the Rockets, but also present serious challenges at the other end.  Yesterday’s loss started out poorly, largely in part due to a slew of turnovers committed by Houston in the early going.  It wasn’t the Rockets being sloppy – the Warriors just knew their tendencies.

See how Draymond stops right short of contesting Beverley in the paint, anticipating the pass to the corner?  He knows the Rockets want to kick drive out to shooters in the corner.  Probably no other ‘big’ in the league makes that play.

I counted multiple times when this happened – the Warriors basically create a wall around James Harden. Instead of being out in space after he makes his crossover, watch how Klay Thompson boxes him into a crowd.






in musings

More on Harden, the MVP race

  • I disagree with James Harden’s assertion that playing in every game should hold weight in the MVP race.  I feel that missing a significant chunk of the season should be a disqualifier (say, greater than ten games), but I don’t think there’s any substantive distinction in the merits between someone who has played every game, and someone who has missed a handful.
  • I think Harden needs to sit.  At least for a game.  That wrist needs to heal, and it was clearly bothering Harden last night as he grabbed it numerous times, grimacing in pain.
  • The SportsCenter Twitter account tweeted out a graphic last night, which has been making the rounds, about James Harden becoming the first player in NBA history to score and assist on 2,000 points each in a season.  While impressive, recognition of the feat has not been met by the same masturbatory response as has acknowledgment of Russell Westbrook’s triple double exploits.  Why?  Because its a construct which has not been romanticized in the basketball zeitgeist.  The same goes for all of James Harden’s achievements this year, most notably percentage of total points contributed to team production.  As a value-metric, that tells us more than just about anything other than Lebron’s gaudy on-court/off-court statistics.  But those things aren’t accessible in the mainstream – they haven’t been defined in the zeitgeist, much less elevated.  The triple double, on the other hand, like ‘the 20 game winner’ in baseball, holds an almost folklorish place in sports culture, so much so that mere recognition of its existence is affirmation of its analytical value, thus leading to the “HOW CAN A GUY BE AVERAGING A TRIPLE DOUBLE AND NOT START THE ALL-STAR GAME/WIN MVP???!” consternations.  Ice Cube did not mess around and “accumulate the greatest percentage of total team points contributed” on that one fateful day.  But he did mess around and get a triple double.  Westbrook’s candidacy is 2017’s ‘count the ringz’ and on which side you fall in this debate speaks to what you value.  A construct is not more value-inherent by being recognizable.

 






in columns

On the MVP race, rest, and Wiltjer

  • As I warned yesterday morning, there would be many in the media heralding Sunday’s thorough dismantling of the Thunder as a victory for Russell Westbrook in the MVP race, a lazy and nonsensical conclusion derived from an odd set of values in the context of team sports.  I don’t feel like compiling the examples, but if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably seen them already on Twitter.  At this point, the Harden and Westbrook camps have cemented, and anyone who was inclined to vote for one or the other will only be seeking to reaffirm their beliefs.  Lebron and Kawhi have safely faded, and I think anyone who was leaning towards either of those two players would probably find Harden’s case more meritorious.  Do you value winning or do you derive immense fascination from arbitrary constructs?  Ooh, look!  A round number!  It’s fascinating to note that almost all former players back Westbrook’s candidacy.

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in columns

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