The Rockets Daily – December 16, 2013

Trade Watch – If you want to know the latest on the Omer Asik situation and didn’t read Rahat’s latest post linking to Jonathan Feigen’s latest, please do so. In a nutshell, the Rockets are pleased with Terrence Jones at the 4 spot, so they’re really looking for some combination of a good 3 and D wing player, a backup center or draft picks.

Injury Updates – James Harden rolled his ankle during the game on Sunday. He returned to the court after X-rays came back negative, but he is listed as day-to-day. Jeremy Lin is day-to-day with back spasms.

The good news is, Harden’s ankle sprain gave us the most awesome free throws ever taken by a Houston Rocket. Mr. Miyagi would be proud.

Evolution – Kevin Pelton (ESPN Insider) writes on how the Rockets’ D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, are valuing three-point shots to an extreme extent with great success. They’ve taken almost half of their shots from beyond the arc. He asks:

This leads to an inevitable question: How far can teams increase the number of 3-pointers they shoot? Last year’s Knicks set a league record by taking 35.4 percent of their shots beyond the arc. The Rockets attempted them at the third-highest rate ever, and are on track to shoot them slightly more frequently this season. League-wide, NBA teams are taking 3s on more than a quarter of their shot attempts (25.4 percent) for the first time ever.

Rim SquadKevin Arnovitz looks at the Rockets’ extremely effective starting lineup, and what makes them good. On offense:

That might be the defining characteristic of this unit — decisiveness. The ball doesn’t always pop around the half court, not with Harden and Howard taking their fair shares of touches for one-on-one situations. But even those possessions are characterized by a clear purpose.

And on defense:

The starters take full advantage of the luxury that accompanies a center like Howard underneath. Howard is a patient, mobile rim defender who might have lost some bounce over the past couple of seasons but has cultivated a veteran big man’s nose for sniffing out schemes.

Worth noting is that this lineup saw extremely limited minutes during the loss to the Kings. Foul trouble for Dwight Howard broke up the unit quicker than normal in the first quarter, then Harden’s injury screwed up the rotations again. Jones played only 17 minutes because of illness…but he was a +6 in a 15 point loss. Maybe Arnovitz is on to something.

Candy Man Ken Berger has an interesting piece on Dwight Howard’s revolution in eating habits while he was in L.A. Apparently the big man had to have a food intervention, but the change has been good:

Howard has become such a believer that he’s continued to follow the program in Houston and has even gotten the Rockets to implement some of it. For one thing, there’s no more candy or sweets on the Rockets’ team flights. GM Daryl Morey and longtime athletic trainer Keith Jones have even followed the Lakers’ lead and made a catering deal with Whole Foods for road trips.

“We had to make that change, and I should’ve pushed harder earlier,” Morey said. “With Dwight coming, I think it made it that much easier to make sure we got it done.”

Howard’s new teammates’ response?

“They think I’m crazy,” Howard said. “… But you’ve got to start doing little things now that will prolong your career.'”

The World Is So Wrong – Some of the early returns are back for All-Star voting, and Dwight Howard projects to be a starter in the West, with (shockingly) even more votes than Blake Griffin. Also in the as-it-should-be file: LeBron James and Kevin Durant have the most and second-most votes, respectively.

Now here’s where the All-Star selection system goes off the rails. Kobe Bryant wins the Yao Ming Memorial All-Star Voting Award for the most votes for a guy who has barely seen the court; he came in third in voting. Also, Jeremy Lin has more votes than James Harden, which is totally expected, and also totally messed up. And Chandler Parsons has more All-Star votes than Boogie Cousins, which would have totally happened in the 1950’s (because of race), totally not happened in the 1970’s-90’s (because of raw stats), and totally makes sense in 2013 (because of advanced stats).

StoppageHenry Abbott and David Thorpe talk about how various teams, including the Rockets, employ different defensive strategies because of who they have on the roster. Just good, wonky basketball stuff.

 Kevin McHale, Players’ Coach – McHale has been out the last several games due to the death of his mother, but this week a story dropped in the Chronicle about how he encouraged Omri Casspi last summer, and it’s a reminder that McHale is one of the finest people in the NBA:

“Coach (Kevin) McHale left me a message over the summer when they started recruiting me and we started talking,” Casspi said. “I still have it. He said he wanted me to play the three and the four. He explained I could spread the floor and help the team win and that he liked the way I compete. That was one of the main reasons I came here. I still have that message and I still listen to it once in a while.

“It was the first time I really talked to a coach that really talked to me. This team was obviously was supposed to be good whether I was going to be here or not. But to be a part of the team that can compete and compete for a championship, after what I’d been through, and then he left me this message that said he loves me and wants me to come and play hard and help and do the things I do. That was just an emotional day, you know.”

Say what you will about McHale’s strategic acumen, but he makes men want to work for him, and not every coach has that quality.

About the author: John Eby got on the Rockets bandwagon in 1994 and never got off. He is a public relations guy and recovering TV journalist living in South Carolina.

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