The Rockets Daily – December 4, 2013

The Sky Is Not Falling – After the loss to the lowly Jazz, I expected the Rockets to slip quite a bit in the stats-based Hollinger Power Rankings on ESPN, which heavily weights factors such as win margin, strength of schedule, and records over the past 10 games. And I was wrong. At the time of this writing the Rockets are still firmly in contender territory at no. 4.

So on a related note, here’s David Thorpe talking about how good the Rockets are despite the stumble in Salt Lake:

Thorpe tends to be generous in his analysis of the Rockets, and has been for several years. It seems that the team’s values with respect to player evaluation and on-court strategies line up with his own.

I was a little bit shocked to hear his comment about James Harden’s commitment on defense. The reaction to the Beard’s performance on that end, particularly against Utah, has garnered a lot of criticism. The more I watch Harden defend, the more I see the pattern emerging that he’s fairly solid when his man has the ball in isolation and he’s locked in. However, when he’s guarding a cutter or someone who is running around two or three screens on a single half-court set (as Hayward was the other night, and as J.J. Redick did when torching Houston), he struggles. It’s an issue that will need to be addressed not just through Harden’s personal effort, but through training with coaches and through communicating with teammates about adjusting when Harden gets splattered by a pick.

Loweball – In Zach Lowe’s latest column, he made two points that are of interest to Houston fans. The first concerns Iman Shumpert:

It’s hard for defenders rushing at shooters to stop their momentum, and Shumpert can drive by them, slice into gaps, and either score or kick the ball elsewhere. He’s a fundamentally unselfish player, happy to make the extra pass, though he has veered a bit toward me-first stuff at times this season — bad shots and highlight-reel dishes when something simpler would do. Stick this guy on the Rockets and you might have a player.

That noise you just heard was the sound of 100,000 Rockets fans firing up the Trade Machine to see what else we could get from New York in exchange for Omer Asik. Cool your engines and read the next sentence:

He’s overrated as a defender. He fouls a ton, and he ball-watches, making him prone to back-door cuts along the baseline.

Not only does he play the same position as our best player, he has the exact same mental lapses on defense! As much as I want to see a wicked high-top fade in Houston again, I’d be shocked to see Shump in a Rockets uniform this year.

The other point Lowe makes is about Chandler Parsons under “10 Thing I Like and Don’t Like”:

I’m not sure any player comes closer to an up-and-down violation more often. Parsons sometimes goes into his shooting motion legitimately unsure if he’s going to shoot or fake, rising to his tiptoes before bringing the ball back down. Just a fun player to watch.

Indeed, he is. Excuse me while I go burn some incense to the injury gods for Chandler’s back…

Best of the Month – In a recent 5-on-5 roundtable about the best teams of last month, Ethan Sherwood Strauss made a case for the Rockets as the West’s best team in November:

Strauss:Houston Rockets. San Antonio has played the best and Portland has been the biggest surprise, but Houston has been uniquely spectacular. GM Daryl Morey’s vision come to life could change the way basketball is played. Houston’s West-leading offense attempts the fewest midrange shots by far, while also pacing the NBA in 3s and free throws attempted. True, teams generally know that 3s and free throws are good, but the Rockets are so extreme in pursuit of their precepts that their success could dramatically influence basketball strategy league-wide.

Kudos to Strauss for the first use of the word “precepts” since the book of Psalms.

Contributor Needed - I’m still taking applications for someone to replace me as news editor, which mostly involves writing the Daily. I’ll be writing less starting around Christmas. Email me at jeby901@gmail.com if you’re interested.

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Total comments: 12
  • Buckko says 9 months ago

    I typed this in the wrong topic, my mistake. However I stood by what I said, Harden is an OFFENSIVE superstar. Extremely good scorer, but when the buckets don't fall, he doesn't provide much else except stupid mistakes. I am not a Parsons fan, but the one player on this team that cannot be replaced and makes everything run like a well oiled machine is Parsons. He is the glue guy that holds everything together. Lose Howard, we have asik, lose harden we have other scorers such as lin and brooks, lose parsons and we are stuck in the mud. His production cannot be replaced and we have seen this.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 9 months ago Parsons only fan?
  • Buckko says 9 months ago

    Key to this lost: James Harden, James Harden, James Harden. Every time they built up a run, James stepped on the floor and either committed a turnover or bricked up a pointless contested shot and killed their momentum. When Harden doesn't contribute on offense, his value is reduce to ZERO, and should be bench. I just saw brick and turnover left and right. Made me want to cover my eyes, It just goes to show the MVP of this team is Chandler Parsons.

  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    @JG

    good one :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 9 months ago

    I was only saying that Bird being skinny was a stretch. Maybe in his earlier years (as that photo you posted depicts), but most of his career he was bulkier due to his back problems.

    To give actual context and not separate photos taken at very different ages, here is one that shows the difference.

    miller-bird.jpg

    Bird is barrel-chested just like Harden. Miller weighed 185 and stood 6' 7". That's skinnnnnnny. I mean, look at the size of Bird's head! It's huge! He needs a big torso just to support that thing. :lol:

  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    @ 2016

    defense is more mental than physical. a players body mass has little to do with that unless he is a post player. great defenders come in all shapes and sizes. great defenders take it personal when they are scored on. they consistently provide high energy on the defensive end. focus and determination play into equation way more than body mass

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    larry_bird_a.jpgtopics_reggiemiller_190.jpg

    Bird wasn't as ripped as those other guys, but he was still pretty skinny compared to players I would call "bulky".

    This is a bit of a stretch. Firstly, Bird wasn't all that skinny--not like those other dudes

    I don't mean to get defensive, but I don't see how I'm the one stretching. How many great shooters have you seen bulk up? Like one out of a hundred might go Derek Fisher on us (not that I would put Fisher in the convo with the greatest shooters, but I had trouble finding an example on your behalf), while the majority of them prefer to stay skinny. The correlation exists, you can't say it doesn't, and I'm merely speculating as to why it exists.

  • BrentYen says 9 months ago

    What frustrates me is I believe Harden can be a legit 2 way star. If foul is one of his concern, than he will never get there I guess. You dig a hole in any play off game, no matter how good you are at 4Q, you are more likely doomed.

  • thejohnnygold says 9 months ago

    This is a bit of a stretch. Firstly, Bird wasn't all that skinny--not like those other dudes. :) I will concede that Harden certainly has more body to move around than guys like Curry and Redick, but that isn't where he is losing them. Harden can move under screens and at least force the long 2--who here would have a problem with that? His defect is losing his man when he doesn't have the ball. Those screens Eby mentioned aren't pick n roll screens--they are traffic screens that allow shooters to lose their men and get open looks. Sadly, with Harden teams only need 1 screen instead of 2 or 3...really, they just need a shiny object to get his attention while the shooter slips away behind him. :P

    I was looking at bball reference the other day searching for an answer and noticed Harden's per game foul numbers. Now, I know we've been down this road before, but part of his matador defense may be a result of a team goal to keep him on the floor since he fouls at a high rate otherwise. Check out his numbers:

    c2uQtvI.jpg

    You will notice his foul rate stays pretty steady for each year; however, his minutes per game rises each year. Now, we could say, "he's just getting better at NBA defense and not committing stupid fouls", but that would contradict the very reason we are having this discussion. He's not good at NBA defense and avoids fouls by running out of the way. Look at that rookie foul rate. That's enough to foul you out of a lot of games (given the variance over the course of the season) when playing starter's minutes.

    Given his importance to the team offensively and the fact that players are increasingly smarter about drawing fouls while officials refuse to adapt their antiquated rules to the new game play it only makes sense that Harden is purposely avoiding fouls and in so doing ends up avoiding a lot of defense. In that Utah game, Hayward should have ended up on his A$$ in the first quarter when he drove right by Harden (who could be seen literally scampering out of the way in the replay) for an easy 2.

    For clarification, this is different than his ADHD defense on spot-up shooters. It's just another log on the fire. I've all but accepted that his defense is what it is. I think the coaches should stop pretending it's not and make him play some elementary defense with no helping--just hold the corner of your guy's shirt and don't let go. As long as he can turn it on in the playoffs for the fourth quarters of games I will be content. It could be viewed as somewhat of a defeatist attitude, but it's the same way I look at Dwight Howard. We must accept the ugly parts of their games in order to enjoy the beautiful parts.

  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    skinny? :lol: :lol:ok I'm sure you got a stat somewhere telling you this ......lay it on me :lol:

  • 2016Champions says 9 months ago

    I don't want to make any excuses for James Harden because then I just look like I'm biased, but then what kind of Rockets fan would I be? Don't worry, I'm going to turn into one of those delusional fans who can't see the forest for the trees, I agree completely that Harden is absolutely horrible at chasing his man around screens. I only want to say that maybe there's a reason why.

    Now bear with me guys. When you think of all the best shooters of All-Time, what do they all have in common?

    Stephen Curry

    Steve Nash

    Ray Allen

    Reggie Miller

    Larry Bird

    Every single one of those guys is skinny, sounds stupid but you know it's true, it really is easier for skinny guys to run around screens. Even Ron Artest has trouble chasing players around screens, Dwyane Wade has trouble, and it's the same way with most bulky perimeter players. Now despite the strong correlation, there are exceptions, and the first exception that comes to mind is Derek Fisher's defense on Ray Allen in the 2010 NBA Finals. Granted, Ray Allen still got a lot of open looks which he simply missed, but maybe Ray Allen missed a lot of those because he was off-balance and Derek Fisher had something to do with that. Continue to bear with me guys.

    I remember reading an article one time that mentioned Chris Paul yelling at a team mate for not bumping his man around the screen, because apparently it's defense 101 to make contact as they turn that corner around the screen (Tony Allen is great at this, just ask Jeremy Lin's face), who here knew that? I sure didn't until I heard I read this article, and when I watched that finals series over I noticed that Fisher never failed to make contact with Ray Allen as he ran around screens. 20% of the time the contact should have been a foul call, with jersey pulling and elbows, and the other 80% were just good hard bumps--veteran defense.

    Like John Eby said, James Harden clearly puts in effort when no screen is involved, but soon as that defender runs around the screen James Harden is left lagging 3 seconds behind. Why would his effort be there than just stop? My guess is that it has less to do with effort than it does with James not knowing what to do, he's bulkier than he was in college and he doesn't know all the little tricks that guys like Chris Paul and Derek Fisher use. Maybe the only thing James Harden needs is an intelligent, aggressive, veteran perimeter defender to teach him how it's done. It probably needs to be a veteran because he's usually too busy yelling at Beverley to take any tips from him. The other option is that Harden plays more time at SF, but lets save that conversation for another time.

  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    that's good stuff Jeby.........good one on burning incense for Chandler :lol:as for Shumpert I say NO. nothing NY has outside of Carmelo should be of any interest to the Rockets. they don't have players who fit our needs and no tradable draft picks. any NY fans having Asik dreams are just flat fooling themselves. I have a better change of breaking the world record in the 100 meter than they have of getting him..........ah but you know what they say.........never say never..........forget it I'm saying never :lol: