Rockets Daily: Friday, September 17th, 2010

  • The Internet does not believe in Yao Ming. After this week’s announcement by the Rockets that Yao would only see the court at a maximum of 24 minutes per game, most media reactions have centered around the idea of Yao’s impending demise, an already popular notion earlier this year when Yao talked about retirement. Whether it’s jokes about how many minutes the All-Star team’s coach decides to play him or disapproval voiced by fantasy owners, Yao feels doubt slowly seeping into the rampant excitement for next season, certainly a familiar feeling. This move is not without very recent precedent, though. As Heart of a Champion‘s Thomas says, Boston and San Antonio took similar approaches last year that ended far better than either team (or at least their fanbases) could have expected. Simply, the Houston Rockets believes it will make the playoffs, making Yao Ming’s presence during the season less significant and during the postseason all-important. This team, as presently constructed, will not have much success without the large one in the postseason, and if the Rockets isn’t doing everything it can to make sure he comes into the playoffs healthy, what exactly is it doing?
  • Patrick Patterson is and will be tough. He has been for a very long time. How long? Ever since he first saw the extended music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, according to his interview with Jason Friedman: “The first horror movie I saw wasn’t even a horror movie – it was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. My father was outside and I was in the basement where it was dark. I had this video cassette of Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits, and I was watching all of them when the next thing you know Thriller comes on, and when the people rose from the grave, I ended up jumping behind the couch and hiding behind it because it was so scary. But then I kept watching it until I finally toughened up, and ever since then I’ve loved horror movies.”
  • Tom Haberstroh’s back on his grind over at Hardwood Paroxysm, where he has further delved into the offensive production and shot selection for different positions. As it uses a pretty extended Justin Bieber analogy, it is naturally a great read, but perhaps the most interesting information was the at-rim shot selection for centers. The huge variety of average shot-selections for centers seems comical; some shoot the ball right next to the rim 90% of the time, while other pivots only make their buckets near the rim about 10% of the time (this is where we all knowingly look at Channing Frye in unison). This leads Haberstorh to come to the conclusion that the center is simply the tallest player on the court at any given time, as shot selection seems to have almost nothing to do with the position’s designation. Rockets fans will get to see exactly how different centers can be this year because when Yao, whose range knows no bounds but whose skill set (great footwork, wide variety of shots near the rim, being obscenely tall) leaves him near the basket, leaves the court, no one will know exactly what the Rockets offense will look like. The Rockets will likely run a simplified version version of the Princeton Offense while Brad Miller takes the floor, and that scheme, much as it did in Adelman’s previous stops, will force the center to take long, outside shots, usually threes (Miller likely won’t object). Otherwise, Luis Scola and Jordan Hill, two men whose offensive games literally could not be more different, will likely eat up the rest of this team’s minutes inside, further redefining what all of us think of as an NBA center. I have not completely bought into this summer’s “positional revolution” nonsense, but the center position has changed drastically in recent years, particularly when regarding non-superstar pivots. I’m hopeful this all does lead to more flexibility and new roles for players to fill, as I feel whatever it is Mehmet Okur does should have a label, as the man certainly does not play center.
  • In Lexington, the mentorship of one recent Kentucky alum by another legendary Wildcat seems wonderfully serendipitous. For Rockets fans, we know the deal: if there’s a new (particularly young) big man in town, put him on the block against Chuck Hayes and watch the newcomer learn. Hayes has been using his frame and speed to give Patterson hell in practice, teaching the rookie exactly how far brute strength and athleticism not tempered with a solid understanding of the game will get him in the NBA. Patterson tells about the surprise one feels when first entering the post against Chuck Hayes: “You may look at him and think, this guy’s short, I can go over him or around him because he doesn’t look that fast or that quick, but when you step on the court and actually go up against him, you find out quick that your assumptions are wrong because Chuck has got some fast feet on him. You may be able to go over him but you aren’t going to get that close to the basket because he’s going to push you all the way out.”
  • In a recent blog, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reveals that along with brilliant player analysis, unparalleled concurrent understanding of both basketball and the statistics it produces and a sublime resume, Daryl Morey has jokes: “Better was when Morey went comedic. ‘You should see (Martin’s) offseason regimen,’ Morey said. ‘He spends his whole offseason in Tampa. You know the only reason to be in Tampa is to work out.’ Rockets media relations director and Tampa native Nelson Luis responded with, ‘The guy is from Cleveland (actually a small town outside Medina) and he’s dissing Tampa?’ When Patterson took the stage to a fine ovation, Morey said, ‘Patrick is used to this since he already played for a professional team.’ Good stuff.”
  • Kevin Martin, barring any major trades, will likely be one of this team’s best players and most important veteran leaders; however, don’t expect him to be putting his best Kevin Garnett face on and causing sophomore players to cry (although I think Budinger could take it). Martin, in another Jason Friedman Q & A, tells exactly what it and Houston fans can expect from him as one of the men in charge: “I’ve always been a lead by example guy, even in Sacramento. After Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Brad left the Kings, people looked for me to be the rah-rah guy in practice. But I’m the guy who’s more comfortable leading by example and talking to somebody on the side and helping them out. And here we have Shane, Yao and Brad – guys who are more knowledgeable about the game than me. So here I can be true to myself and simply lead by my example.”

in columns
  • Rocket Fan in Santa Barbara

    Great post. I wonder what folks think of Henry Abbot's (ESPN blogger) idea of bringing Yao off the bench. The reasoning is that if Yao comes off the bench toward the end of each quarter, the Rockets will be closer to the penalty, allowing Yao to shoot more free throws. While I cringe at the prospect of starting Brad Miller–and having him match-up against the other team's best center–it does mean that Yao would get lots of minutes against back-ups. And if Yao does come off the bench, it leads to an interesting question: would the Rockets second team be better than the first team? Who do you like in this game: Brooks-Martin-Miller-Battier-Scola, or Lowry-Lee-Yao-Budinger-Hayes?

  • rahat_huq

    ” I’m left wondering: have Rockets fans ever stopped thinking we could win a title, at least in the Yao/McGrady era? Perhaps with lack of success comes disconnect from reality, or maybe the Rockets are simply that disappointing.”

    The moment McGrady's season ended in '09, for all realistic observers, the door was shut.

  • Bob Schmidt

    I don't think of this year's team as a vestige of any era whatever. Our chances of winning a title this year are dependent on many unknowns, including how much and how well Yao plays in his role. For sure, the Lakers and Heat are favored in a title matchup, but Houston might be an obstacle not easily overcome. That is why this season may be one of the most entertaining we've had in years…

  • RL

    “The moment McGrady's season ended in '09, for all realistic observers, the door was shut. “
    True. If I think about it, it's very very unlikely Rockets can beat Lakers, Heat, or Cetics in best-of-seven. But hope and belief are the quintessential driving force for most fans, and players. It occasionally bring out the best in people. Hopefully it will for our players.

  • RL

    Forgot to mention, the last Rocket's run to Championship was against pretty big odds too. Made it all the more amazing

  • Dan G.

    I am in favor of Yao coming off the bench because if he starts, I worry about him tightening up due to the amount of the extended rest he will get each game sitting on the bench because if he starts, I see him playing the first five or six minutes and then not playing for another 15-20 minutes. Bringing him in off the bench does increase the chances of him coming in while the opponent is in the penalty and he would be playing against the back-up center. Basically Yao is only going to get 6 minutes per quarter and overall I think Yao's offensive services would be better at the end of the quarter against the team's back-up center than his defensive/offensive services at the beginning of the quarter against the opponent's best center. Also the greatest reason of all is playing him at the end of the quarter ensures you that he will be there in last six minutes of the game, which is pretty much the only time that matters in most games.

    Now would the first or second team be better? It is a tough choice because the first team would be better offensively and the second team would be better defensively, which leads to the ultimate question, which is better: a good offense or a good defense?

    I foresee in that scenario the first team coming in and running and gunning their way to a 7 to 10 point lead and then the second team comes in and sustains the lead.

  • Stephen

    Yao comes off bench and which PG is he teamed with?
    If Brooks is starter,kinda blows the whole Brooks-is-a-better-fit out of the water.
    Not to mention the whole Martin complements Yao perfectly thing.

    If Yao comes off bench,he either does so as part of Adelman's normal use of bench,or the Rockets are going to end up playing as 4 diff teams.
    If Yao comes in the last 5-6 min of each Quarter,the Rockets will have their starting unit,a couple of minutes w/Yao,then a few minutes w/Yao and reserves,then reserves only,then starters w/Yao. Then there's little thing of Yao coming into game cold every time he enters game.
    Far simpler to have Yao start 1,3Q for 6 min or so,then come back into 2,4Q w/4-6 minutes left.(Which is pretty much how he used McGrady-w/a little longer run in 1,3Qs-after McGrady “came back' from knee in Streak Season.)

  • dbonagurio

    is there any further development on maybe picking up eric dampier? this would definitely allow yao to come off the bench. Dampier and Miller could split the beginnings of quarters (depending on which fit the need) and Yao could finish them off.

  • Stephen

    Follow-up to the styles comment I made.
    Even if the starters play entire 1,3Q the Rockets will ply w/3 different styles.
    First 6 minutes or so extremely perimeter oriented w/Brooks and Martin,then switching gears to get Yao involved,then the subs running.
    Either Yao becomes just a taller Brad Miller,or the team is going to have to be extremely flexible when most players like to have their role defined.

  • RL

    I like Stephen's suggestion. Have Yao start 1st and 3rd, Finish 2nd and 4th. Maybe adjust minutes to be more like 1st starting 6 minutes, 2nd ending 4 minutes, 3rd starting 6 minutes, 4th ending 8 minutes. It's not too far off from their regular rotation.

  • Bob Schmidt

    I am curious as to why Yao's practice minutes might not be reduced enough to permit a few more game-time minutes. Is there something inherently different about what causes stress problems in games as compared to practice time? Maybe we haven't really heard the final word on this subject just yet….

  • Chest Rockwell

    im kinda pissed honestly. wont expanding his playing time come playoff time actually open the door for another injury due to the increased workload and not giving the foot enought time to acclimate? why not let yao determine his time depending on how he feels? having him break down when we need him the most does nothing for me, i'd rather just know what we have prior to the playoffs myself. its a pretty expensive toy only to use sporadically, and in that case why not like Bob says hold him out of practices, and maybe go so far as to only play him the 2nd and 4th quarters in their entirety? his value comes in his effective play in the bonus IMO, or bring him off the bench as crazy as it sounds with 6 mins left in each quarter?

  • Mantis Jodorowsky

    I just can not wait for the first angry Yao Ming dunkface…. like seriously you guys… i just can't wait anymore… oooh or what about a Louis Scola up and under fake up and under fake up and under…. oooh my god you guys…. or an AB pigeon toed 3 from about 30 feet out pure net…. UGGHHHHHHHH come on already stupid slow time….

  • Stephen

    I can't wait either.
    Esp because this has been such a strange off-season.

    There were no hyped FA signings(McGrady's going to make Stro Swift an All-Star!),puzzling draft trades(Battier for #8),super hyped FA signings(Ron!) or the McGrady era ending(is he gonna be traded before the Season or will the team hang around close enough til he gets back and make a Play-Off push?).
    This yr it's been the failed Bosh pursuit,the Chris Paul,Anthony teases,Yao's back-but not so much,a disappointing at the time Draft.

    Yet for all the steps back,there has been a major retooling of the roster.
    For past 6 yrs I thought the Rockets have need a competent back-up PG,a reserve wing who can get his own shot,a rebound-gobbling,weakside help shot-blocking PF and a big C prospect to develop into a solid Yao back-up. Well,hello Mr Lowry,Mr Taylor,Mr Patterson,Mr Hill. Now it's very likely not all of these players pan out,but they are on the roster and they show positive signs.

    Then there's this. The Rockets arguably have 3 players in the top 10 at their position-Yao,Scola,Martin. The other teams that can make this claim are LA Lakers,Portland and San Antonio in the West and Miami,Boston in the East. The rest of Rockets roster compares favorably w/those 5 teams-to put it mildly.
    (As always w/the Rockets,there is a catch. The other 5 teams have a playmaker among their best players-Bryant,Roy,Parker/Ginobili,Rondo,LeBron/Wade. The Rockets don't.)

    Me I want to see how it all works out. It's going to be spectacular either way. Everybody blends together and we get a season to cherish,or a train-wreck of missed opportunities and talent unrealized.

  • JCDeucer

    Except we basically won the championship that year… Without Yao going down and the combination of the ref bias towards the Lakers we could've easily beat them. Game 2, 3 and 5 were horribly officiated towards the Lakers and even without Yao we could've advanced. The East had literally no one at that time that could beat the Rockets, with the exception of the Celtics. As we all know, the Magic made the finals that season so it would've been the Rockets for the taking. Too bad the refs ruined it and Yao's foot.

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