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The Rockets Daily – January 29, 2014

Stein Rankings - This week’s rankings from the Committee of One are out, and the Rockets continue their ping-pong back and forth, dropping a spot to number nine after getting leaped by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Houston had the West’s best record in January (8-2) until losing both of its weekend home-and-home games with the Grizz. They’re not the same Grizz any more with Marc Gasol back — as Dwight Howard will attest — but Memphis was 0-10 against the Southwest Division before that sweep.

Maybe Memphis is just a bad match-up for the Rockets, or maybe the Grizzlies are streaking, or perhaps they’re just finally rounding into form.  They beat Portland handily last night, and although it seems a little premature to move them into the top-ten already with a record of only 22-20, they are 5-1 since Marc Gasol’s return.

As Stein says, they’re starting to look like the dreaded low-seed that no one wants to play in round one, a role they know all too well.

Trade talk - In Rahat’s podcast yesterday, he discussed a hypothetical trade laid out by ESPN Insider’s Amin Elahassan, in which the Rockets reacquire Kyle Lowry.

Houston sends to Toronto: Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Brewer, a 2014 second-round pick (via N.Y.), and the less favorable of 2015 second-round pick (via N.Y.) and the 2015 second-round pick owed to Houston from Minnesota (which in turn is the less favorable of Minnesota and Denver second-round picks), plus cash considerations

Toronto sends to Houston: Kyle Lowry, Austin Daye   

I have mixed feelings about this deal.  While I agree with Rahat completely that this move makes the Rockets better on paper, I have several concerns about Lowry’s fit with this roster.  An under-reported part of this Rockets team (unless you’re a fan of the BS Report) is how bad their body language can be at times.  James Harden and Dwight Howard have to be in the top-5 league-wide (with Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins) in ending possessions with sagging shoulders, head hanging, begrudgingly jogging back up court after things didn’t go their way. And Kyle Lowry’s bullish attitude may not blend well with that.  On the other hand, maybe that kind of fire and backbone could be what’s needed to straighten the Rockets out.  It just makes for a risky proposition.

Also, as was stated by both Amin and Rahat, Lowry didn’t exactly leave Houston on the best of terms.  He even hinted that coach Kevin McHale would have to be fired for him to be able to stay a Rocket.  I see that as a bigger stumbling-block than my two cohorts.  And beyond that, he wasn’t happy with the Rockets’ front office going all the way back to the summer of 2010. That summer the Rockets made the smart decision to let the market set Lowry’s value as a restricted free agent, and then ultimately matched the contract he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  It seems to me like a lot of bad blood for the two sides to overcome were he to return to Houston.

One other thing Rahat brought up in his podcast is that trading Lin would free up cap space for this summer.  Looking at the list of free agents for the next two summers, there isn’t much to choose from in 2014 that would be a serious upgrade to the Rockets.  The more enticing talent is 18 months away.  And I understand Lin and Asik will make 30 million in combined-salary (but only 18 million cap-wise) if they both stay next year, but I’m not making those payments, Les Alexander is.  In a perfect world, the Rockets would free up max-level space for the summer of 2015 and pursue Kevin Love or Rajon Rondo.

So yes, Kyle Lowry is an upgrade over both Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin on paper, but it’s my opinion that he just has to much baggage, especially in Houston, to warrant this trade.  I’d rather wait for health and ride it out with this roster.

Superman’s Kryptonite - In the wake of back-to-back losses this weekend to the Memphis Grizzlies, Ethan Rothstein of The Dreamshake addressed the Rockets’ shortcomings against larger lineups.

So far, against those five teams (Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Blazers), the Rockets are 4-7, but three of those wins have come against the Grizzlies without Gasol and the Spurs without Tiago Splitter. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a problem, especially because of the Rockets’ success against the Blazers and Warriors, teams that frequently use small lineups, particularly with their bench groups, removing the Rockets’ woefully undersized bench frontcourt as a disadvantage.

The record is troublesome, but I feel Ethan left off a few teams from the large-list: Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago and OKC all play traditional bigs for a majority of their minutes as well.  When you take into account those nine teams, with a combined record of 252-151 (.599%), the Rockets record rises to 10-10 and the story isn’t quite as dire.  And yes, at times those teams haven’t been whole, but name a time when Houston was complete?  Especially the (maddening) continued absence of Omer Asik, who happens to be the missing-link between making the Rockets one of the league’s larger teams and one that gives serious minutes to Omri Casspi at power forward and Terrence Jones at center.

To me, this is a case of “what have you done for me lately”, and in the Rockets’ case the answer is get beaten down by Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies.  But as has been the situation for most of the season, you can’t make any assertions about what this team is or can be until we’ve seen what they truly are.  So until February 20th (trade deadline-day) or until Omer Asik rediscovers his professionalism, this Rockets team truly is an enigma.

Notes From Last Night - Following the Houston Rockets from my home in Austin, TX has always been a challenging, often frustrating endeavor.  Being a DirectTV subscriber, even before the days of the Comcast quagmire, it was a rare occurrence that the Rockets were actually on TV.  Locally we get Spurs games, and when the Spurs aren’t on, we get Mavericks games.  My point is, I’ve had to watch plenty of the “home” team with the enemy’s announcing crew.  Last night was once such occasion and it’s always especially painful when it’s the Spurs.

While Bill Worrell is a Houston icon and should be cherished like your favorite uncle, I realize Clyde Drexler (and to a lesser extent Matt Bullard) isn’t exactly impartial.  But Bill Land and Sean Elliot might as well change their name to everyone’s favorite Simpson’s character.  They can be tough to listen to at times.  Last night, though, they did offer some knowledge worth noting.

First off, if you caught last night’s broadcast (or read Forrest Walker’s recap) you may have heard that the Rockets avoided their first three game losing streak of the season, while handing the Spurs their first back-to-back losses 44 games into the season.  The three game losing streak stuck out to me because my second favorite stat of all-time (and proof that Michael Jordan really is the GOAT) is that from the 1990-91 season (his first title) through his second retirement from the Bulls in 1998 (and excluding the missed time due to his first retirement), MJ’s Chicago Bulls never lost three straight games.  This is relevant because the Rockets only need to finish this season and the next five without losing three straight, while winning the title each year, to match the greatest run of dominance by a team ever.  Gotta start somewhere.

Also, you may have heard that the Rockets won the season-series with San Antonio for the first time since Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forrest in 1996-97.  (That those victories ultimately helped the Spurs land Duncan with the top pick somewhat diminishes that accomplishment.)  What you may not have heard last night was that after 36 games – over 400 minutes played – Matt Bonner was awarded his first free throws of the season after a failed swipe by Aaron Brooks.  It was like seeing a red-haired unicorn.  He went 1-2.

Lastly, Terrence Jones had another solid night last night.  And while 21 points and 9 rebounds doesn’t exactly leap off the stat sheet after some of his recent performances, what does standout is the way he carried the offense in the first half, but especially the first quarter.  The Rockets scored only 39 points in the first half, with Jones accounting for 15 of them.  There were times when he was the entire offense, beating his man in the post a little like Zach Randolph would.  I can’t find a way to generate his shot chart from last night, but in the first half he was 6-8 from the field with all six buckets coming in the paint and four of them from right around the basket.  Someone send this tape to Detroit; this is how you’re supposed to play, J-Smoove.

I’ve read a lot people making the case that DeMarcus Cousins is the Most Improved Player this year, but to me a top-5 pick finally living up to expectations doesn’t come close to matching a non-lottery sophomore making real contributions to a contender.

(By the way, my number one favorite stat is that Hakeem Olajuwon, a center, still resides on the top-ten all-time steals list with some of the greatest perimeter defenders to ever play the game.)

Lin-Magic - There is something about the San Antonio Spurs that brings out the showboat in Jeremy Lin.  After this gem against the Spurs on Christmas day, Lin hooked up with Terrence Jones again for another beauty last night.

But it wasn’t all style with Lin.  When the Rocket’s needed a bucket late to seal the win, it was Lin that provided the dagger.  Funny that it came against the Spurs, because it was the type of fadeaway-in-the-lane that Tony Parker has hit a hundred times in big situations.

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Total comments: 33
  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago

    And Kendrick Perkins look like Hakeem on offense.


    Okay....
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    Shoots the 3, you might want to check your stats. Anyone can shoot but shoot well is a very different story. Not to mention you still to try to lobby demos value rivals asik but we all know it's not even close. Asik makes Dwight look like a bad defender.

    And Kendrick Perkins look like Hakeem on offense.
  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    A 7" who has post moves and can shoot the the three? Them are falling out of trees today? At least D-Mo plays and doesn't pull himself out of the line up because his feelings are hurt.

    Shoots the 3, you might want to check your stats. Anyone can shoot but shoot well is a very different story. Not to mention you still to try to lobby demos value rivals asik but we all know it's not even close. Asik makes Dwight look like a bad defender.
  • Steven says 8 months ago http://nba.si.com/2013/11/18/omer-asik-houston-rockets-return-lineup-trade-request/

    And the truth shall set you free!
  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago Post a link for Asik. He asked to be traded but haven't heard anything else.
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    Lol. You don't even know that your opinions are opinions. You view them as facts.

    Anything that I said that isn't based in fact. Name the 7" people who have post moves and can shoot the three? Don't worry I'll wait.

    Does D-Mo not have a post game? Is he not 7" tall? Can he not shoot the three? Didn't Asik ask not to be played in a game because he wasn't mentally there (or something to that extent)?

    If you are going to attack someone get your facts straight first or else you look ignorant.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago

    A 7" who has post moves and can shoot the the three? Them are falling out of trees today? At least D-Mo plays and doesn't pull himself out of the line up because his feelings are hurt.


    Lol. You don't even know that your opinions are opinions. You view them as facts.
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    Not even close and like rocketrick said, his offensive value is diminished on a high powered offensive team.

    A 7" who has post moves and can shoot the the three? Them are falling out of trees today? At least D-Mo plays and doesn't pull himself out of the line up because his feelings are hurt.
  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    His offensive prowess over Asik makes up for the difference in defensive skill.

    Not even close and like rocketrick said, his offensive value is diminished on a high powered offensive team.

  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago I agree with timetodie and rocketrick in that the need for a defensively sound big outweighs another shooting big (especially with Jones' rise with his complimentary offense) and in that respect Motiejunas is not close to Asik. Saying that considering Asik's lack of commitment and injuries really put a damper on what adds to the Rockets, hopefully he comes back with a good attitude and completely healthy. Being a long time Rockets fan I always get bad memories when the big guys get leg injuries.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago Can this idiocy stop??? DMo is not even close to being as good Asik.
  • rocketrick says 8 months ago

    His offensive prowess over Asik makes up for the difference in defensive skill.


    However, with better offensive weapons in Harden, Parsons, D12, TJones,----DMo's success with this franchise will depend much more on his defense than his offense. Perhaps he is not the guy that can get there, but I see definite signs that he is making a real effort. Once DMo proves his worth on the defensive end of the court, the offense will come naturally and everyone will benefit. DMo will be a more impactful player in the NBA and the team(s) DMo is on will be the better for it (unless he gets moved to a cellar dweller at some point in his career where defense is the last priority and DMo forgets what he has learned under Coach McHale).
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    It will be a couple years before demo can rival Asik's statistical and defensive dominance.

    His offensive prowess over Asik makes up for the difference in defensive skill.
  • Buckko says 8 months ago It will be a couple years before demo can rival Asik's statistical and defensive dominance.
  • rocketrick says 8 months ago Agreed. Motie is really growing on me. I didn't expect him to be a positive contributor this season but yet again Coach McHale and is staff are proving how effective they are in developing players like TJones and D-Mo. Can't wait to see what Canaan and Covington might be able to contribute later this season (more likely next season, as this takes time).
  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Asik's absence has opened the door for Motie to crack the rotation. He's still got lots of work to do, but if he can get to being an effective defender then he will have surpassed Asik. Motie's offensive abilities are solid. Did anyone see that give and go pass last night? He runs the floor faster than any 7 footer in the league (at least that I've seen). His outside shot will come around eventually, and we all know about his nifty post moves.

    I don't really care what is true about Asik's situation (I'm of the mind he is hurt because, at this point, not playing is hurting his trade wishes more than it is helping--unless as someone else noted he and his agent are just making a power play to prove a point, but what point are they making? That the Rockets don't need Asik except against the Grizzlies? I don't see the advantage here.) I'm excited about Motie's development. If he keeps up the good work Asik may find himself 3rd on the depth chart at center. :o

  • Incubus2803 says 8 months ago Flags don't flap on the moon, TDN. ;-)
  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago I bet you guys think the moon landing was fake and Obama was born in Kenya... Lol.
  • Alituro says 8 months ago

    Asik has missed almost 2 months with a THIGH BRUISE that, as luck would have it, happened just days before the self imposed trade deadline.

    Definitely posturing by his agent. But, if it goes on much longer it becomes detrimental to Asik's future contracts, and the agent is sure to know that, so I don't expect it to continue pass the deadline either.

  • Incubus2803 says 8 months ago

    Sorry I don't believe what people say just because they say it. Gotta have have tangible evidence to prove it to me.


    Asik has missed almost 2 months with a THIGH BRUISE that, as luck would have it, happened just days before the self imposed trade deadline.
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    I prefer to live in the real world not some fantasyland.

    Sorry I don't believe what people say just because they say it. Gotta have have tangible evidence to prove it to me.
  • Alituro says 8 months ago

    I agree with your hesitation to get behind a trade for Lowry. While he was one of my favorites on that roster and a great player, I think there is too much bad blood and the possibilities of clashing egos too high. Also, remember, Lowry was riding the pine behind Conley until we gave him a chance, and I think, given the chance to develop and improve his D a little, Canaan can be every bit the player Lowry is, if not better because he's already a better, purer shooter. He does have a similar build and could bother PGs physically on D and bruise some folks on drives to the hoop. With the numbers he's been putting up in the valley, I fully expect a permanent call-up sooner than later. With Brooks back there, Canaan in the valley and with the versatility of Lin. I just don't think we are weak at the PG spot, especially at the expense of Lin, who is indefinitely valuable with his ability to play both positions, and I think he will be key to any success for our team as leader of the bench mob.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago

    The answer is suppose to be ego, self-driveness, testosterone, old fashioned work ethic, earn your paycheck. But I agree with you.


    I prefer to live in the real world not some fantasyland.
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    Johnny, those are the charts I use to get that type of info, I'm just unable to use them in the Daily.
    The website with the soccer crests is great. I've seen their football stuff, but haven't seen the basketball.

    And I still maintain that Asik is choosing to sit. Franchises do this type of thing all the time (stretching out injuries) when they're tanking down the stretch. The Warriors did it with Steph Curry. That's part of the reason people think his ankle injuries are so chronic. They aren't good, but they sat him a lot of unneeded games, and were rewarded with Harrison Barnes as a result. If teams do it, Why would you thinks players/agents wouldn't do the same thing?

    The answer is suppose to be ego, self-driveness, testosterone, old fashioned work ethic, earn your paycheck. But I agree with you.
  • Mitchell Felker says 8 months ago Johnny, those are the charts I use to get that type of info, I'm just unable to use them in the Daily.
    The website with the soccer crests is great. I've seen their football stuff, but haven't seen the basketball.

    And I still maintain that Asik is choosing to sit. Franchises do this type of thing all the time (stretching out injuries) when they're tanking down the stretch. The Warriors did it with Steph Curry. That's part of the reason people think his ankle injuries are so chronic. They aren't good, but they sat him a lot of unneeded games, and were rewarded with Harrison Barnes as a result. If teams do it, Why would you thinks players/agents wouldn't do the same thing?
  • thenit says 8 months ago That's just pure speculation. Name another player that's been sitting for this long calling it an injury while being healthy. No franchise would take a chance on a player like this. It's different if he refuse to play then they at least know he is healthy.
  • Incubus2803 says 8 months ago I disagree Nit. Arn Tellem is one of the NBA's power agents. I don't think people realize the pull agents have on franchises. The Knicks are built around Worldwide Wes and his firn CAA. These guys control the money, so they control the players. If he wants Asik traded, and he does, he'll make his play until there's not one to be made. I guarantee you he's been burning phone lines and Asik is going to sit until the deadline. If we don't trade him, mid-January he'll come back strong and play well. But until then, they're making a point.
  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Nice post, Sir Thursday. This brings us back to the discussion that surfaces from time to time about our rim, 3, and ft offensive philosophy. For some, the idea of not shooting 3's is ridiculous due to their inherent value. The problem arises when our team comes up against a team that can actually drop that % down so low that the advantage is no longer there.

    Slowly, but surely, I have noticed the Rockets, particularly Parsons and Jones, shooting 12-15 footers and making a nice percentage of them based off my eye test. It is a trend I like and I think it will help flesh out our offense into a more complete and robust scoring machine. Now, if we could just run the give and go as well as San Antonio. They do it every game! :lol:

    Here are the splits from this season. I highlighted the Pacers, Grizz, Clips, Thunder, and the Kings since they had given us trouble.

    7DMdagQ.jpg

  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    Agreed.

  • thenit says 8 months ago

    " So until February 20th (trade deadline-day) or until Omer Asik rediscovers his professionalism, this Rockets team truly is an enigma. "

    Can we stop with ripping Asik for lack of professionalism. The times he had played off the bench he ran the floor hard. He is injured, the franchise wouldn't just let him sit because they felt like having him in a suit and collecting the money. They would at least dress him and bench him if it was an attitude problem. not a player coach or Morey had said anything else.

    How easily we forget what a big part he played last year. This is not a Royce white situation.

    Other than that great job on the dailies !

  • redfaithful says 8 months ago

    Good catch ST! It also explains the 3-0 against the Spurs.

  • Sir Thursday says 8 months ago

    I think there is something to the idea that the Rockets struggle against a certain type of team, although like you I don't think it's necessarily the case that that type is "big lineups". The three teams we've had problems with are the Pacers, healthy Grizzlies and the Clippers (you could make a case for adding the Thunder onto that list as well, I suppose). Now, there is something connecting these teams that I think causes us problems: they're all really good at defending the three point line.

    Here's a ranking of teams by opposing three point percentage: http://www.teamrankings.com/nba/stat/opponent-three-point-pct

    As you can see, Indiana are #1 for the year, Clippers are #2, Oklahoma City are #5. Memphis are further down the list, but I think that's because not having Gasol makes it harder for them to perimeter players to stick to their man. If you look at their numbers from last season (possibly a fairer reflection since they were healthier then), they were #2 behind Indiana.

    What these teams all do well that reduces opposing teams' percentages is that [a> they stay home on shooters because they have shot blockers waiting in the paint if necessary, and they have a commitment to closing out hard to the three point line if they have to rotate. It was especially obvious watching the Rockets against the Grizzlies that no matter how crisp the ball movement was they didn't seem to be able to get a wide open three pointer. And since the Rockets launch so many, that causes the team problems, more so than other teams that don't rely on them so much.

    ST

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    You can see Jones' shot chart at ESPN HERE. Use the filters to select players and quarters.

    I know your pain about the "home" team...been in Austin since '94. The Spurs commentators are huge homers. I actually found myself last night wondering how Sean Elliot can say some of the things he says with a straight face. Also, the Spurs have never committed a foul...ever.

    I'm surprised you passed up the opportunity to show us the quote from Popovich via Jenny Dial Creech's Twitter:

    "Greg Popovich just said @ChandlerParsons has become one of the best players in the league."

    One last thing--I know there are lots of soccer (read football) fans here. Someone designed a Houston Rockets Football Crest. Thought y'all might like it.

    iy9TV5n.jpg

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