The Rockets Daily – October 8, 2013

Thrilla – The Rockets arrived in Manila on Monday for two preseason games against the Indiana Pacers. They got a rock-star welcome.


To get an idea of the significance of these games to the fans over there, check out this column in a Filipino newspaper, written by Rick Olivares:

That game—between the Rockets and the Pacers—will mean a lot to Filipinos. Because aside from bringing in top-caliber teams, they also come with two of the greatest to ever have played the game of basketball—Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. . .

Maybe to the NBA players who are here it might be just another game in a long season. But in this land of their brown brothers where basketball rules, it means a lot. It’s a milestone. It’s a gift after having kept the faith after all these years.

Trade Chip On His Shoulder – Once again, Omer Asik is on a list of trade targets, this time at

Asik, who is at once both valuable and expendable, is the most immediately visible trade chip on the board. He’s nearing the point in his relationship with the Rockets at which his external worth trumps his internal merit. The signing of center Dwight Howard puts an artificial cap on how much Houston can really play the 7-foot Asik, 27, making him a pricey backup or ill-fitting complement. Given how active the Rockets’ front office typically is on the trade scene, it would be surprising if at least a handful of potential trades involving Asik weren’t seriously discussed by this season’s deadline.

The Asik trade talk will surely continue all season, but unless the second unit can figure out how to defend without him, I don’t see it happening. The value of having an elite rim protector on the floor for all 48 minutes is too high to give up without getting a bona fide All-Star like LaMarcus Aldridge in return. Would a team give up an All-Star for Asik? Not unless they’re Riggin’ for Wiggins.

Cognitive DissonanceThis article on Hardwood Paroxysm is only tangentially related to the Rockets in the sense that–because of Daryl Morey–everything about the leading edge of statistical analysis seems Rockets-related. Also, the subject is former-Rocket Shane Battier.

The surprising revelation is that Battier, long recognized as a pioneer among players incorporating advanced stats into their strategies, steers clear of the insight delivered by SportVU video tracking technology. As he told the Miami Heat’s official site:

I think it will be awesome when I retire, whenever that is, when I step away, to look at the numbers and see how I ranked, but I’m psycho enough to where that will cloud the way I play. That makes it less instinctual, to be honest with you. I rationally understand what’s good for me, obviously the threes, the paint shots, and I stay away from corner twos like they’re the plague, but I don’t want to know anything else.

At first blush, Battier’s take seems to contradict the virtue of logic and empiricism, but it really doesn’t.  The human brain is still the most powerful computer on the planet. SportVU technology attempts to painstakingly recreate what the brain does naturally every time we play basketball, processing thousands of bits of information about what is going on on the court.

One of the supreme challenges of the analytics movement is trying to control for all of the factors on the court at a given moment: Is the player a great shooter, or is he only good when he’s wide open? How does he get open? Does he benefit from the presence of better teammates, or is he elite at running off picks and creating space? How do we track his movement? What is the criterion for effective movement? 

The brain naturally interprets all of that data and formulates answers that become what Battier calls “instinct.” While SportVU may be useful in instructing players how to react on the court, it’s more immediate value appears to be in scouting the effectiveness of a player’s decision-making skills.  Even if it isn’t used to make players smarter, it can be used by teams to acquire smarter players. Either way, the stat geeks can continue to mold the league into their own image.

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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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