UPDATE 2:33 P.M.: Updated with game analysis and the daily links.
Blame away. It sure feels like there’s a lot to give out. Blame Daryl Morey for constructing a team around the most precarious of building blocks. Blame Manu Ginobili for his dirty play that will sideline the only guy in Rocket red who wants to take show in the last five minutes of a game for six weeks. Blame Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee for leaving their respective jumpers in October. Blame Kevin Martin for only being what he is: at best, a third option on a great team. Just as well, blame Luis Scola for his already apparent flaws, and blame them both for their embarrassing brands of defense. Make sure Rick Adelman and Elston Turner get a heaping plate of enmity as well, as that defensive philosophy doesn’t only falter because of Martin and Scola’s thin chests and slow hands. And, my God, please do blame that league-worst defense that turns average jump shooters into Steve Kerr (because who can’t hit a wide open three in the NBA?) and D-League talent into quality role players (Gah! Our defense has become Morey). Yeah, there’s a lot of blame to be handed out, if that’s your kind of thing. But I think every reader prepared to fire and bench may need to take a long look at this team, this roster, and see it for what it is: a collection of very solid role players. Or, if it needs to put more bluntly, this team consists of a lot of men that fans don’t want taking the shots that count in an NBA game.
Honestly, after watching last night’s tug-of-war with the lowly Wizards, I am far more interested in talking about one young man that will change the dynamic of this league. The kind of ingenuity apparent in every moment Wall holds the ball (outside of a basic half-court set. I know this seems like a gigantic caveat, but the kid is a one-man fast break ready to bust loose at any instant, so knowing that his half-court game will come along feels like standing directly in the eye of a storm. Oh yeah, I was writing a sentence) rivets the viewer constantly, allowing no let-up to the audience. Every play can be another steal (I know his line of 5 steals seems outlandish, but when after watching him last night, you could have told me he had 43 and I would have said, “That sounds about right.”) or cross-court dart landing in some blessed Wizard teammate’s hands. Last night’s game looked miserable in terms of genuine offense being produced through smart passing and good movement, but Wall simply didn’t care: when there was nobody open, he parted the sea with his chaotic penetration and found BlatchYibertorton. I hate to denigrate the batch of fun, if mercurial, skill players Ernie Grunfield has placed around Wall because the role players never looked bad in this one, but John Wall just makes it all better. He revitalizes and builds and, on defense, demolishes. The Houston Rockets looked spooked all night by Wall’s hands and Javale McGee’s never-ending reach, and as a result, the team fell back into its uncreative ways of moving the ball, which simply isn’t an option while John Wall looms around the perimeter snatching balls like a bird of prey.
The Rockets didn’t have anything prepared for Wall, and though Lowry (through an obviously nagging injury) and Smith valiantly tried to contain the agent of chaos, the kinetic freak burst free and trampled all over the Rockets’ transition defense (while the Rockets simply got outsized in the middle by Blatche and “Plastic Man” McGee). Game after game, the Rockets have gotten overpowered by one star or another (Gasol, Ellis, Paul) and found themselves unable to handle the blows. Without the consistent threat that comes from having a volatile explosion like Wall running the offense, the Rockets will continue to be punished by those types. Note to anyone gleaning hope from that sentence: the league is bursting with “those types”. Blame them for this season.
On to the links…
- Nope, it’s not a fever dream you had. Yao Ming left the court after playing five minutes in last night’s match, leaving on account of pain in his ankles that may have resulted from a couple of collisions with McGee. There’s no word on when he’ll be back or what the results of tests he’s supposed to undergo are yet, but regardless of the severity, think of the morale blow being dealt to the Houston Rockets right now. Everyone’s injured again (a day after a bump in minutes for Yao was floated), and it isn’t banding together and sneaking out victories because of it like in past years. Miserable. Brad Miller and Jordan Hill, and their so-far minimal results, looked fine as back-up centers who get a little extra run, but the idea of them actually being the actual center rotation makes me think of lottery balls. Well, I’ll wait until I hear the test results before I start a “blow it up campaign”, at least publicly (can anything going on in one’s mind be a campaign?), but I’m already missing the many faces of Yao.
- Mike Beasley chunked in a crazy-tastic 42 yesterday. The Heat will likely win for a long time, but I bet they’ll wonder what could have been if Beasley truly develops.
- Yeah, most of the living world (except probably his own coach) would like to trade for Kevin Love. Well, the Rockets did try. I hate to say it, but I really hope that kid becomes a Houston Rocket, even if it costs us this year.
- In non-Timberwolves-related news, Yao Ming told Jonathan Feigen a little about his injury, which left Feigen with the impression that, “(Yao) did not seem optimistic.”
- In this great article about how the Hornets should approach the coming flood of excitement about the team, writer Michael McNamara talks about the Hornets having their eyes set on a particularly efficient shooting guard who happens to start for the Houston Rockets.
- Ish Smith did a fantastic interview with Truth About It, the aforementioned Wizards blog.
- Sorry about the brevity of the links today; I’ll try my best to get you your deserved “Rockets Daily” tomorrow.