Analysis and the daily links come after the jump.
In basketball, some skills must be swept under rugs and appreciated only in seedy backrooms. Flopping cannot be praised on television, or those damn Euros will figure out they were right all along. The ability to push one’s man off subtly, despite the move’s literal omnipresence in every single play in basketball at any level, will not be given its own section in upcoming Free Darko encyclopedias, but those best at it likely coincide with this league’s best performers. One of those dirty, unspoken skills doesn’t even take place on a court, or at least it doesn’t always. No, admitting defeat generally takes place in some boardroom full of glassy-eyed executives who thought everything was going to go a lot differently than this. Houston Rockets executives, meet this. It has come, and the time for making moves has as well.
There’s not much more to say about a 3-10 team that looks a lot better spread around as role players around the league and not a mismatched goulash of non-complementary talents all going through slumps concurrently. Those brilliant Daryl Morey contracts that screamed “tradeable” towards the end of their on-court effectiveness‒ trade them now, Mr. Morey. It it not that this team as presently constructed is awful; this simply cannot be the case. Though the team’s record may look more like that of a team that could win the lottery next year, the Rockets are not 3-10 bad; injuries and early season scheduling are certainly to blame for some of the team’s travails. But through 13 games, we have all learned a lot about this team. We have learned that without Aaron Brooks, ball movement is always precipitously close to ceasing to exist. Without mismatches guarding our best two offensive players left (Luis Scola and Kevin Martin), the effectiveness of both will decrease exponentially. And without the ball movement necessary to create those mismatches… I think you get it. And defense… I have never seen a Rockets defense gone so wrong. Flat-footed, uncaring, badly planned‒ the defense reeks of failure throughout, from the best defenders slower steps (Lowry and Battier simply can’t make their men work as hard as they have in previous years) to mismanagement in the lineups and defensive schemes (there is no help to be had once the initial play is made. God help the Rockets if the opposing offense actually reacts to what is being given to them).
This is not to say that this team is without its charms. Their movement will look much better against worse defenses (though only four of the team’s losses have been against teams ranked in the top 10 for defensive efficiency) when all of the team is intact, and I’d be surprised if, given the time, this team’s defense didn’t start talking more and being better prepared. None of that will change what this team is, though: mediocre, at best. Mr. Morey, you know what to do; you always have. The proposition of rebuilding strikes fear in fans’ hearts, but it shouldn’t with a talent like Morey at the helm. But because he is so good, I anticipate the nuclear option. Blow it up; it’s time.
Houston Rockets 116, Phoenix Suns 123
On to the links…
- Our fearless leader Rahat Huq dropped some knowledge over at Hardwood Paroxysm yesterday, blessing us all with a new “The Senate” that asks some fascinating hypothetical questions about the very fabric of the contemporary NBA.
- Speaking of the brilliance going on over at HP, Noam Schiller talked a bit about Derrick Rose and the ineffable argument that pervades Internet discussion of NBA players to a maddening degree: “You’re just hating.” Schiller sips a Big Gulp of Haterade and goes in on the logic of that particular remonstration: “And when the hype and anti-hype collide, that other H word comes out. Stand in the way of the hype at your own peril, lest you be called a hater. It’s a ridiculous argument, of course, one that basically admits all other arguments were lost and yet you refuse to admit discussional defeat. And yet it’s incredibly hard to prove otherwise – YOU HATE HIM, I KNOW IT, DON’T TELL ME OTHERWISE is as irrefutable as cherry pie. The worst thing about this terrible debating technique is how easily it can be thrown your way. You don’t even have to show any dislike for a certain player or team – all you have to do is rationally promote your position as to why he’s not the best ever or why the team can’t win 83 games in a season and you’re a hater.”
- We live in an age where we as basketball viewers have had to start to learn to balance what we see and think we know from our hours, days and years of watching basketball with the cold, terrifyingly accurate statistics that suffuse every inch of worthwhile basketball discussion. Because of that, we have to deal with bizarre, completely counter-intuitive thoughts. Like, I don’t know, that David Robinson was clearly a better player than Hakeem Olajuwon. Look and argue; I’ll have more thoughts on this fairly old post from Nerd Numbers the Blog later, but I’ll throw one thing out there for now: no playoff numbers are taken into account.
- Congrats to Sebastian Pruiti on his new gig with the brilliant Basketball Prospectus people. Read his fantastic first post about why the Raymond Felton pick-and-roll just isn’t working out.
- Kobe Bryant talked to Adrian Wojnarowski in an article on which I can’t even begin to explain my feelings. You simply must read it after you check out this quote: “’In an individual sport, yes, you have to win titles,’ Bryant said. ‘Baseball’s different. But basketball, hockey? One person can control the tempo of a game, can completely alter the momentum of a series. There’s a lot of great individual talent. Oscar Robertson was a great individual talent. So was Elgin Baylor. Part of my frustration was that I didn’t want to go down that path for the second half of my career. I didn’t want to be a Dominique Wilkins. I didn’t want to be an Elgin Baylor and not win… Part of the pride within me was that I won by being the sidekick. I’m going to be the only player in league history that’s won being a sidekick – and I had a lot of responsibility – going to be the only player to do that, and being the main guy. I’m going to show you that I can do that.’”
- Lockout roundup: Henry Abbott knows who will really get stiffed in the upcoming CBA negotiations, and Kelly Dwyer thinks the owners have dug their own graves; the players may think they can win this, but as many of them told the Wall Street Journal, that doesn’t mean they aren’t saving.