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Rockets Daily – Thursday, August 19, 2010

Daily Factoid: During the 2009-2010 season, the top three point guards in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes were Jason Kidd, Kyle Lowry, and Tyreke Evans at 7.4, 7.2, and 6.8.

  • Houston Chronicle – ‘LeBron tells GQ he isn’t sure Gilbert ever cared’: “In an article released Tuesday, James spoke of how widespread criticism of his decision — and how he chose to make it a television event — is fueling him this offseason, plus reiterated how Ohio will always remain his home. But perhaps his sharpest words were reserved for Gilbert, the owner who lashed out at him shortly after James announced that he would be joining the Heat. ‘I don’t think he ever cared about LeBron,” James is quoted as saying. “My mother always told me: ‘You will see the light of people when they hit adversity. You’ll get a good sense of their character.’ Me and my family have seen the character of that man.’ Gilbert did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday… ‘Every night on the court I give my all, and if I’m not giving 100 percent, I criticize myself,’ James said. He added that he’s looking forward to seeing the Cavaliers as opponents this season. ‘I do have motivation,’ James told GQ. ‘A lot of motivation.’
  • The Dream Shake – ‘Is there any way that Carmelo Anthony could become a Houston Rocket?’: “So could Anthony sign his extension and just choose to go to New York after his contract is up?  Money is an issue, maybe not for him, but in general.  The collective bargaining agreement is surely going to lower overall contracts, so signing this deal now could be the equivalent of what Kevin Garnett did the last time before max level deals were truly defined.  It would be incredibly intelligent of Anthony to do just that, sign the deal with the agreement that he is traded to one of a few teams, because I can’t see the Nuggets agreeing to take back Eddy Curry, which is the only way a trade can be made there without involving 4 or 5 teams.  If this happens, the Rockets would absolutely be in the mix.  What would they have to trade to get him?  That’s the big question. I’m guessing the Nuggets would start with something like Aaron BrooksKevin Martin and one of the Knicks draft picks (or right to the swap pick), which would get them almost all the way to the 17 million that Carmelo is owed this season.  Would you do that?… The answer is, of course you would.  I really, really like Kevin Martin and think, without this trade, he’s going to be awesome as a Rocket this year.  Top 20 player awesome.  That said, you have a backup point guard that is getting paid like a decent starter and who can absolutely run the team.  You also just traded for a guy that Morey believes is a capable starter in this league.  Put that together and that trade would be acceptable.  Look at it another way though, has Morey ever been the guy that traded the most away?  Or settled for an easy deal like that? Nope, and while if it came down to it, I think he would accept the trade, there is no team that can even come close to that deal.  So why should the Rockets have to?  Sadly, the trade machine is not working for me right now, so I can’t put forth an exact trade.  However, I think something more along the lines of Martin and Battier would do it.  Let’s not get that twisted around, I think Morey would do everything he could to keep Martin here, but the Nuggets won’t be looking for salary cap relief.  There is absolutely no point in it.  They aren’t really hurting for money from anything I’ve seen and they have a good team even without Anthony, though clearly not a contender.  So they’d want to stay relatively young as well as be a viable ‘if thing break right’ Finals contender.  So no, Battier and Jefferies with some picks isn’t going to get it done.”
  • ESPN – ‘Rudy Fernandez unhappy’: “The agent for Rudy Fernandez says the Portland Trail Blazers swingman does not want to return to the NBA. Agent Andy Miller told several media outlets that Fernandez wants to play in Europe and is willing to sit out for the next two seasons, the time left on his contract with the Blazers. Blazers general manager Rich Cho says the team has looked at several possible deals involving the Spaniard, but none of them has made sense for Portland.”
  • The NBA Playbook describes the type of point guards which make the best rebounders.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie ranks the top point guards, 1 through 10, 11 through 20, and 21 through 30. Coming up at 21st and 29th are Brooks and Lowry, an assessment with which the The Dream Shake takes issue.
  • Ric Bucher – “Sources: Carmelo Anthony likely to go’: “All signs continue to point toward the eventual divorce between Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets. League sources say it is now a matter of when, not if, Anthony and the Nuggets will go their separate ways. Anthony is weighing whether to sign a three-year, $65 million extension offered by the Nuggets. His dilemma, league sources say, is what affords him the best chance of continuing his career elsewhere. Anthony could sign with Denver and convince the team to then trade him. His other option would be to not sign the extension, thereby forcing the team to move him rather than risk losing him next summer as a free agent.”
  • C.A. Clark – ‘Player Report Card: Kobe Bryant’: “Let’s start this season review with the beginning of the season.  In November, Kobe Bryant started the season as good or better than I’ve ever seen him.  Fresh off his off-season lessons with The Dream, and with Pau Gasol missing the first 13 games of the season, Kobe took the ball down to the high post and went to work.  As it turns out, he’s pretty damn unstoppable down there.  For the month, Kobe averaged 29.9 points per game, but he did it on 51% shooting, well above his career average.  Bryant’s never been the most efficient player in the NBA, but at the start of this season, he looked like he’d make a run at it.  The return of Pau Gasol in late November forced Kobe out of the paint, and his shooting suffered slightly, dropping to 48% for the month, but he was still playing spectacularly.  31 points on 24 shots, 6 rebounds, 5 assists on a winning team … I can honestly say I don’t remember Kobe playing any better than this his entire career… Sadly, it was never meant to last.  In mid-December, Kobe reached for an errant Jordan Farmar pass and it broke his finger (the exact injury is called an avulsion fracture).  An injury like that would put most NBA players on the shelf for six weeks.  Kobe didn’t miss a game.  He actually played pretty well with huge cast now residing on the index finger of his shooting hand, literally changing his shooting motion mid-season to take nearly all the pressure off the broken finger and place it on the middle finger.  If Kobe’s injury list had been limited to just that finger, he might have been just fine. Instead, he was treated to a never ending list of maladies.  Back Spasms.  Tendonitis in the knee.  A sprained ankle.  He was able to deal with one injury, but when everything started stacking up, Kobe’s performance finally suffered…  After Game 7, an ebullient Kobe talked about the idea that he was getting old, and saying that the only reason his performance throughout the season wasn’t up to his usual standards was because he was hurt.  People could talk about him getting old all they wanted, he was just hurt. Therein lies my problem with Kobe Bryant’s season.  I’ve already talked about the admirable nature of playing through injury to help your team (a large reason why I graded Andrew Bynum as high as I did), but Kobe’s desire to play through the pain this season went well past stupid and bordered on insane.  Sacrificing the ability to heal in order to provide a shell of what you are capable of is noble in June, but to do so in January and February just doesn’t make any sense.  This off-season, we’ve heard rumors that Kobe’s finger may never heal properly, and the reason for that isn’t because of him playing in May and June.”
  • Straight Outta Vancouver posts a couple of flashy videos of Rudy Gay.
  • Kevin Arnovitz interviews Matt Winick about the complexities involved in building a NBA schedule.
  • Greg Payne – ‘Pierce Thinks Wallace Could Return Around February’: “Rasheed Wallace is retired. Let me make that clear from the start. He has been waived by the Celtics and he hasn’t wavered from his decision to hang ‘em up. However, the idea of Wallace coming out of retirement and returning to the Celtics in the latter stages of next season was being suggested by some long before the official announcement of his retirement broke the news cycle. If you ask Paul Pierce, that option is still on the table… ‘I told him, ‘Go ahead, do all you need to do,’ Pierce said. ‘Take the kids everywhere. We’ll see you in February.'”
  • Ken Berger – ‘Melo leaving familiar trail’: “Anthony’s hesitation to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets goes beyond his desire to enjoy the major-market exposure and pressure that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade turned down this summer. Melo would accept other destinations as well, and the Magic are believed to be at the top of his list along with the Knicks, according to a person familiar with his strategy.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN digs into the archives to find an instructional video led by Hubie Brown on how to set screens and read defenses.
  • Darius Soriano – ‘Dr. Buss Speaks, You Should Listen’: “The Lakers were intent on not standing pat.  Their goal was to build as strong a team as possible that could manage to defeat any opponent rather than gearing up for one specific team. And this is a mentality that has been lost on other contenders over the past couple of seasons.  Look at the 2009-10 Cavs for example.  That team aquired Shaq during the off-season to deal with Dwight Howard and then traded for Antawn Jamison at the trade deadline in order to better match up with Rashard Lewis, both of whom play for the Magic.  This would seem like common sense considering the Magic eliminated the Cavs the previous Spring.  However, these moves proved to be short sighted as the Cavs never faced the Magic in the 2010 playoffs and instead were dispached by the Celtics in six games.  You see the Celtics had the perfect counter to the moves that the Cavs made to “improve” as they attacked Shaq in P&R and off ball screen actions that took advantage of his limited mobility on defense while smothering Jamison with a long and (still) athletic defender in KG.  This forced the Cavs to turn to a Lebron-centric offense that the Celtics are built to shut down over the course of a playoff series.  Really, the results were inevitable as the Cavs roster was not built to beat all comers, but was instead built to beat ones that depended on big man play (the Magic or Lakers) that they never ended up facing… Meanwhile, look at teams like Boston and the Lakers.  These are teams that continue to self scout, identify general weaknesses that matter against every oponent, and them attempt to address them through their personnel decisions.  This past off-season, Boston knew that it was short on big man depth and acquired the O’neal’s (Shaq and Jermaine).  They also knew that they were short on perimeter defenders and back court scoring and then sought to retain Marquise Daniels (who is better than the showed in an injury riddled season last year) and Nate Robinson.  When you combine those moves with the retention of Ray Allen, Pierce, KG, and an improving Rondo and you have a versatile roster that can match up with any team in the league by scoring enough and clamping down on defense.  As for the Lakers, you see the same approach of identifying weaknesses and then moving to improve those areas.  Need a steadier point guard that can play with either the starters or the resevers?  Enter Steve Blake.  Need a back up SF that can defend, rebound, shoot the three ball, and slash off the ball?  Go get Matt Barnes.  Even by retaining Shannon Brown and dr”afting Ebanks/Caracter, the Lakers addressed their youth and athleticism concerns.   This is how you build a team.”
  • Hardwood Paroxsym – ‘With So Many Light-Years to Go’: “The Miami Heat have the potential to re-write the book of basketball convention. Not only is the team talented enough to be tremendously successful according to conventional standards, but their makeup and synthesis are so tremendously unique that they could radically change the unwritten rules of the sport. Everything from the importance and function of the point guard to the means of acquiring talent to the superstar mentality is now up for debate, and those conversations could and should rage on well beyond the day when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh’s time together in Miami comes to an end. Among Miami’s more interesting potential contributions to the basketball discussion is an organizational change to one of the game’s most storied and emblematic plays: the last-second shot… Statistically speaking, James is not only Miami’s best player, but also their top performer in the clutch. LeBron averaged more points per minute in clutch situations than any other player last season, thanks to shooting 48.8% from the field while leading the league in free throw attempts per clutch minute. Wade’s ’09-’10 clutch numbers weren’t great, but the man essentially won the 2006 championship with his ability to score, create, and get to the line late in the game (plus, for what it’s worth, he was a much better clutch performer in ’08-’09). With two remarkable clutch options, who do the Heat go to when they need a last-second bucket? The beauty of that question may be in the fact that there is no consistently correct answer. Opponents will no doubt be aware that James and Wade are the preferred options, but Erik Spoelstra has an opportunity to really push opposing defenses to their limits with the collection of talent laid before him. All it takes is an actual play. Not screening for LeBron so he can catch the ball 25 feet from the basket and go to work. Not just running a counter to get Wade open. I’m talking about a real NBA set, complete with off-ball action, staggered screens, three-point shooters who don’t have their feet nailed to the ground in the corner, and maybe even a slash to the basket. Feel free to gasp. Miami is set for incredible success this season not just because James, Wade, and Bosh are all immensely talented, but because of the way that talent will allow them to play off one another. Giving the ball to LeBron or Wade alone to isolate betrays the team’s most obvious strength, whereas operating in a more structured endgame offense would allow the Heat to be brutally effective down the stretch in close games.”
  • Neil Paine of Basketball Reference discusses which offensive rate stats remain the most consistent when a player changes roles.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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