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The Rockets Daily – September 19, 2013

Dream SpeakHakeem Olajuwon talked at length to FOX 26 in Houston about Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin, both of whom has has been training. Aside from calling them a “deadly” pick-and-roll combo, what I found more interesting was how Olajuwon took umbrage to being quoted as saying Dwight Howard was “raw.”

“That was insulting,” Olajuwon said. “The guy’s been in the league for 10 years. Every time I work with him, I see him train, I’m more impressed to see how much talent and how far he can take it.

“So how can you say that kind of player is raw. I was very upset because that was insulting to me and to Dwight.”

The “raw” statement came from this piece by Jason Friedman, which was published on the team’s site last month. The exact quote was:

“As good as he is right now, he’s still very raw. But he has all the tools so I’m like a kid in a candy store. That’s why we give him the fundamentals of these moves. There’s a rhythm. And once he sees it, then it’s easier to emulate and then incorporate with power. He has the power. Now we’re adding finesse to the power.

“The best big men in the game – they’re game-changers. That’s what he is. And he’s in the right situation where the coach understands it, he demands it, and Dwight can give it.”

So what do we make of Olajuwon’s claim of being misquoted?

Without having the tape of the original interview, I would say it’s a safe bet that those words did indeed come out of Dream’s mouth in that order. I would also say that he chose the word “raw” to refer to Dwight’s incredibly high ceiling rather than to his overall lack of ability. After all, he follows that statement up with saying Dwight is among “the best big men in the game.” He’s probably also peeved because two words in an otherwise complimentary statement about Howard turned into a bunch of headlines like this one.

He wasn’t misquoted, but it’s understandable why he would be upset. (Confession: I went back to check on what I wrote when I linked to that first article after it was published, just to make sure I didn’t make a big deal out of the “raw” quote. So glad I didn’t. I’ve ticked off plenty of people with things that I’ve written, but none of them were my childhood hero.)

Back to the subject of Lin and Howard–ESPN’s Amin Elhassan weighed in with his take:

 Ranketology – Another day of ESPN’s NBA Player Rankings, and another Rocket has been added to the list: Marcus Camby. At 363, he’s down more than 200 spots from his 2012 ranking. Camby is coming off what was by far the worst season of his career, and he’s 39 years old. Despite all of that, I feel like he is one of the few players in the 300-400 range of NBA rank who could still give you two elite skills (rebounding and defense) for about ten minutes per night. In my mind, that puts him ahead of the myriad vaguely skilled twenty-somethings (yo, Quincy Miller) who surround him on the list.

Kelvin Sampson and the Straight Shot – If you ever want to get a straight answer from a member of the Rocket’s coaching staff, then Kelvin Sampson is your guy. He tells it like it is, and this interview with Rockets.com is no exception.

Hey Kelvin*, how was the defensive intensity last year?

If you look at our roster, other than Omer last year, almost everybody else on our roster was in the league because of their offense. Pat Beverley and Omer were the only two guys on our team who hung their hat at the defensive end.

Oh, okay. Well how about Harden and Parsons? They’re kind of the leaders of the team, right?

But James [Harden] has to be more conscientious. Chandler [Parsons], defense has to be more important to him. Those are the guys that we’re going to challenge this year. Our perimeter defense has to be better.

Man, you make it sound like those guys are the weak links or someth–

Where we’ve got to make our biggest improvement though, Jason, is at the one, two and three, especially the two and the three — those were our biggest holes defensively.

Alright. I get it. James and Chandler are dogging it. Is there anything else you want to say about guys who aren’t really pulling their weight for half the game?

Last year we had a lot of guys who were one-way players – they were all offensive guys. We ran and ran and ran and ran, and with our pace we found that a lot of times our guys would rest up on defense. Championship teams don’t rest on defense. It has to be more important to Chandler Parsons this year to play both ends. James has got to be a two-way player. Jeremy Lin has got to be a better two-way player. Dwight will help some of that, but he was on the Lakers last year and they weren’t a great defensive team – just because you have Dwight doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good defensive team. For us, we’ll make that huge step up when our guys start taking defense more seriously and that’s our responsibility to help get them there.

Thanks, coach. Good talk.

*(These are not Jason Friedman’s actual questions, but Sampson’s quotes are real.)

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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.