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The Rockets Daily – September 27, 2013

Omer Asik ≠ General Manager – In an interview with the Houston Chronicle about the start of the season, Kevin McHale presented this gem:

Q. Are you concerned about how he reacts to all this? There were indications he was not happy about having another center coming in.

A. I didn’t know Omer was the general manager. That surprises me. He’s a player. His job is to come in and play. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk with him about all that, but Daryl (Morey’s) job is to try to improve the team. Omer’s job is not to wonder how that affects him. His job is to figure out how they can play together and be effective.

Kevin McHale is not your den mother.

He shared some other interesting points in the interview, including that he intends to play Dwight Howard and Asik together as much as possible, but also that he will keep Howard close to the basket on defense. Back injuries notwithstanding, it would seem like Howard is a better guy than Asik to chase power forwards around. On the other hand, rim protection is the most important part of any defense, and you want your best rim protector doing that at all times. Asik may have to sacrifice on both ends of the floor this year.

Star Talk – Jason Friedman wrapped up his series of interviews with players with pieces on James Harden and Howard. I found Harden’s interview to be more interesting, maybe because he hasn’t been rehearsing answers to every possible question all summer. But Harden definitely played it smart when asked about his reaction to the beef between Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade:

JH: I don’t have one. KD, that’s my guy. He said what he had to say and that’s it.

Good answer. Harden may turn out to be better than Dwyane Wade over 82 games this season, but Wade still has the ability to destroy just about any wing in the world for a game or two. He has Harden in his sights, and the Beard doesn’t want to make this situation any worse.

Harden was also remarkably candid about his defense:

JH: it’s definitely a huge focus of mine. Last year everything was new for me: playing that amount of minutes and having to do so much on the offensive end. My defense was slacking, I can admit that. In my previous couple years in Oklahoma City my defense was very good. So I’m trying to get back to good principles, good habits, and being more solid guarding the ball — that’s what I’m working on.

At the start of the interview, Harden talked about his conditioning, which may be the root of the problem with his defense. He spent some much energy running the offense last year that he knowingly took possessions off on defense. Only a few perimeter players in the league (LeBron, Durant and Wade, basically) are capable of playing at Harden’s level on offense while playing excellent defense every night. Defense will be the difference between Harden becoming the next Dwayne Wade or the next Carmelo Anthony.

In Howard’s interview, he gave some insight into how he communicates with his guards on the pick and roll:

The main thing that I tell any guard that I play with is that when I set the screen, attack that big. Make the defense make a decision. Make my man make a decision. If he’s going to stay with me, you’re going to get a dunk or a layup. If he leaves me, just throw it to the rim. We’ve talked about all of this. The biggest thing I tell those guys is that every time they get the ball in the pick-and-roll is to just be aggressive – it opens up the whole floor. I want to be aggressive in rolling, but there’s times where, the way that I set those guys up, it’s going to open up everything for everybody else. I’m going to get my shots.

This echoes what Daryl Morey has said in the past about Dwight’s effectiveness playing with attacking guards like Jeremy Lin, and it shows that Howard understands the mechanics of why he’s so good next to those guards.

Also, does this not explain why Howard hated playing in Los Angeles? It may not have been as simple as “Dwight doesn’t like playing the pick-and-roll.” It had to do with the fact that D’Antoni was trying to run PnR’s with Geriatric Steve Nash (much more of a threat to shoot than to drive), Steve Blake’s corpse (zero threat to drive), and Kobe “I’m-Going-To-Pass-Jordan-On-The-Points-Leaderboard” Bryant (he’s going to shoot the ball, period).  None of those guys were going to pressure the opposing big man the way Harden or Lin do when coming off a pick, therefore none of those guys were going to create easy chances for Howard to score.

Rankage – Francisco Garcia and Donatas Motiejunas ranked 239 and 244 in ESPN’s Player Rankings. I think that may be too high for Motiejunas (he’s one spot above Chauncey Billups) and too low for Garcia, who is still being penalized for being on the Kings for so many years.

Something that cannot be ignored: Kelly Olynyk is somehow ranked 202. This is ludicrous. If you were to cut his hair, change his name, change his skin color, or put him on any team other than the Celtics, he would rank in the 400′s. The “Great White Hope” phenomenon sadly refuses to die.

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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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Total comments: 14
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago

    My money is on H2H

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I kind of like that he admits it, but time will tell if he actually excert more effort.

    From my point of view was that I critized his defence was the fact that if you score 25 points and basically let your less talented opponent you are suppose to guard ei spot up shooter which was the case for Harden it shouldn't be that hard to just make that extra step to contest that shot. Often the opposing player would get close to 20 points and it would be the worst offensive wing player. so if your net point is plus five against a far worse talented player, I would expect more. Granted its a new role, but I just wanted the effort, but often Harden would half heartedly go for the steal or already sprinting up to the Off half rather than make the extra effort. People also said he would pick it up in the playoffs which I didn't notice either.

    What bothered me most was that we rockets fan kept saying that he should be a top 5 player or elite etc. But for me an elite player is someone who is great offensive and at least adequate defensively. My concern is that he develops into a Melo type of player. He is ELITe offensiveyl but overall he just an all star below players like D12, Kobe, KD, LBJ. Which is not bad either but we need more for us to win a championship. I do believe he has the phsyical attributes its more of mental mindset. I rather him score 20 ppg and play good defence than 26ppg with the same as last years effort. Those 6 points he gives up on offence he will make up easily on the defensive side.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    It is always good to hear any player identifying their weakness and commited working on it. A positive thing IMO.

    totally agree...............before you can work to fix the problem you must identify it. he has done that.

  • BrentYen says 1 YEAR ago

    It is always good to hear any player identifying their weakness and commited working on it. A positive thing IMO.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I like the straight shooting myself. I am a fan of hearing the truth and him saying that in that interview at this stage of his career is just going to be noticed by hardcore Rockets fans, it's not even a blip on NBA radar and no one really will take notice.

    It really just means that with a year of carrying a franchise and with some help he will refocus himself which is great news. I guess I am a little more optimistic than you. I really like his talk of developing his leadership in actions (like the story about practice) and verbally.
  • BrentYen says 1 YEAR ago

    I think it is ok, giving a reason is not equal to giving an excuse.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago True. But we've heard the same thing from the coaches. I just don't think it was a good move for him to address the issue.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Fair enough I think I understand how you see it timetodie I just disagree. Even if you want to view Harden as making excuses I would say being thrown in a "new" role of carrying a franchise and acknowledging the "amount of minutes" increase he took on are some pretty darn good excuses for having an imperfect elite season performance.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago That could be the case, FSS. However, why speak about it. It sounds like an excuse. I think Harden will step his defense up to adequate, but I just didn't like the statement, even if it was true.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Thanks for another good Daily Jeby. I am not surprised by the Harden quote. All the numbers point to him having expended most of his energy on offense last season as part of the team's plan. I frankly didn't understand the knee jerk reactions from some Rocket and NBA fans that believed Harden did not care about defense. He is going to be a solid perennial All NBA guard that is effective at both ends of the court in my opinion.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    I read the Howard interview, what does Red94 think the Howard /Harden combo should be nicknamed? We need to get this in place by the beginning of the season..

    H 2 Oooooooh!

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago No one really stands out that olynyk was ranked ahead of its 202 not like there's a bunch of world beaters that's pretty much average you'd think you can get an average nba player with a top 15pick in any draft.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago Lol. Always got to play the race card. I'm disappointed.

    Kelly Olynyk was the 13th pick in the draft.
    He's also very polished on the offensive end.
    He looked very good in the summer league.

    Whatever. We're all entitled to our opinions. I just don't understand why you would say that if not to try and inflame racial tensions on this board(something I haven't experienced here).
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    it's been awhile since you had this much to work with.......excellent read. one point I found interesting was Harden's admittance that he was slacking on the defense last year and his focus to return to the player he was in OKC on defense. looks like he's been listening to you guys who knock his defense and plans to improve. that's GREAT news. Jeby I agree with you...........a lot of Howard not wanting to play the P&R was who the Lakers were asking him to run it with. it will become a staple of our offense.

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