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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