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The Rockets Daily – September 5, 2013

Know Thine Enemy – The Spurs blog Pounding the Rock has a fine preview of the Rockets’ upcoming season. A few points of interest:

  • The writer predicts Donatas Motiejunas as the starting PF with Smith backing him up, Garcia as the backup SG, and Casspi as the backup SF. Somehow that kind of traditional depth chart now strikes me as odd. More on that later.
  • On Houston’s style of play: “If they become a half court team that tries to use the post as one of its main weapons, the Spurs will eat them alive.” Yeah. Maybe, assuming that Tim Duncan is an ageless cyborg (very possible) and that Splitter and Dunacan can keep Asik and Howard from eating them alive on the boards (less possible). The writer is more afraid of what will happen if Houston runs a wide-open PnR attack, as is every team in the league.
  • On the big picture: “If everything works out and they figure out what to do with Lin and Asik, they could be a strong contender; there’s just too much talent there. But I can just as easily see them struggling to find an identity and going through a lot of roster churn on the way to a possible coaching change somewhere down the line.”

Crickets – In part three of ESPN Insider’s David Thorpe’s series on how to beat the Heat, Thorpe explains how teams will need unconventional schemes and/or future stars to topple LeBron. McHale gets a mention under the schemes section along with coaches of other teams with a shot at contention. But as for future stars? Not a single Rocket gets mentioned. No love for The Hair. No love for Patrick Beverley. No love for Lin. Nothing for D-Mo. Hopefully at least one of those guys can prove the scouts wrong (again).

Rolling in the Depth – As I alluded to above, traditional depth charts don’t seem like an adequate way to project this year’s team (or many teams for that matter). Since McHale operates on about an 8-man rotation, presenting each position as starter/backup/reserve doesn’t have much predictive value. For instance, consider how McHale will likely fill the SG spot:

  1. James Harden – starter
  2. Lin slides to the 2 as the team either goes small or Harden takes a breather
  3. Garcia fills the spot in a big lineup
  4. Brewer fills the spot in a special defensive lineup

It entirely possible that options 3 and 4 never even get used except in the case of injury or for seconds at a time at the end of quarters, in which case, the title of “backup SG” is irrelevant.

The picture gets even more muddled when you consider that Houston is likely to play some big wing players as “stretch-fours.” While Parsons is clearly a starter, I doubt it’s even safe to say he is the starting SF. He could be the starting stretch 4 with Garcia starting at the 3, or vice-versa. Parsons, Garcia, Casspi, Williams, Brewer and Covington could all conceivably slide between the 2, 3 and 4 spots depending on the situation, and Terrence Jones could play the 3 or 4. So while Motiejunas and Jones are ostensibly fighting for the starting PF spot, the competition may extend to all of those wing players as well, and those two guys could be left in the lurch. Truly, I don’t think anyone can predict what the rotation will look like until the coaches have settled on their style of play and evaluated who fills roles the best in training camp.

A Face in the Crowd – Buried in that list of wings was Robert Covington, the undrafted rookie out of Tennessee State who sat down for a Q & A with the team’s official site this week. One of the surprises from the interview was that Covington says he played out of position in college:

JCF: What do you see as your natural position?

RC: Small forward, definitely. In college I played power forward because I was one of the biggest guys on the team and my versatility allowed me to do that. I played at the three some also so that gave some people the idea that I was a tweener. But I’m a natural small forward who played power forward in college because that’s what my team needed most from me to help us win.

“Tweener.” That’s usually code for “can’t guard anybody,” right?

JCF: What are some of the things you picked up quickly that caught the eyes of the coaching staff?

RC: My defense. The way I guard my position and fight through screens. People have said that I wouldn’t be strong or tough enough, but these coaches have helped me overcome all of that. They’re so passionate about what they do, they see the upside in me, and they’re doing everything they can to bring that out of me.

Okay, now I’m interested. But can he shoot the…

JCF: I remember watching you play pick-up ball a few weeks ago. You found yourself on James Harden’s team early on and you caught fire from the outside, just draining one three after another with that effortless stroke and perfect rotation you have on your shot. At one point, James came over and was just like, ‘Man, that kid’s a sniper!’ How much does that mean to you to be on the receiving end of that sort of praise from a guy of his caliber?

RC: I mean, that to me is just great motivation. He’s seen what the coaches saw in me. That was the first time I’d set foot on the floor with those guys and it meant so much for him to say that to me that day and tell me, ‘You have great upside. You’re lights out when you get going, and that’s the style of play we need because we want shooters.’

…THREE! Now everything about Covington’s signing makes sense. The team signed the league’s most dominant big man, and immediately turned around and said, “We totally need a guy named Rob who can play and guard either forward spot and shoot from downtown.”

Welcome to Clutch City, Big Shot Rob. No pressure.

Got any sweet links or suggestions? Email them to jeby901@gmail.com or message @EbyNews on Twitter.

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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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