[video] The rookies, at last

Unarguably the most curious development of this young season had been, up to this point, the conspicuous absence of Houston’s heralded rookies from the lineup.  After being featured heavily during the preseason, and after having turned in stellar summer camp performances, the trio of Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, and Royce White hadn’t seen a single minute all year.  Today, with assistant coach Kelvin Sampson acting in place of Kevin McHale (on leave of absence for the illness of his daughter), that changed.

Donatas Motiejunas saw five minutes of garbage time action, scoring three points and earning a trip to the line in that frame.  Upon checking in, he immediately went to the post, attacking his man with a quick fake-and-go, drawing the foul. It’s a move we had seen him use a lot during the preseason.  After the video you see above, off-camera, I asked D-Mo specifically about that move.

“You know where I learned that move?  Watching Luis Scola five years ago.”

“But yours is nothing like his, you do it much more quickly,” I replied.

“You always have to make things better,” he said, with a wink.

Terrence Jones actually got significant minutes, checking in when the game had not yet been decided.  His absence so far had been the most puzzling.  The rookie four-man had started most-to-all of the team’s games in the preseason and, with his play,  seemed to at least have secured a spot for himself in the rotation.

Tonight, he checked in and immediately attacked, throwing up two wild, horrifically awkward shots in the span of a minute; the nerves were certainly at play.  Overall, he finished 1-6 for five points in his twelve minutes, but he brought a new element to the position which we hadn’t yet seen.  He provided energy, blocking two shots and running the floor, and while he was not accurate, he put pressure on the opposing defense by spotting up and attacking the rim off the dribble.  These were skills his counterparts at the position (Patterson, Morris) don’t have.

Most fascinating though was the context of Jones’ insertion into the lineup, revealed during the postgame presser.  When we asked about the decision, said Kelvin Sampson:

“One of the things I’m always on Patrick about, is he has to rebound better. At some point you have to earn the right to stay on the floor. We all have responsiblities…

Last night I didnt think we defensive rebounded as well as we should. And, I wanted to see if Terrence could.”

In my four years covering the team, spanning from Rick Adelman until this point, I don’t think I recall a Rockets coach publicly criticize a player the way Sampson discussed Patterson.  In fact, I was almost shocked when the words came out of his mouth.

Overall, Sampson was extremely candid while taking our questions, making for easily the most insightful presser I’ve heard in some time (second to only the night Kevin McHale told us he had asked himself why he had taken the job.)

Sampson revealed that the team tracks pick & roll defensive coverage during the game and instantaneously provides this information to the bench.  He said that last night, at times, the Rockets were 90% on their side pick & roll coverages, 80% on their mid pick & roll coverages, and 75% defending the rim.  I hadn’t heard before that the team used in-game data to provide for adjustments.  Then again, we don’t know if it had even been given heed before.

Sampson talked about Asik glowingly, but then added, in response to a question about his post-game, that the center seemed like a Russian gymnast on offense, never finishing a move on the same side of the basket as he had begun.

Still, the big storyline last night was the switch of Jones for Patterson.  Under McHale, we wouldn’t have seen it.  That’s significant in projecting what happens going forward.  Both men–even Sampson last night–have nothing but praise for Patterson’s intelligence in team coverage.  The man simply does not make mistakes and that quality is held at a premium by coaches.  But his weaknesses are evident: he’s not much of an offensive threat and perhaps more troubling, he’s a poor rebounder.

Will Jones continue to be given minutes in these next few games?  We hold McHale and his family in our prayers.  What happens upon the coach’s return if Jones flourishes?  Will Patterson be reinserted?  I had been predicting since the summer that Patterson would lose his job by January at the earliest.  Those wheels seem to now be in motion.  The tricky part though, is that the impetus was a coaching change.

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Total comments: 18
  • Ostrow says 1 YEAR ago The problem right now with Parson, Patterson, and Asik playing at the same time is that none of them are really scorers. That leaves Lin and Harden as the only "scorers" on the floor. Lin has been struggling scoring right now, and his jumper isn't consistent enough at the moment. That means that Harden is the only guy who can get buckets right now in the starting rotation, and as we saw at the end of the last game, when good teams can key on one guy, that guy will be shut down, except for maybe one or two guys. A perfect example of our problem is at the end of the game when Harden got doubled and there was good ball movement which lead to a wide open three and we shot an airball. That shot has to be made.

    Also, why wasn't Asik in the game while Wade was shooting free throws? He was subbed in when Bosh was, but I don't know why he wouldn't have been in there to begin with. We had a TO. He wasn't going to play on the offensive end. why wasn't the guy we brought in to rebound in to rebound?
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago As noted in another thread, this team will not be successful playing the trio of Asik, Patterson and Parsons together for extended minutes. The Rockets' staff needs to give a substantial portion of Patterson's minutes to Jones and D Mo to see what they can do. But Patterson is proving with each passing game that his decline in efficiency metrics last season was no aberration. He is a backup NBA player, at best.
  • Zero Zero says 1 YEAR ago Can we just put McHale on an indefinite leave of absence and keep Sampson on the bench?
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    rocketrick, on 11 November 2012 - 23:48 PM said:


    It's much too early in the season to expect any (much less all) of our rookies to be getting major playing time. They have to prove themselves in practice and when they can beat out the guy ahead of them and not hurt the team (defensive rotations are more important than most realize, for instance), they will begin earning some playing time. Then of course they have to produce to continue earning more playing time as the guy(s) behind them should always continue competing for their spot..


    I agree 100%.
  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago It's much too early in the season to expect any (much less all) of our rookies to be getting major playing time. They have to prove themselves in practice and when they can beat out the guy ahead of them and not hurt the team (defensive rotations are more important than most realize, for instance), they will begin earning some playing time. Then of course they have to produce to continue earning more playing time as the guy(s) behind them should always continue competing for their spot.

    In regards to Royce White, I wouldn't expect the Rockets organization to give him on up so quickly and so easily. Marcus Morris is an excellent example. Even I have stated on these boards I thought Morris was done as a Rocket. He is playing admirably well in his role and I expect he will continue growing in confidence and improving his game as the season goes on. Morris is a lot quicker than I thought he would be and now I see why the Rockets were so keen on trying to convert him to playing the 3.
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago I feel pretty bad for Jones in that they told him to go out and grab rebounds, and he didn't get one, despite having two blocks and knocking down a three. I hope that doesn't hamstring his chances to get back out there next game.
    It's frustrating to see guys who are gifted and bring a lot to the court get benched because they can't fill a role the coach wants. That said, I think Jones will be able to get rebounds if he continues to get playing time.
    On Motiejunas: that post move was scary. If he could get his defense and rebounding together, he could command a double team in the post and GREATLY free things up for Harden. A successful team needs at least two guys who command a double team, and right now we only have one.
  • Chichos says 1 YEAR ago I think PPat is our Brandon Bass with a little more defense and a little less hops. His jump shot is supposed to space the floor for a post man only Asik isn't ready to be our low post threat. If you pair him with a strong post presence I would expect his offensive numbers to improve immediately.

    Defensively PPat is a lot like Battier was. He always seems to be in the area he needs to be pestering someone who needs to be pestered. But if Sampson called out his rebounding then he wasn't rebounding. Rockets track balls controlled where a player either rebounds it himself or tips it to another player who controls it. So when Sampson says he isn't rebounding he means PPat isn't fighting to control that defensive rebound.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Rockets best fan, I agree with you. Patterson is basically a bench player on most very good teams. I do think Patterson has a role to play and it has to do with defense, coming off the bench and setting an example for other players with regards to playing for team but that is all down the road.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago On Patterson I agree with you Dan. Rebounds and blocks would not be a good judge of PPat's defensive effect. Advanced stats like points allowed with him on the court versus him off the court would be more telling. Also I checked some SynergySports comparisons and Patrick Patterson was ranked ahead of Ibaka in field goal percentage allowed (he surrenders 42% FGP) which is not bad considering some of Patterson's defensive assignments this year (Smith, Aldridge).

    I knew that about the migraines but I was wondering if anyone (looking at those in the know) heard anything more detailed.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Johnny Rocket, on 11 November 2012 - 18:26 PM said:


    My sense is that the Rockets are giving Patterson a real shot to prove himself, but it is clear he's not getting it done. His effective field goal percentage is horrible, his rebounding is terrible, and his defense is average. Yes, he rarely makes mistakes, but he's not athletic nor long enough to shut down the league's best starting power forwards. Six games is a small sample size, but at this point whatever Patterson adds on defense does not offset his offensive limitations. The real answer to the Rocket's problems at power forward might be Greg Smith. His advanced statistics are through the charts (small sample size warning!), but he has the size to rebound and defend in a way that Patterson cannot. And he's only 22--the same age as D-MO and only a year older than T. Jones.
    greg smith does not have enough range on his shot to be at PF. I agree with you that patt isn't getting it done. patt is a bench player not a starter. watching the rotation on the team i;m beginning to wonder why the rooks have not seen more time. patt does not offer enough of a scoring option to be the starter, and while he may be a good defensive rotation player rebounding is more important to me. nba players rarely shoot above 50% which means there will be a lot of rebounds. patt ain't grabbing his share. we must have double digit rebounds nightly from that spot.
  • Johnny Rocket says 1 YEAR ago My sense is that the Rockets are giving Patterson a real shot to prove himself, but it is clear he's not getting it done. His effective field goal percentage is horrible, his rebounding is terrible, and his defense is average. Yes, he rarely makes mistakes, but he's not athletic nor long enough to shut down the league's best starting power forwards. Six games is a small sample size, but at this point whatever Patterson adds on defense does not offset his offensive limitations. The real answer to the Rocket's problems at power forward might be Greg Smith. His advanced statistics are through the charts (small sample size warning!), but he has the size to rebound and defend in a way that Patterson cannot. And he's only 22--the same age as D-MO and only a year older than T. Jones.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago Bob - I have to disagree with you. Patterson's value isn't on the boards or in blocking shots. It's that he doesn't miss rotations. It's something valued very highly. For instance, someone like Jordan Hill can be a monster on the boards at times, but he is subject to frequent lapses. Those cause total defensive breakdowns. That isn't there with Patterson.
  • Dan G says 1 YEAR ago

    bob schmidt, on 11 November 2012 - 17:58 PM said:


    Hmmm... Statistically, Patterson may be far less a part of that than most realize. Looking at the actual stats for our first 6 games, http://www.basketbal...s/HOU/2013.html , 2Pat is only 7th on the team in rebounding rate, behind Delfino to my great surprise, and has only 2 blocks in close to 150 minutes of play so far. Aside from pedestrian defensive numbers, he is not doing much offensively either. It also says something when the defensive coach (Sampson) is calling him out for not rebounding very well. I guess that at this point I will have to disagree with you on this point Rahat. The actual numbers do not support your comment.


    The rebounding rate is alarming but defensive numbers aren't solely based on blocks. Asik isn't getting as many blocks as I thought he would either but he is changing alot of shots, making people miss and not allowing people in the paint. I haven't seen Patterson enough to know if he is doing those type of things, but if he is, those are the type of things that don't really show up in the box score but definitely matter.
  • Dan G says 1 YEAR ago

    feelingsupersonic, on 11 November 2012 - 16:45 PM said:

    Also on a side note anyone hear anything about Royce White? I have hunch he might be out if he doesn't get it together or get a plan to make his NBA career a workable situation.


    From what I saw on The Chron, White is suffering from migraines.

    http://stats.chron.c...0&type=injuries
  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago

    Rahat Huq, on 11 November 2012 - 16:26 PM said:


    Not sure how I feel on it. Our defense is 4th stingiest so far in the league and Patterson is a big part of that.


    Hmmm... Statistically, Patterson may be far less a part of that than most realize. Looking at the actual stats for our first 6 games, http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2013.html , 2Pat is only 7th on the team in rebounding rate, behind Delfino to my great surprise, and has only 2 blocks in close to 150 minutes of play so far. Aside from pedestrian defensive numbers, he is not doing much offensively either. It also says something when the defensive coach (Sampson) is calling him out for not rebounding very well. I guess that at this point I will have to disagree with you on this point Rahat. The actual numbers do not support your comment.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago

    Rahat Huq, on 11 November 2012 - 16:26 PM said:


    Not sure how I feel on it. Our defense is 4th stingiest so far in the league and Patterson is a big part of that.


    Might I add that despite it being a small sample size it has been achieved against a sampling of good, average and one poor offensive team at this early point in the season. Top and bottom the defensive success is not just against the poor offensive teams.

    As this team begins building from the ground up I would like to see defense as the foundation.

    Also on a side note anyone hear anything about Royce White? I have hunch he might be out if he doesn't get it together or get a plan to make his NBA career a workable situation.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago Not sure how I feel on it. Our defense is 4th stingiest so far in the league and Patterson is a big part of that.
  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago Based upon my own feelings of frustration at not seeing Jones, Motie, Smith, and White getting a few minutes here and there, I can only imagine how they feel. As to Patterson, I've seen enough to feel like he deserves no lock as our starting PF. I don't dislike him, but I do not see him as our best option... But then again, I am not a coach...........