Rockets 116, Knicks 112

2010 March 22
by rahat huq

The irony of Tracy McGrady making accusations of proverbial bus-throwings is just too rich.  No further comment on this.  I have made my stance on McGrady quite clear.

As much as I try, I just simply can’t understand this mindset.  Unless there was some sort of personal acrimony at play here, the total short sightedness is appalling.  It would make sense if D’Antoni’s justification was that Hill was just so bad a player that he saw nothing worth developing.  That would make perfect sense.  But D’Antoni concedes that Jordan “wasn’t given a great chance,” somehow citing the team’s playoff hopes as his rationale.  He names four players, just one of whom were a part of the Knicks’ long term plans, who were ahead of Jordan in the pecking order, remarking that “there was no reason to not play Jared Jeffries ahead of Jordan.”  Seriously?  I have a pretty good reason.  It’s the same damn one that has led Rick Adelman to play Jordan ahead of Jared: You are the head coach of a non-playoff team and enjoy some of the best job security in the league.  How could it possibly not be in your best interests to develop the 8th pick in the draft – a guy who could help you in later years while you will undoubtedly still be around?  See, I can typically empathize with coaches of bad teams who sacrifice player development for meaningless wins because I understand the schism between management and coaching – in most cases, those younger coaches of bad teams don’t have the job security of their peers and cannot concern themselves with the future.  That’s not the case with D’Antoni.  So as I said, unless there’s something I don’t know about, this whole episode is quite baffling because D’Antoni’s on-the-record justification is beyond laughable.

Speaking of Jordan Hill, he scored 13 points and grabbed 5 boards in his 25 minutes of play.  Considering the fact that he has been closing out the 4th quarter of close games—Boston game not withstanding—it seems like Rick actually considers Jordan to be one of his two best bigs.  There’s a shocker.  Funny what happens when you allow a lottery pick to actually play.

Clyde Frazier and Mike Breen touched on Hill’s work ethic during the broadcast, something most Knicks’ observers have mentioned in the past few weeks.  He’ll never be a superstar or anything ridiculous like that.  But I just can’t see anything standing in Jordan Hill’s path from becoming an impact starter in this league.  He has the two most necessary ingredients for starter-level competence: work ethic and size/athleticism.  The IQ and the fine skillsets are what make good players great and in Hill’s case, that remains to be seen.  But with that body, that motor, and the alleged dedication, there’s really no way Jordan Hill isn’t grabbing 10 boards a game as a mainstay in someone’s lineup for the next 10 years.  Rest easy, my friends: this is not Stromile Swift.

Moving along, this was a very entertaining game to watch.  Part of that had to do with the broadcast crew of Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier, a duo that is my second favorite in the league (after Marv and the Czar who have reached such legendary status that they really shouldn’t count.)  It makes a difference who is calling the game and yesterday afternoon it did, for me at least.  Clyde Frazier just strikes me as a guy having the time of his life, calling the game he loves (at one point describing Kyle Lowry as having “feline quickness and canine tenacity.” – awesome.)

As a viewer, the game experience should go smoothly and naturally.  You shouldn’t be forced to take notice of the officiating.  That ruins the entire viewer experience.  In the old days, it was okay to have so-called “homers” because the broadcast was only run in your market and catered towards your audience.  But in this League Pass era, constant whining about the officiating is, not just obnoxious and ruinous to the viewing experience, but flat out embarrassing.  It reeks of a lack of professionalism and reflects poorly upon an organization, in my opinion.

Anyways, where were we?  In all honesty, if we want to get technical, it really would have been best for the Rockets to lose this game.  A Knicks win lowers Utah’s odds of landing the #1 pick, while each Rockets loss highers our odds.  But whatever.

Trevor went 5-9 from the floor, running the floor and filling the lanes.  I love Trevor in his new role.  Like I said before, aside from Jordan Hills’ emergence (and the fact that our backcourt is pretty much unguardable), the metamorphosis of Trevor Ariza has to stand as the most encouraging theme of the second half.  He’s now doing what we thought he would and looking like the multi-purpose small forward we have been craving since Jalen Rose undercut Mario Elie and ruined his Rocket career.

Chase Budinger finally woke up from his coma, scoring 18 off the bench.  Shock value on some of those dunks must be at least a 7 on a 10 scale for opposing fans.  Probably moreso than any other player on this team, the Rockets just look entertaining when Budinger is on his game.

Kevin Martin scored 28 points while Tracy McGrady had 15-7-5 in the matchup of cornerstone Rockets shooting guards past and present.  McGrady was dominant early, and will probably only get better as the leg gains strength, but you can clearly see why it was time to change course.  To be effective, Tracy McGrady needs the ball in his hands, and at this point in his career, his abilities don’t warrant such high usage.  On the other hand, while Martin will never be half the player Tracy was in his prime, his quick-strike style fits this outfit like a glove and will allow the team to load up on complementary weapons without the headache of shot distribution.  To put it simply, even though Kevin Martin shoots a lot and scores a lot, with the manner in which he does it, the ball is still hopping at all times so other guys can still get in on the fun.  McGrady on the other hand has to hold the ball and slow the pace to be at full force – guys have to play off of him to get theirs, it doesn’t just come naturally in the flow.  That was fine in the earlier part of this decade, but just won’t work anymore, sadly.  McGrady will still be effective in this league on the strength of his passing brilliance, but his days as an impact force are clearly over.  Looking back to that first press conference when he was introduced in Houston, his current plight is sad to think about.

Jared Jeffries was a game changer, coming off the bench for key defensive stops in the form of blocks and drawn charges.  Jeffries is just a menace defensively, from what I can tell, probably even better than Battier by virtue of his size.  He just doesn’t have the Duke credentials on his resume and has rotted away on bad teams his whole career so we hesitate to draw comparison.  If possible, this is a guy who I would love to see re-signed to a smaller contract in 2011, especially if Shane is traded elsewhere.

Aaron Brooks came off the bench in the final minutes to win the game.  The video below shows the deciding possession of the game, Brooks juking with, as Clyde Frazier described it, “Gallo right on his case…like Sherlock Holmes.”  It’s fun to watch Aaron abuse favorable matchups off the dribble, but the question is whether he can do this in the playoffs against people not named Derek Fisher/Steve Blake.  We saw Rondo eat his lunch on Friday.  As it currently stands, Aaron Brooks is this team’s closer, even with a healthy Yao, and that concerns me.  I don’t see him as a guy you can hand the ball to in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and request to bring in the victory.  And that guy is who we need if we are to win a title before Yao finally breaks.

Final note is administrative.  I had enabled anonymous commenting over the weekend only to turn it back off a mere 24 hours later.  The spam was overwhelming, but more importantly, several regular members expressed their concerns regarding the potential effects.

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  • tariq
    this was a great game, but i just wanted to post about the comments on the chronicle's website. Why is it that these "fans" are so in love with Aaron Brooks one moment (the NYK game) and completely turn on him and call him a terrible point guard when he has a bad game. I'll agree, he's not as good as Derrick Rose and he's not the best PG in the world, but he is an excellent shooter and scorer; people have bad games, it's true.
  • bob schmidt
    Jumping on and off of the bandwagon is predictable behavior, unfortunately. I didn't see the game as a great one by any means, but, whatever.

    I was left wondering after the game ended why only scola, ariza, and jeffries looked decent out on the court. Bud didn't look right, Hill wasn't producing, Hayes didn't do much of anything, Brooks couldn't shoot, Martin seemed "out of it", and Lowry looked so-so to me. Is everyone getting the flu or something? I hope so because we don't need any locker-room drama...........
  • mainsworth
    i think he was talking about the NY game.
    now, i hope you aren't saying Hill wasn't productive in that game, because he sure as hell was.

    last nights game was just terrible. 13 points in the third quarter. Amare had 18 in the fourth quarter alone for the suns.

    in conclusion, you are both right, but talking about different games.


    LEBRON - holy crap his name looks weird in all caps - (sign and trade of AB/Ariza/Andersen/NY picks/Shane)(i actually think Morey is gunning for Lebron HARD this offseason, with Hill hopefully developing and Yao, Bosh seems like a player that just becomes redundant in our lineup)

    Bosh is going to Miami with Wade.

    Lebron in Houston opens him up to 300 million Chinese basketball fanatics.

    NY will be stuck signing Joe Johnson to the max and resigning David Lee or signing Boozer, they will probably resign T-Mac to a MLE or under type contract - i think he could be a good facilitator next season.

    We have the pieces for a sign and trade (probably in better shape than 7/8 of league). With the addition of Kevin Martin and Lebron, AB is completely expendable, as he is a score first PG. Kyle Lowry would be a much better fit with Mart, Bron and Yao. Shane and Ariza are both expendable with the acquisition of Lebron. We also have the inciting NY picks that only appreciate in value with the sign and trade of a top tier free agent - keeping that player out of NY, and thus increasing the pick (only works with Wade(MIA)/Bosh(TOR)/Bron(CLE), as they are the only players who could turn around the Knicks, not my opinion, fact). Also, Lebron is in the East, and if the Cavs are forced to part with Lebron, they would rather he not go to another team in the East.

    A cavs lineup of:

    C: Varejao/Andersen (might resign Shaq if Lebron is out of town though)
    PF: Jamison/ Varejao/ Poe
    SF: Ariza/Battier
    SG: Brooks/Delonte - if Delonte returns to form next season I feel like he and AB would split time
    PG: Mo/Brooks/Gibson

    could compete in the East, better than losing Lebron straight up.

    Heck, maybe Morey does an about face and ships Martin in the package, after all, you gotta give up something to get something. Martin fills the SG void in Cleveland for sure. That would lead to a Martin, Ariza or Shane, Jeffries and NY Picks type package (21.5 million value +/-).

    In that case the Rockets look like this:

    Lebron/Ariza or Battier (I'd rather have Battier if we have Lebron)
    Manu (pretty logical MLE off season signing/Bud

    and the cavs:

    Ariza or Shane/Moon

    pretty good team in the East - top 4/5 still perhaps.

    I think a Sign and Trade between the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers has a chance to happen this off-season.
  • bob schmidt
    yep, my comments above were the chicago game, the NY game was a great one. Sorry I didn't make that clear.......
  • bushies
    Keep dreaming mainsworth
  • jcogz43
    doe the future shouldnt kevin martin be the one with the rock in his hands in clutch moments? he is a shooting guard so that helps from a postional standpoint and he has a better shot? just sayin...
  • jcogz43
    obviously not right now, but from a postional and skill shooting standpoint, shouldnt kevin martin be the one with the ball in his hands for the future
  • luislandry
    Oh yeah...Frazier is an AWESOME commentator. My favorite is still JVG, but Frazier brings a totally different spin to the job. The best 3 man booth would be JVG, Frazier, and Marv doing the play-by-play.
  • rahat_huq
    agreed. dream team booth would be jvg, frazier and marv. they should somehow put that together for the finals. 2nd team all-announcing would have to be kevin harlan, fratello, andddd.....not sure on a 3rd
  • luislandry
    Well, although almost no team tries this, we can actually run a PLAY to get a bucket in the final seconds. It doesn't have to be "let's find a guy who can iso, and if we don't have that we're not clutch". Run a play with some options, include K-mart, and if the end result is a kickout to an open Scola elbow jumper, that's a solid shot.
  • physicsgeekandrocketsfan
    I would much rather give our current starters playoff experience this year instead of giving the bench end-of-the-season-garbage experience. We should want to go into next season with a winning mentality not a "thank god yao is back we had no chance without him" mentality.

    P.S. Any commentator whose name is not Tommy Heinsohn is good in my book.
  • Keith08
    what re your thoughts on Camby coming as a back up to Yao? He has said recently he wants to be in Houston since that is where his home is. Could be interesting.
  • rahat_huq
    good question. i can't see us offering him more than the veteran's minimum. would he take that when he could get the same from a legit contender? not sure. would we pay him that over say, chuck hayes? i personally think we would go with chuck, now that jordan is looking like a legit shot blocker.
  • jason b.
    "In pain!"
    love your blog, sir.
    Brooks as closer concerns me, too. But I see no alternative.
  • Easy
    The last shot ("game winner") by Brooks worried me. It was a low percentage shot. The fact that it hit has nothing to do with the shot selection. He didn't seem to have anything in mind other than get the shot off. Maybe that was designed that way -- a clear out ISO one on one shot. But man, they put a tall guy on him and all the other defenders were ready to step in if he would blow past the man.

    Unless Brooks develops some Kobe-ish killer shooting, which I doubt very much although not impossible, that's not good. That shot could be fool's gold.
  • thirdcoastborn
    Brooks was abusing his mismatches before coming in at the end of the game and getting hot. I dont see him as the closer, before the trade and the emergence of Landry he was the closer .Depending on the situation, inside to Scola or Martin are the first and second options at the end of games. Hill still makes some bad fouls, but is a good combination with Scola. When he develops a jump shot and a few more inside moves, he will be hard to stop. With the Rockets playing the Spurs one more time this year we should aim at taking there playoff spot, instead of Portland's.
  • bushies
    On Brooks as our closer, I have to agree with you Rahat. While he does have the confidence (except at the FT which is worrisome as that's been an issue and should be a given for anyone described as a closer), he seems to make some poor decisions. That shot over Gallo was incredibly tough, and while he made it, I don't like the odds of making that twice in a row. If he drives he too often doesn't get the calls if he's fouled, and like I said I don't trust him at the FT line with the game on the line. As a second option, I think he's golden as he spreads the floor and can quickly drive when given the opportunity.

    I can't think of any other examples of bad decisions he's made at the end of games, if only because he's recently been clutch, but I'm sure there are others out there.

    I also thought the Knicks broadcasters enhanced the experience of watching game. My stream would get cut off occasionally and I'd have to switch to some Italian broadcast; there were clearly wanting the Knicks to win for Gallo I guess (who, by the way, really pisses me off, I feel the strange urge to punch his smug little face), so the only positive to come out of that was their deflated voices after Brooks thrice drilled their team.
  • Tommy
    Jeffries is an interesting case. He's not very good offensively (missed layups), but defensively he can play practically anywhere on the floor. He's mobile and has a lot of length. He can't really defend post players or extremely quick players, but he can defend everything in between.

    He's a very good flexible defensive candidate coming off the bench, for certain. He'll have great use in particular situations. I wouldn't mind re-signing him in 2011 either, so long as it's very cheap and he knows his role isn't going to yield many minutes.
  • Melechesh
    I was optimistic in Brooks' clutch shot making ability before that Boston game. Brooks got completely shut down by Rondo. Maybe he's not quick/strong enough to overcome the size disadvantage. Who knows, maybe no athletic freak on this earth with such a small frame could ever dominate the league. (exaggerate a little bit here :D)
    That being said, I feel that Brooks is still our best option to handle the ball in crunch time. And with regard to last year's favorable matchup for Brooks, this is not a good enough team yet to consider matchup problem. We're still an impact player away from contending imo.
  • rahat_huq
    kojirou - agreed. i didn't really mean much with that. but yeah, it could look good for free agents as well and show resilience.

    mainsworth - i agree on the closing set. hollinger touched on this in a post for truehoop, but there isn't much rationale behind isolating on the closing plays.

    bob - a manu acquisition would be a classic moneyball move in that he is a guy whose market value will be lower due to a belief that he has less left than he actually does (if thats the case).
  • bob schmidt
    For anyone to perform, they must have opportunity. Hill needed the opportunity, but didn't get it in NY. The why of it is a mystery known only to his old coach. Maybe he didn't like his hair cut or something....

    McGrady talks, but who's listening? Who cares anymore? I don't. I wish him well, but could care less about what he has to say....

    Mainsworth makes a good point, Manu could be a nice addition to this team if we can add him for next year. That's an upgrade on the roster that might be realistic as opposed to some of the other FAs that will be out there.....
  • mainsworth
    I can totally see AB hitting the game winning shot in the playoffs. Dude just exhudes confidence. The fact that he always wants it in his hands in encouraging. Just wish him and Martin would work on more 1-2 sets. Seems they always go to 1-4 Flat in end game situations, with AB at the top and everyone dropping the defense to the line. Not really a basketball technical savant so not sure what it is actually called but I think its the 1-4 Flat. This team will have three great end game finishers next season because we will have 3 80%+ FT shooters with Yao/Martin/Brooks. I dont see how this team does not contend next season.

    Dream lineup next season

    I'm not sure where Battier fits in next season. I think a nice backup SG pickup will be crucial, Manu is a FA and wants to play with Scola, seems like the perfect fit. Would LOVE Manu on this team.

    I think we could also get a nice package with the Battier/Andersen/NY Picks.

    As long as the core of Yao/Scola/Brooks/Martin(4 20 ppg scorers in our starting lineup - though due to usage i'm guessing Scola average 14/10 and AB averages 18/8 - but when was the last time the rockets could say they had 4 20ppg scorers in their starting lineup? ever?) stays in tact, with Lowry coming off the bench, I will be extremely happy.
  • kojirou
    "Anyways, where were we? In all honesty, if we want to get technical, it really would have been best for the Rockets to lose this game. A Knicks win lowers Utah’s odds of landing the #1 pick, while each Rockets loss highers our odds. But whatever."

    I honestly don't see this. Yeah, New York winning would have been nice to stick it to the Jazz, but at this point, we really don't have anything to lose, particularly with New Orleans in a tailspin (or maybe they're tanking, I wouldn't know.) At this point, really the only team we could realistically pass in the draft by aiming for a higher draft pick is Memphis, and honestly the difference between the 15th and 16th picks to me isn't worth a last-ditch playoff run (yeah, unlikely, but we're not dead yet) and finishing the season with good vibes. So yeah, I think at this point just win as much as you can - if you're lucky, you make the playoffs. If you don't, you show that this team will still give a damn no matter what the circumstances.
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