Clippers 99, Rockets 93

2010 March 26
by rahat huq

Not much to take away from this one.  In addition to Jordan Hill, Shane Battier, and Jared Jeffries (and I guess David Andersen), Kevin Martin sat this one out.  Since it became clear that this season was over, I have been keying in on three things during the games: Trevor Ariza in his new role, the on-court relationship between Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, and Jordan Hill.  With Martin out, and Ariza forced back into his original role, it was pretty tough to force myself to watch this one, especially since my two favorite players in the league were going head to head on TNT.

Clippers backup Craig Smith led the way with 25 on 10-13 shooting.  The Rockets were led by Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza with 18 apiece.  Luis Scola had 16 and 14, while Chase Budinger, starting at the ‘2’ in place of Martin finished with 14 points on 6-12 shooting.

Drew Gooden had 17 and 14 for the Clippers.  Gooden is this generation’s Juwan Howard.  Al Harrington would also come to mind as an apt comparison; actually a lot of guys fit the bill.  I’m talking about guys who, after being drafted, are seen as future All-Stars and have very high trade value.  Then slowly, as they get older, everyone realizes that they won’t be making that big leap to stardom, and before you know it they are 30.  While their trade value completely diminishes to the point of nonexistence, they continue producing for whatever team they are on, putting up solid numbers quietly.

Trevor Ariza filled up the stat sheet once more, grabbing 8 boards, dishing out 8 assists, and notching 3 steals, in addition to his 18 points.  However, he went 7-20 from the field and in my opinion looked much worse offensively than he had in previous games, forced once more to create off the dribble.

With the season over, there wasn’t really much to even watch for, much less take away from this one.  Rookie guard Jermaine Taylor saw time, even throwing down a monster slam at one point.  In talking, fans seem mixed on Taylor.  Since recovering from his abysmal preseason showing, I’ve felt he can be a rotation player in this league; most seem to think he’s not NBA material.  Taylor is physical, has elite athleticism, and seems to have it defensively.  He needs to develop his left hand, but I can see him blossoming into a spark plug off the bench somewhere down the line.

While not yet mathematically out of the equation, at 36-35, the Rockets’ season is all but over.  I waver in my thoughts on this last stretch.  Where do I stand in preference on the spectrum from 0-11 to 11-0?  Given the construct of the current standings, losses only very marginally improve the team’s chances at a top 3 pick.  But wins could change the perception of prospective free agents towards the team.  Or does it really work that way at all?    Let’s say, at a best-case-realistic-scenario, hypothetically, the team goes 8-3 the rest of the way to finish 44-38, barely missing the playoffs.  Does Chris Bosh see a 44 win team, with Yao returning, and think “all the elements are in place for me to put this team over the top.”  Let’s say they go 2-9.  Does he give that same consideration?  All the principle players remain the same, only the record changes.  So how much does final record play into the psychology of an outsider’s perspective?  The question becomes whether the potential difference in perception is worth the difference in draft slots.

I lean slightly towards preferring any chance of a favorable perception, but then I quickly remember how we lost out on Brandon Roy due to that meaningless win in Denver in 2006, when JVG inexplicably played Juwan Howard and David Wesley heavy minutes down the stretch to secure the win, a crime for which I will never forgive him.  Any time the issue of late-season strategy arises, this game should be referenced.  It was one of the most fateful nights in Rockets history – a true game-changer.

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  • mezla
    Something I thought was interesting:

    Total of salaries for players that played tonight:
    Rockets = $16,379,436
    Clippers = $45,513,035
  • jcogz43
    come on guys, where is the faith
    i understand battier and hayes being maxed out because battier is old and hayes is super short but
    AB reaching potential in his 2nd year as starter, what faith have we?
    for example, look at chauncey billups who has been on almost every team, had such a bad start for his first couple years in his career, and then he wins it with the pistons and now on the nuggets he is established as one of the best PGs in the league

    i believe the sky is the limit for AB. btw, on an offnight(last night) AB had 7-2 assist-turnover ratio. not so bad huh?
  • jason b.
    I was reading this post on Google Reader until I finished the first paragraph. (!!!) I believe I have admitted once before that I am a Bulls fan whose "other" team is the Rockets. Just imagine if the unnamed "favorite players" (mine, too) were in the same backcourt next season. Could we assume that you and I might be mirror images?

    (still love the blog)
  • rahat_huq
    a rose-wade backcourt is a pairing which every nba fan should be praying for. (of course, james-wade would be orgasmic, but would entail screwing over our chances at value for those picks)
  • rocket_fan_in_santa_barbara
    I thought Budinger looked great against Gordon, which is a great sign. One other small consideration in terms of the way the Rockets finish out the season: even a slightly higher draft position might make a difference in pulling off a big trade, as per your point about Roy. Depending on how the draft shakes out, #13 might be far more valuable to some team than #16. Hard to know.
  • rahat_huq
    true, but if the big move is a sign&trade rather than just a flat-out trade, it's the free agent himself who we need to be swaying, not the free agent's team.
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