Thoughts on Clippers – Rockets

2009 December 23
by rahat huq
  • My first thoughts coming out of this game pertained to how my Landry thesis is absolutely being torn to shreds by its principle subject.  I asserted prior to the year that Carl had peaked offensively and needed only to focus on his interior defense.  On the basis of observations from last season, I then stated that one of his greatest obstacles would be his inability to score over longer defenders.  I was completely wrong on both counts.  Most impressive last night was a sequence of possessions where Carl scored on Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby in succession.  He faced up the former out of the post-up and zipped by for the lay-in while deftly dropping a baby hook over the (renowned) outstretched arm of Marcus Camby.
  • Writes Kevin Arnovitz:

“Landry embodies all the strengths of Rick Adelman’s read-and-react offense. We see this on his first score at (1st, 8:21) when Kaman leaves him at the weak elbow to cut off a potential baseline drive by Luis Scola. Landry immediately dives to the hoop behind Kaman where he receives the feed from Scola. He’s fouled on the play, and sinks his first two of what will be 13 free throws on the night. When Brian Skinner checks in for the Clippers in the second period, Landry faces up and uses that big drop step to create room to burst past his slower defender to the rack for another trip to the stripe.  Landry is particularly useful in transition because he can beat just about every big down the floor and set up position just a few feet away from the hoop, which is how he gets his first bucket from the field (2nd, 10:37).”

As the above citation documents, Landry is the ideal ‘react’ power forward and has been since his rookie season.  He runs the floor, slides into open spots for dunks, crashes the boards, and is a deadly mid-range shooter.  However, my argument had been that he was only great as the end result of a play.  What we’re seeing this season, and in higher doses with each game, is that you can actually start the play with Landry.  Early on, such usage was restricted to the face-up driving spin towards the goal.  Now, the team is consistently feeding him with his back to the basket, and he is delivering, utilizing a drop-step, hook, and a very quick ‘turn and drive’ move that left Kaman in quicksand.

  • I thought the greatest concern for this season was the establishment of a consistent ‘3rd’ scorer and assumed that the obvious candidate was Aaron Brooks.  We’re seeing now that it’s Landry.
  • Next thought coming after this one was regarding Kaman.  The man is an absolute load.  We saw him torture the Rockets’ interior defenders tonight, surpassing what I thought was a surprisingly low former career-high of 27 points.  He’s easily the most polished true center in the league at the moment.  Kaman hit corner jumpers and on many occasions, displayed an impressive counter-hook shot that utilized the glass at a 45 degree angle.  I kept thinking, “this guy has the capacity to completely alter the complexity of the playoff race.”  With an improved record, we don’t know if Sterling is still looking to shed salary.  But last year there were heavy reports that the Clippers were dangling a package of Davis-Kaman in front of anyone who could provide salary relief, (with Davis’ contract being the obvious deterrent.)  Hypothetically speaking, if it meant taking on Davis, I wouldn’t bite, but for whoever does, Davis or not, adding a skilled 7 footer like Kaman for the stretch run (for most teams) could have a Cliff Lee-esque impact.  He has as much potential to change a playoff series as any other non All-Star in this league.  But again, I don’t know if he’s still being shopped or if anyone would have what it would take to complete a deal.
  • Final note is on Tracy McGrady who had by far his best performance of the season, even coming close to a dunk on one occasion.  A few things stood out:
  1. He was allowed to control the final possession of the quarter.  Granted, Aaron Brooks was not in the game, but on some level, one would have to imagine that this implies a willingness to re-incorporate McGrady into the offense.
  2. Tracy was very aggressive tonight, decisively looking for the shot or attacking the hoop rather than waiting for the help defender as he had done in previous games.
  3. Still no ‘first step.’  You’ll notice that any time he drives, the defender is still completely level with him.  We don’t know if he’ll ever regain the ability to create separation on the drive.
  4. With that said, is this ’separation’ really necessary?  Sure, he’ll never again have the ability to barrel through the lane for the dunk as was common during his prime, but he can still be effective in his current physical state.  McGrady can always create room for his shot by utilizing a variety of fakes and jab-steps.  But most impressive is the unique court awareness that he exhibits on almost every move.  Watch closely the next time he drives to the basket.  Because of his reduced quickness, when he makes his move, the defender will still remain completely in front of him.  Yet even despite this, McGrady will maintain complete body control and awareness, never even slightly losing his footing or balance.  We saw him get ‘caught’ in two of these situations tonight, only to fluidly pass off to Carl Landry and Luis Scola respectively.  I find it fascinating to watch and compare Trevor Ariza and Tracy McGrady because each almost epitomizes his end of the ’skill’ spectrum.  The former barges through the lane with no cognizance of his surroundings and routinely picks up his dribble when even light pressure is applied.  In terms of passing and awareness, the latter almost never makes mistakes.  He has his vices, but from purely a skill scouting perspective, have you ever seen Tracy McGrady look ‘awkward’ with the basketball?
  • That I marvel at his skill does not necessarily mean that I think he can help this team long term.  We’ll have to monitor the sustainability of his production as the season progresses.  Last night, he looked better than he had in any of the four previous outings.  For the good of the team, if either via trade or integration into the offense, we’ll have to hope that that trend continues.
Bookmark and Share
  • rahat_huq
    thirdcoast - forgot to mention andersen. he's been fantastic.

    jeremy - i don't recall him specifically saying until after christmas...? do you have the exact quote in question? that would be telling, i think...
  • hometownfanhouston
    here it is Rahat,, keyword mcgrady, author of article is Jeffrey Martin, title of article "with Budinger Out, Rockets need help off the bench" quote: “I'm just accepting whatever they offer me,” McGrady said. “Right now, it's seven or eight minutes, and I just go out there and try to make the best of it until my minutes improve. I don't know. Until further notice, I'm just comfortable with everything going on right now.

    McGrady:“I understand what they're trying to do, and I accept that.”

    Adelman said to expect more of the same.

    “His schedule in the next two games won't change much,” Adelman said. “We'll stick with that. We have enough people who can play.”
  • hometownfanhouston
    the last quote leaves me wondering.......I think RA is a master of psychology, or just one awesome coach....haha
  • rahat_huq
    ah, ok. i originally thought you meant there was a quote where adelman explicitly was saying that the minutes would increase after christmas.
  • hometownfanhouston
    No, but he didnt say they would stay the same either.....MY GLASS: HALF FULL
  • rahat_huq
    LOL. Awesome. I'll give it to you for the effort =)
  • hometownfanhouston
    im lookin.....stay tuned, seemd like from
  • thirdcoastborn
    Carl Landry is the truth, and Scola is great. Carl Landry is the 6th Man of the year so far and is getting consistent. McGrady still looks rusty but with Chase out especially at Orlando i would like to see him play more. David Andersen is getting better every game, as he adjusts to the NBA. Lowry and Brooks are a solid duo. And coach is great, rarely during games do I ask myself what is he doing, he always makes good calls.
  • hometownfanhouston
    RA says 8 min/game for McGrady until after christmas, I would like to see him play more too, just dont see it happening
  • rahat_huq
    Arturo - my apologies. by frustrating, i meant because he's so good already with what he has, it leaves one selfishly wanting more by correcting this simple flaw in his game

    Jeremy - Agreed except on the sign and trade. I don't see anyone giving up anything remotely significant via that route.
  • hometownfanhouston
    exactly my point....haha.......thats why I don't think a trade is feasible.....but then again...who thought we would bring Von Wafer back after his tantrum during the playoffs last year.....this administration keeps us nothing will surprise me.
  • rahat_huq
    ok yeah, i understand what you are saying. we're on the same page with that.
  • Alituro
    Alituro=Arturo BTW..

    Rahat- I can understand frustration with Lowry's marginal shooting ability, and enjoyed your post trying to disect the reason's for his inaccuracy. To me he exemplifies everything that is right about our team this year with all credit to the coaching staff. Nobody is asking Hayes to score, nobody is asking Battier to post-up, and nobody is asking Lowry to park himself behind the arc and await a pass. Rick and his crew incorporate game plans that play to the strengths of each player on the floor, and allow concessions for the weaknesses. The things that Lowry does well, he does SUPERBLY, enough so to pardon him for not being a brilliant shooter. Seriously, he reminds me of an NFL running back the way he charges in the lane seeking contact. He is also a very smart player, taking advantage of every little window of opportunity presented to him. Like in one sequence recently against OKC when a fella was down in the post with his back to the ball and Lowry ran it straight up his arse, KNOWING he would get the call. I also loved how he straight MUGGED Jason Terry the other night. His defense, court vision, and passing ability are all tops. The only thing that bothers me is that with his style of play, he may end up injury prone. I wince every time he goes down, which is often. If he added consistent shooting to his arsenal, he'd easily be in the discussion for top 5 PGs in the league. Already he could start on just about any other team. Getting him from Memphis was such a steal, Morey sure has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough.
  • hometownfanhouston
    Rahat: Rule Out....I dont think anybody under Morey could rule out a trade.....if he could get a difference maker, I think he would do it, but as far as any team publicly shopping someone, there's nobody of mention to my knowledge that can help us. Now I would be sad to see him go, but if we could get a sign and trade for him, for another all-star (one that when all other players get cold, can lead us in the 4th quarter). But I don't see that happening until the end of the year.
    Never said Never.....just highly unlikely.....this is Jeremy by the way....we have spoken about this before...there's just not a lot out there right now (that we know of)
  • rahat_huq
    Lars - very nicely put.

    alituro - you mentioned lowry; he's one of the most frustrating rockets i've ever seen. i keep thinking "if only this guy learned how to shoot..."

    hometown - i disagree. i'm not sure you can rule out a trade.
  • Easy
    Of course we cannot rule out a trade. It seems to be common knowledge that McGrady is being shopped. But I think hometown had a point that maybe, just maybe, they are thinking perhaps with a healthy TMac, we can actually contend THIS YEAR.

    I think Adelman and Morey have been surprised by how well the team is playing, and how much some of the players (Landry, Lowry, Budinger, even Andersen) have developed. And maybe they are scratching the "experiment and rebuild" plan and actually plan for a deep playoffs run.

    To be able to be successful in the playoffs, we'll have to have a reliable half-court game. To have that, at least two of four things need to happen (in the order of most likely by observation so far):

    1. Landry becomes a go-to (first option type) scorer.
    2. McGrady regain most of his physical abilities AND is motivated to be a team player.
    3. Brooks becomes a consistent scorer AND a good playmaker.
    4. Get an all-star level impact player from trading McGrady who is either an unstoppable scorer or a fantastic playmaker, who ALSO is comfortable in Adelman's system.

    Even before the season started, I knew #4 was not very likely. Now the unlikeliness is more and more apparent. I think Morey knows it too. So looking for #2 to obtain is only logical.
  • rahat_huq
    Easy - interesting take. Whether he is traded for an impact player or kept around, I think the one thing that is clear is that that very vocal faction calling to have McGrady dealt for peanuts just to be rid of him will not get their wish. I am thankful for that and thankful that management is not conducted on the capricious whims of populist fervor.
  • hometownfanhouston
    I too marvel at McGrady's skill, I really cant believe I dont hear more about him coming back so fast from micro-fracture surgery. Either way, after seeing the same thing you saw...(T Mac on the handle)...along with all his and RA's quotes, I don't see him leaving. Maybe this is me thinking positive.
    But from a "team" stand you really see Adelman and Morey letting McGrady get minutes to shop him around, they preach so much about CHEMISTRY, why would they stir up anything, or bring in someone else who hasnt practiced at all with our the addition of Von Wafer....I think they believe we can be serious contenders, with the addition of Wafer it seems to me, that we are trying to have familiar faces in our locker room....and like before, it sounds like Tracy is BEGGING to stay, his quotes in the Chronicle: “I'm just accepting whatever they offer me,” McGrady said. “Right now, it's seven or eight minutes, and I just go out there and try to make the best of it until my minutes improve. I don't know. Until further notice, I'm just comfortable with everything going on right now.

    “I understand what they're trying to do, and I accept that.”...........sounds to me like ME-MAC is gone, and TEAM-MAC has taken over.....we will see
  • Alituro
    Another nice game by our team. Other than Landry's, nobody's line or performance stood out particularly, in fact Brooks and Ariza had a pretty dismal night with 2-8 and 2-11 respectively from the field. Yet, they still found a way to win. I can't think of a guard who has ever shown as much FEARLESSNESS as Lowry. As you've said before, his ability to penetrate and create is one of the key factors of the Rockets' success. Nice to see a little bit of Taylor last night too, the kid has huge potential and Adelman's system is perfect for his development. I see we signed Von Wafer again since Olympiakos didn't want him any more. While he does bring energy, he never struck me as being a very cerebral player, don't see him getting a whole lot of minutes, but I could be wrong. T-mac looked good last night, Rick seemed to have run the gamut of plays designed for him, including an "eye of the storm" situation as Rahat has described before at the elbow. All seemed to be acceptably successful.
  • Lars
    You know lately I find myself refreshing your page over and over anxiously awaiting the next article ;)

    For me, there are times that represent a turning point or paradigm shift in your thinking. I remember over the summer when Yao's injury progressed from a ten day thing to a year round thing, Artest apparently jumped ship and announced his ultimate betrayal, while the community was so enraged with McGrady they were ready to buy his plane ticket out of town...I couldn't help but feel a tinge of sadness, like the end of an era and a long sad road to rebuilding. Things looked so promising yet fell so far so fast. While everything ended up surprisingly pleasant, I can't help but feel that yesterday's game marked another another turning point for me. My surrender for this team has been vanquished.

    There was a time, not too long ago when I was so done with this season I was already looking to the next. Where I would dream up the perfect Bosh trade or a February blockbuster, where we could turn some of our young studs into another crucial piece to the championship puzzle and jettison ourselves back into contention for next year. I was eager to sacrifice a Brooks or a Landry to shoot us back to the top and land us a difference maker. In short, I had lost faith in my team...I needed another star to "spoil" away my sadness...but all that has changed now. Carl Landry has made me a believer. 27 points....on ten shots....are you freaking kidding me? Kyle Lowry shames me with every clutch offensive rebound he snags. Luis Scola wonders why I quit, when he never does. Battier defends his ass with never a peep of protest. How spoiled I am to give up so quick.

    This is a special team, a team who plays the game right. 17-11 with no surrender, no stars and no giving up. The Rockets should not be the other teams in league who should be ashamed that a squad so depleted can accomplish so much. Can you even imagine what the sport would be like if everyone played like we do? I can only dream.

    I dare to ask, can it even get any better? Is McGrady priming himself for a Cinderella story? As it stands today, after drudging through one of the leagues toughest schedules, we stand just one game not of the playoffs, but merely one game out of home court advantage for the playoffs. Should I go further? Surely I shouldn't mention we are only 2 games out from *gasp* first place in the division. Is it so far away to imagine we could advance without Yao or Artest? Is it unimaginable that McGrady might actually have something left and could finally redeem himself when things appeared to be at thier worst? I saw something last night, something great, something that made me giggle on the inside. It was so graceful and elegant, so seemless and exciting. I for one, can't wait to see if it is real.
blog comments powered by Disqus