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@  SadLakerFan : (22 May 2015 - 04:01 PM) Gotta disagree. You would be taking the ball out of your best (by far) player's hands when the defense is on its heels. A timeout would allow the best defense in the NBA to prepare for the inbounds play - you might never even get it to Harden. As for Harden, I watched it again a few times - he's got to take that shot at 4.0 seconds. He'll learn. I see this as his coming out game. The whole nation knows how good he is now.
@  txtdo1411 : (22 May 2015 - 02:45 PM) Agreed Majik. It's hindsight and everything happened so quick, but that would have been huge. I also feel Harden takes that first stepback if Barnes didn't do that fly by from behind. Just an unfortunate ending to a great game. We'll get them back in Houston.
@  majik19 : (22 May 2015 - 02:21 PM) I feel like McHale or someone should have taken a timeout as soon as Harden got double-teamed. Then we could've drawn something up for him.
@  SadLakerFan : (22 May 2015 - 06:37 AM) McHale made the right call - no time out against the best 1/2 court defense in the NBA. In retrospect, you wish Harden had taken the step back.
@  Mario Peña : (22 May 2015 - 04:53 AM) The 5 always trails and always gets the ball as he crosses half court, I believe it was kind of a habit pass. Harden should have just decisively gone right initially and Ariza probably would have had an open corner three. Harden and co. are still learning.
@  cointurtlemoose : (22 May 2015 - 03:54 AM) Maybe it didn't register in the split-second decision that it was Howard trailing. If it's anyone other than Howard, one of Curry/Thompson peels off to cover the trailer, and Harden gets his one on one back
@  JY86er : (22 May 2015 - 03:41 AM) Oh well, Guys. We got 'em right where we want 'em now.
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 03:40 AM) Oh boy, well, at least I like our chances to take both home games the way the Warriors are playing
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 03:39 AM) Why didn't Harden call a timeout instead of passing it to Howard on the 3 point line?
@  cointurtlemoose : (22 May 2015 - 03:38 AM) Heartbreaking last couple seconds...
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 03:36 AM) WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 03:35 AM) Let's go rockets!
@  Cooper : (22 May 2015 - 03:34 AM) Harden and Howard are just incredible
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 03:32 AM) Wow
@  Cooper : (22 May 2015 - 02:45 AM) nick johnson sighting?
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 02:29 AM) Rockets quieting the crowd
@  cointurtlemoose : (22 May 2015 - 02:16 AM) It is pretty crazy to be tied at this point. Harden single-handedly gave us a reset button for this game
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 02:11 AM) Rockets are missing 2 starters, Dwight is playing with a bad knee, and yet they've kept both games quite close so far against a team that finished 67-15
@  jorgeaam : (22 May 2015 - 02:10 AM) I must say that I start to think the Warriors are tremendously overrated
@  Cooper : (22 May 2015 - 02:07 AM) absolutely astounded to be tied after playing so poorly and curry hitting seemingly every shot


Member Since 25 Sep 2012
Offline Last Active Apr 28 2015 01:56 AM

#47589 Trevor Ariza: The Time is Now

Posted by Red94 on 04 April 2015 - 01:33 AM

New post: Trevor Ariza: The Time is Now
By: Richard Li

At this late stage in the season, teams' identities are more or less known. No one really expects many surprises to occur before the playoffs begin. Of course, outside of the few front runners, every other playoff team is actually hoping that surprises will occur. That is the only chance that non-favorites have of surpassing expectations. This means that, barring unfortunate injuries, the script that most teams hope will be written is that an underused or underachieving player catches lightning in a bottle and proceeds to disrupt predictions.


On the Houston Rockets, the list of these candidates is slim. While James Harden is certainly the most important player, it's a bit greedy, and probably unrealistic, to hope that he plays even more out of his skull than he currently is. Due to injuries, some might say that Dwight Howard has a chance to change the course of the playoffs a bit, but I think this blog has already beaten to death where Dwight's ceiling is (probably behind him) and what he takes off the table (0.76 PPP on post ups) when he's in the game. Instead, I propose that the Rockets' potential difference maker is Trevor Ariza. Out of all the players that will receive significant playing time in the playoffs, he is the one whose ceiling is probably furthest away from what we've seen this regular season.


That Ariza is going to play, and play a lot, is a given. He currently ranks 3rd in the league in minutes per game, and history shows that all teams, particularly the Rockets, play fewer players more minutes in the playoffs. Multiple 40+ minute games for Ariza is going to be the norm. Ariza's role is also pretty cut and dry; he's the Rockets primary 3-and-D wing. He's a little older than the prototype at that "position," but he makes up for his declining athleticism on defense with above-average size and veteran savvy.


On offense, Ariza attempts the most 3s (521 attempts) on the team that attempts the most 3s in the league. Harden is neck-and-neck with Ariza in terms of attempts, but the next highest active player is Jason Terry at only 295. Given the Rockets' identity, Ariza's playing time, and his role, it's easy to recognize how important he is. This season, however, he's fared poorly at performing the "3" part of his role. Take a look at this graph.


[caption id="attachment_15881" align="aligncenter" width="540" class=" "]Ariza's 3PA and 3P% per 100 possessions Ariza's 3PA and 3P% per 100 possessions[/caption]


This chart shows Ariza's 3-point activity over the years, per 100 possessions. Expectedly, his 3-point attempts have increased as his 3-and-D role has become more solidified. His 3-point shooting percentage has also increased steadily... until this year. While he shot over 40% at over eight attempts last year, this year he's shooting roughly 34% but taking even more 3s (over nine). Not exactly great performance for such a key player.


That's the bad news. The good news is that, unlike Howard, Ariza's role is very much skill based, meaning it's realistic that he can improve what he needs to do. Furthermore, we know what the ceiling on his three-point shooting is (last year), and it's very good. Just for the lulz, I calculated what would have happened this year if Trevor Ariza were replaced by Robo Ariza. The only difference between Trevor and Robo is that Robo always shoots 40.7% (Trevor's tally last year) on three-point attempts. If Robo had taken every shot that Trevor did this year, the changed point differentials of each game would have netted the Rockets three more wins. Those wins would have come against the Spurs, Wizards, and Grizzlies.


While this exercise might be kind of fun in a vacuum, it's pretty pointless because we don't live in a vacuum. But it does show, I hope, how a couple of shots can potentially swing important games. On the Rockets, the player most likely to be in position to take those shots is Trevor Ariza. If he can snatch lightning in a bottle and reclaim his shooting ceiling, just for a couple of months, the Rockets have a chance to disrupt the playoffs' script.

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#47528 Houston Rockets 120, Minnesota Timberwolves 110: Bombs away

Posted by Red94 on 28 March 2015 - 09:08 AM

New post: Houston Rockets 120, Minnesota Timberwolves 110: Bombs away
By: Paul McGuire

Well, the Houston Rockets are in the playoffs.


Let us not forget how at the beginning of the season, Houston was a popular dark-horse pick…to miss the playoffs altogether, especially if either Harden or Howard got hurt. Yet here they are, just a half-game from the second seed in the Western Conference.


But the Rockets have not reached their potential. There were glimpses of it tonight with Dwight, as Houston just reached another level while he was on the court. Houston did play well enough tonight that Kevin McHale sent out human victory cigar K.J. McDaniels with two minutes left. But I have no doubt that if Howard could play like normal, this game would have been over by the start of the fourth quarter.


It was not just the defense, though that was good as always. Howard mentioned to Sports Illustrated about how he wanted to take a smaller role on the offensive end and “make the ultimate sacrifice.” That was on display tonight. Howard made 8 shots. All of them were dunks. None of them came from Howard’s attempts to post up. They were passes received from Harden, Josh Smith, and Pablo Prigioni and then thrown down with all of Howard’s force and athleticism.


Practically every NBA website has written at some point about how Howard should stop trying to produce in the post and focus on playing defense and grabbing lobs. That was what happened tonight and it was great to watch.


The result tonight was that for three quarters and much of the fourth, Houston used Howard to grab a big lead over the Timberwolves. Then Howard went out, Dorsey came in, and Minnesota’s offense would shrink the lead for the rest of the quarter. Andrew Wiggins in particular drew fouls like he was Harden tonight, finishing with 31 points after scoring 30 against Houston earlier this season.


Oh, and the three-pointers were fun too. This injured Wolves team which only suited up eight players tonight do not have any perimeter defenders aside from Andrew Wiggins. So all of the Rockets starters went off and shot over 50 percent of their long-range shots. Even Josh Smith went 3-5 tonight.


The bench on the other hand did struggle to shoot. Brewer is inconsistent and that just is how he is, but Prigioni is problematic. When Red94 discussed Prigioni in our post-trade deadline roundtable, Richard Li pointed out that while Prigioni was a career 41 percent shooter from three, it was distorted by how rarely he actually shot them.


Now Prigioni is hitting just 18 percent as a Rocket, going 1-6 tonight. And if that was not bad enough, the Minnesota defenders were backing off Prigioni to cover the other players. You know Prigioni is in a slump when defenders pay more attention to Josh Smith’s three-pointers. Bill Worrell said that Prigioni is looking to adjust, and that is all Houston fans can hope for.


And speaking of Smith. Smith was Root Sport’s Player of the Game as he fell one rebound shy of a triple-double. I do not care about triple doubles (a reason I am apoplectic about the idea of Russell Westbrook stealing the MVP trophy). They are a cute quirk of the box score and nothing more. And while Smith had 11 assists and had good effort on the glass and defensive end, I remain concerned about how he tries to thread the needle too often. 11 assists to 6 turnovers is not terrible from an assist to turnover standpoint, but it is not great and Houston needs to worry about how they will fix their turnover problem. While I understand how Houston needs multiple ball handlers especially without Beverley, it remains a problem.


The Rockets are close to that second seed and a potential playoff trip against a vulnerable Mavericks squad. But they have two tough road games up next. The Wizards play defense, and the last time Houston won in Toronto, Rafer Alston was the starting point guard. Both the Grizzlies and the Rockets will face just three sub-.500 opponents over the rest of the season.

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#47313 The chess match: Clippers vs Rockets

Posted by Red94 on 03 March 2015 - 11:21 PM

New post: The chess match: Clippers vs Rockets
By: Rob Dover

A popular opinion I've seen expressed is that the Rockets' game against the Cavaliers on Sunday was their most entertaining of the season. While it has a strong case, for sheer strategic richness my vote has to go to another game played in the last week - their matchup with the Clippers. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are a lethal pick-and-roll tandem and Doc Rivers has designed plenty of different ways for them to unlock their potential. On the other side of the court, the Rockets have been doing a great job on the defensive end this season and had a number of different approaches to defending it. It all added up to a riveting cat-and-mouse game, and in this post I'm going to play it back and show you how the two teams continually tried to outsmart each other by shifting their strategies.

Act 1: The Show Must Go On



The Rockets started out using Motiejunas to guard Jordan and show on the pick and roll. D-Mo is very good at doing this and recovering to his man and the tactic worked out very well with the Clippers failing to score on all of these possessions. Note though the weakness of this defensive strategy - in the first and third clips Jones is forced to rotate over to Jordan to prevent the lob, leaving Spencer Hawes wide open at the three point line. Fortunately Hawes was off in this game and missed both times, but if he's making that shot the Rockets would probably have to try something different.

Act 2: Reading to the Baby



After some initial failures, the Clippers decided to change things up by using Glen Davis as the roll man. Big Baby presents a different challenge because of his pick-and-pop threat, and it was put to good use in this sequence. Chris Paul is focused mainly on Josh Smith's choices in all three clips. First, he sees Smith leaving Davis to 'ice' the pick-and-roll. Smith contains Paul's drive but leaves Davis wide open for the jumper. On the next possession Smith has learned his lesson and sticks to Davis. This fares no better as Paul uses the freedom he's been given to drive, draw D-Mo's rotation and then put up the lob for Jordan (watching Jordan dunk is spectacular, I must say). Having seen that sticking to Big Baby is a mistake, Josh switches back to trying to contain Paul. Once again Paul reads this and feeds Davis for the open jumper, but this time he misses badly. On balance this is an effective play for the Clippers but if defended well relies on Davis hitting mid-range jumpers, which he doesn't do consistently enough to be a true threat.

Act 3: Going Under




The Clippers go back to a simple Paul-Jordan screen action, and the Rockets have decided to change things up to keep CP3 guessing. Now instead of showing on the screen, Motiejunas drops back and gives Paul's defender space to come underneath. This works well in the first two clips, where they manage to catch Paul in two minds. The standard response to a defender going under a screen is to drill a jumper in their face, but in both cases Paul doesn't recognise what's going on until it is too late to do so. You can see in each one the moment where he thinks about pulling up - in the second one he actually surrenders his dribble as a result. But the perils of this approach are made clear in the third clip. Terry gets caught on DeAndre Jordan's screen (technically an illegal one), giving Paul space to pull up. Motiejunas is forced to come out to contest and that leaves Jordan unimpeded to roll to the hoop and catch the lob. Oh dear. I think this is defense the Rockets have to use selectively against Paul - he's too smart not to start picking up on it if you go to it often and his jump shot is good enough that he'll make you pay for it. In small doses though it seems to work well provided the point guard can navigate the pick properly.

Act 4: Run It Again!




One of the things that made researching this article so fun was seeing how often the Clippers would repeat their plays. If Chris Paul sees one he likes, he will signal to run it again the next time up the court. You can't see it in the clips above, but he's made that motion several times here as they ran this play three times in a row. And so they should, because it seemed to be incredibly effective. The basic idea is to disrupt the Rockets' planned coverage by setting a pick on Jordan's man before he comes out to screen for Paul. It works to perfection in the first clip, as Motiejunas is too far away to show and check Paul's momentum. He manages to help slow Paul's drive, but in doing so leaves Jordan free for the nasty alley-oop. Because the Clippers are playing with only one big man, there is nobody around to rotate onto Jordan - Harden would be the natural choice but he is preoccupied with sticking to Redick as he drifts out to the three point line. When they run it a second time the Rockets are ready and send Terry under the screen, only for Paul to read it and counter by draining a jumper (there's a nice added wrinkle where Redick catches Motiejunas with a back-screen, but D-Mo does a good job of fighting through it).


As we saw in Act 2, when Smith is in the game he likes to sink and contain the ball-handler in pick and roll situations. Clip three sees him try this, but Paul draws him and dishes to Jordan, who should score but somehow airballs a wide-open layup. The Clippers went back to the play to end the half and get a perfect lob out of it, only for DeAndre to blow the finish. This play is brilliant and when the Clippers are playing with four shooters around Jordan is pretty much impossible to guard. They should have scored all four times they used it, and I'm surprised they didn't go back to it in the second half.

Act 5: Double Trouble




Towards the end of the first half the Clippers tried something new to catch the Rockets by surprise - a double pick-and-roll where both bigs set a single enormous screen for Paul. The first time they run it they have the element of surprise on their side - Smith picks up Paul and the initial action looks to be contained, only for Jones to miss the fact he needed to stay with Jordan as he rolls. While it's true he has to pick his poison between the roll and a Big Baby jumper, it's pretty clear which is the correct choice and it wasn't the one he went for.


The Clippers, as is their wont, give the Rockets a second look at it and this time they defend it correctly - Jones sinks to disrupt Jordan's path to the hoop, leaving Smith to take over on Paul and Ariza to recover to Davis. The play is snuffed out and really this is how it should be defended every time. When people say Jones is still not quite the finished article defensively, it's plays like this that they are referring to. He needs to be able to make the correct decision the first time he sees a play rather than needing to see it once before he knows what to do. Come playoff time he's not going to have this luxury.

Act 6: The Trials and Tribulations of Trevor Ariza




In the second half the Rockets tried switching things up and put Ariza on Paul for long stretches. Unfortunately, this didn't work out too well as Ariza really struggled to work his way through DeAndre Jordan's picks. In all the plays above, Ariza ends up trailing his man and there's a defensive breakdown as a result (Jones cleans up with a nice block in one, but that doesn't excuse the initial error). The theory of putting a long armed defender like Ariza on point guards is a good one, but if they're going to do it regularly the Rockets need him to do a better job of avoiding getting hung up on screens. Pay particular attention to the last play - you'll see that Trevor is caught completely by surprise as Paul goes away from Jordan and uses a pick from Redick instead. Terry mistakenly sticks to Redick, letting Paul get free. He draws a rotation from Harden and then kicks to the corner for an open three.

Comedic Interlude




Chris Paul auditions for Shaqtin' A Fool with this no-look pass out of bounds! But eagle-eyed viewers will note that the way he gets there is a mirror image of the last play from above. The Redick screen again sees Terry make the wrong choice and catches Paul's defender (in this case Harden) giving CP3 a clean run a the basket. Smith does a good job of rotating to contest but really Paul could have made the pass earlier than he did and avoided having to throw it behind his head. This is another play I'm surprised the Clippers didn't run a few more times - they didn't get any points out of their first two goes at it but they got exactly the looks they wanted and the Rockets showed no signs of being able to guard it properly.

Final Act: Switchcraft




As the game wore on, the Rockets settled on a new and final strategy. Instead of asking Paul's man to fight his way past the impenetrable wall that is DeAndre Jordan, they just switched the pick-and-rolls, trusting their mobile big men to be able to contain CP3 enough to neutralise the effectiveness of the play. As you can see, in each case the big man does a good job of preventing Paul from getting too deep into the paint. However, having done so they then showed lapses in snuffing out the secondary action in the first three clips. First Ariza and Smith have a miscommunication when switching back that allows Jordan to get open underneath. Then Smith gets caught out by Davis' roll on a secondary pick-and-roll, allowing him to get inside position and steal the rebound. And in the third clip Paul and Jordan flow straight into an exquisite second pick-and-roll that the Rockets have no chance of stopping - Smith is caught completely unawares and Jordan strolls in for another thunderous dunk.


The Rockets do a better job in the last two clips. Harden is in great position to curtail Jordan's roll, which allows Brewer to recover to Crawford and shut down the play. And finally Harden switches onto Paul and forces him into a tough fade-away. It feels like the switching strategy was the right call in all of these scenarios. The key is to keep the concentration after the first switch - defenders are going to find themselves in unfamiliar roles as the play continues and they need to be able to adapt and make smart plays to maintain their defensive structure.


Overall, it felt like a pretty even contest between the thunderous dynamism of the Clippers and the adaptive defense of the Rockets. I was very impressed by the number of different wrinkles the Clippers have in their toolbox to continually show opponents different looks, although I was surprised they didn't try to alternate which plays they ran instead of using them in blocks. The Rockets showcased their versatility by putting out a number of different defensive looks and seem to be doing a good job of making the most of their long limbs and mobile feet. It was a fascinating back-and-forth between the two teams in what was a potential playoff preview. The question is, if it came down to it in a playoff series which side would get the upper hand?

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#47259 Houston Rockets 105, Cleveland Cavaliers 103: Intensity

Posted by Red94 on 02 March 2015 - 12:38 AM

New post: Houston Rockets 105, Cleveland Cavaliers 103: Intensity
By: Forrest Walker

No big deal here, it was just the most exciting and meaningful Rockets win of the season. LeBron James and his Cavaliers super team just happened to swing by and deliver the most intense and scrappy battle Houston has seen this year, and James Harden just happened to deliver item number seven thousand in his ever-growing MVP resume. It was pure coincidence that this game went to overtime, giving the world five more minutes to watch two of the best players in the world literally struggle against one another. And, somehow, in the end, the game came down to free throw shooting, but not in the way you might think.


This was a fun, tight, exciting game throughout the first half, with neither team gaining a double digit lead. And then the third quarter started, and Patrick Beverley tried to take a charge against LeBron James. That it was eventually called as a blocking foul was immaterial. The ensuing scuffle, however, set a tone that would persist throughout the remainder of the game. As LeBron James fell to the floor, he placed his hand on Beverley's chest, something which Patrick seemed to take objection to. A shouting match upgraded to some kind of mass scuffle, and double techs were issued. The game was back on.


And then things got intense.


Both teams were heated at this point, with a series of increasingly hostile interactions leading up to an overtime finish. Timofey Mozgov and James Harden fell to the ground while scrambling for a loose ball, a scrum which ended with Mozgov grabbing James Harden's foot to foul him and prevent a fast break. Trevor Ariza, in turn, got into Mozgov's face in a later possession, for which he was issued a technical foul. (for which LeBron missed the free throw, in a shocking pattern.) This string of events would come to a head with Harden scrambling for a loose ball while James comes after him, resulting in an angry kick from Harden directly into LeBron's groin. Surprisingly, Harden was let off with a mere flagrant foul, but the Rockets have found themselves in the sights of yet another team.


This game turned into a battle for MVP votes somewhere along the way, and the short answer is that James Harden won it. The longer answer is that they two players had eerily similar stat lines, with a couple glaring exceptions. LeBron James scored 37 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished 4 assists and surrounded that with 3 steals, 3 blocks and 4 turnovers. Harden's line was a similar 33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 5 turnovers. The difference came in efficiency. LeBron James shot 25-35 to get there, including 4-12 from deep, and most notably he missed 8 of his 11 free throw attempts, including two consecutive misses at the end of the game. Harden, for his part, shot 8-18, 2-6 three pointers, and 15-18 (!!!) at the stripe.


The game ended not with a bang, but with a weird confusing few possessions in which Harden at one point hooked LeBron and tried to use him like a puppet to get a foul, which didn't work. After LeBron failed to hit free throws, Harden did indeed seal the game, but missed on purpose with .6 seconds left in order to burn the clock. After a review, the Cavs were given a final .3 seconds to shoot a three for the win, but couldn't get the shot off in time, which Terrence Jones blocked for good measure. The rest of the plays for the Cavs were largely isolation for LeBron James, in a dark mirror of Houston's plays for James Harden. Trevor Ariza proved up to the task however, and even James Harden had success guarding LeBron. It turns out that Harden has always been a solid one on one defender, and that hasn't changed.


It was an up and down game, and the team largely played the way it needs to, though the bench embarrassingly  gave up an 8 point lead in a mere 90 seconds to start the fourth. They also helped key in a vicious third quarter in which the Rockets hovered at an 8-10 point lead. We got the best of Josh Smith and the worst of Josh Smith. Terrence Jones grabbed rebounds and dunked like crazy. Donatas Motiejunas shook his man in the post. Trevor Ariza defended with the best of them and Corey Brewer fired it up off the bench. If this team can keep up this intensity, they're going to be a holy terror this post season. Oh, and they'll get Dwight Howard back, too.

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#47200 Houston Rockets 102, Brooklyn Nets 98: 40 before 20

Posted by Red94 on 28 February 2015 - 06:01 AM

New post: Houston Rockets 102, Brooklyn Nets 98: 40 before 20
By: Paul McGuire

I have made it clear in past recaps and roundtables that I have real issues with certain aspects of this Rockets squad – their three-point shooting is not strong enough and they do not have enough size without Howard among other concerns. Even though Houston has the rarest and most important part of a championship team, a true MVP candidate, their flaws will likely prevent them from winning the championship this year. Nevertheless, I remain irritated that the Rockets continue to be overlooked as a championship team for reasons beyond said flaws. Even the Spurs, a team that has never looked this bad in the Duncan era, are given more credibility. The reason seems to be nothing more than a shallow declaration of how the Rockets are soft and Harden does not have “it” – just like Dirk did not have “it” before 2011 and LeBron before 2012.


Well, maybe winning 40 games before losing 20, Phil Jackson’s mark on what makes a contender, will change the tone. Only the Hawks, Warriors, and Grizzlies have accomplished the same, while Portland could at the time of this writing. And if that was not good enough, the Rockets did not have to ask Harden to shoulder everything tonight. The Beard was not the scoring machine that he usually is due to his sprained ankle, but Houston still prevailed over an inferior Brooklyn with a true team effort.


But even though the Rockets won, the Brooklyn Nets led for the vast majority of the game. The Rockets started off slow and fell behind by double digits early in the first quarter, but the Rockets bench erased that lead by the 3:30 mark of the next quarter. But whenever the Rockets grabbed a small lead and seemed poised to make a run, their offense sputtered. Harden was relentlessly double-teamed for the entire game, and so the Rockets struggled to find other scorers for much of the night.


Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley stepped in to fill the offense, a welcome answer as they returned to playing at a level resembling NBA basketball. Ariza in particular was on fire from long-range for the second straight game, and finished with 20 points on 11 shots. Beverley struggled to shoot for most of the game, but he showed up when it counted most by hitting a wide open three pointer with a minute left to complete a late 12-4 Rockets run that tied the game. Both of them did struggle to guard Brooklyn’s wing lineup – Joe Johnson and Alan Anderson are big swingmen who repeatedly outbigged Ariza and Beverley – but it was still a great bounce back game from the rest of the season.


And of course, there was Terrence Jones. The Nets have some good big men, and Brook Lopez toyed with the Howard-less Rockets for most of the fourth quarter, especially on the offensive glass. Motiejunas scored points with that baby hook shot of his and Josh Smith had some great blocks, but Terrence Jones ran around carrying the frontcourt and the Rockets tonight. Rahat and others have compared Jones to a young Josh Smith, but Jones comes with the advantage of not thinking he’s a three-point shooter. All nine of his made field goals came close to the basket, including a shot where he double clutched to prevent getting blocked by Lopez.


And thanks to Jones, Joey Dorsey only played 2 minutes tonight after not playing at all against the Clippers. The Rockets rotation is readjusting itself in the aftermath of the trade deadline, with Prigioni finally getting rotation minutes at the point guard spot. K.J. McDaniels may have been the more visible acquisition from last week, but Pablo Prigioni is here to fill a very big hole in Houston’s passing.


P.S. Hi, Smith. You had your period when you shot 3’s well. That was pretty cool. Now don’t do it again. Don’t take 5 three-pointers in a game. You were doing well enough when you played inside the rim, and maybe you should continue to do that.


Tonight was not a pretty victory, and it was a game in which the Brooklyn Nets led for most of the time. But the Houston Rockets accomplished the bare minimum and hit the right shots to achieve victory over the Nets, thanks largely to Ariza and Jones. And now they sit with the fourth-best record in the NBA. Harden may be the rock on which everything rests – but it will be nice to see if people pay attention to the Rockets and not just him.

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#47161 Lineup data to this point

Posted by Red94 on 27 February 2015 - 12:33 AM

New post: Lineup data to this point
By: Rahat Huq

After seeing Houston pull away last night to start the fourth, my hypothesis was that the Rockets' offense is at its best with Corey Brewer in the lineup.  I set NBA.com's parameters to a minimum of 10 games played together, and found that the top Rockets quintet is Ariza/Harden/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry, with an offensive rating of 143 in 23 minutes together.  For lineups that have played at least 35 minutes together, the top quintet is Brewer/Harden/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry with an offensive rating of 127 in 36 minutes.  The common theme there is that the team seems to be at its best offensively with Motiejunas/Smith/Terry/Harden and a wing.


Strangely, defensively, for lineups that had played at least 35 minutes together, the stingiest unit was Ariza/Brewer/Jones/Smith/Terry with a defensive rating of 72.9 in 40 minutes of shared court time.  For lineups that have played 10 games together, the stingiest unit is Ariza/Brewer/Motiejunas/Smith/Terry with a defensive rating of 74.8 in 37 minutes player together.


Interesting to note above the glaring omissions of Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard.  And in Howard's case, its not that he hasn't played enough to qualify for the parameters - he can be found in some of the later units.


Obviously, small sample size alert.  And a lot is lost in the numbers.  But some of the combinations seem to meet the eye test.  Once a sufficiently sizable sample accumulates, I'm very curious to see how lineups with Terrence Jones fare in general to the other combinations.

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#47027 The Red94 post-trade deadline roundtable

Posted by Red94 on 21 February 2015 - 01:30 PM

New post: The Red94 post-trade deadline roundtable
By: Paul McGuire

McGuire: As we work to pick up the fallout from the NBA trade deadline, we should first start by focusing on the two players Houston got - K.J. McDaniels and Pablo Prigioni. I want to start by focusing on Prigioni. What I have seen from Twitter focuses on the fact that he is a 41% three-point shooter for his career ( he is 37% for the season), but Prigioni is also a good passer, with a career assist-to-turnover ration of around 3 to 1. Harden has never played with a true pass-first point guard in Houston ( and I guess not in OKC as well). While one could argue that Harden must dominate the ball, I think Prigioni could be a nice change of pace for a team which does not really have good passers - there’s Harden, Smith ( and both of them turn the ball over far too often), Motiejunas to a degree, and that’s about it.


Felker:  Bingo on the Prigioni analysis.  He obviously doesn’t create out of the slash-and-kick, but like old Jason Kidd used to do for the Mavs, Pablo never misses the correct pass.  Jason Terry’s veteran savvy aside, I still don’t fully understand why Isaiah Canaan couldn’t lock down the backup point guard role.  I’ve always said that one of Kevin McHale biggest weaknesses is that he doesn’t take the time to season young players.  Gregg Popovich would have definitely thrown Canaan to the wolves and let him figure it out.  Canaan is soon-to-be elite at one of the most important skills in today’s NBA, and he’s only going to get better.  Having said that….






Walker: Can we talk about KJ McDaniels for a moment? Fantastic name aside (Not a lot of KJ’s out there, a bold two letter nickname), he’s hyper-athletic, shows a lot of promise on defense, and deserves rotation minutes right this second. The Rockets now have A Bench. Prigioni, McDaniels, Brewer, Jones and Smith are probably a better unit than some teams have starting. KJ is gonna get burn yesterday, and you don’t trade for Prigioni if you want him to sit on the bench, right? Of course, those minutes have to come from somewhere, and Jason Terry has to be looking over his shoulder right about now.


Felker:  As I told Paul in an email shortly after the trade was announced, KJ McDaniels is Morey’s second go around at Gerald Green.  He cut Green a few years ago, and rectified it by trading a solid prospect for McDaniels this time around.  Lesson learned.


McGuire: Well, I am not sure whether a comparison to Gerald Green is supposed to be a good thing. Green is certainly better compared to when he was first drafted, but he is just as likely to shoot you out of a game as he is to help you.


Now as for McDaniels: Forrest is right in that those minutes have to come from somewhere, but I remain doubtful as to where. Harden-Ariza-Brewer are going to gobble up the vast majority of those 96 swingman minutes, especially so in the playoffs. McDaniels has potential and has been talked about more this afternoon than Prigioni, but he does not do much to fix Houston’s real weaknesses - and while I may disagree with Rahat’s statement that “The Rockets are the only team among the west’s top tier about whom you can say they have a very clear glaring weakness”, they have real flaws which will hold them back this year.


Li: We should also not forget to mention the most important statistic concerning either of these two players. Prigioni is 37 years old. He’s basically the Argentinean Jason Terry.


That being said, Prigioni’s three-point shooting is going to be the most important part of the Rockets’ trade haul. Yes, he shoots a career 41%, but his volume isn’t spectacular (6.2 3PA per 100 possessions). This season Jason Terry is shooting 39% on 10.0 3PA per 100 possessions. Of the two, the latter figure is more impressive since it indicates similar efficiency on presumably more difficult shot selection. Of course, Prigioni has been shooting on the Knicks, not exactly a free flowing offense that produces great three-point looks. The potential for Prigioni to find a nice comfortable role outside of the arc with the Rockets is definitely there.


Just to resurrect a horse that’s already been beaten to death, count me in on the “are we giving our players a fair shake?” bandwagon. Canaan, obviously. Rahat also mentioned how only injuries forced DMo into receiving playing time (remember he didn’t play a single minute in the playoffs last year). I’m also going to throw Robert Covington into the mix. This year he’s shooting 39% on 10.9 3PA per 100 possessions, WITH PHILADELPHIA! That’s great efficiency on incredible volume in a basketball desert. You’re telling me a 6’9” wing who can shoot like that and makes less than $1 million can’t find a role on the Rockets? Can you imagine a Smith-Jones-Ariza-Brewer-Covington lineup? They’re all 6’9”! They can switch onto whomever they want! But I digress, it’s just spilled milk now.


Walker: Eh, nothing good ever comes of looking at your ex’s Facebook page, and there’s little use in worrying about how traded players are doing. Covington wasn’t going anywhere in Houston, and apparently neither was Canaan (perhaps for different reasons). I would love to see Prigioni eat up all of Terry’s minutes and for McDaniels to help reduce the minutes load on the starters in general. It’s become increasingly evident that regular season minutes maintenance matters in playoff time, and the closer to 30 minutes a game for the starters the better. McDaniels may or may not get burn in the postseason, but he can save some burn now. The fresher and more energetic playoff Harden is, the better Houston’s chances of winning four games in a series, and the less injury done to my liquor cabinet.


McGuire: Maybe this is because I was one of the captains of the “Motiejunas is not very good” wagon, but I don’t agree with what Rahat said about Motiejunas and McHale at all. Motiejunas got playing time last year. He even started a few games. And he was a mess defensively who fouled far too often, the hook shots which are his bread and butter now were not going in, and he was a worse three-point shooter. I know quite a few people suggested that McHale should have thrown Motiejunas against Aldridge last year against Portland. I think that is Monday-morning quarterbacking at best, and downright lunacy at worst.


But to get back on topic, I do think Rahat is right to be concerned about this team’s postseason potential. Two of the other Western teams scare me to death ( Golden State and the underrated Clippers), I would rather not face Memphis, and Dallas is really the only team that I am confident that we can beat. I would not go so far as to agree with my friend Brandon Davis from House of Houston in his declaration that “The Rockets won’t make it to round 2”, but I will not say I am not worried.


Dover: My guess with Prigioni is that Morey looked at the team and decided that we needed someone who could genuinely be called a “point guard” to back up Beverley. We forget because of where he has played for us this year, but up until this season Terry was predominantly a shooting guard. And for all that Canaan showed promise, there’s a reason he is sometimes referred to as an ‘SG trapped in a PG’s body’.


Up until now that has led for a rather chaotic approach when the starters sit - the bench mob can be incredibly effective when they’re generating turnovers and getting out on the break, but often struggle in the half court. Prigioni has a career’s worth of experience in managing the game and getting his team into its sets. With him on the court you can have structure to your offense and trust that the players who should get the ball get the ball. You might actually see Motiejunas get some touches when he’s on court with the subs!


The other thing I like about Prigioni is that he’s explicitly not a ball-dominator. While I haven’t seen a ton of Knicks games, the times I have watched them he has been very willing to surrender control when it makes sense. He does not over-dribble, he does not look for his own shot at the expense of the rest of the team, and he is quite happy to let a teammate control the ball if need be (this was particularly obvious in New York where he played quite a bit with JR Smith). That skill set means that he will be a good fit if and when he is called on to play next to Harden, something that can’t be said about a lot of the PGs that were on the market.


I don’t really care that there’s not a big ‘move the needle’ acquisition coming in at the deadline. Morey got that work done early by adding Corey Brewer and Josh Smith to the team, and that’s the way I like it because it gives those guys a lot more time to come in and get acclimated. I’d be worried if we were counting on a game-changing player arriving today and being expected to fit in with no issues come playoff time. The reality is that getting the pieces to fit together takes time - just ask Cleveland! Now is the time for shoring up the fringes of the rotation to put the overall roster in good shape come April, not for doing something drastic that will mean the coaching staff and players spend the rest of the season trying to get on the same page.

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#46996 Houston Rockets acquire Prigioni and McDaniesl, Goran and Zoran to Heat for a...

Posted by Red94 on 20 February 2015 - 12:59 AM

New post: Houston Rockets acquire Prigioni and McDaniesl, Goran and Zoran to Heat for a bunch of guys; also, the ballad of Isaiah Canaan
By: Rahat Huq

So this of course didn't end up playing out how everyone was hoping.  But the team added two guys who figure to strengthen their bench, Pablo Prigioni in particular.  Most of the excitement thus far has stemmed from the K.J. McDaniels acquisition, but it remains to be seen if he can crack a wing rotation which already includes the league MVP, Trevor Ariza, and Corey Brewer.  If he can, arguably the league's best bench got even more athletic, with the potential to run second units out of the gym.  The related after-effect of these moves, or more appropriately, the non-move, is that the Josh Smith and Terrence Jones duo will remain intact for the stretch run and into the playoffs.  Upon Jones' return, aside from James Harden, I felt that pairing was Houston's biggest strength, with the length and speed to overwhelm opponents.  Those two players are staying together now, so the Rockets will maintain that edge.


The big story, of course, was the Rockets' failure to acquire Goran Dragic.  Looking at the package the Heat surrendered, one would have to think that had Daryl Morey wanted, he could have had Gogi.  That New Orleans pick Houston holds alone is more valuable than the two second-rounders Miami gave up in the deal; or maybe the Suns are just that in love with Brandon Knight.  The latter is certainly possible and we probably won't ever know.  But assuming Morey held back from playing all his cards, the turn of events offers an interesting glimpse into the philosophy of Houston's head man.  Had it been me at the helm, as I wrote yesterday, I would have absolutely rolled the dice on a Dragic rental.  But this is Daryl f***ing Morey, man.  That's not how he rolls.  In some ways, this incident, and the concomitant self-control (to put things positively) is perfectly microcosmic of everything for which Daryl Morey stands.  When everyone else sees panic, when everyone else senses a "moment", he lays back, for better or worse.  Everyone thought this summer the Rockets were doomed to eternal despair if Chandler Parsons walked but Morey gave zero f***s.  And now, in the face of an acquisition that could have put his team on the cusp of championship contention, Morey just saw odds.  Odds that his team still probably wouldn't have won, because the odds of any team winning are already so low, and odds that he'd be left with nothing in the summer after Dragic walked.  Had it been me, I would have said "screw it" and gone all in.  I want the title now.  But that's Daryl Morey, man.  (Of course, in their quest to employ every point guard currently in the NBA, maybe the Suns just wanted Brandon Knight more than Terrence Jones and the Pelicans pick, rendering everything I just wrote in this paragraph irrelevant...but the narrative I presented was far more enlightening).




If I could ask Kevin McHale any one question, it would be "wtf exactly happened with Isaiah Canaan?"  (Actually, I'd never ask McHale that, or anything even nearing such levels of confrontation, as, the last time I was in such a situation, back in law school when I was still living in Houston and attending practices here and there, after a stretch where the team dropped a string of games due to what seemed like lackadaisical play, I asked McHale if he thought maybe the schedule was contributory to the team's lethargic state.  He looked me squarely in the eye, with a straight face, and responded, "seriously?")


Canaan was a player who, after an early season explosion against Golden State, in a post I can't seem to find at the moment, I proclaimed would one day be the team's future at starting point guard.  Canaan's play in the ensuing contests cemented that belief in my mind, until he went down with injury, only to never be heard from ever again.  The Canaan story is absolutely perplexing.  This was a guy, who, in theory, had every tool the team needed in a backup point guard.  Three point shooting?  Check.  Shot creation?  Check.  Fearlessness to attack the rim?  Check.  I seriously thought this guy was the team's future at the position.  Instead, his Rockets destiny apexed with being captured on camera having his genitals clasped by Dwight Howard on the Houston bench, on national television.  Seriously, what happened?  Does anyone know?


Clearly some issues took place behind the scenes and I'm sure we'll be fed those morsels in the coming days.  But I won't give in easily to just trusting the staff in personnel management, as we're implored.  There are those who say, "oh, the coach knows best, stop complaining." And sure, the staff is of course privy to far more, infinitely, of the inner workings than the public.  But I won't just trust that the right move was made.  I quipped last year, repeatedly, back before he became GOATiejunas, that if Motiejunas were on the Spurs, he'd probably have Pau Gasol's career trajectory.  Some pointed out to me today that no one could have predicted Motiejunas' ascendance this season.  And that's true.  I didn't think he'd become GOATiejunas.  But I emphatically believed he was far better than the chance he had been afforded up to the point in time when Kevin McHale was forced into playing him by necessity.


Think about that for a moment.  Had Terrence Jones not gone down, and also Dwight Howard, D-Mo would probably be playing in Poland somewhere right now or working at a local Chuck E. Cheese.  (Okay, he'd have promptly been picked up by some other team, but that alternative doesn't quite hold the same rhetorical power - you get the gist).  My point is this: how can I trust that the Canaan situation was handled properly when, had a force majeure not effectuated, McHale was on track to bungle the managing of the team's current third best player?  Okay, I'm getting off my soap box, for now.  But I couldn't let the Canaan situation just pass without mention.


Looking forward, the team is probably better, with Prigioni sure to offer a steady hand and a sure jumpshot, from the point guard position.  But we'll see.  I don't know that I like this team's chances in the postseason without a second playmaker, but that's why they play the games.  And oh...I should probably start watching college basketball; the Rockets will probably be picking like 12th this June.

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#46526 Golden State Warriors 131, Houston Rockets 106 - Gotta get better

Posted by Red94 on 18 January 2015 - 04:34 AM

New post: Golden State Warriors 131, Houston Rockets 106 - Gotta get better
By: Forrest Walker

The Houston Rockets aren't good enough. Sure, 28-13 is good for homecourt in the first round, a pace for 56 teams and an improvement in the first round. The Rockets have been beating tough teams, winning with solid defense and have a legitimate MVP candidate on the team. This is probably the best Rockets team we've seen in twenty years in probably the best Western Conference we've seen in decades. There's little reason for anything except effusive praise and recognition of how good of a team Daryl Morey's front office has built.


Losing in a drubbing to the best team in the league is a good reminder that they still need to get better.


Is there anything the Golden State Warriors can't do? As this season hits the midpoint, the only thing the Warriors have to prove anymore is that they can stay healthy long enough to win a championship. Even when MVP hopeful Steph Curry shoots a miserable 2-8 from three point range, the Warriors can still dissect the #2 defense in the league for 131. The point, however, is not that the Warriors are good. The point is that with that team out there, the bar has been raised for the rest of the NBA, especially the meat grinder that is the west. Tonight, we saw what happens when a team vaults face-first into that bar.


James Harden, in particular, took in on the chin. Klay Thompson did as good a job defensively as anyone's done on Harden all season on a night when James' game temporarily left him. 12 points on 15 shots isn't anyone's idea of efficiency, and his 4 boards and 4 assists were sub-par, even for a mere 30 minutes of play. Foul trouble kept him out much of the game, and garbage time forced him to some early rest at the end. With Harden disrupted at best and sitting at worst, the Houston offense sputtered and died at times. The 106 point total says more about the pace of the game than about the shooting, which was a miserable 42% overall.


The three point line was smothered by defense all night, leading to not only a bad three point percentage for Houston (7-23, for 30%), but some disappointing lines for a number of players who rely on the arc for points. Ariza's 7 points on 2-5 shooting was actually preferable to several lines, like Patrick Beverley's 4-13 night, or Jason Terry and Corey Brewer combining to him one three in six tries.


The only bench player who really stood out was, of course, Josh Smith. He went 5-10, knocked down a three (that maybe he shouldn't have taken, if we're being honest), went 75% at the stripe and was just generally in the right place at the right time. Josh Smith is that TV show you won't admit to your friends that you watch because you don't even really like it that much and you don't even think it's good, but you keep seeing glimpses of the great TV show it could be and you keep watching because it gets just enough right that you think that with enough time, one day, when it plays to its strengths, it's gonna be awesome. Today the Josh Smith show had a fun episode. What will we see next time? Stay tuned to find out.


The one bright spot was that the Rockets posted up well against the Warriors. Drive and kick? Pick and roll? Golden State was ready and waiting. Backing them down in the paint, however, was more effective, and might just be a place to put together a plan. Howard had his way with Andrew Bogut, racking up 23 points on 9-15 shooting and getting the Australian big man in foul trouble early. His 7 free throws looked strikingly better, and he made 5 of them. 10 rebounds and 3 assists are a fine line any night of the week, and he was aided in his quest by Donatas Motiejunas. D-mo shot 50%, scored 14, grabbed 7 boards and had a +/- of only -3! On a night when every Rocket logged a net negative, that's reason for hope.


The Rockets now have time to lick their wounds before they face the Pacers next and then the Warriors again. If there's any way Houston can instigate improvement without roster moves, now is the time. If that turns out not to be the case, the trade deadline is only month away. Going .680 might be good enough most seasons, but good enough just won't cut it this year, against this level of competition. It's time to take another step, even after having taken so many.

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#46479 Orlando Magic 120, Houston Rockets 113: Defense, defense, defense.

Posted by Red94 on 15 January 2015 - 02:11 PM

New post: Defensive breakdowns in the Houston Rockets' loss to the Orlando Magic
By: Rahat Huq

From 3:18 in the fourth quarter, until the 1:20 mark, among their possessions, the Magic ran the following four sequences.












and then the dagger:




After the Frye '3', Orlando went up four, putting the game out of reach.  What the hell happened?


All four of the shot attempts were undeterred, resulting from some defensive miscue of some sort.  If that happens at the tail end of a playoff game, forget about even getting out of the first round, much less winning a title.


On the Gordon drive, after the Magic run a double pick on Houston's bigs, Motiejunas is in quick sand and Howard is late to recover.  On the first Payton drive, Beverley and Howard seem like they don't know what they want to do, with Howard inexplicably shifting over to rotate to the big, when Beverley is exposed on the baseline.  WTF?  The smart play there would have been to cut off Payton on the baseline, either trapping him, or sending Beverley to rotate to the big man.  This one wasn't Beverley's fault.


Next, Motiejunas ends up switched onto Payton somehow in transition, having no chance one on one with the guard.  Howard's just watching after Payton beats his 'mate, even though his man has leaked out and isn't a threat anymore.  Howard should have collapsed to help out realizing Motiejunas would not be able to stay with the speedy guard.


The last play might have been the most egregious.




How does that even happen?  Channing Frye's entire existence is predicated upon standing at the three point line waiting for a shot.


Screenshot 2015-01-15 08.05.38


See the yellow arrows?  There should be a red arrow in the vicinity of each of them.  Then why are there three red arrows bunched up in the corner next to two Magic players?  Because James Harden isn't guarding anyone.


For a team that's talked a big talk about defensive focus this year, performances like last night's won't fly.  They looked a lot more like the team that got embarrassed by the Blazers in the playoffs than the stellar unit they've been this season.  Hopefully, the coaches will show the guys the tape and they'll learn from their mistakes because this won't cut it.  You can miss shots, you can even take bad ones, but you can't let the other team get wide open looks like this late in the game if you want to win a title.

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#46244 Washington Wizards 104, Houston Rockets 103: A total moral defeat.

Posted by Red94 on 30 December 2014 - 07:11 PM

New post: On Josh Smith, Motiejunas, Canaan
By: Rahat Huq



The less I say about Josh Smith tonight, the better. But I had believed that the idea of starting Smith was to solve the problem of ensuring post touches for both Howard and Motiejunas. Instead, Motiejunas spent very little time in the post tonight. It did work as Brewer continues to play out of his mind and Dorsey did contribute defensively. But what happens when Brewer inevitably regresses? Will the Rockets actually start going to Motiejunas or will we see something which will probably be less efficient offensively?


Paul McGuire had some interesting thoughts in his recap from last night with which I agree.  First, on Josh Smith.  He's been so atrocious in these past two games that you could possibly even go so far as to say that the Rockets would have won both had he not suited up.  I think that's a fair assessment.  The team looks completely lost offensively in response to this drastic implant.  (Adding Josh Smith into your lineup in midseason is like when the white blood cell count in the body rapidly multiplies in response to a foreign element and everything goes haywire..)


But that's okay.  I still firmly believe it was a no-brainer to acquire him, even if we lose a few games in the standings.  One of my pet peeves is when a team acquires a new player, the team plays poorly upon acquisition, and the critics pound their chests in response. It takes time to adjust.  Ultimately, I don't think Houston could have gotten through the West without that extra big body, especially one as defensively sound as Smith.  Seeding doesn't really matter in the West.  These current growing pains are a worthwhile investment.  As I've been saying, it could turn out to be a disaster, but this was something the Rockets had to give a shot, especially at that pricetag.


My problem right now is Motiejunas and Canaan.  The reason the Spurs are so successful is because of the increased confidence their scrubs acquire from the increased playing time and expanded roles they enjoy during the season.  That's supposed to be the silver lining with injuries.  That when your injured guys get back, your team is even better because now not only do you have your injured guys, but your scrubs are balling out of control too.  If you just chain your scrubs back to the bench, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of developing them.


I have no idea what's going on with Canaan.  On paper, he seems to fit every need the Rockets have at point guard.  The situation is so baffling that I don't even want to speculate.  Something is clearly going on at practice or, he's just even worse defensively than I'm realizing.  (Though, it is hard to believe that that is the case when Jason Terry looks like the worst defender in all of basketball).


As McGuire noted, Motiejunas should be leading the second unit and getting all of the post touches he can handle.  Instead, he's reverted to running around like a big oaf who is hanging onto the thread of his NBA career.  I realize he wasn't productive in the, like three, touches he got last night.  But there's enough of a body of evidence that he needs to be fed consistently to be productive, and there's also enough of a body of evidence that feeding him is related to winning basketball.  Motiejunas mows people down and in theory, should have been mowing backups down.  It's not happening.  Why?


"McHale" (and I put that term in quotes as representative of the entire staff because guys clearly have defined roles here) has done of the best coaching jobs in the NBA this season.  As I know there are some of you here who take offense when I am critical, know that I am not calling for "his" head or anything remotely close to that.  No one's above criticism.  For as much as "he's" done in transforming the ethos of this team (to a defensive beast), "his" player management still leaves much to be desired.  I don't feel "he" is always able to get the most out of all of "his" players and that's what is necessary to win a title and not just feel good about winning 50 games.

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#45121 Beverley's future?

Posted by Red94 on 05 November 2014 - 02:05 PM

It depends on the rest of the roster.  They still need an upgrade somewhere.  So if you get a Paul Millsap, I am ok with bringing back Beverley even if it breaks the bank.  But if you are still rolling with the same guys at the '4', I'd want a Rondo.

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#43839 On contention

Posted by Red94 on 19 August 2014 - 11:36 AM

I'd say that if a max player at his level doesn't think of themselves as the best player, there's a problem.  

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#43010 Houston Rockets go down in Summer League title game to Sacramento Kings

Posted by Red94 on 22 July 2014 - 12:57 PM

New post: Houston Rockets go down in Summer League title game to Sacramento Kings
By: rahat huq

Don't even act as if you've never admired or felt the urge to admire your own joke.

As the tweet indicated, the local JV guys led most of the way before completely collapsing down the stretch, squandering the title to the Sacramento Kings.  Just playing the odds, this is the closest the Rockets will get to a championship in the next few years, so this one hurt pretty bad.  Well, not really.  But it did hurt having to watch through this game while laying on my couch when other things were on television, most notably anything else.  There were several points where I found myself falling asleep only to rouse myself up once more out of some self-inflicted sense of duty.  Those of you who didn't watch this - I bit the bullet for everyone; thank me later.

First, Motiejunas: while not filling the box score as he had done in previous nights, the big man did a little of everything, once again showing the tantalizing versatility that has left me confounded over his lack of success.  He scored from the post with running hooks, a baby hook over his opposite shoulder that got wiped out, hit an outside jumper, and drove in on multiple occasions from the three point line.  Most encouragingly, as Chris Finch noted afterward, D-Mo stayed big inside and rotated smartly against incoming opponents.  I don't think I've ever been so invested in a Rockets prospect and relatedly, I don't think I've ever been so confused over a prospect's lack of success.  Why has D-Mo not panned out?  What is going on here?  This is a legit 7 footer who can score inside with either hand, can put the ball on the floor, and who possesses NBA range (well, sorta) who, by all accounts, is a tireless worker.  He's added significant weight to his frame since being drafted and made tremendous strides defensively last season, as most famously evidenced by one particular outing against Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies.  I just don't understand.  If he's not in the rotation by January, or was shipped away for some worthless conditional second rounder by mid-season, we missed a big opportunity.  Were he to have come over this season, I think he'd have been a lottery lock.  While I empathize with the immediate need to win games, I just think players can't get comfortable if constantly glancing over at the bench upon each mistake.  So naturally, Motiejunas will likely end up on the Spurs and realize his true NBA destiny, spelling Tim Duncan off the bench in helping San Antonio win the NBA title.  Naturally.

Nick Johnson: I really hope this kid cracks the rotation because I've already fallen in love with his game.  Johnson has a smooth jumper, an insane vertical, a tight handle, and a brute force mentality to complement his strong upper body.  He reminded me immediately of Bobby Sura watching him attack bigger guys off the dribble and finish at the rim while absorbing contact.  Simply put, Johnson is a man's man, a pitbull.  The only problem is that he appears extremely slow-footed, to the point where I worry he won't be able to create separation at this level, much like his forebear, Sura.  That's not to say one cannot be an effective NBA guard if lacking quickness (see: Andre Miller), but it's something of a concern.  Johnson is sort of a paradox, much like former Rocket Chandler Parsons, in that he has incredible leaping ability--which naturally leads observers to label him as 'athletic'--but not much in the way of lateral quickness.  We'll see.  But I think he will succeed, if for no other reason than that the guy is a complete badass.  Oh, and also because we currently only have one player on our bench.

Canaan: Isaiah Canaan didn't do much of anything in this game, but was in God-mode earlier in the tournament, at one point looking Andrew Wiggins in the eye and high-stepping him straight to the basket.  The jumper was wet and the first step had been unguardable.  It's hard to know with these types of guys whether they can make it at the next level.  For one, you can't drive in relentlessly in the big leagues unless you're historically elite like James Harden.  But secondly, can he defend at his size?  And most importantly, as a point guard, can he make smart reads?  That's really the thing about evaluating point guards.  Unlike bigs, where you're just checking to see whether they're capable of running in a straight line without tripping over, every single man under 6'3 at this level is insanely talented and naturally competitive.  Which ones are NBA smart?

I think Nick Johnson will end up winning the backup point guard job over Canaan for several reasons, namely that Kevin McHale loves tough guys.  His slow-footedness won't be much of a problem here as the point guard job description on this team is to simply bring the ball up and hand it off to James Harden.

Now we wait two more months for the next game.

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#42742 Epilogue: The Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons decision

Posted by Red94 on 17 July 2014 - 01:11 PM

New post: Epilogue: The Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons decision
By: rahat huq

Sufficient time has elapsed now since the Houston Rockets' decision to not match the offer sheet signed by Chandler Parsons that I am confident it was the correct course of action.  I guess what they say is true: the passage of time truly does distance emotion.

Regarding Parsons' earlier comments this weekaimed towards the Rockets: Initially, he clearly does not have much of a grasp of the rules within which the Rockets were needing to operate.  They had him "wait around" for Bosh and 'Melo because exercising his bird rights last was the only way they could make maximum use of the cap space at hand.  Either that point entirely escaped him or he simply couldn't understand why the team would prefer adding another good player along with keeping him rather than just keeping him and calling it a day.  If its the latter, that's perhaps an even more damning indictment of Chandler.

But setting all of that aside, the crux of the matter is that Parsons felt he was disrespected and deserving of a bigger role; he says he wanted to be viewed as a franchise player.  That's perfectly fine and reasonable: one would hope for such competitive pride from a professional athlete in the prime of his earnings.  But for our purposes, that perception of course falls far from the reality.  There's no use really belaboring the obvious and it would be unfair to pile on.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows Chandler Parsons is not a franchise player or probably even the third best player on a championship team.  He could not even win his matchup of "third best player vs. third best player" last May against Nic Batum of the Blazers.

But how to properly assess Parsons?  I wrote on September 1, 2013:


It’s important to clarify here upon the distinction between actual and relative value.  Parsons’ value lies in his contract.  To wit, he is–bar none–the single best value contract in the entire league.  But if that salary were regularized across all players with an inspection upon solely on-court merits, then of course, much of that value diminishes.  I have almost no doubt that if, when Parsons’ contract is up, the team were in the same position that they found themselves in last summer–headed nowhere–and faced with a similar decision as they did with Goran Dragic, they would choose to let Parsons walk–as they did Dragic–rather than shell out market value.  Because they will not be in that similar situation, things get more interesting.

Ultimately, in that piece, I concluded that in a vacuum, Chandler Parsons was not worth even $10 million per annum, but if faced with the choice, on this team, Daryl Morey would comply.  I obviously was not expecting a $15 million offer.

As I noted in that 2013 piece, Parsons quickly became extremely overrated upon the Dwight Howard signing as numerous publications mentioned him as part of a Big 3.  That trend has continued this summer in the commentary pursuant to his pay raise.  Parsons isn't a star and never will be.  He lacks the physical attributes necessary to indicate future growth.  While he could improve his dribbling, he's simply too slow to ever beat anyone off the dribble.  The brunt of his production comes by way of filling the gaps: he can run the floor, shoot off the catch, and curl around screens.  Square him up against a defender, with a live dribble, and he's finished.

The most damning example of Parsons' limitations is the January 24th home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a career-night in which Chandler hit a record ten threes.  With the game on the line, and Parsons having been on fire all night off catch-and-shoots, Kevin McHale did what you'd expect Kevin McHale's mind to do: he put the ball directly in Chandler's hands, in isolation, to decide the game.  Naturally, Parsons was snuffed out, not even getting off a good look on multiple attempts.*

*A sidenote: this occasion was sadly, more than an indictment on Parsons, an indictment on the gross and total ineptitude of Kevin McHale.  It's one of those instances where one just asks themselves, "what am I overlooking?  There's no way he's this clueless."  I've never played basketball at a high level and I've clearly never played in the NBA or coached in the NBA.  Naturally, I err on the side of deference.  If someone is one of the fifty greatest to have ever done it, and he does something completely bewildering, then my natural course is to assume I'm missing something.  It's like the Parsons opt-out.  I know Morey's smart.  So when he did something so perplexing, I knew I had to be missing something.  Lo and behold, it has since come out that letting Parsons out a year early was likely a precondition set by Dan Fegan prior to the Dwight Howard signing.  Same thing here: this was so bewildering, as is the case with most of McHale's out of timeout plays, that I simply had to be missing something.  It's like you can almost follow the train of thought in his head as the hampster runs on the wheel: "hmm, Chandler has hit ten threes off spot-ups.  Naturally, he's hot - give him the ball to end it"....completely oblivious to the circumstances through which the shots were made!  But enough on this.

I think Parsons can improve in Dallas.  He'll certainly have the best coaching of his career, at least since his rookie season under Rick Adelman.  His stats might decline, however, as some of his production can be taken as pace-inflated.  And there are some hidden strengths in his game that a good coach will pick up on and put to use.  I noticed several times last season, that surprisingly, despite his lanky frame, Parsons has very good balance and body control in the post.  If I'm Dallas, that facet of Parsons' game is one I'd explore more deeply than the handful of possessions he was given here in Houston.

He's also no doubt a capable ball-handler in the pick&roll and usually makes the right decision.  With Carlisle's creativity (there's much on the internet to read about Dallas' efforts in making Monta Ellis as dangerous as ever), you can envision Chandler featured in some highly intricate attacks.  Here in Houston, with perhaps the best pick&roll combo in basketball, the Rockets naturally only ran the play what seemed like a handful of times the entire year.

Losing Parsons hurts.  If keeping him meant they couldn't further improve the team, then letting him go was the right decision.  But losing him hurts.  Today, they're a worse team, if for no other reason than that they lost their longest tenured player.  All of the chemistry built between the incumbent players is gone, as if it never even happened.  It will take time now, at the expense of wins, to gain familiarity with new faces.  But with Chandler they had a ceiling.  If they didn't feel they could improve the team, they couldn't pay him what he was asking.

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