Rockets Daily: Thursday, September 9th, 2010

  • Those who had felt the buzzing, warm feelings of connection after first hearing Carmelo Anthony wanted the Houston Rockets to be his next stop should prepare for the inevitable heartbreak associated with loving someone so popular: he doesn’t want us anymore. Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reports that Anthony wants to live it up in the big city, Babe-style, and has now listed only the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls as preferred destinations. While Morey may be able to melt ice sculptures with a stare and sprinkle the magic dust that causes second-rounders’ PERs to skyrocket, even he may have little to no chance of making this one work, a deal many Rockets fans question Morey even wanted to make happen. As Rockets fans begin to settle in to a roster that may stay together for a little longer now, the newly revamped (and vastly improved) Bulls are left wondering something a lot similar to the Rockets: is he even worth it? By the Horns‘ Matt McHale wonders whether the Nuggets wing is even markedly better than Chicago’s current inefficient former All-Star playing the 3: “Which begs the question: Is Anthony an upgrade from Deng? I can hear the howls of dismay already, but bear with me for a minute. Yes, ‘Melo scores more than Deng (about 11 PPG more last season). But his Usage Rate is 33.4 (third in the league behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron) to Deng’s 21.9. Denver’s offense runs through Anthony, and he was carte blanche to shoot the ball. Not so for Luol. Furthermore, Anthony shot the ball less efficiently than Deng. Last season, ‘Melo’s Effective Field Goal Percentage was .478, while Deng’s was .482… It might also be worth stating that Luol’s career field goal percentage (.474) is higher than Anthony’s (.459). Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Deng is a better scorer. It’s clear that Anthony has the more complete offensive skill set. What I’m saying is that his shooting efficiency is lower than Deng’s and his PPG stats almost certainly benefit from extra looks.”
  • While Rockets fans may have shades of phantom limb from all of the NBA 2K11 Rockets lineups built with Melo, at least the team never saw the man on the roster, only to see him leave without ever playing a game to go contribute greatly to another team. That is the collective misery of Spurs Nation, as 48 Minutes of Hell has taken a break from their regular programming to bring you the Lamenting of Luis Scola this week. On our TrueHoop sister blog for the Spurs, Scola has been called a “cornerstone”, the kind of player the Spurs should be seeking in 2010-11 instead of role players (like Tiago Splitter): “I watched and TiVo’d yesterday’s Brazil vs. Argentina game looking to write another Tiago Splitter post for those who might not have had the opportunity to watch it. Shortly after the game I deleted the program with almost nothing of note on Splitter, mostly because Luis Scola was too depressingly dominant to pay attention to anything else. There were other notable storylines to be sure… But the story of the night was best summarized in a Tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, ‘Scola goes into video game god mode to finish off Brazil. Wow.’”
  • gives the Houston Rockets a “summer report card” grade of a B. While few things should be read into an arbitrary grade of no one particular thing (it doesn’t particularly have to do with offseason acquisitions, yet it isn’t clear if it is simply an overall team rating. It basically means nothing), I do find the NBA’s piqued interest in the Rockets slightly fascinating, as it seems the rest of the league has lost the perception that when Rockets stars get injured and do not come back. During the McGrady Era, media outlets were so quick to dismiss our oft-injured stars and collection of “nobodies”. Of course, this “grade” was handed out by former Rockets beat writer Fran Blinebury, so the rest of the world may still be scoffing at Houston’s chances; for a day, though, the Rockets look to contend.
  • Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves makes an excellent post about Kevin Love and the racial archetypes built within basketball. The Rockets have their own stereotype-bending Caucasian in sophomore Chase Budinger, a shoot-happy, high-flying athlete more adept at finishing on the fast break than any other player on the team (mostly thanks to Trevor Ariza getting his walking papers); players like Budinger have been playing outside of our presupposed racial limitations long before today on the court, but in many fans’ and media members’ minds, J.J. Redick, despite his insanely quick trigger and game-changing playmaking abilities, still finds a spot on a team like the Magic because he “plays the right (white) way”. Polk talks more about Love, his obvious gifts, which would look amazing from just about any color of skin (except green. Damn green people), and his less-than-expected behavior: “What’s compelling about Love is that he both conforms and diverges from the idealized picture.  True enough, when he is at his best, Love appears to be out-hustling every other player on the floor, to be compensating for his lack of size and leaping ability with a dogged work ethic. His passing skills and patience within the offense seem to speak to a willingness to share the ball, to unselfishly and intelligently play within systems. But, contrary to mythology, these skills are not simply moral achievements, the products of a well crafted, blue-collar soul. Kevin Love is a tremendously gifted natural athlete: his hands are terrifically strong; his vision and hand-eye coordination are preternatural. Moreover, we Wolves’ fans are well aware of his shortcomings as a teammate: his willingness to publicly criticize coaches; his 30-odd game flirtation with sulky, middling effort last season.”
  • The Rockets have not won a division title since 1994, the first time Houston brought home an NBA championship (meaning more championship banners, 1, have been hung up in the Rockets’ rafters than division titles since). Given the aging cores of both the Mavericks and Spurs, this would appear to be an attainable goal for Houston in the upcoming season. That is unless those teams got better this offseason, which it appears those Mavericks did. The Two Man Game‘s Rob Mahoney takes a look at the deal involving Erick Dampier’s gigantic non-guaranteed contract that Mavs fans had hoped would bring back a superstar in the Summer of LeBron, which brought back a bench center in Tyson Chandler instead. Mahoney found out that while the overall presence that Team USA’s lone true big may be overrated, particular aspects of his D could leave Mavericks opponents stifled and bothered: “In fact, if we use Hainline’s player swap tool, his system puts the Mavs at 1.9 fewer Pythagorean wins with Chandler than with Dampier based on both players’ offensive and defensive impact from last season… However, a look into each player’s individual defense does reveal a few interesting discrepancies. Take a look at how Chandler, Dampier, and Brendan Haywood each performed last season in various defensive capacities… By these measures, Chandler is actually a slight improvement over Dampier, and a far better pick-and-roll defender. In my initial analysis of the Dampier trade, I noted that although Chandler may not be supremely talented, there is value in variety. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier are similar defenders, while Chandler, empirically speaking, separates himself with his defense of the pick-and-roll. That’s why even though the Mavs didn’t make any significant personnel upgrades, their D could still improve in the coming season.”
  •’s Jason Friedman adds to the chorus of praise for Not-Much-Leaping Luis Scola, comparing the nuances of his game to that of the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs: “I know you didn’t come here to hear me blather on about music but I think it speaks to my point (and my abject inability to ever be a music critic) when I tell you that I was utterly unimpressed by this album the first few times I listened to it all the way through. It didn’t hook me and it certainly didn’t capture my imagination the way their two previous releases had… That was a month ago. Today? I’m totally smitten and head over heels in love with its sonic landscape lush with complex colors, chords and lyrical wizardry… All of which is my convoluted way of steering the conversation toward the similarly ethereal Luis Scola. That he is once again dominating on the international stage is no surprise. The Rockets’ forward was a whirling dervish of a one-man wrecking crew for Argentina two years ago during the Summer Olympics in Beijing and he’s at it once more at the FIBA World Championships… The delicious irony, however, is that such a performance came from someone who couldn’t possibly appear more mortal (at least in a basketball sense, anyway).”
  • If you want to know why I like Twitter, it’s because of things like this. Oh, Kyle Lowry and Jameer Nelson like to talk to each other? Awesome. I expect a lot more “OH MY GOD, why are you taking th… oh, it went in off the backboard” shots from Mr. Lowry in the upcoming season.

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