Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This has implications for the Rockets beyond just adding depth, Rick Adelman's reasoning for the signing. Some of the possibilities:
- The team is not that high on Jermaine Taylor. He may either be outa here or a candidate for the Vipers.
- Tracy McGrady is not in their long-term plans.
- Chase Budinger is not perceived as the answer for the 1st or 2nd guy off the bench.
- Management doesn't see this Rockets basketball team as a title contender.
Readers may remember that I shed no tears when Von left after last season. I felt that he and Ron Artest were everything that was wrong with the Rockets. They were both uncoachable ball hogs. The team won some games, but it was a hard team to love. This year's team is imminently lovable because of their share-the-wealth attitude. If Wafer can get into the right frame of mind, listen to the coaches and do the little things that help a team win, he could be a positive factor for the Rockets. He is definitely fun to watch and has skills that will fit in with the Rockets' new style. It will be great to see Wafer and Kyle Lowry running the break off the bench.
Wafer will sign with the Rockets for much less than his Greek contract. This could be his last chance. If he doesn't adapt to the Rockets new team-first style, his career may be over.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
On most good teams, the +/- stats show a wide disparity between the star players and the backups. The +/- stat, for those who don't know, shows the ratio of how many points one team scores versus the other team while a given player is in the game. A positive number means that the player's team outscored the opposing team while he playing. When looked at on a per minute basis over a significant number of games, it can be a very telling statistic. On the Lakers, for instance, the difference between the best player and the worst is over half a point per minute. On the Rockets, the variance is only .15 points per minute. That tells us that either there is very little difference in the quality of players at the top and bottom of the Rockets' lineup or that they are being well-taught and well-utilized by the coaches. The latter is the case.
This post is a toast to Rick Adelman and his coaching staff. It is not an accident that the top four Rockets players in the +/- stats are backups, led by Kyle Lowry. Adelman is a genius at matchups and substitution patterns. He has a great feel for the game as it unfolds and listens to his assistant coaches and scouts to be as well-prepared as he can be. He and his assistants have every man on the team on the same page, keeping goals, egos and relationships in crystal clear perspective. Trevor Ariza got in Aaron Brooks' face after Brooks made a bone-headed play at the end of regulation in Dallas - and what was the fallout? Nada. Brooks said, no big deal. Ariza was right, I screwed up. Just heat of the moment stuff. We all get along. What would have happened if Artest had gotten in Kobe's face or vice versa? I shudder to think.
Let's also not forget that Adelman was instrumental in putting together this lineup of role players whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, Daryl and Les were involved too, but this is not their toast.
This team is a testimonial to the talent, skills and experience of Rick Adelman. That includes his ability to find, hire and keep top assistant coaches. Adelman is one huge reason that Les Alexander continues to sell Rockets tickets without a star in sight. Here's to you, Coach! Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
This year's Rockets run. They don't know how to jog. They are committed to an up-tempo, unselfish, ball-movement game. They are exciting to watch and even win games. And even without a star player in the bunch, they sell basketball tickets. If Tracy wants to get on the bandwagon, he's going to have to do more than just speed up. He's going to have to change his style. Whether he can do it or not is a huge question, with major implications.
When Rick Adelman let McGrady suit up, the Rockets began to pay his salary. The insurance policy only paid when he was too injured to play. The seven minutes per game he's playing now is costing Les Alexander a fortune. And they can't really trade the guy. They would have to take on another contract almost as big for a player that some other team is trying to get rid of. So the clock is ticking. Can he help the team this year? If not, the Rocket's won't re-sign him and no other team will offer even close to his current maximum contract. If so, he can write his own ticket next year. He has every reason to give it his best to fit in.
It's all up to you now, big guy.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The loss was not due to a lack of effort. The Rockets played hard. They were just not sharp and they did not seem to be on the same page with each other on either end of the court. It would be easy to blame the 11:30 AM start for their asyncronicity, but it was 11:30 for the Raptors too. All in all, a forgettable game.
The Rockets' schedule doesn't get any easier next week. They fly home for a Tuesday game against Detroit, then head to Denver on Wednesday. Two days later, they play the Mavericks on the road before returning to Toyota Center to face the much-improved Oklahoma Thunder. Two back-to-backs in four days is a stern test.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Despite the absence of their top two stars, the Rockets are over .500, both at home and on the road. They have outscored their opponents by running the court, exactly as promised by their owner and head coach before the season started. But that's not all - they have maintained their defensive focus, shutting down some of the strongest players in the league. And get this - the Rockets have outrebounded their opponents despite the fact that they start a 6' 6" center and the starters average only 6' 6". Describe this team in a word. That's easy. "Hustle." This is an easy team to root for and a fun team to watch. That's not to say that they will finish in the playoffs or above .500 for the season, but the outlook is good for both.
Still, there are weaknesses. Trevor Ariza is a good defender and hard worker, but he is not filling the bill as a go-to scorer. He is shooting a respectable 34% from the 3-point line, but is only hitting 39% overall. He barely has more points than FGA, the minimum standard for effective offense. That's not good enough to take this team to the NBA finals. Battier and Scola are doing their jobs, but neither can carry a team. Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry have both been playing well and as a duo have manned the point efficiently - on average. That's one big problem. Neither Brooks nor Lowry are consistent night in and night out. Fortunately, if one is playing well and the other not, Rick Adelman is smart enough to let the hot man stay in the game. That brings me to the bright spot of the season: Chuck Hayes. He outplayed Shaquille Oneal last night in every way. Hayes is a great defender. Not a great defender for his height. A great defender, period. Granted, he will never block many shots, but once you get past Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon, not many defensive centers do. The smart ones play defense with their feet, body and brain.
Mention must also be made of the coaching staff, starting of course, with Rick Adelman. He has taken a bunch of role-playing spare parts and made them into a finely-tuned engine. Kudos as well to Elston Turner, Jack Sikma, T. R. Dunn and R. J. Adelman. Good job, guys.
If this quarter's report card is based exclusively on their record, the Rockets get a C+. If we're grading on the curve because of the injured stars, this team gets straight A's.
Friday, December 4, 2009
They took care of business in California. Considering the teams they faced, that should have been expected, but the feat was tougher than it looked. The Clippers were 5-5 at home coming into the Houston game and had won 4 of their last 5 contests. Add in the Clippers' west coast time zone advantage and the Rockets did a good job to pull out the victory. Similarly, the Warriors were 4-3 at home and had beaten the Mavs (in Dallas) and the Blazers only a week before, but Houston beat Golden State in San Francisco on a back-to-back night. That's taking care of business.
The real test for this road trip - and maybe a benchmark for the season - will be the next two games. They face Portland on the road on Saturday night, then Cleveland at home on Wednesday. Thank goodness for the rest between those games. I can't wait to see if Chuck Hayes can hold his own against Shaq.
The question on everyone's lips: With several days to practice beforehand, will Tracy McGrady see action against Cleveland?