Going into tonight's home game against the Houston Rockets, I had a chance to exchange some questions with The Dream Shake, SB Nation's Rockets blog. My answers to their questions will be posted there sometime today, and you can check 'em out for all your Rockets-related inquiries.
RoF: How would you describe the Rockets' basketball style? Is there a dramatic analogy that makes sense to describe what they do on the floor?
TDS: We don't really have a style yet, at least none that I can define clearly. The Suns, Knicks, and Warriors run, the Spurs like to play in the half court, and the Cavaliers and Lakers basically run their offense through one guy and let him either score or draw attention and distribute. The Rockets incorporate many of those things into our "offense." When Rick Adelman arrived in Houston, he tried to install his "offense", and we expected our Rockets to be the Sacramento Kings Part 2. Unfortunately, Yao Ming is not Vlade Divac, Luther Head was not Peja Stojakovic (duh), and everyone kept getting hurt. So ever since Rick got here, we've been kind of throwing out different styles every game, trying to constantly adjust and see how we can better move the ball and find open shots. It's an offense that certainly involves Yao Ming, but not to the degree that fans like myself would like to see. If I could choose an analogy, running our offense is like trying to consistently drive a 1956 Cadillac - once it gets going, it's effective, but it needs a lot of fine-tuning from drive to drive. Terrible analogy, I know, but I couldn't really think of anything else. I probably failed analogies in grade school.
As a sort of follow up, how would you describe the Rockets' roster building strategy? What are the primary attributes of the guys they've gathered to surround Yao?
Our roster-building strategy is hidden in the depths of Boy Genius's (Daryl Morey's) comprehensive mind. Nobody knows what he is ever thinking, but it seems to work once he's put something together. Before Daryl got here, we were essentially a two-man show with Tracy and Yao. Guys like Stromile Swift, Derek Anderson, Juwan Howard, David Wesley, and Bonzi Wells were all brought in to try to support our stars, but they just weren't good enough. Trading for Shane Battier was probably our first step towards rebuilding our supporting roster. Once Daryl got on board, he started looking for more solid role players at the positions we needed help at. Instantly, he traded for Luis Scola, who has panned out wonderfully. Then he drafted Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry, traded for Kyle Lowry, and signed Von Wafer and Dikembe Mutombo (in no particular order). And then of course, he made the Artest deal. Daryl has made it his personal mission to find statistically efficient players. Rafer Alston was not efficient, and thus, he was shipped off for Lowry. Battier is the definition of a Morey player, and Luis is one of the most efficient rebounders and hustle-artists in the league. As for Brooks and Landry, we needed to add some quickness and energy to our team, so they made sense as picks. We shifted the focus of our bench from savvy veterans to quick youngsters who could come off the bench and provide a spark. So far, it has worked out well...in the regular season.
I don't think it's really controversial to say Yao Ming is one of the top fifteen players in the league and that he's going to end up in the Hall of Fame. As someone who's seen him play more than most other people, is this a fair assessment, and what details of his game do you enjoy most?
This is definitely a fair assessment - he will most likely be in the Hall of Fame (hopefully with a ring or two...or three), and in my opinion, he is the top center in the league. His statistics don't necessarily show this, but for a guy who is considered to be the star of the offense, he is often under-utilized. He only takes about 15 shots per game, and while Adelman has certainly encouraged Yao to pass the ball out to the perimeter as often as possible, it's not always the best course of action; the man needs to shoot more. Some people say Dwight Howard is better than Yao. I then say, "Well, what if they were to play each other?" They will respond, "Oh, Dwight would dominate him." Hook, line, and sinker; I then instantly whip out my copy of "Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming" matchup statistics from Basketball-Reference. In nearly every game Yao has played against Dwight, he has not just done better, but has completely owned him. In my mind, it's close, but Yao is the best. I enjoy his abilities to make free throws at an outrageous rate, and his ability to re-post in the lane is second to none. By doing this, he gets incredible position on the block and is able to simply drop the ball into the basket. He also has an effective turnaround jumper that he often uses too frequently, but...whatever. And another thing: anyone who calls Yao "soft" needs to re-evaluate their basketball knowledge. There is no other center who bangs into his opponent more often than Yao when trying to get position. Often times, people mistake his lack of athleticism for a lack of toughness, and it's simply not an accurate assessment.
A notion I've long put forward is that defense is cheaper than offense, meaning that between players who are equally productive in sum, the guy whose value is tied up in defense will cost less than the guy whose value is mainly on offense. After the hullabaloo surrounding the Battier piece in Play magazine, might we conclude that Daryl Morey agrees that defensive players are undervalued in the NBA? Which of the Rockets' bench players do you believe are going to surprise people some day?
Oh I think it's easy to conclude that. The Artest trade is a prime example. As for our bench players, I think Carl Landry is going to be even better than he is right now. He's averaging about 10 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, and he is improving every time he touches the court. He's developed an extremely effective jump shot, and apparently he is working on a three-point shot. If I could compare him to another NBA player, it would be David West. He's not West by any means yet, but I think if he works hard enough and accepts as much coaching as he can, he could one come close to Westy's caliber. I'm also a big fan of Kyle Lowry, who Villanova coach Jay Wright called "the smartest point guard I've ever coached." Nice.
Which band or other musical outfit has a catalog that most represents what the city of Houston is all about?
I'm an Indie rock guy - bands like Wilco, Explosions in the Sky (they did the Friday Night Lights soundtrack), My Morning Jacket, etc. I doubt the city of Houston is collectively into the same music that I am into, but I'll take a stab at this and go with Nirvana. Ok, maybe I'm saying that to keep my writing status in check with GrungeDave. Actually, the more I think about it, I could safely say that we are like Wilco. We're pretty laid back, occasionally loud, not afraid to call people out if need be, and often overlooked. Most of all, while Wilco has put out some solid albums, fans of theirs are still waiting for a true defining album (lead singer Jeff Tweedy even agrees). In the same sense, the Rockets have certainly had plenty of successful regular seasons, but we need a defining playoff run to secure our status with the NBA's elite.