Forecasting the Southwest: Houston Edition

With the Hornets already having played the doormat of the Southwest Division three times, it’ll be tough sailing from here on out. They’ll face San Antonio three more times, having lost to them once already. They’ll face Dallas twice more, having stolen a close one on at home, and losing on the road. And they faced Houston in the first of four meetings remaining on Monday. The Rockets are obviously a team that’s expected to make a playoff push this year, so we talked to our fellow Southwest Division bloggers over at the Dream Shake.

At the Hive: There’s been a lot of talk (albeit kind of hushed) of the Rockets being better without McGrady. They’re 7-3 without the Big Sleep, and though Adelman’s denied it, Rafer was on the record the other day saying, “It’s a Catch-22. Right now the ball’s hopping, the ball’s touching a lot of guys.” What’s your take on it?

The Dream Shake: First off, it’s poor, but I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad that Rafer is playing so much better right now. On the one hand, he’s not a massive sinkhole of bad choices and shots, but on the other, I don’t have a constant scapegoat for the team losing. But back to your actual question: Over the course of his Rockets career, that 7-3 is a drop in the bucket compared to what they typically are without him in the game (record wise). That being said, right now, they are absolutely playing better than when he was in the game. You could see how far they came yesterday against the Hornets; the team I think is either the second or third best in the west. But part of that turn around was the shitty opponents they played. But playing bad teams can breed confidence, and they definitely have that now. The bottom line in this rambling mess of a response? It really depends on TMac and how he wants to comeback. If he truly believes he’s “23 points you have to replace” then he’ll be gone in the off-season. If he actually wants to change and drive to the hole and dish to the open man, I can’t see how we wouldn’t be better off as a team.

At the Hive: Yao ‘s obviously made huge strides since being drafted; I was real impressed with how he held his own against one of the league’s best rebounders ( Chandler ). However, what aspects of his game do you think he can still improve?

The Dream Shake: With complete and utter honesty, he could improve on getting more technical fouls. I hate blaming games on referees, but people think Yao is clumsy because referees allow him to get hacked on the hands and arms so consistently that it appears that way. Yao is extremely agile and coordinated for a guy above 7 foot tall. If he would yell at more referees early in games I honestly believe he’d get those calls. Just look at last night, on two big plays in the clutch he got completely hacked and got no calls, both could have ended the game in the Rockets favor. I just don’t understand why referees and David Stern let it happen. He’s one of the nicest guys in the league, and that isn’t working for refs, so it’s time to get nasty. Other than that I’m not sure what he could work on. He gets looked at for 3 seconds more closely than any player I’ve ever seen, so getting positioning for rebounding any better than he does just isn’t going to happen. I swear, I’m not a charter member of the “I hate referees” club either, I’ve actually officiated on the NCAA level a few times (yes, women’s but who’s counting) and have refereed 100+ high school games. I had to stop when I moved from Austin though, no time. It’s just sad how poorly he is officiated. At least with Shaq it made sense. He was physically bowling people over and getting hacked at the same time, he was initiating the contact, I understood why he didn’t get calls all the time. I still have yet to figure out why Yao does not get those calls.

At the Hive: Having T-Mac out for such an extended stretch obviously has to have helped th rest of the team become more cohesive; what aspects of their play have improved most over these last 10 games that can help them with the stretch run and a playoff push?

The Dream Shake: That’s a big question, but one I have a surprisingly easy answer for: Ball Movement and Player Movement. The two simplest aspects of a motion type offense. Adelman’s entire philosophy is built around them. And honestly, any coach’s philosophy on the offensive end should be. You have to get the ball to the open man, and said man has to get open. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well it is, and when Tracy was in the game, he did not allow them to be applied for long periods of time. Guys stood still because they knew the only other person that might get the ball was Yao . It’s hard to blame Tracy though, up until the last few weeks when they had no choice, the rest of the team wasn’t exactly making the most of the few opportunities he did provide for them. If Tracy can recognize this change completely and in earnest it will really help. Early in the year he had a few games where we played as a true team and he recognized it and we won. The problems came when a few of the guys missed wide open shots two consecutive trips down and Tracy felt like it was all on him again, and then for the next 6-7 minutes no one else got a chance, then they’d blow another shot from being cold and that was it for the rest of the game. I am begging for a trusting TMac on his return, but only time will tell.

Thanks a lot to the guys from Dream Shake; their insights into Yao and McGrady here obviously give us a clearer image of how the Southwest will roll out.

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2 Responses

  1. Nice interview. What I really wonder is does Houston have enough to stick with the rst of the west down the stretch. I mean golden state, portland, uand utah are all going to stretch them down to the wire. But most impressive about Houston is theri defense. They shut down Phoenix way better than us.

  2. […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by entersandman […]

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