Welcome back to the next installment of NBA Sideline Chirps featuring a back and forth question and answer exchange between Editor Tamberlyn Richardson and Senior Writer Anthony Nguyen.
What a whirlwind of a season it has been. The Rockets have been the epitome of inconsistency and half assed efforts 27 games into the season. A team that seemed inseparable a season ago is now the poster boy of trade talks and how not to play as a team.
Despite all the negativity that has surrounded the team in the past week, Houston is 6-3 thus far in the month of December, the month where most teams start to find an identity.
Fan Question 1: Comes to us courtesy of villa4real
Anthony: As difficult as it may be, hiring a new coach would be the ideal first step forward. Coaches such as Thibodeau or any other seasoned Head Coach wouldn’t want a job midway through the season to avoid the risk of getting off to a rocky start without any proper time of preparation. But remember, Houston didn’t clean house in terms of the coaching staff, they only got rid of Kevin McHale. J.B Bickerstaff has served as an assistant under McHale for four seasons meaning that there isn’t an entirely new coaching scheme or philosophy being placed upon this team. It’s been apparent thus far into the season that the way the Rockets play basketball just don’t seem to work quite efficiently as it use to.
Tamberlyn: 9 times out of 10 when a coach is fired mid-season it’s because the players were pushing for their dismissal. Let’s not forget the ouster came on the heels of the “players only” meeting. While a few players like Corey Brewer, Dwight Howard and James Harden were quoted in Jenny Dial Creech’s article Harden’s comments seemed more like a sound bite than a true concern regarding McHale’s dismissal.
Further Bickerstaff is an extension of McHale’s staff so while he made some significant roster changes like inserting Clint Capela and Patrick Beverley into the starting line-up in essence the strategic principles remain unchanged. Houston still lead the league in 3-point attempts and continue to look for lay-ups as the alternative. Bottom line is the Association knows exactly what to expect from Houston, the difference is teams like the Spurs and Warriors (who opponents also know what to expect from) perform their strategies to perfection. In other words, Houston has the talent now it’s a matter of performing.
So, when Morey said the team won’t stop until things are fixed the reality is they won’t fire Bickerstaff, the next head to roll will be a player. But the Rockets issues are contained within the four walls of that locker room. And if ousting a player (like Howard) is what it takes to make Harden happy then think of the precedent that sets for the team! Read: Howard and Harden need to fix whatever is the problem or this team will never have a shot of replicating last season.
Tamberlyn asks Anthony:
The rumor mill has been working overtime regarding Houston Rockets trade possibilities with speculation on Dwight Howard leaving for Miami (for Hassan Whiteside), Terrence Jones to one of a number of teams and Ty Lawson may or may not be on the trade block. Additionally there are rumblings the Rockets are eager to trade for Markieff Morris.
My question is: Should the Rockets be actively looking to make a trade at the moment or trying to fix the current issues on the squad who got to the Western Conference Finals? And, if you think they should be active then which player should they earmark to trade. Bonus marks for selecting a specific player and detailing why that player could fix the issues ailing the Rockets.
A: Quite honestly I don’t know how I feel with either Whiteside or Markieff on the team. I believe the problem with the Rockets is that they tend to buy into the hype of certain players such as the two named, while completely ignoring the off court issues that build long term success.
Whiteside has been great this season on the court we all know that, but it’s his improvement in terms of staying composed and away from knucklehead plays that have been the driving force behind the break out. This in large part is due to the veteran mentorship of guys like Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. It wouldn’t be a smart investment to trust a young player who’s a wild card on a roster who looks to James Harden for leadership.
Same goes for Markieff, do you really want a guy on your team who demands a trade just because they traded away his twin brother? The NBA is a business. Understand that and do your job.
Rather than exploring trade options, the Rockets should be focusing on how to make this thing work. Houston has a deep and talented roster that hasn’t even had a full season together under it’s belt. If we’re constantly looking to trade players then we’re never going to build the chemistry, continuity and trust that championship teams thrive off of. The only players that have been Rockets for more than three seasons are Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas.
The way I see this whole situation is – The Rockets are “The Chad”. “The Chad” was the douche bag in college who dumped every girl he dated after two months of dating only to be with a hotter one. The girls that he dumped are now living successful lives (Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Goran Dragic, Marcus Morris) while Chad is living a miserable life having a hard time finding a job and someone to settle down with. Chad’s friend “Harvey” (Spurs), is making 8 figures working two days a week traveling all over the world with his beautiful wife whom he’s been committed to since high school and all through out college. He’s now living a stress free life and enjoying every second of it.
Anthony asks Tamberlyn:
A: Jeremy Lin has been playing spectacular for the Hornets this season scoring a career high of 35 in their last outing and closing out games for them. I’m giving all the credit to his hair, it throws defenders off giving him open looks at the basket. What are the chances that he becomes a Defensive Player of The Year Candidate after getting cornrows like Kawhi? And what’s with the sudden spark in his play?
This is the perfect example of a system tailor made for a players style. Jeremy Lin is excelling playing alongside Kemba Walker as they can both penetrate the paint to score or hit from the perimeter. Having Walker as a back court partner only serves to make him more lethal. Add in the brilliant passing ability and swiss army knife capabilities of Nicolas Batum and it ups the ante even more. And while I do think Lin had been a perfect fit for Charlotte I’ll also note the game versus Toronto came with of their starters still out (and the Raptors came back to tie the game and eventually lose and YES IT WAS BECAUSE OF YET ANOTHER blown zebra call… can you say BITTER MUCH! … insert gratuitous opportunity to whine about Raptors getting shafted by zebras. )
(Of note: Lowry’s comments about not being able to win in Charlotte are based on this being the second time the referees have affected them winning a game in the final seconds of a game).
I doubt Lin will ever hear his name uttered in Defensive Player of the Year, but Steve Clifford does have a great system in place which allows Lin to function within the framework of the team. Personally I haven’t bought in on the long term effectiveness of Eastern squads like Detroit or Indiana however I do believe Lin and his Hornets will be right in the mix and offer a perfect balance of defense and offense which should make them a very difficult out in the post season.
Generic Question For Both:
It’s All-Star voting time, so lets look at the front court this week and break down who should be receiving votes to start based on this season’s performances to date.
Going to step outside the obvious for these picks and show some love to the dudes who’s been performing in the shadows of (EAST) LeBron James, Paul George, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond . (WEST) Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant.
Tobias Harris has been consistent all season long and has played a huge part in Orlando’s impressive season thus far. Harris is a guy who is loved by all analytic freaks because of how efficient he is. A name that is brought up in every “Who’s Underrated” discussion, Tobias deserves a strong consideration.
Hassan Whiteside is perhaps the last of a dying breed being one of the few traditional centers we have in today’s league. Whiteside alters every attempt near the basket and leads all centers in the East with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.39 (per ESPN).
Kawhi Leonard. He’s the only player in the league that still rocks the cornrows.. think about how courageous and amazing this is. Like dinosaurs, Braids and Cornrows were once thought to be extinct after this tragic event:
Since that day many have tried to resurrect the dead, but very few have succeeded in doing so.
That is why when we are gifted with a player who so naturally performs at an elite level with immaculate hair, we must embrace his time on the hardwood and not take any second of it for granted.
Derrick Favors is perhaps the most underrated big man in the league and for what reason? He plays in Utah… who watches Jazz games? Favors is the best defensive player on one of the league’s premier defensive teams and has improved on all facets of his game. He has undoubtedly grown into Utah’s leader while being the most consistent player for them all season long.
East: Paul George, LeBron James, Andre Drummond (are who should and will likely get voted in as starters). Players who deserve additional consideration are C.J. Miles (having arguably his best season ever), both Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler from Chicago assuming you consider Butler at the SF and Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside from Miami but I have 2 players who I’d like to see get your consideration:
In the Hornets case (which I touched upon a bit above), the team operates under a well balanced system led by coach Steve Clifford. However consider the fact their top defensive player (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) was lost for the season and they also lost their rim protector (Bismack Biyombo) to the Raptors. Couple that with the fact the weed smoking (which is a whole other can of worms debate subject) Al Jefferson was lost to the team between his injury and suspension for double digit games and suddenly their emergence on the East’s leader board becomes even more impressive.
The player I believe that put them there is Nicolas Batum who offers a 2-way excellence and spearheads the ball movement which was missing in Charlotte last season. I’ll continue to extol Batum was the most under rated player pick-up from last summer all the way to the playoffs and watch as Batum posts numbers worthy of also putting him atop the Most Improved Player list.
In the case of the Magic Evan Fournier has become their go to clutch minutes guy and since I’d like to see someone represent for the most exciting “up and coming” East squad he gets my nod (though he still won’t make my starters team I hope he makes it on the coaches team)
West: Two teams feature 2 candidates in Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka from OKC and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers and the Spurs offer 3 in Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. Here’s the thing…. I only believe Durant should make the starters team and I’ll explain why.
While I’d agree Klay Thompson should get some consideration in the back court it’s actually Draymond Green who deserves to start with Curry in Toronto. I’m also not much of a fan for rewarding players from teams who aren’t in the upper echelon of their conferences, but like I generally make exceptions in the East most years I’m going to make exceptions in the West this season with the nod for DeMarcus Cousins at center over the player likely to get the spot Anthony Davis (who I don’t think should be rewarded for not being able to register even a few wins to weather his squads early injury woes) . I’d also add I love my candidate for West’s Most Improved Derrick Favors but I think he’ll have to make the squad via the coaches this season.
Therefore based on the past 2 weeks my starters would be:
Note: I go off the board to insert James at power forward and ignore Drummond (not a fan personally) to reward a Bull by inserting Gasol at center)
Notes: I expect Harden and Westbrook to make the coaches picks and as I mentioned last week I’d love to see Wiggins get the once in a lifetime opportunity to start in front of his home town crowd of Toronto. Also of note, I’m fine with Kawhi Leonard getting the small forward spot as well since I’d expect Durant to then be awarded the spot by the coaches (though I’d be shocked if Durant wasn’t voted on to the team).
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That brings to a conclusion this weeks installment of NBA Sideline Chirps. Are you in agreement? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section on whether you agree, disagree or have a completely different take. Again, make sure to tweet your questions for next week using the hashtag #SidelineChirps for an opportunity to be the featured fan question.
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