NBA

Effort will have to power Rockets

Share This Story

Charley Rosen

Charley Rosen is FOXSports.com's NBA analyst and author of 17 sports books, the current ones being Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees and Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds.

MORE>>
 
   
 

Game time: Spurs 92, Rockets 84

Even though Houston played a gritty game and never quit, neither could it get over the hump mainly because of its offensive insufficiencies. Still, it was an extremely interesting contest, primarily because of Rich Adelman's substitutions. While Luis Scola played extremely well in the opening quarter — scoring four points on four post-ups and six points on timely cuts and catches — his pass work and his defense were inadequate. That's precisely why Scola logged only 27 total minutes and barely played at all in the second half. Chuck Hayes was similarly benched for most of the latter half for two significant reasons: Tim Duncan mostly ate him alive, and Hayes, 6 feet 6, was simply too undersized to finish relatively easy shots. Hayes was 0-for-8 in his 18 minutes of daylight, including three missed layups and three layup attempts that were blocked. Aaron Brooks also had an uneven performance — 5-for-16, four assists, two turnovers, 12 points in 31 minutes. Brooks was repeatedly chumped on defense by Tony Parker, but even worse, Brooks forced a total of seven passes/shots. For the Rockets to be competitive, Brooks has to score 20-plus points and do so in an efficient fashion. He is the motor that makes Houston's offense purr, and his poor production is a big reason the Rockets shot only 35.9 percent and never established a productive rhythm. With these three starters not playing up to their capabilities, Adelman wasn't afraid to rely on his bench, and for the most part, it delivered. Kyle Lowry didn't shoot particularly well — 2-for-6 — but played an incredible floor game, made good decisions on the run and his physical defense virtually took Parker out of the game. For a brief period late in the game, Adelman played Brooks and Lowry (23 minutes) together. Indeed, it could very well be Lowry is the best backup point in the league. Shane Battier was totally invisible — 0-for-2, three rebounds, zero points in 25 minutes. Two bench-mates filled out Battier's and Scola's unused minutes: Dave Anderson made a couple of nifty turnaround jumpers from the left box and nailed a trey, but had a minimal presence in defense of high screen/rolls. Also, Anderson often overreacted to the Spurs' ball penetration, thereby leaving Antonio McDyess unguarded. McDyess responded by depositing several mid-range jumpers — his specialty — in critical situations. Rookie Chase Budinger showed good quickness, some artful creativity around the basket, and a soft touch. But he also played rookie defense. Instead of using Scola as the go-to interior scorer, Adelman went to Carl Landry (one of my favorite players!). Landry scored six points in nine post-up opportunities and came up with a huge put-back in the waning minutes — literally ripping the ball out of TD's hands. This guy is a warrior. But he also had difficulty containing Duncan in the pivot without the benefit of weak-side help. Which is just about par for the course. The only starter who got starter's minutes was Trevor Ariza — 6-for-21 (ouch!), 11 rebounds, five assists, 17 points. However, Ariza's decision-making was miserable. He forced a total of nine combined shots and passes, shot two air-balls and had two of his shots swatted. Worse still, he executed a poor closeout on Richard Jefferson in the last minute of play that resulted in RJ's making 2-of-2 from the stripe — and allowing San Antonio to ice the game. So what to make of this Rockets squad? Without Brooks being dynamic force in the attack zone, they have difficulty scoring. This situation was aggravated by poor shot selection on the part of Brooks and Ariza. What kept them in the game was Houston's never-say-die hustle that was manifested in part by its 17 offensive rebounds (to the Spurs' eight). The Rockets certainly scrapped on defense, but they were doomed in this game by the absence of a shot blocker. With Parker, George Hill, and Jefferson consistently able to get into the paint, Houston's attempted defense-of-last-resort resulted in the home team committing too many fouls. This explains the lopsided advantage the Spurs enjoyed in free throws — 34 attempts to Houston's 14. Given their lack of sizeable interior defense, as well as Brooks' erratic play, Houston has very little room for error. Indeed, considering the Rockets' shortcomings, their current record of 8-8 is extraordinary. On any given night, their courage and sheer determination will earn then wins against the NBA's elite teams. Indeed, as the team is currently constituted, it's hard to visualize the Rockets winning more than 40 to 45 games over the course of the long season. Nevertheless, whatever their final win total may amount to, Houston will always earn an A for effort.

Straight shooting

Here's another list, this one devoted to incredibly talented players who have not lived up to their potential. BARON DAVIS is strong, quick, capable of playing lock-down defense and has a wide variety of killer offensive moves. He should be, if not the best point guard in the league, at least up there with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash. But Davis shot 37.7% last season, is shooting 37.9% so far this season and has a lifetime FG percentage of only 40.9. Despite these abysmal numbers, methinks his problem is mental and emotional rather than physical. MARCUS BANKS can do everything (and more) that a superior point guard is expected to do. Too bad he can neither work nor play well with others. ANDRAY BLATCHE is in his fifth NBA season, and only occasionally does he demonstrate his remarkable talent. Oh well, some players take longer than others to become responsible adults — and some players never do get there. RICKY DAVIS has been with seven teams over the course of his 11-year career. That's because it's been easy to appreciate his considerable talent, but virtually impossible to convince Davis that he's not being paid to play one-on-five. MELVIN ELY doesn't always come to play, and instead of establishing himself as a starter, this career underachiever languishes at the end of the bench. CHRIS WILCOX — see above. AMIR JOHNSON may someday evolve into an impact player, one who utilizes his maximum talents to the max. Or he may continue to be a project. DARKO MILICIC has the goods, but rarely delivers. If only he really loved to play the game. JAMES POSEY has had three seasons (out of 10) where he proved how good he could be. So far this season, he appears to be on cruise control once more. TIM THOMAS is the one current player who has wasted the most talent. JAMAAL TINSLEY has skills to burn but refuses to take his eye off the basket. TYRUS THOMAS will either become a do-it-all player as befits his skill level, or he'll remain the prince of potential.

Vox populi

How good was Julius Erving? — Habib, Ilorin, Nigeria Beyond good, Dr. J was great. Nobody was faster, quicker, had bigger hands, or was a better finisher — whether on the move or on the drive. With the scarcity of quality big men in the ABA, Julius's incredible hops and hands also made him a dominating rebounder. Moreover, back then Julius played top-notch defense no matter whom he was guarding. I personally witnessed Julius locking up Dan Issel one night in Hampton Roads, VA. Plus, he could pass like a point guard, and with the lighter ABA ball was an adequate (32.2 percent) shooter from beyond the arc. What couldn't he do? Hit mid- and long-range jumpers with any degree of consistency. By the time Julius entered the NBA in 1976, he had averaged 40.7 minutes per game during his 5-year ABA career, and his knees were just about shot. He was still a world-class finisher and dunker with Philadelphia, but the NBA's bigger and better bigs prevented him from duplicating both his ABA scoring and rebounding numbers. In addition, it was somewhat more difficult for the 6-7, 210-pound Erving to get to the basket. In the NBA, his 3-point accuracy diminished to 26.1 percent, and except for developing a short-range bank-shot late in his career, Erving's jumper remained afflicted. I once asked him why he never worked hard to develop his jumper shot. "Because I never had to," he said. In addition to his remarkable on-court skills, Erving was always a wonderfully supportive teammate and an all-around great person. Erving was shorter and infinitely better than Lamar Odom, but their playing styles were somewhat similar.

Travels with Charley

My standard site for a first date was Chinatown so I'd at least be guaranteed to have some good eats. And with Susan, we seemed to have the possibility of a meaningful connection. So for our next date, I planned an excursion to the Palisades Amusement Park located in New Jersey just over the George Washington Bridge. I was anxious to make a good impression, so the day before escorting her there, I made a solitary scouting trip.

Naturally, I zeroed in on the basketball toss booth — three shots for a dollar. But the game was rigged. There was a low-hanging net that permitted only line-drive shots. The rim was slightly smaller than normal, much tighter, and the front lip was higher than the back. Also, the backboard was slanted backwards, and the ball was oversized and over-inflated. If the ball so much as touched the rim, it would bounce awry. It took me two bucks to make adjustments and find the range. The first time I nailed 3-for-3, I won a 4-foot high stuffed teddy bear. In quick succession, I also won a huge stuffed penguin and a somewhat scary-looking stuffed owl — all of which I presented to whatever kiddies happened to be in the vicinity. All right! I had it down! There was no way that Susan wouldn't be totally impressed. The next night, I confidently steered her over to the basketball toss, said, "Watch this" and proceeded to miss shot after shot. After spending $20, I had won two tiny plastic dinosaurs! What the hell was that all about? Anyway, several months later, Susan and I were married — and we stayed married for a long time, even though it turned out that we really didn't like each other. One reason why "basketball marriages" last longer than they should is road trips! While our divorce proceedings were underway, I happened to flash back on that date at the amusement park. And it suddenly occurred to me that I had failed to recognize an obvious warning. Twenty dollars worth of misses, frustrations, and embarrassment ... How could I have missed the message? The ball never lies.

Tagged: Pelicans, Lakers, Suns, Jazz, Steve Nash, Lamar Odom, Deron Williams, Chris Paul

More Stories From Charley Rosen


More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..