Daily Rocket Science: Life After the Legacy of Bigs
The Houston Rockets pride themselves in having a rich history at the center position, but have moved on from the Legacy of Bigs for now.
James Harden never operated at full capacity when he and Dwight Howard were on the same roster. D12 being in the paint simply clogged things up for the Beard. Now that Dwight is gone to the Atlanta Hawks, the full potential of the Rockets’ Points Guard has been unleashed.
From Moses Malone to Hakeem Olajuwon to Dwight Howard, Houston has a rich history at the center position. For now, though, the suitable-not-stupendous array of big men on the team is exactly what the Rockets need. Clint Capela, Nene, and Montrezl Harrell all split minutes at the post spot, and they’ve all found success.
Yao Ming‘s jersey retirement ceremony took place last week and Olajuwon will be honored tonight. The Legacy of Bigs is again at the forefront of Houston’s mind, even if it’s not at the forefront of the lineup.
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The most recent great big man to come through Houston was Dwight Howard. There’s talk that he wasn’t great on the Rockets, but that’s silliness. However, it is true that things are better for both parties now that they’ve split. David Aldridge wrote on NBA.com about how both the Rockets benefited from addition by subtraction while the Hawks benefited from addition by addition.
Harden has two triple-doubles this season when he scored 50 or more. He leads the league in assists (11.4), running off of endless screens by either Clint Capela, Nene or Montrezl Harrell, or just enjoying the space that Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza create by spotting up. It is something that simply would not be possible if Howard were in the paint.
As I mentioned earlier, one of Houston’s other more recent great big men is Yao Ming. After being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last year, his jersey was retired last week. In his honor, Jeff Van Gundy wrote a piece in the Players’ Tribune on how much of an honor it was to coach Yao. He even claimed that Yao was one of the greatest teammates of all time.
I loved the way Tracy McGrady and Yao treated each other as teammates. One thing they showed everyone was that basketball shouldn’t be a selfish endeavor. Yao and Tracy were kindred spirits in this way. They never fought over the silly notion of whose team it was. Instead, they understood what everyone should remember from kindergarten: to share — the credit, the blame and the responsibility.
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The Legacy of Bigs is over for now, but that doesn’t mean they’re no longer competitive. In fact, it may mean the opposite, for now. ESPN’s Ben Alamar wrote that Houston is one of the few teams that could compete with the Golden State Warriors come the postseason. They’ll have to get their defense on track, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Meanwhile, creating turnovers is the Rockets’ greatest defensive strength. They rank 11th in that category, and both Ariza and Patrick Beverley rank in the top 20 in steal percentage for players with at least 1,000 minutes. The Rockets have a chance to upset the Warriors if they can focus on creating turnovers and Harden can push the ball in transition and find his highly accurate teammates in the corners when the Warriors’ defense keeps him out of the lane.
Clint Capela might be one of the more underrated players at his position. Before this season, his primary weakness was on the boards. He isn’t elite in that area yet, but he’s improved significantly. However, the Rockets don’t need, or even want, an elite big man right now. James Harden is the centerpiece of the team, and anybody who might want to take that role from him would only do the team harm.
Speaking of Dwight, the Rockets take on the Orlando Magic tonight at the Toyota Center, where they’ll honor Hakeem Olajuwon’s legacy in Houston.