Here’s the little thing everyone has missed while talking about Yao Ming for the past couple years — without him the Rockets are one of the league’s more entertaining teams.
In the last two seasons — save for the handful of games Yao played — the Rockets have become a running team. Right now they play at the sixth fastest pace in the league and that has been without Aaron Brooks — the speedy point guard made for a running offense — who has been out with a severely sprained ankle.
The Rockets are a pretty good offensive team — they are currently eighth in the league in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Their defense is not so good (21st) but that just leads to more watchable, high scoring games. Luis Scola and Kevin Martin can fill it up on any given night, and Shane Battier is underrated on offense.
Make no mistake this is not a good team — they are 11-15 now but as John Hollinger points out have had to do it against a pretty tough schedule. They will probably finish around .500 and flirt with the eighth seed in the West.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey has some big picture decisions to make — with Yao essentially done as a Rocket and a guy you build around, the long-term direction of the team is in question. Build through the draft and with young players essentially blowing this team up, or get a star that can lead this quality group of role players. A long-term direction needs to be chosen.
But for now, the Rockets remain a decent and entertaining team to watch. Which is a step ahead of half of the league.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.