Author: John Krolik


What the Rockets should do if the lockout ends


It’s official — after years of half-seasons and broken hopes, the Yao Ming era is officially over in Houston. The Rockets have been essentially playing without Yao for a while now, so it won’t be a huge transition for them, but at least they now know that they won’t b building around Yao going forward. In Yao’s absence, Daryl Morey has built a team of fast, sweet-shooting offensive players that don’t play defense terribly well, and while the team was over .500 last season, it wasn’t able to grab the final playoff spot in the West. Here’s what Morey and Co. should focus on if the lockout ends:

1. Play Defense.

The Rockets were 6th in offensive efficiency and 18th in defensive efficiency last season. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where they need to make their biggest improvements. Morey has been described as “bringing the Moneyball” philosophy to basketball, and two of his best players, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, fit that mold — they weren’t big college stars, they’re not great athletes, but they’re both superlative offensive players because of their uniquely polished offensive games. (In fact, I even compared Kevin Martin to former SABRmetric darling Adam Dunn a few years back.)

The problem is that while baseball position players’ defense isn’t nearly as important as their hitting, basketball players have to play both ways in order to be successful. Scola isn’t a great defender by any stretch of the imagination, and Martin is horrifyingly inept defensively, which will make defensive success tough for Houston.

(Of course, Morey was lauded as a “Moneyball” GM for embracing +/- stats and players like Shane Battier — players who don’t have great stats, but impact the game in positive ways by taking smart shots, playing good defense, and having good intangibles. In other words, Morey was compared to Billy Beane for valuing the exact opposite kind of players that Beane did in Lewis’ book. What I’m saying here is that I’m not all that thrilled about the return of “Moneyball” as a buzzword.

Maybe the answer can be former defensive phenom and#2 pick Hasheem Thabeet, who is still young and can block just about anything. If he can find some way to play serviceable NBA basketball and take pressure off Scola defensively, the Rockets would really benefit. Then again, Hasheem Thabeet is not good at basketball, which is an issue the Rockets will have to deal with. In fact, forget I wrote this paragraph unless Thabeet miraculously finds his game. If that happens, disregard these last few sentences.

2. Find a way to run the ball.

The Rockets have some serious weapons in transition. Kyle Lowry is a lightning-quick bowling ball of a point guard, Chase Budinger can run the floor, soar through the air, and stretch the floor, and Martin is deadly trailing the break and shooting those threes. The Rockets also have a lot of other quality athletes on their roster who haven’t quite put it all together in terms of their skills, and a more open game could work well for them.

Basically, the Rockets are a team with a lot of solid role players, some serious defensive issues, a few semi-stars, and no true star. They can be dangerous, but unless they find a way to miraculously turn themselves into a defensive powerhouse or find a two-way superstar, I don’t see them making it out of the first round of the loaded Western Conference.

Metta World Peace donates $285,000 to mental health charities

Los Angeles Lakers Victory Parade

From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times:

Metta took some steps to bring World Peace on Wednesday by donating $285,000 to mental health charities across America.

He has pledged to give away more than $500,000 that he raised by raffling off his 2010 Lakers championship ring.

At the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live, before handing giant checks to six women who represented various organizations, World Peace briefly discussed his own struggles with mental health.

“When I was a kid, I did see a counselor,” he said. “My mom helped me out, she realized I was having problems when I was 13 years old. She realized I was going through a lot.”

Personally, I never get tired of hearing about Mr. World Peace’s dedication to the mental health of our nation’s children — it’s a true redemption story for a man who used to be sports’ #1 villain, and Metta’s cause is definitely worth giving time and attention to. Congratulations, Mr. World Peace. You have, against all odds, become a role model who changed his name to Metta World Peace.

What the Hornets should do if the lockout ends

Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant

It’s a crucial year for the Hornets. Chris Paul can opt out of his contract with New Orleans after this season, and it goes without saying that the franchise would be devastated if Paul left the team. Here are a few ways that the Hornets can build on their spirited first-round performance against the Lakers last season:

– Get Healthy:

After battling injuries for the better part of two regular seasons and seeing his PER drop from 30 in 08-09 to 23.75 in 09-10 and 10-11, Chris Paul used the first round of the playoffs to show everybody that when CP3 is on his game, he’s as good as anybody in the league. Paul is almost unquestionably the league’s best ballhandler and one of its best passers, and he’s turned himself into one of the league’s best outside shooters as well.

If his knees can stay healthy for a full season, he could give the Hornets a fighting chance at getting into the playoffs and winning a series or two all by himself. He’s that good.

David West is CP3’s sidekick on the court, but a torn ACL suffered late in the year kept him out of the playoffs and could cause him to miss a significant portion of this season. If Paul and West both have healthy knees coming into the playoffs, the Hornets could make some noise. If they don’t, it’s hard to envision them as serious contenders.

– Get Players:

It’s not a state secret that the Hornets’ roster is incredibly thin. Outside of Paul, Jarrett Jack, Emeka Okafor, West, and Trevor Ariza, the Hornets don’t have much, and the team desperately needs to stock the roster with some quality role players and veterans (in other words, not Marco Belinelli), who can knock down the open shots that Paul creates and play some defense.

– Stay Defensive:

The secret of the Hornets’ return to the playoffs was their improved defense. Under Monty Williams, the Hornets were a top-10 team in defensive efficiency last season. If the Hornets can maintain their commitment to defense and become the best defensive team in the Western conference (only the Lakers and Mavericks had a higher defensive efficiency in the West than the Hornets did last season), and simply let a healthy CP3 do his thing on offense, they could end up being a very tough out in the playoffs.

Blazers searching Cho’s replacement as GM

Rich Cho
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From CBS’ Ben Golliver:

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 100 days after “parting ways” with former GM Rich Cho weeks before the 2011 NBA Draft, the PortlandTrail Blazers have yet to hire Cho’s full-time replacement.

Blazers president Larry Miller did finally confirm that the GM search process has progressed in a telephone interview with on Monday.

“We have talked to and interviewed some candidates,” Miller said. “I’m not going to mention any names but we have interviewed candidates.”

Yahoo Sports has reported that the Blazers are eying Oklahoma CityThunder executive Troy Weaver, San Antonio Spurs executive Dennis Lindsey and former Golden State Warriors executive Chris Mullin, while added Cleveland Cavaliers executive David Griffin and Los Angeles Clippers executive Neil Olshey to the list.

The Blazers’ front office has been a soap opera in recent years — hopefully the Blazers can find someone to hold down the GM job successfully this off-season and spare Blazer fans from any future front-office drama.

What the Blazers should do if the lockout ends

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks - Game One
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The Blazers had an interesting year last season. Brandon Roy’s injuries made him a shell of his former self, and 2007 #1 pick had yet another devastating knee injury that caused him to miss a full season. However, the team got a breakout year from LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews backed up his contract, and a mid-season trade for Gerald Wallace invigorated the team’s frontcourt. The Blazers were disappointed when they lost in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks, but that doesn’t look all that bad in hindsight. Here are a few things the Blazers should do next season:

1. Pray for Health

Brandon Roy may never be a top-10 player again, but if he could be anything like the player he was in 08-09, it would help the Blazers tremendously. And at this point, we all know the Greg Oden story — if he’s healthy and can find ways to stay out of foul trouble, he’s a top-5 true center in the NBA who will only get better. But for the majority of his career, he’s been paid to wear a suit. If Oden can get back on the floor and stay there, everything changes for the Blazers. But obviously, that’s a big if.

2. Hope that LaMarcus Aldridge continues to be a star

Aldridge has always been a good player, but last season was a breakout year for him. His PER jumped by a full three points, he averaged 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, and had an incredible +/- of +14.4 points per 100 possessions. The good news is that Aldridge can get even better if he starts to mix in more drives to the hoop set up by his silky-smooth, high-release jumper and raise his scoring efficiency, which is somewhat pedestrian. Of course, life will be a lot easier for Aldridge if Oden is healthy enough to free him up for wide-open 15-footers or the rest of the Blazers free up the lane to give him some easy dunks, which leads us to:

3. Hope the Raymond Felton era starts well

Andre Miller, who was a wonderful floor general but couldn’t shoot threes or beat all that many folks off the dribble, is gone. Now Raymond Felton is running the show in Portland, and the bowling-ball like former Knick and Nugget has both serious speed and three-point range. If he can run the show successfully and set things up for the ultra-athletic Nicolas Batum and Gerald Wallace and give dead-eye shooter Wes Matthews some clean looks while Aldridge continues to fill it up from the blocks, he team could get a lot better offensively. And if Oden is back to patrol the paint, the Blazers could at long last become serious contenders out west.