Tag:Yao Ming
Posted on: September 16, 2010 3:30 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 3:50 pm
 

The impact of Yao's minute limitations

Returning All-Star center will be limited to 24 minutes per game, but how does that affect the rest of the team?
Posted by Matt Moore


As we told you in The Shootaround this morning, the Rockets have come out and told the world not to be expecting 100% Yao this year. He's going to be ready to go, he's going to go, he's going to be Yao. But he'll only be doing that for 24 minutes per game . That's it. And when they say "that's it," they mean "that's it ." From the Houston Chronicle :

"Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game."

The Rockets assistant trainer explained that the decision wasn't arbitrary. The Rockets, one of the most empirically influenced teams in the league, looked at an unspecified set of data and determined that with the nature of Yao's injury, he simply can't go the full game, not even for only a few nights:

“We have evidence that when he played 35 to 40 minutes he averaged two years ago there was a buildup of stress on his foot that led to it being injured in the playoffs. On some level, we have at least one indication 35 to 40 minutes might be too much. That would lead you to choose to look at having a limit.”

It makes sense, right? Yao's injury is physical-stress-related. So let's limit the amount of stress he puts on it a night. Granted, with his frame, there's going to be that problem no matter what he does. Walking's going to put stress on it. Any weight on it, that's stress. But that's a bit different from jumping up and down constantly battling Andrew Bynum for rebounds, landing awkwardly repeatedly. He's had a full year off, he's got a plan. The question's not if this is the right move for Yao and the Rockets it is. Mentioned several times in the article is the discussion of how the blowup in Chicago between Vinny Del Negro and Paxson erupted over Joakim Noah's minutes. Everyone's on the same page. There's a plan, there are rules, they should work for Yao, and if they don't, there's probably nothing they could do otherwise.

But will that plan work for the Rockets?

We're entering into a particularly tricky area, one that's best labeled "sub-chemistry." There's the overall chemistry of the Rockets, which is good. Most of the guys seem to get along with Yao, and each other. There's a lot of the same pieces from the 2008 22-game winning streak, and that was all about chemistry. The new pieces are all high quality character guys with marginal egos (Kevin Martin the only question mark, and it's a widdle bitty one at that). But personal chemistry is different that playing chemistry. That takes time, and patience and most importantly, rhythm. Yao's only on the floor for 24 minutes per game, that's fine. But in that 24 minutes per game, they've got to get Yao involved. Then, they're going to have to shift to how they played without him on the floor. The two aren't necessarily inseparable. But they are different, and the transition might be difficult on a night in and night out basis. Usually players who only play 24 minutes per night are not of Yao's caliber, aren't the kinds of guys you want to get touches, and lots of them. The roles will remain the same, but the flows do change.

This will be a challenge for head coach Rick Adelman to manage, even as it's a blessing to get Yao back on the floor. Yao Ming has the potential to help the Rockets back into the playoffs along with a versatile and talented roster. But how that roster evolves in transitioning to and from those crucial 24 minutes per game is going to be a bit like Jenga. One slight miscalculation, and the structure could tumble.
Posted on: September 16, 2010 9:09 am
 

Shootaround 9.16.10: Hack a Shaq

Posted by Royce Young
  • Shaquille O'Neal has been accused of computer hacking and throwing evidence in a lake, according to Radar Online . One of Shaq's former employees named Shawn Darling is the one making the accusations. It's a pretty long and messed up situation, but here's the gist: "At the time, Shaq was having an affair with hip-hop singer Alexis Miller who ended up accusing him of harassment and stalking. Shaq later settled with Miller. The lawsuit alleges, "O'Neal told Darling that Alexis Miller had obtained a restraining order and that O'Neal said could not remember what he sent to Miller by way of text messaging and E-mail." According to the suit, Shaq asked Darling to retrieve every email and text message that he sent Miller-as well as all of Shaq's phone records-- so that he could be aware of what he was dealing with."
  • It's the basketball equivalent of a pitch count. Yao Ming will be limited to 24 minutes a night says Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle: "Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game."
  • George Karl to the Denver Post: "To me, my job is to, anytime I talk to Melo . . . it's to convince him that we won 53 games last year and I think we're very capable of being a lot better than we were last year," Karl told reporters. "Some of the bombs that hit our team injury-wise and my situation, I think we kind of need to stay together, in my opinion. It's pretty easy: Stay together and figure it out. Right now, I don't think Melo is going to be calling me for advice. Fortunately, it's not my job to probably call him to talk about that situation. My job is to talk about basketball."
  • Should Bill Laimbeer coach the Pistons? Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered says no: "I care about legacy. Being a head coach in Detroit would be bad for Laimbeer’s legacy, because he would get fired. I don’t know how long he’d last. And given the right roster (i.e. not the current roster), he might even find a mix of players he could have success with. But there’s a good chance that things wouldn’t end well (see: Trammell, Alan). What I dislike is the assumption that just because Laimbeer was a tough player who is beloved by fans that he’d naturally make a good coach. Even with titles in the WNBA, he hasn’t proven enough as a coach, motivator or understander of the modern player to deserve that assumption." And it appears there's a rebuttal from Bill Laimbeer's daughter in the comments as well.
  • David Kahn, writing a letter to fans. In it, he tries to explain the reason to give Darko $20 million: "Telling Darko how important he could be to our future while offering him a contract that represents a major paycut was a delicate dance.  Darko understood this, too, and thus was willing to allow us some financial protection in the final year of his deal if things didn’t work out.  But let me be clear:  we think they will work out."
Posted on: August 31, 2010 2:43 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 2:48 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Can the Rockets jell?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question..

Can the Rockets jell?


Normally the year after you lose one of your biggest stars is supposed to be a tough one to swallow. But the Rockets are liberated after losing Tracy McGrady, and have put that cap space to good use. Tack on the return of their other star in Yao Ming, and the Rockets have high hopes for 2010. They only added three players of note, Courtney Lee via the Trevor Ariza trade, Brad Miller in free agency, and Patrick Patterson in the draft. But those players combined with the assets they picked up through trade last season and the return of Yao Ming are what make people so high on the Rockets.

The Rockets built a roster based on versatility last season but injuries left them scraping things together, and in the meantime, their primary lineup didn't produce as expected. As a result, GM Daryl Morey went even further towards the versatility approach. The trade of Trevor Ariza was the most controversial, essentially starting over after only a year with Ariza. When we look at the lineups, though, that doesn't sound so crazy.

You always have to take plus/minus with a grain of salt, but there are circumstances where you can notice specific outliers. The Rockets lineups are such an example. The Rockets' three most-often used lineups (via 82games.com) all featured Ariza at small forward, and were a combined -19. That's in contrast to their fourth, fifth, and sixth most used lineups (all over 100 minutes), which were a combined +91. That's a big number. It's not conclusive, but it does provide some evidence for why the Rockets elected to ship him out for a backup shooting guard best remembered for a missed alley-oop in the Finals.

Kevin Martin was the other significant acquisition. The Rockets were able to snag Martin at the trade deadline after an injury plagued season was compounded by his inability to gel with Tyreke Evans. Martin wasn't bad with the Rockets but he was far from the instant fix-all for their problems and they lost steam (again with the injuries) down the stretch. But he and Aaron Brooks seemed to be finding their way, despite both of them being heavy usage players.

So the big question for the Rockets isn't one of talent, it's one of chemistry.

"" Yao Ming has been away from the practice floor since May of 2009. Kevin Martin has been with the team only two months of actual playing time. Courtney Lee is completely new. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry just received new contracts. Jordan Hill is a newcomer, still settling in. Patrick Patterson is a rookie. Brad Miller just hopped on board. And for a team that relies on ball movement and separation like Rick Adelman's, this is a dangerous approach to trying to throw it all together.

Luckily, egos seem to be sparse in the locker room. Kevin Martin is certainly going to want his chances to score, and he'll get them. There's enough to go around. The rest of the team is largely filling in the gaps. Luis Scola should get a step back since he won't be guarding or guarded by centers with Ming on the floor, and Chase Bundinger and Lee give the team versatility and shooting. Shane Battier is the leader and prime example of the sacrifice this team will need to instill as a virtue in order to make a run in the West. This is not a case of any one player shouldering the load. Morey and Adelman have built a system based on depth and versatility, and they need to use that, exploiting matchups and tendencies where they can.

The addition of Yao cannot be understated. This was a dogged, tenacious, well-balanced team last year that struggled due to injuries and a lack of size. Yao provides them depth (vaunted post-defender Chuck Hayes is now third string behind Brad Miller), unparalleled post offense and defense, and a focal point for the perimeter cuts to work around. He's a willing and able passer, and even Miller works well in the pinch post with those wings slashing around. Consider all the perimeter shooter/slashers they have to work around their bigs:

Aaron Brooks (39.8% from the arc, 47% on 3pt attempts in hand-off situations)
Kevin Martin (44% in spot-up situations)
Chase Budinger (37% 3pt, 40% as a spot-up three-point shooter)
Courtney Lee
Kyle Lowry
Jermaine Taylor

And here are their mid-range defenders:
Shane Battier
Jared Jeffries (.84 points per possession allowed defensively, allowing only 39.2% from the floor)
Patrick Patterson - who can also stretch the floor

And their low-post guys:
Yao
Miller
Scola
Hayes
Jordan Hill

That's just a ridiculous amount of depth, and all of them with multiple skills. Martin can work on-ball or off, slashing or spotting up. Scola can work in the high or low post and has a reliable mid-range jumper. Making it all work will be Adelman's job, and there is such a thing as too much depth. It can cause discontent when players feel they're not getting time. And there's the ever-looming threat of the Big Move.

Daryl Morey has said repeatedly that though they've been successful in finding high value players, you cannot win in this league without superstars. And he clearly wants one to go with Yao's potentially final year with the Rockets. With Jeffries, Martin, Lee, Scola, Hill, and others, along with the picks he's acquired from New York, he has a set of assets to use if he wants to pursue, say, Carmelo Anthony. But that means more changes to the ship. All of this and they have to hope they stay healthy, which is an unlikely scenario given Yao's feet history.

In a perfect world, the Rockets could be contenders for making the Western Conference Finals, and facing a Lakers team they have consistently taken it to over the years. But that's the best case scenario. In the meantime, they'll have to try and integrate all the moving parts into one machine, and see how far it takes them. They've got the parts. They've just got to make them work together now that they're assembled.

(Situation-based data courtesy of Synergy Sports )
Posted on: August 24, 2010 6:13 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2010 6:14 pm
 

Yao Ming is back

Ming looks good in workouts after resuming basketball activities. Also, he's very tall.
Posted by Matt Moore

Yao Ming may be over the hill. His body may have simply broken down too many times. He may be unable to return to his former glory. But he still is one thing. Tall. He is really, really tall. And he works his tall tail off.

The Rockets today posted video evidence of Ming back on the floor, resuming basketball activities and generally being Mingish. In the video, he showed a lot of things Rockets fans want to see. Most notably, the feet seem to be moving without much gingerness. He looks strong and fast. And for basketball fans all over? That turn around one-touch drop-it-and-make-'em-suffer shot is there. And it looks... good . But hey, don't take my word for it, take a look and see for yourself what a seven foot tall Chinese guy sweating through his clothes and nailing post-j's looks like:



Posted on: July 27, 2010 3:56 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2010 3:59 pm
 

The lost legend of Yao Ming

Posted by Matt Moore

You have to remember how good this Rockets team was. Or rather, how good they could have been. In 2006-2007, Yao Ming only played 48 games. He broke his kneecap in December and was sidelined until March. When healthy, Ming averaged 25 points per game (26.6 per 36 minutes), averaged 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He had a PER of 26.5 that year, which would have been good enough for second behind Dirk Nowitzki if he had maintained it for the 34 games he missed. The Rockets were fifth in point differential that season, even with Yao missing all those games. 

They finished fourth in SRS , a rating that measures strength of schedule and point differential, but wound up as the fifth seed. Worse yet, they were matched up with the Utah Jazz, a team that for whatever reason, owned Houston completely and totally during the middle 00's. That same Utah team would not only defeat the Rockets, but be gifted with the Golden State Warriors, fresh off their own matchup-oriented upset of the Dallas Mavericks, before falling to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. 

This was pretty much par for the course for the Rockets. Have a great season, be in position for a high seed, Yao as an MVP candidate. Then a Yao injury and a tough matchup with the Jazz, ending in an out. They finally managed to avoid injury. Finally managed to make it past the Jazz. And wound up against the Lakers in 2008 and looked very much like they had a shot at pushing LA. Broken foot. Done.

The questions will always be out there. What if Ming stayed healthy? What if Daryl Morey was able to pull of his moves a little sooner? What if Tracy McGrady hadn't been, well, you know, Tracy McGrady. What if things had gone just a little differently for that Rockets team? Not a lot. Just a little.
There are a million unfair endings for NBA players and teams, just as there are in life. Kermit Washington. Sam Bowie. The Blazers are staring down the barrel of such a situation with Greg Oden. But Ming's was more than just promise. It was delivered. When healthy, Yao Ming was the best center in the NBA. Dwight Howard is an absolute beast. One of the best defensive players you'll ever see. And Yao Ming had him dead to rights because of his touch, discipline, versatility, and range. He had a ridiculous array of moves to go along with his frame.

Has him. Had him. We're not sure which.

Ming is scheduled to return this season from the foot injury that cost him all of 2009-2010. But reports today indicate he may hang it up after this season, debating on how it goes. Yao turns 30 this year, and from the quotes he gave to the Chinese reporters, he's taking his usual level-headed approach to it.

Like I said before, I will quit the national team and the sport one day. It's what happens to every athlete."

Compare that with Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O'Neal, and Allen Iverson. You may call it a fierce competitor's will to play, I call Ming's attitude class and rationality. And it brings us to an important point.

This may seem like burying the man's legacy before the heart stops beating. But if this is his last season, we need to soak up whatever few moments we get to watch him play. We need to remind ourselves of how good Yao Ming really was, and can be. A big man with touch is seldom seen these days, and Ming brought a fierceness with him that we first thought would never come. By the time he hit his stride, we had seen the lion inside the lamb, only for the lion's paw to detonate into a million pieces. Every generation has their own lost legend. Yao Ming is this one's.
Category: NBA
Posted on: July 20, 2010 6:21 pm
 

Video: Offseason update, 7.20.10

Posted by Royce Young

What's up with the Matt Barnes sign-and-trade that didn't happen? Is Yao Ming actually hurt or not? And what does it mean that super-agent Lon Babby is now a head man for the Phoenix Suns? All this is discussed in today's NBA offseason update.

Posted on: July 20, 2010 8:13 am
Edited on: July 20, 2010 9:59 am
 

Shootaround: 7.20.10

Posted by Royce Young
  • For whatever reason, Matt Barnes has become one of the most talked about free agents on the market this offseason. And yesterday, he appeared headed to Toronto in a sign-and-trade . However, because of some miscalculating, Marc Stein reports the deal is possibly dead : "Since Toronto recently spent the bulk of its $5.8 million mid-level exception to sign Linas Kleiza , it doesn't have the available funds to sign Barnes outright to a deal that starts in the neighborhood of $4 million. The Magic, though, are prevented by salary-cap rules from starting a sign-and-trade deal for Barnes at higher than $2 million, because Orlando doesn't have Barnes' full Bird rights after employing him for only one season. A sign-and-trade deal would also have to span at least three years, although only the first year is required to be guaranteed."
  • Henry Abbott with nine things to know about Cho : "Given the soap opera in Portland's front office over the last few months, Cho's law school focus on "dispute resolution" could prove to be the most valuable element in his time in Portland."
  • There's been some concern that Amare Stoudemire won't be able to produce quite the same numbers without primo setup man Steve Nash orchestrating the offense. But Knicks assistant Phil Weber told the New York Post that Amare will be fine : "Everybody's going to look very good playing with [Nash]. But Amar'e in his own right, he's got the versatility, quickness and shooting ability, he's going to wreck havoc on the defense.''
  • Shoals writing on Free Darko about DeMarcus Cousins and how he relates to other players with character issues : "Cousins might seem to call into question whatever it is that Arenas and Beasley represented. On the contrary, in his contradictions, he make more urgent than ever the need to develop a more psychologically sophisticated approach to assessing prospects. Arenas asserted the right to be kooky, unpredictable, and obsessive; Beasley , incoherent, compelling and loud. That was a fair description of each at their best, and if their stories ended today, each would serve as a cautionary tale against this kind of player. Cousins , though, makes the case for the development of something new, something that might actually better equip a team for an Arenas or Beasley —that is, anyone other than an outright bust."
Posted on: July 19, 2010 3:50 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 3:53 pm
 

The return of Ming may be postponed

Posted by Royce Young

Yao Ming missed the entire 2009-10 season with a broken left foot. You know, one of those dreaded foot injuries that absolutely destory big men's careers.

The Rockets expected his return to be set for the season opener and with Yao back, Houston's expectations for the season were obviously high. The Rockets spent money retaining Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola, plus signed an extra big man to team with Yao. But now, it's sounding like Yao might miss the first two months of the season.

Gery Woelfel of The Journal-Times says he's hearing the Rockets don't intend to rush their star back (smart), so missing up to two months might indeed happen.

It's up to the gods of speculation to guess whether or not the Rockets already knew this and thus offered $15 million to Brad Miller. But whatever the case, having Miller as an insurance policy is definitely a godsend at this point for Houston. Yao may never be the same. And if the Rockets have any inclination about getting back to the playoffs, at least one quality center is surely required on the inside. If they can get two, that's just bonus.

 
 
 
 
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