Artest Will Help The Rockets, It’s “Tru”

4 08 2008
Ron-Ron, doing his thing

Ron-Ron, doing his thing

Ron Artest mad.

Ron play defense.  Ron play hard.

Ron hate Kings.  Ron leave Kings.  Ron join Rockets.

Houston nice.  Rick Adelman nice.  Ron likes Rick Adelman.  Rick Adelman like Ron?

Ron is ready to win.  When Ron is on a good team, he wins.

Ron will help Tracy McGrady.  Ron will help Yao Ming.  Ron will really help the Rockets.

He is not just a redundant Shane Battier.  Battier is a nice player but Ron is better.  He is better on the boards.  He is better offensively.  He is better as a playmaker.  And he is better when defending the post man-to-man but not necessarily from the weak side.

Ron is the best two-way player in the league.

Is Ron a gamble?  Yes.  Is he worth the risk?  Sure.

Ron said it himself: if the Houston Rockets find playoff success this postseason, it will be more so because Yao Ming is healthy rather than Ron’s arrival in Texas. 

I very much agree with him.  Houston provides a change of pace for Ron because he desperately needed out of Sacramento.  In Sacramento, Ron was the first option and he deluded himself into thinking he was first-option material.

In his interviews since being dealt to the Rockets, he seems to have touched back onto the ground.  Ron says he just wants to play, regardless of the role.  He’s happy letting Battier start while he comes off the bench as the sixth or seventh guy. 

The perputed exchange between Yao Ming and Ron Artest was clearly embellished by the media.  And naturally, when the media is a go-between, all hell breaks loose.  An eagerness to label Ron Artest as crazy or mad brought upon Ron’s baited brush-off of the Auburn Hills brawl. 

The big question is whether Adelman can utilize Ron Artest to complement Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.  It seems that Houston’s top 3 offer a wider breadth of skills than some other squads — namely the Boston Celtics —  so that shouldn’t be a problem.





Unsung Player Day: Steve Novak

4 04 2008

When Tracy McGrady says that you’re “the best shooter [he's] ever seen,” shouldn’t you be getting at least a little bit of press? Although he owns one of the sweetest strokes in the league, you won’t hear Steve Novak being bombarded with interview requests.

As soon as Don over at With Malice… told me that he was declaring April 5th as an Unsung Player Day, the 6’10” forward out of Marquette came to mind. I mean Bruce Pearl gropes Erin Andrews and he continues to get press. Where’s the love for a nice guy like Stevie Novak?

Novak had an incredible start to his collegiate career. He helped Dwyane Wade and Travis Diener bring Marquette to its first Final Four since Al McGuire. Along the way, Novak earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team and became the Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year. After that fast start, Novak essentially underwhelmed during his sophomore and junior seasons.

But come his senior year, he literally played his way into the NBA. Novak kick-started Marquette’s first season in the Big East, guiding the program to the best performance out of all the former C-USA teams. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds while shooting 46.7% from 3-point range and 47.7% overall. It was good enough to be an unanimous All-Big East First-Team selection. He shared unanimous selection honors with Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Rudy Gay. Not bad company, if you ask me.

The Houston Rockets drafted the long-range marksman with the 32nd pick overall. Things weren’t stellar for the man during his rookie season. He averaged 1.5 points and 0.7 rebounds in 35 games with a single start. The Rockets sent him down to the D-League a couple times where he played for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.

Novak’s second professional season has treated him a bit better. He’s seen increased playing time, especially since Yao Ming went down with an injury. He’s reached double-figures twice this season. The highlight, so far, was when he hit a buzzer-beating, game-winner against Sacramento.

Like an old man easing into a warm bath, Novak is getting a better awareness of how to play the game. His value, at this point, comes mainly because he stretches out the floor. The Rockets’ offense is predicated on lots of half-court sets with their big men setting up the offense at the elbow or high post. Novak and his deadly three-point shot catches just enough attention when he fades into the corner.

In a game where one play separates winning and losing, every advantage counts. So the next time you watch Tracy McGrady and the Rockets, keep an eye out for #20. You may be pleasantly surprised by the young Steve Novak.





Where Streaks Happen

17 03 2008

22

Wins in a row by a now surprising Houston Rockets team. They have 10 straight wins since Yao Ming got injured. It was a delight watching this team close out the Lakers especially since my alternative was the Big Ten tournament. Shane Battier played some stifling defense on Kobe throughout the game and especially during the last five minutes. Rafer Alston had a huge game with a career-high 31 points. Bobby Jackson only missed two shots all game. Although Tracy McGrady’s line doesn’t look great, he did play well to close out the Lakers. These guys are playing with so much confidence right now. They’re so high that Dikembe Mutombo was as giddy as a 4-year-old on the sidelines.





RIP Tracy McGrady

27 02 2008

yaotmac.jpg

A lot of attention is being drawn to Yao Ming’s left foot fracture. The injury will end his season.

More importantly, Yao’s injury will effectively end Tracy McGrady’s career.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tracy McGrady. At one time, the man was considered to be one of the top three players in the league. He doesn’t get the acclaim that he used to get but he’s undoubtedly still one of the best perimeter players.

The sad fact is that T-Mac just hasn’t had much success in the playoffs. He is like the Paul Giamatti or Ed Norton of the NBA. T-Mac puts in some incredible performances yet he can’t hit gold.

I don’t know whether it’s due to his deficiencies as a player. He obviously hasn’t really had much help around him. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because T-Mac, like Giamatti, isn’t exactly the prettiest boy around. But that doesn’t explain why Geoffrey Rush and Sam Cassell have gone home winners.

There are times when it just isn’t meant to be.

The Houston Rockets are the hottest team in the league. They haven’t lost a game in two months. That’s straight-up ridiculous.

A lot of Rick Adelman’s offense runs through his bigs. This may be a problem with an old Dikembe Mutombo tentatively moving into the center position. Luis Scola, an Argentinian national team stud, has very good court awareness and passing skills. Either way, Adelman should go small and try to capitalize on Bobby Jackson’s recent signing.

The Rockets are currently seventh in the west. If Jeff Van Gundy were coaching this team, I would write them off immediately. Van Gundy’s defense-first mentality cannot sustain the Rockets without Yao. Adelman needs to pump up his supposed offensive creativity and turn up the tempo.

This was their year and looking around at the loaded Western Conference, it’s tough to bet against the field moving forward. All of these stud line-ups in the west will have gotten a season to gel.  They will be that much more formidable in the long haul.

If Tracy finds success in the playoffs, don’t look for it anytime soon. He should take some notes from his old teammate, Grant Hill. Age a little bit and then join a contender as the “wiry, old veteran.” Sadly, that may be his only shot at winning it big.








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