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.

Deron Williams Thinks He’s Back In College

4 05 2008

Did you see Game 6 of the Jazz-Rockets series?  Williams was on fire like a ring-of-fire in the New Orleans arena.  It was ridiculous.

Consider his stats for these playoffs:

20.8 points, 8.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds and he’s shooting 53% from the field and 59.1% from deep.  Sick.

And the Rockets are no slouch; their steady defense has been great all season.  Jerry Sloan’s gameplan for Williams was solid.  Williams was counted on the run their precise offensive sets while limiting turnovers.

Limiting turnovers against the Rockets is very important because of Houston’s overall psyche.  Those guys are looking for fast breaks and run outs to get their team going.

Williams was also looked at to spread the floor for Carlos Boozer to operate in the post.  With Williams dropping bombs, the Jazz wingmen could slash to their heart’s content.  And although Kyle Korver didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc, the threat of him doing so did help the Jazz.

Those same issues will need to be executed against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Even with the triangle offense in place, Phil Jackson lets his second unit run up and down the court.  Limiting turnovers will help deflate the overzealous back-ups.

Spreading the floor against a very long Laker frontcourt will be key.  Mehmet Okur will need to keep Lamar Odom honest by hitting some long shots from the outset.

All in all, the Lakers-Jazz series should be very good.  Deron Williams will have his chance to shine against subpar opposing point guards.  But will Kobe Bryant’s play overshadow the young man?

The Tragedy of Tracy McGrady

22 04 2008

Long ago, a forlorn young baller played in a far away land. This young baller had the promise of many but his potential was quickly overshadowed by his older cousin’s amazing skill.

This young baller was Tracy McGrady and he played in the faraway land that is Toronto, Ontario.

In three seasons and 192 games, young Tracy averaged 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a healthy 44.8% for the Toronto Raptors. He had a lot of promise, that much cannot be disputed. There was a fluidity and confidence to his game was dazzling, especially when paired with cousin Vince’s high-flying antics.

Tracy got his first taste of the playoffs in his third season; the Raptors made their first ever playoff appearance in a first-round exit. Tracy was that team’s second highest scorer. But his appetite could not be satiated in the barren grounds of Canada.

The young man, full of promise and desire, traveled to the southern reaches of the league. He went to Orlando, Florida. Another young franchise had plans for him to become “the man.” Once there, he would team with the once-great Grant Hill by his side. Magic fans had echoes of Jordan and Pippen in their mind. At the very least, they could become a modern Drexler and Terry Porter.

However, trouble struck central Florida. The talented duo never got off the ground. In Tracy’s four seasons with the Magic, Hill played only 47 games.

So Tracy would have to do it himself. He made Magic fans forget about Penny Hardaway and look for a new beginning. But regardless of Tracy’s efforts — in his four seasons, he averaged 28.1 points, 7 rebounds and 5.2 assists — his playoff aspirations bore no fruit.

His lack of success in the post-season began to create whispers. These whispers were something every great player dreads. “Loser” began to be associated with the proud Tracy McGrady. And as his injuries began to accumulate, so did questions of his toughness and durability. Could he succeed in the playoffs? Can he be trusted with a franchise? Can he stay healthy?

At one point, this man was considered a top 3 player in the league. How could this be happening? He’s never had any help and never has he played with a dependable big man.

That would change. Enter Yao Ming and the Rockets. The 25-year-old Tracy would now share the spotlight with a Western giant. He now had a legitimate force down low to throw the ball to. But it hasn’t been enough so far.

In Tracy’s four seasons with the Houston Rockets, they have never won a playoff series. Those whispers from his Orlando days have followed him to the Western Conference. His Rockets just dropped both home games to the Utah Jazz. They are about to travel to Salt Lake City where the Jazz own a highly-publicized home-court advantage.

And now I whisper to myself… Maybe some people just weren’t supposed to win. The game has been so good to Tracy McGrady but what else will it give? Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe Tracy will never win a playoff series.

The tragedy of Tracy McGrady is all I hear and it’s breaking my heart.

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


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.