On Tap: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  April 2, 2006

How happy is ABC? Do you think, before the season when they put this game on the schedule, they thought they’d have the 7th and 11th seeds in the West?

Moneyhoops comes to Houston. The Rockets may be the most disappointing team in the NBA this season so you knew there would be changes, and they have made them in the front office — the Rockets have tabbed Daryl Morey as their new GM. He comes from MIT and the Celtics, where he crunched the stats for the C’s. And not just the usual stats, Morey (like myself) uses many of the “new stats” that track efficiency, stats by possessions and others that give, in my opinion, a more accurate picture of a team and a player.

Tom Z. over at Sactown Royalty was on this fast and has a little primer on Morey (and came up with the clever moneyhoops term). Morey has done some good work, and the Celtics have built a nice, young core — although Jeff at Celtics Blog points out Morey also defended the Brian Scalabrine pick up. Other teams, the Sonics, Spurs, Mavs and others, have used advanced statistics in one way or another, but this is the biggest step forward for this little movement so far. I have to say I am going to be rooting for him to do well, but I’ll add that basketball is such an interactive team sport that stats alone can’t be the answer. I’m not sure it is in baseball, but there the universe is a lot easier to define because most of the action is around the plate (pitcher and hitter stats). With hoops it takes more of the classic scouting to do the job right. That said, the right statistics can go along way to help with that job.

Yao vs. Kwame: This is really going to be the big defensive match up for the Lakers — in the last 10 games Yao is scoring 27.1 points per game on 62.8% true shooting percentage and is pulling down 10.7 boards per game. His foot is finally healthy and it shows.

However, Yao plays to Kwame’s strengths — on the block where Kwame can use is strength advantage to keep Yao out of positions he likes. Last time these two teams played back in February Chris Mihm was out so Kwame got the call and he held Yao to 14 points and a -12 for the game. If he can do that again, the Lakers win.

Other keys to the game: Without McGrady, and really even with him, the Rockets do not have anyone who can slow Kobe, so this could be a big game for him. Last time these two played Kobe had a game high 32 and was +18, also the best on the court.

Without McGrady, the Rockets have been getting better play from Rafer Alston, although he has shot just 46.1% (eFG%) in the last 10 games, and Luther Head. However, the Rockets backcourt defense has been weak, so not only Kobe but also Smush could have a big night.

Finally, expect a slow pace as the Rockets are the 5th slowest team in the NBA this season.

to On Tap: The Houston Rockets

  1. I still don’t understand the deal with Yao’s foot. Apparently, he had a foot infection that he let fester (according to Del Harris, who coached the Chinese National Team in 2004, it was “one of the most disgusting things” he’d ever seen). The infection eventually got down to the bone and Yao had to have surgery — after which he has been playing like a hardwood dragon, breathing fire over anyone who challenges him in the paint.

    My question is: did none of Yao’s teammates, coaches, friends, or family mention medicated powder to the guy? Do the Rockets not have health insurance? Was he trying to cure it with herbal remedies?? I just don’t know how something like that could go unnoticed (or untreated) for so long, especially when it causes him so much pain and affects his performance so much!


  2. Last game houston had a lineup of Alston and Head in the backcourt (neither over 6’2), so I expect Bogans to be on Kobe, that means that one of those guys will have to guard Lamar. We defintley need to expolit this mismatch.


  3. I read that same thing about Yao’s foot and don’t understand why the Rockets didn’t just force him to deal with it earlier. Maybe it’s cultural, maybe he or the team thought he should play through pain, but it’s just not smart all the way around.


  4. Against San Antonio I noticed that Kwame was actually able to pick up Duncan and move him off the box on a couple of occassions (one of which resulted in a foul), but it showed me how strong that kid is. Today we should be able to see him utilize that strength against Yao, who still seems susceptible to intimidation.

    Mike Monroe of the SA Express has a good article up about the Morey hiring.

    “Morey, by all accounts, has done no traditional scouting. It’s clear he is a bright guy. He has a degree in computer science from Northwestern and an MBA from MIT, where he teaches a class in “Analytical Sports Management,” with Bill James as guest instructor. ”



  5. notreallyimportant April 2, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Finally we see signs of January Kobe, 40+ in 31 minutes, not too bad. And I am sure that rest will come in handy in the next few weeks.


  6. notreallyimportant April 2, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Sorry, that would in fact be 36 min.


  7. saw this interesting stat: Smush has gradually increased his assists per game. From 2.8 in Nov., 3.0 in Dec., 3.5 in Jan., 4.2 in Feb., and 4.5 in March. It may not look like much, but it does indicate his improved playmaking ability in the triangle.


  8. …and a career high 10 dimes on Sunday.