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[ESPN/Shelburne] Star power or system? Houston showing OKC the answer is both

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Deuce, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Deuce

    Deuce Context & Nuance
    Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2001
    Likes Received:
    (aka, Westbrook is MVP)

    Star power or system? Houston showing OKC the answer is both

    Ramona Shelburne

    Twenty minutes after the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City ThunderSunday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven first round playoff series, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was walking quickly through the hallways of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

    There was an urgency in his steps, as if he was late for the team bus or something. But in this case, that urgency was probably something closer to relief.

    "You take a step back and say, 'A lot of our guys played well tonight. But Russell [Westbrook] had one of the better performances that I've ever seen,'" Morey told ESPN. "It's an achievement for our team to come on the road, take the hit from him and still get the win.'"

    Once again, the system Morey and D'Antoni created out of science, jazz and funk this season triumphed over the individual brilliance of Westbrook's Rage Against the Machine.

    This time, the Rockets had thwarted Westbrook and his 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists -- the triple-double clinched by halftime -- without even getting a great performance from Harden, who was limited by an ankle injury.

    Two of the unheralded free agents Morey had signed last summer, Nene (28 points on 12-for-12 shooting, 10 rebounds) and Eric Gordon (18 points, eight rebounds), had big nights. So too did Lou Williams (18 points, seven rebounds), the player Morey acquired midseason. None of these qualified as splashy moves.

    But when you have a vision of the system you want to run, around the foundational player you want to orbit, splash doesn't really matter.

    "Mike [D'Antoni's] coached this way a long time," Morey explained. "We've conceptually wanted to play this way for a long time. You can think it all you want but unless you get a James Harden, who's like, the perfect guy to run it, it doesn't happen."

    There were any number of filters to view this year's MVP race in the NBA. But when it got down to it, when voters opened up the official email from the NBA and its accounting firm Ernst & Young and logged into to vote on the league's most prestigious award, one question hung in the air:

    System or star power?

    In one group you had players like Harden and Kawhi Leonard who excelled on teams that have well-defined, beautiful systems on offense and defense. In the other group you had individuals like Westbrook and LeBron James, who flat out carried and willed their teams to success despite gaping holes in the systems their teams ran.

    Harden evolved into the perfect leader of the D'Antoni- and Morey-led science experiment. Steve Nash in shoulder pads, the Bearded Picasso of the rip-through, and reviver of at least three teammates' careers (Gordon, Nene andRyan Anderson).

    Westbrook became Oklahoma City's one-man wrecking crew. The reincarnation of Kobe after Shaq left the Lakers. A walking, snarling triple-double who redeemed a city and its franchise after Kevin Durant left as a free agent.

    Voting closed the day before the playoffs began, but the first-round matchup between the Thunder and Rockets has offered an immediate referendum. And so far, the series has only deepened the divide between Westbrook and Harden's MVP résumés.

    Both have been brilliant in the series. Westbrook has posted triple-doubles in three of the first four games. Harden became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1990 to score at least 35 points in his team's first three playoff games.

    But the Rockets have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 Tuesday night in Houston because Harden's teammates have been far better than Westbrook's.

    Is that because of Houston's system or the way Harden runs that system? Is the Rockets supporting cast simply better than Oklahoma City's? Or is Harden making them better?

    Five Rockets are averaging double figures in these playoffs, suggesting Harden and the system has elevated them. However Houston has actually been better with Harden off the court (plus-16.2) than with him on it (plus-7.9) in this series.

    It's fairly straightforward when those questions are asked of Westbrook and his teammates. Oklahoma City is plus-3.0 in 139 minutes with Westbrook on the floor and minus-40 in the 39 minutes he's been off the court. When Westbrook hits the bench, the Thunder rapidly give back the lead. OKC blew leads of 15 points in Game 2, 15 in Game 3 and 14 in Game 4.

    Why does that happen? Is Westbrook's supporting cast so vastly inferior to Harden's? Are they just not playing well?

    That's certainly what Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman was trying to ask Sunday night after the game, in a question addressed to center Steven Adams but hijacked by Westbrook.

    "Hold on, Steven," Westbrook said. "I don't want nobody to try and split us up. We're all one team. If I go to the bench and Steven's on the floor and I'm off the floor, we're in this together. Don't split us up. Don't try to split us up. Don't try to make us go against each other or make it Russell and the rest of the guys. Russell against Houston. I don't want to hear that. We're in this together. We play as a team. That's all that matters."

    Westbrook's instinct to defend his teammates was admirable. But his tactics effectively demonstrated the underlying question the Thunder has been wrestling with in this series, and really since Durant left.

    Do they need to build a system around Westbrook, the way Morey and D'Antoni have built one around Harden?

    You can see the makings of that kind of a team in the way coach Thunder coach Billy Donovan has adjusted throughout the series, giving more run to versatile defenders like Taj Gibson and Jerami Grant and shooters like Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott. Of those four players, only Abrines began the season with the Thunder. The other three were acquired via trade as GM Sam Presti watched how his team played with Westbrook as the lone white hot star at center of the solar system.

    There will surely be more adjustments this offseason. More complementary players added to the group around Westbrook, to help or at least try to.

    But for now, while there is still a bit of the season left, Westbrook's instinct seems to be to impose himself on the game, and anyone or anything in front of him.
  2. RCPM

    RCPM Member

    Jan 17, 2011
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    So tired of this BS!
    joeson332 likes this.
  3. Fyreball

    Fyreball Contributing Member

    Apr 8, 2009
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    Yet another Westbrook fluff piece. This one just has a slower burn than the others. Reading that was like watching a piece of tissue burn up......slowly devolving until all that's left is "Westbrook rules, his teammates drool."
    Handles and joeson332 like this.
  4. RedHotRockets01

    Feb 17, 2009
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    The question: Are Westbrook's team mates inferior to Hardens
    The answer: DO I GIVE AF???
    NOPE!!!!! Rockets in 5, LETS GO!!!
  5. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
    Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 1999
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    Looks to Morey, squints eyes... analyzes carefully. Yep, that man is clearly taking very relief-like steps. Lulz.
  6. FTW Rockets FTW

    FTW Rockets FTW Contributing Member

    Jun 23, 2011
    Likes Received:
    F Ramona Shelbutne

    Another delusional media fool in the sack for WB
    BigShasta and joeson332 like this.
  7. hakeem94

    hakeem94 Member

    Sep 23, 2016
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    look at the media crawling back
    joeson332 likes this.
  8. kiwirocketsfan

    Jul 8, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Glad someone posted this.

    Complete waste of time article, you can't build a team around Westbrook. You know the old saying there is no 'I' in team, well Westbrook spells team IIII.

    What you do is find 4 other guys who are desperate enough to find a paycheck in the NBA they will tolerate being belittled by an egomaniac.
    Hakeemtheking and joeson332 like this.
  9. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum It. Deserves. Its. Own. Thread.
    Supporting Member

    May 2, 2014
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    [sigh] media conspiracy
    joeson332 likes this.
  10. joeson332

    joeson332 Member

    Apr 13, 2014
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    deserves its own thread
    Os Trigonum likes this.
  11. DFWRocket

    DFWRocket Member

    Mar 21, 2000
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    This is because Westbrook is usually sitting at the same time Harden is sitting
  12. scolandry1

    scolandry1 Member

    Feb 17, 2010
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    OKC's substitution patterns suck, and the Rockets have two guys that average 18 points per game off the bench. It's all about making Russell look good. Personally, I think he would look better if he used a few of those buttons on his shirts. That's what they're there for.
  13. Aleron

    Aleron Contributing Member

    Jun 24, 2010
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    Westbrook sits the last cpl minutes of the odd quarters, first few of the next, Harden sits the first several of the even quarters
  14. JayGoogle

    JayGoogle Member

    Nov 3, 2007
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    Too bad Westbrook is a lot like Carmelo...good luck building a system around him.

    Rage Against the Machine is apt, Westbrook is a very "F you I won't do what you tell me!" kind of player.
  15. Aleron

    Aleron Contributing Member

    Jun 24, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Let's just say there's a reason they say "build a team around Westbrook" or "more complimentary players" and never say what that team or players are.

    OKC has complimentary players to Westbrook, Westbrook's not an efficient player, but he can maintain his volume and middling efficiency regardless of the pressure, so you have defensive minded (drag everyone's efficiency down but Westbrook will still maintain his) and quality rebounders, especially offensively (best in the league after acquiring Gibson) because you are trying to create a game that is inefficient.

    The issue is they perceive that Westbrook is the equal of the Harden's, Curry's etc, this is somewhere where Mark Cuban is absolutely correct, he simply is not, year after year after year the same thing will repeat, but it will always be his team mates, and then it will be him slowing down, it doesn't actually matter how many times it happens, and it will keep happening but facts and evidence mean nothing, there will always be an excuse (look at okc the year he was injured vs the year Durant was injured).

    (Side note - I'm not sure what this concept is called but it's basically perception drift, the number of people who believe something is mostly irrelevant, it's the direction of opinion change that gives a much better indicator, the reason for this is that all people have bias, so it's the shift away from their bias that is more reflective of what's really happening, another good example is Kawhi's defense, it was noticeably worse this year, but only the people who saw him a lot (predominantly Spurs fans not bitten by the homerus giganticus bug) really noticed it, everyone else is running on their prior perceptions and confirmation bias, this is exactly the same thing that got Kobe 10 or 11 all defense teams)
    #15 Aleron, Apr 25, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  16. burnshroom

    burnshroom Member

    Jun 26, 2006
    Likes Received:
    This reminds me of that 76ers team that made the finals in 2001 (IIRC). That system was build wholly around Iverson's offense... err INEFFICIENT offense. AI was never an efficient scorer, but more a volume shooter. The difference between AI and Russ being Russ is a physical BEAST on the court... AI was more finesse with flash.

    That team (off the top of my head) was all defense to compliment AI's offense. Dikembe Motumbo, Tyrone Hill, Eric Snow and George Lynch. Aaron Mckie off teh bench and I don't know if AI (iguodala) was there yet... want to believe no based on that year and he still being in the league. But it worked for them. And they had a system, based on the coaches system, defense was key and get your offense off of that. If all else fails: Iverson shoots.

    The thing that the media (read: ESPN) want to continue to overlook, is that despite Russ' triple double season, it's fake gold. The numbers look nice. But the way they play is that he forces the issue, then forces shots and pads their (league leading) offense team rebounds because of all the clanks. If he is really the MVP, he makes those role players better. And he simply doesn't do that. Lebron got Boozer a huge contract after 2 years with him. Kobe (arguably) got Gasol 2 rings with guys like Sasha Vujacic and Devean George.

    Why do Russ' teammates play so poorly or give up leads without him on the floor? Because his game has not instilled any confidence in those players. James feeds a few oops to Clint to get him going... not just now but all year long. Pat has been trusted to lead our offense when James sits consistently. "Pat you sit for 6 minutes at the end of the 1st, but that first 6 of the 2nd... the rock is yours...". I don't think any of OKC have have that confidence bestowed on them. It's more like "Oladipo, here hold on to this while I rest... and don't worry, Russ has a trip double so we'll get the win."

    Bah... I've typed too much.

    Russ is a beast. But he is not making anyone around him better. He just doesn't get it yet. Someone call Larry Brown.

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