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Official Midseason Report Card

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by cmellon, Feb 10, 2003.

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  1. cmellon

    cmellon Member

    Dec 17, 2002
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    Source: www.rockets.com

    Rockets Mid-Season Report Card

    Will the real Houston Rockets please stand up? Is it the team that looked unstoppable in convincing wins over Sacramento (twice), Indiana, San Antonio and the Lakers? Or is it the one that stunk it up in losses to Cleveland, Chicago, the Clippers (twice) and Memphis to name a few? It has indeed been a roller-coaster season thus far but overall we'd view it as a successful one. Sporting a 10-game improvement over the same point last season, national recognition with two All-Star starters and increased worldwide attention, the Rockets certainly appear headed in the right direction. Join us as we hand out our midterm grades on the Rockets' performance to date.

    by: Trevor Mitchell, rockets.com

    STEVE FRANCIS 22.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.1 apg GRADE: A-

    THE GOOD: The Franchise is having his finest season as a pro. The All-Star guard has had a number of breakout games this year, including a career-high 44 points in a big win against the L.A. Lakers. After shoulder surgery and battling severe migraines last year, Francis is having an injury-free season and has started all 48 Rockets contests. He leads the Rockets in scoring and assists, and has nailed several big shots at the end of games.
    Francis has also displayed a determined effort this season to drive to the basket instead of relying on his improved jump shot. This has enabled the fourth-year guard to get to the free throw line 389 times, which ranks third in the league. Stevie Franchise has also taken on more of a leadership role for one of the NBA¡¯s youngest teams. I have witnessed Francis practice hard each day, as well as hit the weight room to get stronger. His extra efforts will eventually pay off and make Steve an even more complete player. Francis¡¯ game and hard work has not gone unnoticed. For the second consecutive year, he was chosen by the fans as the starting point guard for the Western Conference All-Star team.

    THE BAD: Francis sometimes seems to have too much energy, which causes him to force things that are not there. The Rockets guard leads the NBA in turnovers with slightly more than four per game. The general consensus seems to be that Francis needs to get rookie Yao Ming more touches. That is true. I think sooner or later, Houston will realize its offense works better running through its 7-6 center. However, contrary to what a few people think, Stevie is not a selfish player. No one wants Yao to succeed more than Steve Francis. He knows he needs a big man to help his team become a title contender.

    Playing with a big contract, Francis will often receive the blame when Houston suffers a loss and the credit when the Rockets win. On many occasions, Francis seems to dribble out the shot clock before hoisting up a jumper, but that is what helped the Rockets beat the Lakers. In this league that's what stars do - take shots. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don¡¯t. Over the second half of the season, Francis¡¯s job will and should be to get Yao and his other teammates more involved. But if Houston has any hopes of making the playoffs, it will be Stevie Franchise in charge of driving the Rockets Express.

    OUTLOOK: In a recent interview Francis said, ¡°Being this is my fourth year in the league, I¡¯m just trying to take my game and this team to the next level. Whatever it takes to achieve that, I¡¯m willing to do.¡± Look for a strong second half from the Rockets' star pupil as he tries to lead Houston into the playoffs for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

    YAO MING 13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.6 apg GRADE: B+

    THE GOOD: Yao has been everything he was advertised to be and more. The 7-6 center took a little while to adjust to the rigors of life in the NBA, but is now entrenched as the Rockets' starting center. The gentle giant is becoming an icon known around the world due to his great personality and unique basketball skills. His presence has placed a positive aura around the team and throughout the Houston community. One of the most surprising things about the Rockets rookie is his passing ability. He sees the floor so well for a big man and has dazzled fans with his court vision. Yao has also shown the ability to make a difference for Houston. He leads the Rockets in rebounding and blocked shots, as well as being the team¡¯s third leading scorer. No one could have ever imagined that he would be so good this soon. Yao¡¯s terrific play over the first half has made him the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors.

    THE BAD: Yao needs to be more aggressive when calling for the ball. He is starting to get a little more vocal with his teammates, but at certain times he should demand the ball. Yao often gets content with his passing and rebounding, not always recognizing that he has a significant advantage on most nights. The rookie center does not have to lead the Rockets in scoring for them to be successful. However, when the offense runs through Yao, the Rockets always put up big numbers.

    OUTLOOK: Look for Yao Ming to become an even bigger factor for Houston over the second half. He is only going to get better as he settles into his new environment. Yao has proven to be worthy of the No. 1 pick in last year¡¯s draft, silencing nearly all of his critics along the way.

    KELVIN CATO 4.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.3 apg GRADE: B+

    THE GOOD: Cato has stepped up big this year with quality play in a reserve role. He has battled Yao Ming in practice and has helped the rookie¡¯s development tremendously. Cato has exhibited a fresh and positive attitude in his new role, while still taking the court with his aggressive play. The 6-11 center often seems to be a man among boys on the court with his rebounding prowess and rim-rattling dunks. Cato is currently ranked among the league leaders in rebounding efficiency. Whenever Yao is struggling or battling foul trouble, Cato comes into the contest and picks up the slack. ¡°They¡¯re starting to form a two-headed monster,¡± said guard Steve Francis of Yao and Cato.

    THE BAD: Cato needs to develop a post move or two. There will come a time in his career when he will not be able to rely on his strength and aggressiveness. Therefore, a jump hook or spin move will help Cato be even more dominating when he¡¯s on the floor.

    OUTLOOK: Coach Rudy T will continue to call Cato¡¯s name to establish a presence in the post. Whether it's relieving Yao, or playing alongside him in unique situations, look for Cato to be the physical force that Houston will need during its playoff run.

    JAMES POSEY 7.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg GRADE: B+

    THE GOOD: When the Rockets dealt away Kenny Thomas to Philadelphia, many questioned why they would make such a move. James Posey has erased those doubts ever since he arrived in Houston. Everyone knew Posey could play, but the 6-8 swingman has fit in perfectly with the Rockets. His energy, hustle and headband resemble an old-school player. The Rockets forward has sacrificed his offensive game since donning the Rockets red and blue, but remains one of the league's top defenders. To be effective for Houston, Posey does not need to score big numbers every night, as he did in Denver. If JP can continue to provide his energy and aim for 12 points and six rebounds, the Rockets would be very pleased.

    THE BAD: Posey shoots a horrible .270 from three-point range. He has the ability to get hot from behind the arc, but seems to force one or two per game. If Posey can work on his shooting percentage, he would become an even more versatile NBA player.

    OUTLOOK: Posey will be another key factor to Houston¡¯s success. Similar to Cuttino Mobley, he often guards the opponent¡¯s best player. Look for JP to keep up his energy and defensive prowess, and help the Rockets throughout the second half of the season.

    JUAQUIN HAWKINS 2.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.1 apg GRADE: B

    THE GOOD: Even though Hawkins has only seen spot duty of late, the 6-7 swingman has been a vital acquisition for the Rockets. Early in the season when Cuttino Mobley was placed on the injured list with an ankle injury, Hawkins started every game in his place and even dropped 14 points on Michael Jordan. Hawk¡¯s defense and energy are his best attributes. Since the Rockets acquired James Posey, Hawkins has spent more time on the pine. However, whenever coach Rudy T. needs to insert a defensive stopper, or just needs a dose of energy off the bench, he should look no further than the man wearing No. 1.

    THE BAD: Although Hawkins is 7-of-18 from three-point range, he often struggles with his mid-range jumper. If the Rockets rookie can gain some consistency with his shot, it may result in a few more minutes of action.

    OUTLOOK: Look for Hawkins to continue seeing limited action off the bench. With Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley each averaging over 40 minutes per game and the versatile James Posey running the floor, there are not many minutes left for Hawk. However, if the rookie is ever called upon, he can deliver.

    CUTTINO MOBLEY 18.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.0 apg GRADE: B

    THE GOOD: Mobley has been the Rockets ironman, ranking 5th in the NBA in minutes played per game (41.6) this season. Mobley and point guard Steve Francis combine to form one of the finest backcourts in the league. The Cat is the Rockets' second leading scorer, and often steps up with big fourth-quarter shots. Houston's success often hinges on Mobley¡¯s play. If the Rockets guard is stroking it from the outside and slashing to the hole, Houston usually wins. However, if Mobley is firing up blanks, the team usually struggles. The Cat is a quick player that relies on his speed and athleticism. Numerous times he sneaks through the back door to catch a Francis lob pass for a dunk. Mobley is also among the NBA leaders in free throw percentage (861).

    THE BAD: Mobley is a good player, but he often plays one-on-one basketball on the court. The fifth-year guard needs to help Francis get Yao Ming more touches. Although Mobley is a good shooter, he should take his shots in the flow of the offense. Many times he seems to force his shot attempts, especially from long range.

    OUTLOOK: Look for Mobley to be a big part of the Rockets playoff run. His smart play is vital to the Rockets success. The Cat¡¯s emotion also often inspires his teammates to see how bad he wants to win. If Mobley can continue to get his scoring average, but find a way to pump up his assists, the Rockets would benefit in a big way.

    TERENCE MORRIS 3.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.5 apg GRADE: B

    THE GOOD: Morris started the season slowly after being hampered by a severe ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason. The 6-9 forward was looking forward to contributing this year, but often found himself deep on the bench. Lately however, that has not been the case. Morris has worked his way into the rotation and has played very well. He has managed to put together a few double-digit scoring performances against quality opponents. Morris¡¯ recent hot-shooting may be attributed to his work ethic. The Rockets forward often stays after practice to work on his shooting. Besides shooting, Morris can also handle his own in the post. The Maryland product is at his best when he faces the goal and plays his versatile mid-range game.

    THE BAD: Morris has only made 3-of-17 shots from three-point range this season. If Morris is going to play, he needs to leave the deep shots to the better shooters. He can be effective, but his game is still developing. He is long and athletic, so he should be able to grab more boards and block more shots.

    OUTLOOK: Look for ¡°T-Roc¡± to continue getting minutes off the bench. He adds a great spark and change of pace for the Rockets. If he can contribute with more rebounds and blocks, Houston will have no choice but to give the second-year player even more minutes.

    EDDIE GRIFFIN 8.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 apg GRADE: C+

    THE GOOD: Second-year player Eddie Griffin has been a shot-blocking machine for Houston. Griffin is eighth in the league in blocks per 48 minutes, and has helped the Rockets to a second place league ranking in blocked shots. The 20-year-old forward has a sweet stroke from mid-range, and can get hot from three-point range. He has started 35 games this season, and seems to be a big part of the Rockets future.

    THE BAD: Griffin¡¯s play has been extremely inconsistent. He can dominate a game one night, and disappear the next. Griffin also jacks ups too many three-point shots. The kid¡¯s shot has no arc, which leads to erratic misses. Griffin also relies on his perimeter shooting too much. When he uses a head fake and gets closer to the goal, his percentage is significantly higher. If Griffin can develop a better shot and get off the perimeter, the Rockets stand a better chance. Houston does not need a 6-10 three-point shooter at power forward. Robert Horry plays in Los Angeles.

    OUTLOOK: If Griffin can manage to have a strong second half, the Rockets will make noise in the West. Griffin was explosive in the Rockets' last home game against Sacramento. The Rockets forward scored 22 points and shot well from the field. With Kenny Thomas long gone, look for Houston¡¯s veterans to get the kid ready to be a major force in the lineup.

    MOOCHIE NORRIS 4.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.6 apg GRADE: C+

    THE GOOD: Norris has been a solid backup in the Rockets backcourt. The best thing about Moochie is that he knows his role. Norris is not a scorer, so he doesn¡¯t come in firing up shots. What the sixth-year guard brings is leadership and ball distribution. Norris can make the mid-range shot and an occasional three, but he is at his best when he¡¯s penetrating and getting others involved. With Francis healthy and logging serious minutes, Norris¡¯ time is down from last season. However, when Houston needs that spark off the pine, you can bet Rudy T. will call on the Mooch.

    THE BAD: Norris is shooting a dismal .259 from three-point range. On some occasions, he has a tendency to hold the ball too long which disrupts the offense and usually leads to an off-balance, low-percentage, shot-clock-beating prayer from one of his teammates.

    OUTLOOK: Norris will continue to be the primary backup in the Rockets backcourt. Moochie will see most of his minutes in the second quarter with a few other reserves. Look for Norris to keep up his smart hard-nosed play.

    GLEN RICE 9.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg GRADE: C+

    THE GOOD: Glen Rice was making a nice impact as a starting forward for Houston before he suffered a shoulder injury. The 14-year veteran is not the prolific scorer his was earlier in his career, but he has been a positive force on and off the court for the Rockets. Rice gave the Rockets a consistent outside threat with his great shooting ability. With G-Money on the floor, Houston could spread out its offense and Yao would subsequently see fewer double-teams. Not many teams were willing to leave Rice open on the perimeter. Rice also has provided Houston with his veteran leadership in practice. The Rockets are a much better team when Rice is available.

    THE BAD: Rice has struggled a bit with his shot, as his field goal percentage of .404 represents the second worst of his career. To make matters worse, the Rockets forward is battling injuries once again. When G-Money does return to the floor, he needs to pick up a few more assists if his shot is off. He should also feed Yao more from the wing. If Yao is doubled, Rice can make them pay with the perimeter shot. Rice is not what he used to be, but he's still a quality player and professional.

    OUTLOOK: Rice has been practicing and should return soon after the break. However, with James Posey playing well, it¡¯s questionable if Rice will resume his starting role. If Rice is moved to the bench, he still will be a factor down the stretch as long as his shot is falling.

    MAURICE TAYLOR 7.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 apg GRADE: C

    THE GOOD: Taylor has been a key player off the Rockets bench numerous times this season. The 6-9 power forward has an array of offensive moves and can knock down the open shot. Taylor torched the Cleveland Cavaliers for a season-high 30 points in only 24 minutes in the last game before the break. If Big Mo can keep his quality play going, Coach Tomjanovich will have no choice but to put him on the floor.

    THE BAD: Missing all of last season with an Achilles injury, Taylor has been slow to get into game shape. He has shown flashes of his quick step and offensive capabilities, but similar to Griffin, Taylor has been inconsistent. He has stepped up lately, but we¡¯ll have to see how the second half of the year unfolds.

    OUTLOOK: Taylor will continue to get many minutes in the Rockets frontcourt. He practices well and plays hard. Big Mo has all the tools to be a big-time player for Houston. Question is, can he show it on a nightly basis?

    JASON COLLIER 2.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.1 apg GRADE: Incomplete

    THE GOOD: Stuck behind Yao Ming and Kelvin Cato, there have not been many minutes for Collier. He started a few games early in the season when Yao was still developing and Cato was out due to a family matter. Since then, Collier has either been inactive or just receiving spot duty. When inserted into the lineup, Collier does have the ability to score a few points. It is just hard for the 7-0 reserve to make a difference playing behind two quality centers.

    THE BAD: Collier has seen action in only 12 games this season.

    OUTLOOK: Collier will remain on the bench as long as Yao and Cato stay healthy. If he does enter any game, it most probably will be due to foul trouble or fatigue of the Rockets post men.

    TITO MADDOX 1.7 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.0 apg GRADE: Incomplete

    THE GOOD: Even though the Rockets' second-round pick in last year¡¯s draft has been inactive for most of the season, he has kept a positive attitude. Maddox is a good and energetic practice player, but it seems as if he will spend the season on the injured list.

    THE BAD: Maddox has appeared in just three games this season.

    OUTLOOK: The 6-3 guard will most likely spend the second half of the season on the injured list. The offseason will be key to his development as an NBA player.

    BOSTJAN NACHBAR 2.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.3 apg GRADE: Incomplete

    THE GOOD: The Rockets' other No. 1 pick in last year¡¯s draft has not seen much action this season. A star player on the international level, Nachbar will need some time to develop into a decent NBA player. It has been said that Nachbar was actually selected as a pick for next year since Houston does not own a first round selection in the 2003 NBA Draft. Therefore, the Rockets are being patient with the 6-9 rookie.

    THE BAD: In Nachbar¡¯s few moments on the court, he has yet to display the prolific shooting touch that he possesses. The rookie made 24-of-25 three-point shots in a pre-draft workout last year. If he wants to see any action this season, Nachbar needs to find his sweet stroke real quick.

    OUTLOOK: If Rudy T. needs a shooter late in the game, he may signal for Nachbar to enter the game. But with the Rockets fighting for a playoff spot, there aren't many minutes to give toward the rookie¡¯s development.
  2. Administrator

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    Mar 9, 1999
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