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The Dilemma What the @%$# is the Problem? And what to do about it?

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Nero, Apr 28, 2016.

  1. Nero

    Nero Member

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    Been kicking this around in my head for weeks, and none of this is likely new to most of really great and informed Rockets Fans.. but putting it out here just to see what other thoughts you guys may have on these issues as well.

    **

    First, the bottom line: The Rockets sucked this year. We all know this, it's not news to anyone. But what has had me, and a lot of other people, scratching their heads is.. Why?

    I mean, look at what we have - James Harden was arguably the number one most valuable player in the entire league last year. That's a lot of value. Dwight Howard, a 'Superstar' Center for years, again a lot of value. Lots of good 'added value' pieces put in place by the GM over the last few seasons, even added a supposedly 'Top Shelf' Point Guard during the off-season.

    Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, was excited for the start of the season. And then, that first game. Awful. And it NEVER let up. 82 games of awfulness, punctuated by occasional bursts of hopeful good play, only to be followed up by yet another dog-turd.

    What the heck?

    Clearly, this team was broken this year.

    So let me back up a little bit and use a goofy analogy: Putting together a race car. Ok, so, say I decide I want to build a race car. I'm a smart guy, I have been a race car fan for years, so I know the stats on lots of cars. And I dig pretty deeply into the stats of all the different components of all the different cars, and I quite logically come to the conclusion that I need the best parts to make the best race car. Makes sense, yes? So, I get a Ferrari engine, I go and grab that chassis from Lamborghini, I get the brakes from Porsche, transmission from Maserati, etc etc all down the line. Very best parts available.

    Then I go get a top flight mechanic who has won a handful of Nascar championships years ago, and I hand him all of these really great parts, and tell him to build my new Formula 1 race car.

    And he tries. But the damn car doesn't run worth crap.

    Obviously the reason is because the final product was flawed, and the plan was a failure at every level - my plan to have a race car made of the best disparate parts, to the type of mechanic, to my choice of circuits. Etc etc.

    Individually, each part is great, the PLAN is great, the mechanic is great. They just didn't fit together.

    That's how I see the Rockets.

    Let's start with Morey, and his plan. His plan, as implemented all the way back when having Finch & Co at Rio Grande, was to push the boundaries of what a basketball team could accomplish by taking advantage of the ridiculous statistical advantage a team gains by shooting primarily 3-pointers and very-high-percentage shots directly under the basket.

    This is a good plan. A GREAT plan in fact. But in order for this plan to actually work well, it has certain requirements - see exhibit A - Golden State Warriors. Anyway, let's call this plan 'Windows 10 Compatible'.

    Let's look at the players. Starting with Harden, well, this is one of those once-a-decade superstar talents, one of those guys you simply KNOW is going to beat his man, one of those guys the other coach MUST prepare a plan for or he will beat you. No real problem there. Trevor Ariza, good guy, great effort every night, long, rangy, can get streaky from 3. Dwight Howard, still a beast defensively and on the boards, and can still fly 3 feet above the rim for heart-attack-inducing alley-oops dunks. Can't shoot with a crap outside of 2 feet however. And so on, and so forth. A great bunch of guys, there is lots of genuine NBA talent there, despite the record this year. We'll call these guys 'IOS Compatible'.

    The Coach. Ok, regardless of the fact that JBB coached the team this year, he was really just an extension of McHale. McHale as a coach? Well, he did coach the Rockets to the WC Finals last year, so that's good. But his main reason for being coach was that he was clearly brought on board because he was willing to go along with Morey's plan. He's a great guy, he has forgotten more basketball than I will ever know, he's smart, nice, and is a 'Man's Man'. But he believes that players should also be 'Men', and that they should know what they are supposed to be doing out there, and that the coach's job is not really to micro-manage each possession, not really to play 'Master Motivator'.. his job is to put the ball into the hands of the best players and get out of the way. He's not a bad guy, not a terrible coach. But I am not going to call him a 'Great' coach either. Let's call him 'Linux Compatible'.

    You can kind of see how the analogy is working here.

    Morey's plan WILL work, and work very well, IF he has 'Windows 10 Compatible' pieces in the players and the coaching, to go along with it. He expected to take IOS players and give them to a Linux coach, and have him turn them into a Windows 10 team. Is it any wonder it didn't work?

    So what exactly was the problem?

    Let's look at it another way. Let's do a little compare and contrast.

    First, 'The Plan'. Commonly known as 3&D - this plan requires high-IQ players, and very high percentage shooters. It requires very good defenders, especially on the perimeter. It requires 'off the ball' movement, spot up shooters, and requires everyone to be involved in all of those facets.

    The plan didn't work. The players absolutely did not fit the plan. Poor perimeter shooting, poor off-the-ball movement, and very poor defense, from almost every player.

    But swap those players for some other group of players that WOULD fit the plan? Such as GS for example? Now I know it's a bit unfair to use GS as the benchmark, because what they are doing is crazy from long-range, an outlier, and when Curry is gone, we will probably never see the like again, the guy is abnormal. So feel free to substitute any good-shooting and good-defense group of players, and put them on this team in place of our own players.

    Would they have more success? Undoubtedly.

    But with the players we have, 'The Plan' is no good. The plan has to go, and a new plan must be put in place to fit the players we DO have. So clearly, the problem is 'The Plan'.

    But wait. Different players, players who can shoot, play defense, and have good IQs and strong effort every night, well, players like that would work fine with 'The Plan'. If you took the Spurs' roster and put them in Rockets uniforms, and asked them to play under our system, would they have more success? Of course. So clearly, the problem is 'The Players'.

    But hold on. As many people have complained about McHale over the last few seasons, and probably rightly so, many many MORE complained about JBB's often bizarre and seemingly-incompetent rotation and player management. The coaching frankly was weak to terrible, I think. If you took Pops and put him in front of the players we do have, and asked him to make 'The Plan' work with them.. would he have more success than McHale/JBB? Undoubtedly, although probably not GREAT success because the players are just not a great fit for the system. Still, one cannot over-estimate the impact of a great coach. So, clearly, the problem is 'The Coach'.

    Obviously, Morey's 'Plan' has to go (if not the man himself). Obviously, the players have to go. Obviously, the coach has to go. Each one of those was the *cause of the problem*.

    So, what, wipe the slate clean, start from zero? I hope not, it has not worked out well for Philly, or for any of the other perennial bottom-dwellers of the league. SO we can't just 'get rid of everybody'.

    Sow what do we do? And I say 'we' as a reference to the organization; the 'we' as fans can do nothing but watch and hope.

    What can the Organization do?

    Here's what I believe. First, Morey has to let go of this notion of 'The Plan', to be so awkwardly and unsuccessfully obsessed with this idea of creating an advantage by going way overboard with the '3&D' thing. And he has to STOP pursuing 'superstars', as he has said a zillion times, at the expense of everything else, and without taking into consideration whether or not that Lambo part will fit with that Porsche part. He's a smart guy, but like so many sm,art guys, he believes he has found a 'cheat', a 'system' that can beat the House, and it just doesn't work if he doesn't have every single piece, from the players to the coaches, as an exact fit into the plan. As we have seen, when they don't fit, the results are abysmal.

    So Morey needs to loosen his hold on that dogma, and start finding better-fitting players, but also start taking advantage of the skills our players DO have, and stop trying to force them to do things they are NOT good at. Corey Brewer didn't score 52 on us because he was a great 3-point shooter. He scored on us like that because he has certain strengths, and those strengths are almost COMPLETELY ignored by the plan and the coaches.

    Second, the players have to be willing to make some changes. I know everyone says Harden 'won't' play defense, or that he 'doesn't like to' play defense, but I disagree. You should all remember last season, when Harden came into the year fresh from the National Team stint, and having been coached hard by both Coach K *and* Thibs. He came straight from that into the NBA season and showed that was both capable and willing to play defense. It was a marked improvement, and everyone took notice. And oh yeah, we made it to the WC finals. So this notion that James would be unable or unwilling to play for a stern coach, I do not agree that that would be the case. Someone like JVG would probably find a very happy player in Harden, even if JVG had to yell at him from time to time.

    And I'm sorry Dwight, you are a sweet funny guy, but we can't have a player on the team who is essentially a turnover every time we hand him the ball.

    Unfortunately, we don't have much else, if 'The Plan' doesn't change. So the players need to take a long hard look in the mirror, and Morey needs to take a long hard look at them, and some of them will stay, some of them will go. But whoever is here next year is going to be playing for a better coach, and hopefully under a plan which is designed around them, rather trying to force them to be something they are not.

    And lastly, the coach. Man, I don't know. Are the Rockets seriously considering Luke Walton? I am not seeing it. Would the Rockets have played better under Luke Walton than they did under JBB? Mayyyybe, I mean, it would have been hard to be worse, but I would MUCH rather have had Thibs, or even JVG back, and I think they should take a serious look at Sampson. In any case, we need a strong personality, a strong coach, a stern coach, and one who will not allow this childish behavior we have seen this year to continue.

    In other words, we need someone who will be more than simply a yes-man for 'The Plan'.

    In short, we can replace the coach, and will. We can replace some of the players, but not all. And Morey isn't going anywhere, so HE needs to change, and let go of the dogmatic grip on a plan that simply doesn't fit the personnel. Maybe once he gets a stable of sharp-shooters who can also play defense, then he can merge back into the plan, but he has GOT to take a step back and let the coach design an actual offense which takes actual advantage of the actual players we have on the team next year.

    Am I hopeful that those things will happen in this off-season? Actually, yes I am cautiously optimistic, and we won't have long to wait. Movement on personnel should start very soon, a new coach should be in place sooner rather than later, and we should know shortly after that whether or not Morey will let the coach actually coach.

    And then maybe we can put all this ugliness behind us and have some success again very soon. I love the Rockets, I bleed Rockets Red, and this season has really hurt, especially after coming in with such high expectations. I truly hope this year acts as a wake-up call for the entire organization.
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. fchowd0311

    fchowd0311 Contributing Member

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    Really? Because for pretty much this entire season when Harden was in his tripple threat position I pretty much assumed he was just going to jack up a shot because the only way he gets by his man is with some sort of push off. He has slow feet. I honestly believe you are overrating his offensive talent. Unfortunately, his apologists will look at his 29 7.5 and 6 and assume that he must be a generational talent. He seems to only get by his man with either the push off or when he has down hill momentum with the opponent backpedaling.

    Harden IS NOT A GENERATIONAL TALENT. Lebron is a generational talent Kobe was a generational talent. Durant is a generation talent. Shaq was a generational talent. Hakeem was a generational talent. Harden just isn't.
     
  3. Briand2714

    Briand2714 Member

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    The problem with this team starts and ends with Dwight. He has completely devolved into an average player, and yet was supposed to be our second superstar. Dwight's decline is the main reason why we struggled this season.
     
  4. fchowd0311

    fchowd0311 Contributing Member

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    With a player that gets such little usage on the offensive end, it's hard to make an argument that this team's 'problem' starts and ends with Dwight.
     
  5. Briand2714

    Briand2714 Member

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    His salary is the problem, not his usage.
     
  6. Sweet Lou 4 2

    Sweet Lou 4 2 Contributing Member
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    Even generational talent needs some help.

    Jordan had Pippen, Lebron has Irving and Love, and had Bosh and Wade, Shaq had Kobe.

    Even Hakeem had Clyde his second year, and his first one was with some of the best role players in the league in Cassell, Horry, Elie, and Thorpe - all capable of dropping 20 points on a decent night and all playing great D.

    Harden doesn't have any of that. So before we bash the guy, how about giving him a team that can actually score off his passes?
     
  7. Easy

    Easy Very Calm
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    Great read.

    Basically, Morey's plan didn't work because he acquired a bunch of low IQ or low character, or both, players to execute his plan that required high IQ and high character.

    To me, as smart as Morey is, he really underestimated the importance of intelligence on the basketball court.
     
  8. ibm

    ibm Member

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    and the sooner more people realize this, esp. for morey, the better.
     
  9. Briand2714

    Briand2714 Member

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    Dwight's max salary totally screwed this team up. We could've use that money to acquire 2 or 3 really solid players. Instead, we wasted them on a declining center who was no use on both ends of the floor.
     
  10. fchowd0311

    fchowd0311 Contributing Member

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    So the Rockets did win with only one all-star level player?

    Part of me believes that Cassell, Horry, Elie and Thrope would not have been as effective with a Harden style offense.
     
  11. Sweet Lou 4 2

    Sweet Lou 4 2 Contributing Member
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    You mean they wouldn't be effective hitting wide open shots?
     
  12. JayGoogle

    JayGoogle Member

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    The coach decides the offense, not the player. It's not Harden's offense, it's McHale's offense.

    If the coach lets the player decide to run the offense that is still the fault of the coach.
     
  13. Fyreball

    Fyreball Contributing Member

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    I don't think he underrated intelligence....what he underrated was how far of a decline guys like Ariza, Jones, and Brewer were capable of. I put this season's failures squarely at their doorstep (of course Harden and Howard are culpable, but that's a given). But it's the job of the role players to keep things moving smoothly, and to execute the gameplan and do their jobs. Our role players were abysmal on both ends of the floor.
     
  14. Briand2714

    Briand2714 Member

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    Winning championships with only one all star is extremely rare and is an outlier.
     
  15. Breitbard

    Breitbard Contributing Member

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    Nice analysis.

    I am in the " making the playoffs was a good thing" camp if only because the ensuing train wreck has made everyone agree that the emperor has no clothes. Morey is not a genius, Harden and Howard are not a super-powered duo. Now the team has to decide what components to build on, the coach? The top player? The 3s and rim strategy? But clearly there needs to be major changes; this is going to be a very interesting off-season and the Rockets will be a significantly different team next year.
     
  16. syn

    syn Member

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    Great post and I agree with you on all of the points.

    Windows 10...iOS...Linux :grin:
     
  17. Matt78777

    Matt78777 Contributing Member
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    I feel like this team has too many 1.5 dimensional players. Guys with one calling card, and a passable secondary skill (usually outside shooting), and that's it. When their secondary skill isn't there in any given game, they become one dimensional (e.g. Ariza when his shot isn't falling is a defense only guy). When calling card wanes, they become borderline unplayable. Like Beverley when his defense is ineffective, his next best use is as a mediocre three point shooter. Houston has routinely targeted these 1.5 guys because they are usually undervalued, and stayed away from more three dimensional players because they tend to get overvalued. Seems to me we may need to rethink that strategy, splurge on a few well rounded players to support.
     
  18. ibm

    ibm Member

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    how many dimensions does this yr's harden have? 1, 1.5, or 2?
     
  19. Briand2714

    Briand2714 Member

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    more than Dwight, Ariza and Beverly combined, which is 0
     
  20. ibm

    ibm Member

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    zero? thought you were gonna come with negative figures. lol.

    like others have observed, you came to this board w/ an agenda. (which is fine with me)
     
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