1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Houston Chronicle - April 17

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by vtkp99, Apr 17, 2004.

  1. vtkp99

    vtkp99 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2002
    Messages:
    1,320
    Likes Received:
    7
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/rox/2511630

    April 17, 2004, 1:47AM
    With limited playoff experience, Rockets all ears
    By MEGAN MANFULL

    Steve Francis wants to be in Mark Jackson's shoes one day. He wants to have played in more than 100 playoff games. He wants to be a veteran when it comes to the postseason. But until then, Francis just plans to listen to Jackson's stories and learn what it takes to succeed on a stage on which he never has stepped foot until tonight.
    "I think Mark has 126 (playoff) games under his belt to my zero," Francis said. "It's only right to ask him some things he's experienced."

    Jackson, 39, admits he has plenty to tell. Not anecdotes about specific games or series, but advice on what he has learned works as far as preparation and focus. The rest of his teammates are willing to listen, especially considering the bulk of them have little or no playoff experience. Aside from Jackson, the rest of the Rockets, including the injured Adrian Griffin, have played in only 98 playoff games combined.

    The Rockets' experience pales in comparison to the Lakers', but that's why the Rockets said they must lean on those who have been there.

    "I think what it does is give you somebody who has experience and knows what it takes and can basically reinforce the ideas of the coaching staff, and what they've been through and what they know works," said Jackson, who is in search of his first championship. "Just this time of year, what it takes to win."

    Eric Piatkowski has every intention of listening when Jackson talks. He doesn't care that he is considered one of the "experienced" players. He hardly remembers his playoff appearance during the 1996-97 season. It was only his second season in the league, and the series between the Clippers and the Jazz lasted only three games.

    Piatkowski has anticipated a return trip to the postseason ever since he left the Clippers for Houston during the past offseason. He uprooted his two young children and wife in hopes that a new uniform and a new team could give him a "real" playoff experience. He doesn't count his other trip, and he steers all questions about the playoffs to guys such as Jackson, who have been there over and over.

    "The other day, somebody asked Mark how many playoff games he had played in, and it was some ridiculous number like 126," Piatkowski said. "That's a lot of playoff games right there, granted the guy is 53, but he's played in a lot of playoff games. That brings a lot to the table. He can help a lot of guys out and tell them some of his experiences. You've got (assistant coach) Patrick (Ewing), he's been there a lot, too. The coaching staff and the players have been there.

    "The other thing is if you have very talented guys like we have -- we have Steve, Cuttino (Mobley), Yao (Ming) -- I think sometimes experience might be overrated. Basketball is basketball. If we just go out there and play our game, we'll be fine."

    Mark Jackson and Jim Jackson each has been asked by their teammates about aspects of the postseason. They tell them that it's more intense and that preparation and focus are the keys to success, but they don't want to make the situation more stressful to their teammates by continually talking about it.

    The veterans know their biggest job will come when the games start. Talking is not as valuable as simply setting an example in the way they play.

    "There isn't anything I'm going to say and nothing no one else is going to say," said Clarence Weatherspoon, who has played in 15 postseason games. "Our preparations start on the court and go from there. You've got to throw all that (past experience) out, because you have to play. We have guys who have played in the playoffs before, but that was then and this is now. You've got to be prepared for today. Yesterday is gone. Prepare yourself for today."

    Maurice Taylor doesn't have a playoff past. He will be playing in his first postseason game today, and he doesn't see himself at a disadvantage. He knows that he has a handful of teammates with playoff experience, though, and he wishes that it could be used to the team's benefit.

    "(Experience) helps to an extent, but its not like Mark's playoff experience is going to guard Shaq (O'Neal) or Jimmy's playoff experience is going to guard somebody," Taylor said. "Their experience helps. But it comes down to all of us playing together, playing hard and doing things the right way."
     
  2. vtkp99

    vtkp99 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2002
    Messages:
    1,320
    Likes Received:
    7
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/rox/2511810

    April 17, 2004, 1:35AM
    Francis has high-stakes audition for his critics in the owner's box
    By JOHN P. LOPEZ
    LOS ANGELES -- Steve Francis has been on the people's trading block for at least a year now, probably longer, depending on how he shot the previous night.

    Fans are fickle that way, as we all know.

    Check an All-Star Game ballot one day, do an about-face on this hanging chad of a point guard the next.

    But now, it is the people whose opinions count the most -- Rockets coaches, front-office staff and of course the owner, Leslie Alexander -- who will be watching closely.

    They'll be wondering, perhaps. Talking about it, maybe. Could they be casting ballots on Francis' future here?

    This Lakers series might well tell us.

    And wouldn't it be the ultimate of ironies if the one thing Francis has been criticized for most often -- not carrying his team to a playoff berth -- proves to lead to his undoing, once he finally gets this team into the postseason.

    Over at Rockets Command, no one is calling for a trade, neither publicly nor privately.

    They're mostly talking playoffs and are excited about it, as well they should be.

    Winning the first-round match against the Lakers that begins tonight at Staples Center will be an almost impossible task. But it still is the playoffs.

    It's what Alexander lives for, coach Jeff Van Gundy dies a thousand emotional deaths for and the rest of us got HDTV for.

    Nothing is more defining to teams, coaches and playing careers than NBA playoff basketball.

    Before overcoming the Detroit Pistons playoff stigma, Michael Jordan was a great scorer and high-flying dunk contest winner. Six titles later, he's the greatest player ever.

    That's why it is not too much for the Rockets to expect the player who never has quite lived up to the billing of Stevie Franchise, a high-flier and highlight show himself, to start acting like it in the only games that matter.

    The rest of the NBA world might view this series as a battle of centers. And, sure, it will be quite the show watching the Big Aristotle prophesize about and post up against Yao Ming.

    But it is as much about Francis as anyone. It is about his future and his place on the team, especially when you consider the uneasiness apparent between Francis and Van Gundy this season.

    If it wasn't a conflict of playing styles that separated these two, it was the whole "did he or didn't he?" thing about the Super Bowl.

    Of course, Francis and Van Gundy need not look any farther than across the court to see that dysfunctional families can win.

    The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant's court appearances in Colorado and all their personality conflicts, still won the Pacific title three days ago.

    If Francis performs at a higher level, takes over the critical moments, cuts down on turnovers and steps up his decision-making, the first one to slap him on the back in this series will be Van Gundy.

    But rest assured, people within the organization will be watching. Will he do what great players do in times like these or fold in the face of playoff pressure?

    "I have a very good handle on what our habits are," Van Gundy said about the Rockets team. "Yet, you always leave open the possibility that the light will go on, on those weaknesses we do have and we'll make corrections."

    It might be unfair to put so much on one playoff series against a dominant team, especially considering Francis is dipping his toe into playoff waters for the first time. But that's the point. What has taken so long? Patience left the building long ago.

    Francis, 27, is in his fifth NBA season. A seventh seed in the playoffs is little more than a moral victory and probably more a credit to Van Gundy's impact than Francis'.

    And remember, Alexander has a history of making the bold, daring moves. He dreams of titles more than he does 3-for-1 stock splits.

    It was Alexander's aggressive deal-making that got Francis here in the first place with a blockbuster 11-player deal in 1999.

    It was Alexander who took a key element off one NBA championship team -- power forward Otis Thorpe -- and shipped him off in a four-player deal that brought Clyde Drexler from Portland and ultimately another title.

    It was Alexander who brought in Charles Barkley, dared to trade Sam Cassell and Robert Horry, tried unsuccessfully to snag Sean Elliott and chased another ring with a daring if ill-fated trade for Scottie Pippen.

    You don't think Alexander would trade his All-Star point guard after Francis helped this team to a playoff berth? Think again.

    The Rockets know they have the title-caliber center in Yao. They know they have a title-worthy coach in Van Gundy. They have a nice, critical playoff piece in shooter Cuttino Mobley and several role players who could fit in nicely in future playoff series.

    Beating the Lakers might be asking too much, but Francis needs to show something big, indeed. He needs to play better, smarter and at a level higher than he ever has.

    The Rockets need to find out if the name really fits. Stevie Franchise.
     
  3. vtkp99

    vtkp99 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2002
    Messages:
    1,320
    Likes Received:
    7
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/rox/2511922

    April 17, 2004, 2:52AM
    Rockets, Lakers take center stage
    First playoff footsteps cross into giants path
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    LOS ANGELES -- You never forget a child's first steps. When other memories fade, that image remains clear and as powerful as when it was new. It's impossible not to smile at the thought.

    Moments later though, after those tentative, wobbly, shaky-kneed strides, the kid usually falls down. And as cherished an occasion as it was, it is all the steps that follow that can take them anywhere.

    Those first playoff steps for most of the Rockets will come tonight. But if learning to walk and run at the same time were not a daunting enough challenge, the Rockets will have to hit their stride against a Lakers team they insist is the NBA's best.

    "So many of our guys have only watched the playoffs, and if they have played in them, have been on the losing side," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We'll see. That will be the challenging part, to see what we're made of. If we can withstand the heat, we'll find out."

    The differences are staggering.

    The Lakers' preferred starting lineup -- the five that would include Karl Malone and Rick Fox -- has played a combined 600 playoff games.

    The Rockets' starting five has played in 41.

    But the Rockets pledge they will not back down or doubt their worthiness for the occasion.

    "Everybody tries to con you when you're a team that's been out by saying you have to go through a process, which means they're saying `you have to lose before you win,' and that's not true," Van Gundy said. "But you have to come with the right mind-set to do what it takes to win.

    "The pressure isn't to win a round. The pressure isn't to win three rounds. The pressure is to be a championship-caliber team. If that's what you're striving for, you'll be fine as a player or as a coach.

    "Are we in the playoffs to win, or are we in the playoffs to just qualify? You have to find out about the team, what they're in it for."

    Van Gundy had spent the season trying to get the Rockets to become the tough, serious-minded, disciplined team that wins in the playoffs. For all the ways his team's style has been described over the years, it has always seemed designed for the postseason. But he has struggled to develop the kind of consistent mind-set, never mind discipline.

    "All the teams that have championship aspirations play playoff basketball from day one, however they see it, ... because it makes absolutely no sense to believe in one thing for the regular season and adjust dramatically for the postseason," Van Gundy said. "I think every team is trying to play ... the way they feel will give them the best opportunity to win in the postseason.

    "The biggest thing about any pressurized situations is your habits come through. We need to play with a great competitive spirit but with the poise we've at times struggled with. Hopefully, we can play with better mental strength and better poise.

    "I cannot tell you when the light comes on, or if it does. I won't say that it won't. And I'm not going to be here and predict that it will."

    But he and anyone who has been there knows that it will have to.

    The Rockets insist the trick is not figuring out how to play "playoff basketball" but to realize it is simply basketball.

    They did not make much lasting progress with cutting down on turnovers. Their defense slipped dramatically in the last month. And they have hardly mastered the closing minutes of games. But everything they emphasized was key in their wins against the Lakers and is the key to winning in the postseason.

    Instead of trying to meet the intensity of the postseason, they hoped the intensity would help them solve the issues of the regular season.

    "You still have to play basketball," forward Jim Jackson said. "Yes, the intensity is up a few notches, but it still comes down to basic basketball. I don't care how much we want to put on it. The biggest part about the playoffs is the discipline really has to be there."

    But the Rockets who have never been in the playoffs insist they will not be in awe of the Lakers, the setting or the occasion.

    "I think we're more eager and excited than scared," forward Maurice Taylor said. "You have a certain feeling playing the Lakers in the first round. It psyches me more than scares me to play the best team in the league in the first round. It should be fun.

    "We're not going to be out there like a deer in the headlights. We just feel like we're playing the Lakers in a big game. We're not thinking it's the playoffs, there's a lot of media there. Maybe it's because we haven't been before, but we're looking at it as another game that, if we play well, we can win. We're trying to do some of the things that made us a better team this year, defend, rebound, try to cut down on some of the turnovers."

    With the Rockets, those three things are almost always key.

    "I think everybody is more focused than anything," Rockets guard Steve Francis said. "We pretty much know what they're going to run. I know they know what we're going to run. I think everybody is more focused, and confidence will come once the game starts and everybody gets a chance to go out there and ball."

    But this is not the regular season.

    "I think they think they know more about what the playoffs are really like than they do know," Van Gundy said. "They thought that Utah game was like a playoff-game physically. That was like playing two-on-two with your brother in the park. I don't think we comprehend that every possession, how hard we have to make it on them and how hard they're going to make it on us. But if we are willing to do that, we can win."

    Either way, they will always remember the first steps. Beginning tonight, they will find out if they will want to.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Rockets summary
    Cato understands
    Forward Kelvin Cato, a starter in 67 of his 69 games, spent two games on the bench wondering why he was on the bench. When he found out Thursday, in a meeting with coach Jeff Van Gundy, he not only could stop wondering, he found out he would be starting again.

    "I talked to Jeff about it and he told me the reasons," Cato said Friday. "I'm cool with it. I know why I was sitting. It's cool. I mean, it makes total sense. I didn't know at first, but now I know."

    Cato and Van Gundy would not elaborate on why he was benched for the final two games of the season. But Cato had a lackluster effort in his previous game, Saturday in Utah, and twice seemed to let his anger take his mind off the game.

    Van Gundy pulled him from that game moments after he was called for an offensive foul after slapping a Jazz player.

    "Everybody's role will be determined by how well they play and how well they make us play," Van Gundy said before confirming Cato will start against the Lakers tonight. "He's no different from anybody else in that."

    Cato could be a key for the Rockets as a defensive option against Shaquille O'Neal and as a bigger body against Karl Malone. Scott Padgett had started in his place.

    Lakers still loaded
    The Rockets never thought Karl Malone, indestructible as he has been through his career, would miss a playoff game to a sprained ankle. But they said the Lakers can stand to miss a player.

    "When you look at their team, if one guy is missing, the talent doesn't drop off too much," Rockets forward Maurice Taylor said. "They're probably one of the only teams that can lose a guy from the starting lineup and still be considered the favorites to win everything."

    Reserves prepared
    As far as the postseason is concerned, the Rockets' reserves are ready.

    A bulk of minutes went their way during the past week when starters Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato were sidelined. Eric Piatkowski said the recent rash of playing time helped the reserves gain confidence.

    Mark Jackson, Bostjan Nachbar and Scott Padgett started the last two games and all three came up big offensively. Jackson scored 25 points against Seattle on Monday. Nachbar averaged 11.5 points in his two starts, and Padgett averaged 15 points.

    "I think it's a real positive for the simple fact that you don't know what's going to happen in the playoffs," Piatkowski said. "You could have one or two guys go down and you're going to have to go to your bench."

    -- JONATHAN FEIGEN and MEGAN MANFULL
     
  4. RocketsPimp

    RocketsPimp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 1999
    Messages:
    13,812
    Likes Received:
    194
    OK, I'm hyped and ready to go.

    Steve, get your game head on. It's time to go to work.
     
  5. jcmoon

    jcmoon Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
    Messages:
    2,216
    Likes Received:
    2,209
    hell yea i'm hyped, let's get it on boys.....

    I believe
     
  6. jcmoon

    jcmoon Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
    Messages:
    2,216
    Likes Received:
    2,209
    hell yea i'm hyped, let's get it on boys.....

    I believe
     
  7. mrgoubople1

    mrgoubople1 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2003
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    0
    has JVG said anything about nachbar's performence the last two games? it seems like he will praise pagett, jackson, griffin, cato, francis, mobley, yao and anyone besides nachbar. is this right?
     
  8. aaaccchhhooo

    aaaccchhhooo Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2002
    Messages:
    557
    Likes Received:
    0
    i call for the HEADBAND ..!!!..steve is on with his headband..wonder why he doesn't wear it often
     
  9. sicnarf3

    sicnarf3 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Too much is being made about playoff experience...blah blah blah Did Ginobili and Parker have a lot of NBA playoff experience when the Spurs won the championship last year? Nope, nada. They had desire and played smart. That's all the Rockets have to do and whatever happens happens.
     
  10. Sane

    Sane Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2000
    Messages:
    7,330
    Likes Received:
    0
    Do the Rockets have Tim Duncan?

    Are Mobley and Francis as smart as Manu and Tony?


    I have some hope, but don't compare us to the Spurs. They had championship rings on their team. We need to play better than we have in any single game in the regular season to take the first game and have a chance at an upset.
     
  11. whag00

    whag00 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    5,611
    Likes Received:
    3,587
    Megan Manfull thinks the Lakers are going to win in 5...well at least you can't accuse her of being a homer...
     
  12. Yetti

    Yetti Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2002
    Messages:
    9,572
    Likes Received:
    517
    We hope for the Rockets sake that Steve can bring his A Game but this contest might also reveal to the thoes that matter the need in the future for a Playmaker Point Guard.If Steve scores 15 points and has 12 assists and we win, it will be much better than him scorind 40 and us loosing the Game.
     
  13. Sane

    Sane Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2000
    Messages:
    7,330
    Likes Received:
    0
    My God Yetti. You realize that every member of this board has heard this sentiment from you and know what you think of our PG?

    If you were being constructive, that would be fine.

    But you just keep repeating the same phrase in different ways.
     
  14. rockbox

    rockbox Around before clutchcity.com

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2000
    Messages:
    21,669
    Likes Received:
    10,590

    Please don't quote Yetti and ruin it for the large number of us who have him on our ignore list.

    Actually, I don't have him on my ignore list. My mind just automatically says move on when I see Yetti.
     
  15. Oski2005

    Oski2005 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2001
    Messages:
    18,100
    Likes Received:
    447

    What if Yao scores 40 points and we lose?
     
  16. Tenchi

    Tenchi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 1999
    Messages:
    2,257
    Likes Received:
    486
    It would still be an exciting game.
     
  17. gotoloveit2

    gotoloveit2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2002
    Messages:
    1,170
    Likes Received:
    0
    That means there will be major changes during the off season. More than likely SF will be traded. The good thing is Yao shows how dominant he could be and will be. No championship this year but many titles for years to come. Let Go Rox!
     
  18. sydmill

    sydmill Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    2,186
    Likes Received:
    2,149
    I am so tired of hearing posters here and "experts" use the fact that we didn't make the playoffs when they are discussing Steve's future. They never mention the fact that we had so many injuries during that span, that we had the best record ever not to make the postseason, that our post presence was Kenny Thomas, that Rudy had to leave with cancer, or that Steve himself missed half the season for one of those years. I really dont think I am being biased by saying that making the playoffs with the teams we had would have been a minor miracle playing the likes of Duncan, Shaq, Sheed, Malone, KG, Webber, and Nowitzki night in and night out. I hope that this is Steve's coming out party if for no other reason that MAYBE the critics and so-called fans will cut him some slack.
     
  19. leebigez

    leebigez Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2001
    Messages:
    15,544
    Likes Received:
    618
    Lets stop making the xcuses and play ball. Francis should be on the hot seat because he hasn't gotten any better in his decision making or shot selection.
     
  20. sydmill

    sydmill Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    2,186
    Likes Received:
    2,149
    is it an excuse or reality to say that a team that starts Francis, Cat, Walt, KT, Cato and has to play one of the most difficult schedules in the history of the NBA b/c of how stacked the west is is not good enough to win close to 50 games? y'all are just dead set on trading steve. steve is not the one holding Yao to 25 productive mins a game or stopping Yao from using his size to get position or making Yao bring the ball to his waist rather than over his head. could steve do a better job? yeah. is he doing a better job? definitely.
     

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now