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Jack Ramsay (ESPN):Van Gundy must back down first

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by DnD, Feb 11, 2004.

  1. DnD

    DnD Member

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    The Houston Rockets, 29-22 going into Wednesday's game against the Lakers, average 87 points a game (27th in the NBA) and shoot .434 from the field (18th). Yet, they are in a virtual tie with Denver (30-23) for the final two playoff spots in the fiercely competitive Western Conference.

    The Rockets are where they are because of their excellent, Jeff Van Gundy-style of team defense. They allow a league-leading .395 field-goal percentage and a second-best 84.2 points a game to opponents, hold a 3-plus rebound edge each game, and block over five shots per contest.

    But scoring is a problem for Houston, despite the presence of All-Star players Steve Francis (16.8 points a game) and Yao Ming (16.3 ppg) and a corps of 3-point sharpshooters in Cuttino Mobley, Jim Jackson, Eric Piatkowski, Scott Padgett and Bostjan Nachbar. Combined, all of them give Houston only the sixth-best team shooting percentage (.362) from beyond the arc. Moreover, the Rockets have scored 100 or more points just four times this season.

    One of the factors that impedes the Rockets' ability to score is their number of turnovers -- 16.5 per game, the second-highest average in the league. The Rockets have won only three of six games decided by three points or less and often are forced into poor percentage shots or turnovers in critical, game-deciding situations.

    The Diagnosis

    The Rockets must find a way to score more efficiently without detracting from the quality of their defense. Francis is the major player in that process. He is highly talented, but is more of a two guard than a point guard. He shoots under 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from 3-point distance. Francis averages 5.9 assists but commits 3.9 turnovers -- an unacceptable ratio for a point guard on a playoff contender. He teams with Mobley in the backcourt, who is also a low-percentage shooter (.416) with a 3.2-to-2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

    Van Gundy has worked hard to make Francis more accountable for his playmaking role with the team, but Francis has been reluctant to change his game style. "He (Van Gundy) is going to coach the way he wants to coach, and I'm going to play the way I want to play. There's always going to be conflict," Francis told the Houston Chronicle.

    Said Van Gundy: "I would agree with that -- not that he'll play the way he wants to play ... but I agree with everything else."

    In other words, the coach expects the conflict to continue because he's not going to sit back and watch Francis decide how the team's game will be played.

    What Van Gundy wants is for Francis to play more for the team and less as an individual. He wants better shot selection and better decision-making from his point guard. In Houston's 85-82 loss to San Antonio on Monday, Francis played all 48 minutes, scored 18 points (on 6-for-18 shooting, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers), had 11 rebounds, recorded six assists and committed four turnovers. Not a bad performance, but not good enough.

    Steve Francis, left, is tuning out Jeff Van Gundy and his insistence to play a team game on offense.
    I talked with Van Gundy before and after games which they won against the Lakers on Christmas day, and later at home against Minnesota. Before both games, the coach expressed displeasure with the way his team was playing and was disappointed with the lack of impact his presence had made. "I thought I could make more of a difference," he said. "I've had a hard time getting them to understand how hard they've got to play all the time, and how important it is to play together at a high level."

    The Rockets certainly did both things in those two games, but they weren't able to sustain those good performances. Said Van Gundy after the Lakers game: "That was good. ... Now let's see how we play tomorrow night at Denver." They ended up losing to the Nuggets. They also lost to Memphis after the outstanding game against the Wolves.

    Another factor that effects the Rockets' offense is Yao. The 7-foot-6 center is an excellent shooter (.525 from the field, .774 from the free-throw line) and is a better-than-average passer, but he gets fewer touches in the post than his skills warrant. Yao expends a lot of energy getting good post position and then is virtually ignored by his perimeter teammates while they maneuver to get their own shots. Yao averages only 10 shots a game -- not nearly enough for a player of his scoring potential. If the Houston offense started through the unselfish Yao -- like the Lakers' triangle offense does with Shaquille O'Neal -- all of the Rockets would benefit and the team would win more games.

    The addition of veteran point guard Mark Jackson may help Francis to understand the role of a playmaker. Jackson, soon to be 39 years old, has the third highest assist total (10,256) in NBA history, and even though he's well past his prime and a weak defender, he might be a good role model for Francis on how to generate a team game from the point-guard position.

    On paper, a lineup of Francis and Mobley at the guards, Yao at center and Jackson and either Kelvin Cato or Mo Taylor at forwards should score enough points to win -- assuming that they defended adequately. As it turns out in Houston, the defense is better than adequate. It's time for the offense to get itself together.

    The Cure

    The Rockets simply must play a more effective offensive game -- one that focuses on the inside threat of Yao, rather than a perimeter-first game by the guards. Van Gundy must find a way to make that happen, and getting Francis to buy into that philosophy is essential.

    Sometimes when a coach and his star player reach an impasse, they stop communicating. That's a big mistake. No matter how wide the gulf between them, the coach must find a common meeting ground and hammer out a plan that both can live with. It may require minor concessions to be made on both sides. Winning is a coach's life blood, and star players want that result, too. Some stars just want to get there on his own terms. In Houston, Francis' style hasn't produced a winner yet.

    Van Gundy must keep working to bring about a solution to this problem ... perhaps giving Francis a bit more leash without violating the coach's basic principles. But if Francis, after Van Gundy's repeated efforts to bring about a meeting of their minds, still won't make concessions in his game that will benefit the team, there's only one thing to do -- trade him. Francis is a very marketable player and, if necessary, the Rockets could obtain a quality player more willing to play within the team structure that Van Gundy espouses.

    I would hope that it won't come to that. I like both guys too much, and I think they could come to like each other if they really worked at it.
     
  2. DnD

    DnD Member

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  3. boiler

    boiler Member

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    Great article by Dr. Jack Ramsay. I believe SF and JVG will work it out, b/c both of them have tremendous desire to win, to win big.
     
  4. Roc Paint

    Roc Paint Contributing Member

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    Thank you Dr. :(
     
    #4 Roc Paint, Feb 11, 2004
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2004
  5. KeepKenny

    KeepKenny Contributing Member

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    I don't think the problem is Steve's unwillingness to play a team game (despite how some of his quotes have sounded). I think it's the fact that he's just really, really bad at it. He's tried to play the right way, but it just seems like he can never make great passes and great shots in the same game. It's usually just one or the other. He's only had a handful of great overall team games, in which he scores efficiently and successfully sets up his teammates.
     
  6. Thanos

    Thanos Member

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    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=ramsay_drjack&id=1732688

    We've called Dr. Jack senile plenty of times in the past, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprise by this article. Right to the point, insightful, and with stats to back it up too.

    It seems that everyone around the league agrees about what the Rockets should be doing... the only one who disagrees is exactly our franchise saving MAX player.

    Only problem is, I have given up any hopes of Francis to getting it.
     
  7. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    Nothing new, of course. But three questions:

    1 Rox with Stevie have won much more they lose without him, including PHX in the infamous post-Super Bowl game, and the migraine year. So, how bad is SF as the leader of the team?

    2 If SF is to be a 2 guard, and he has always done well when Moochie was 'on his game' and when others have initiated the O by going to the wing and SCORING, how come his shooting % is so low (could be all those desperation shots with clock expiring)? This seems contradictory to me. Perhaps he is not AI2. Or Ray Allen or Allan Houston.

    3 SF has demonstrated hardheadedness to JVG, who is the coach, the very strong willed coach, so why expect any changes? A trade seems inevitable, but not til summer (as has been explained a few gabillion times), so what happens the last 30 games of this year (+ play offs)? What is this year's destiny?
     
  8. AroundTheWorld

    Supporting Member

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    Perfect analysis.
     
  9. haven

    haven Member

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    Very interesting.

    Sort of a paradox, he's proposing:

    1. The Rockets have to play even more inside-out than they currently do. He agrees with the majority on this board that Yao gets ignored by the guards and needs more shots.

    2. He wants to give Francis a bigger leash.

    I'm not sure there's a complete contradiction there, but that's a helluva difficult task.
     
  10. Pole

    Pole Houston Rockets--Tilman Fertitta's latest mess.

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    Good article.....though I'm not sure I agree with the thread title. He does advocate giving Francis "a bit more leash" as a possible alternative as the means to the very same end that Van Gundy seems to want and Francis doesn't.....that being that the offense starts and stops with Yao Ming.

    Saying that Van Gundy must "back down first" kind of misleads us.....the way I read it, I hear him suggest that Van Gundy should.....again......possibly placate Francis to some extent if that's what it takes to get Francis to start playing right. If that doesn't work....or if nothing seems to work.......ditch Francis for someone else.
     
  11. Thanos

    Thanos Member

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    Have to love his solution if that somewhat futile endeavor proves to be a failure: "Francis will have to be traded." ;)
     
  12. beyao

    beyao Contributing Member

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    thanks for the article, but the thread title is indeed misleading. VG doesn't need to back down per se, he just needs to get through to Francis and take steps towards that goal, which I think he has and is. I don't have faith that Francis will ever get it, not do i think mobley will either. ship both out; i'll take my chances with tough, smart, team players who can execute down the stretch anyday.
     
  13. feishen

    feishen Member

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    Maybe SF and Yao shouldnt play at same time?
    Chuck said the other day on TNT that JVG should allow SF to run without waiting for the half court offense set. The problem with that, SF and Cat are not good fast breaker either. I dont like Cat to jack up a 3 without any of our big fellows and medium fellows to set for rebounding. AI or NVE would help in that solution.
    Man, SF and Yao if they work together to compliment each other, my dream ...
    Right now, they are offseting each other :mad:
     
  14. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    Of the four Dr. Jack threads, this one is the oldest and best.
     
  15. solid

    solid Contributing Member

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    Ramsey's analysis is dead on but his "solution" is easier said than done. I agree beyao, as much as I like Mobley, I think it is time for a new backcourt. "tough, smart, team" oriented and high percentage shooters. Progress has been way too slow over the last four and one half years, time for some fresh faces.
     
  16. Thanos

    Thanos Member

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    It's not the thread title. It's the title of the article itself.

    But you are right. It is misleading... I also expected something different. Glad I was wrong, tough.

    Guess back down a little doesn't mean bend over.... lol!
     
  17. SWTsig

    SWTsig Contributing Member

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    very solid analysis.

    i just wish francis would get his act together, because his schtick is getting old....
     
  18. sun12

    sun12 Member

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    It is not that easier to get a smart PG.
    There are not lots of smart PG in the league.
     
  19. HeyDude

    HeyDude Contributing Member

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    Excellent article. Hope Steve and JVG work it out. ..
     
  20. GATER

    GATER Contributing Member

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    Is this true? There are 50 current players in the NBA who play some or full-time at PG. This is how CBS Sportline ranks them:

    http://www.sportsline.com/nba/playerrankings/regularseason/PG

    Which ones are smart and which ones are dumb?

    IMHO, there are many more smart ones than dumb ones. Notice, I said nothing of talent...only basketball smarts.
     

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