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Sporting News: Stronger Francis the Star of the Show

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Nimnal, Oct 13, 2001.

  1. Nimnal

    Nimnal Contributing Member

    Mar 31, 2001
    Likes Received:

    Rockets Team Report
    By Michael Murphy/Houston Chronicle

    Stronger Francis the star
    of the show
    October 13, 2001

    TSN gets you ready for the NBA season with our
    special "Going Hollywood" preview.

    Without a doubt, Steve Francis will be the star of
    this team. While everyone worries about zone
    defenses and such, most teams will wind up being
    confused as to what defense they are supposed to
    be playing, leaving all kinds of holes that Francis
    will be able to exploit.

    Even when teams begin to jell defensively, Francis
    will still be hard, if not impossible, to stop.

    After a summer of weight work, Francis is much
    stronger, but has not sacrificed any of his
    gone-in-a-blink quickness. He can't be stopped
    man-to-man, and his quickness will mean
    crease-taking attacks inside any zone.

    The added strength will allow Francis to more effectively attack the big oafs that are sure to be waiting
    inside as teams attempt to cut off the isolation offense.

    Rudy Tomjanovich has been on Francis about his shooting -- but in this case it's a matter of the coach
    wanting the player to shoot more. Francis has been unselfish almost to a fault, but one can easily see
    him putting up 25 points and seven or eight assists a night this season, especially since his stop-and-pop
    pull-up jumper will be on display this season.


    Cuttino Mobley has quickly blossomed into one of the league's brighter young stars. Why not? After all,
    everything he does is predicated on quickness. While Mobley's decision-making is often a subject of
    debate (you practically need an injunction to get him to give up the ball), he is an explosive offensive
    player capable of huge scoring nights. His defense is way overrated, but with more technique work
    (and want-to) there, Mobley could be one of the top stoppers, too.

    The only conceivable problem could be attitude -- Mobley's intense desire to succeed is what made
    Tomjanovich believe in him in the first place. Mobley refuses to accept anyone is better than he is,
    which is why he enjoys the challenge of taking on some of the league's top guards. But does there come
    a point where Mobley believes he has made it and no longer needs to work as hard as he has in the

    Hopefully not. And given his personality, it's probably not a concern.

    Glen Rice is the third option in the Rockets' three-pronged attack. A superb outside shooter, Rice is
    probably the Rockets' top post-up threat as well. His tender feet have been a problem in the past, but
    Rice doesn't expect to miss much time this season. Good thing, because the Rockets have already
    endured a season's worth of injuries.

    Moochie Norris will play a vital role, even if he is an understudy. Yet another lightning-quick guard,
    Norris bargained his way to a six-year, $22.6 million deal this fall, and he's the type who will earn his
    money. Having Norris will allow the Rockets to slide Francis over to shooting guard, giving them an
    embarrassment of breakdown riches.

    The biggest question is whether rookie Eddie Griffin will make only a few cameo appearances, or
    whether he has the ability to step in immediately and contribute. The Rockets are going to be hurting for
    rebounds and interior defense -- two of Griffin's strengths. Can he withstand the pounding he's bound
    to take while playing up front? Well, you can't hit what you can't catch, and Griffin is plenty quick.


    This one's easy -- Kelvin Cato (we are contractually obligated to insert the words "much-maligned" in
    here somewhere) will spend the entire season not only trying to emerge from the long shadow of
    Hakeem Olajuwon, but also trying to escape the storm of criticism that has followed him around since
    he entered the league.

    Cato remains an enigma -- he showed enough promise for the Rockets to sign him to a $42 million deal
    a couple of seasons back. But since then he's been hard to figure. A flash of brilliance is followed by a
    flush of games where he does little or nothing. And the guy is apparently so fragile that he practically
    has to be bubble-wrapped on the bench.

    But to be fair, Cato has been playing well in camp and in the preseason. He doesn't have a go-to shot
    (and won't have one until he stops taking 3-pointers in shootarounds), but Cato can be an intimidating
    defender inside. His long-armed 6-11 frame and athletic ability makes him a fierce shot blocker, but
    there are times when you can see him thinking the game, too, which makes him an effective position
    defender as well.

    Tomjanovich has been quick to praise Cato this season, but the Rockets are going to need the big man
    for the long haul this season. Cato earned his big contract with a strong preseason, only to fizzle out
    once the real games began. The Rockets can't let that happen again this year.

    Kenny Thomas will spend much of the season trying to convince everyone that he's not miscast as the
    starting power forward. Thomas waited patiently behind Charles Barkley and Othella Harrington, only to
    see the Rockets sign Maurice Taylor away from the Clippers. But Taylor's Achilles' injury opened up an
    opportunity for Thomas to prove that he can play the position. He's still undersized (6-7), but Thomas
    has strong post moves down low. If only he could stop taking those three-pointers, though.


    The Rockets once were Power Forwards 'R Us, with Barkley, Harrington and even Olajuwon in there in
    a pinch. But not anymore. Thomas, Griffin, Cato and Jason Collier will all get a look-see at this spot.

    Thomas will get the early starts, and it's probably his job to lose.

    Griffin's quickness and ability to play inside or outside would seem to make him the best fit with
    Francis, Mobley and the rest of the quick young players. But his stick-figure body can't hold up against
    the likes of Chris Webber, Karl Malone, Elton Brand, Tim Duncan, Vin Baker or any of the other big
    power forwards in the West.

    Collier's perimeter shooting makes him a perfect fit in Tomjanovich's system, but it's at the other end of
    the floor where the problems begin. Suffice it to say that Collier probably couldn't stop Elton John from
    scoring, much less Elton Brand.

    Cato doesn't have the shooting -- you can measure his range with a gap wrench -- to play the position
    effectively in Tomjanovich's system.

    Marc Jackson would be the ideal answer here. Jackson can hit the outside shot, rebound and has the
    body to lean on other big forwards. With the Rockets' stable of point guards, Jackson won't have to
    create shots for himself -- just get open and Francis, Norris and Mobley (well, maybe) will find you.


    The introduction of zone defenses this season means the Rockets have to adjust their offensive scheme.

    In the past, Tomjanovich has employed an isolation set, first in the low post with Olajuwon as the
    decision-maker, and later out on the perimeter with Francis pulling the trigger. Both were predicated on
    the same idea -- give the ball to a premier scorer, force the defense to make a decision and then exploit
    that decision.

    With Olajuwon, it worked to perfection, resulting in back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and '95. With
    Francis, it worked well enough for the Rockets to somehow win 45 games last season. Accomplishing
    anything close to that this year will be nothing short of miraculous.

    Tomjanovich must somehow figure out a way to beat teams that can now resort to zones in an effort to
    stop (or at least slow down) Francis and Mobley. The logical answer would be to fast break -- get the
    ball out ahead of the defense. The Rockets have the athleticism, especially with guys like Cato and
    Griffin trailing, but they lack the rebounding necessary to run a consistent breaking offense.

    Tomjanovich will instead see how the defenses are employed and tweak his isolation offense to take
    advantage. Teams will be scrambling to get a grasp on the intricacies of the NBA zone, leading to mass
    confusion anyway, so it probably won't be a factor until a quarter of the season has passed.


    Taylor: Had surgery ago to repair a torn right Achilles' tendon and will miss the entire season.

    Mobley: Is day-to-day after suffering a hip-flexor strain in training camp.

    Collier: Had surgery to remove a cyst from his waist, but should be ready to play in the regular season.

    Rice: Has plantar fasciaitis and will miss some of training camp. It is not expected to impact his ability
    to play during the regular season.

    Dan Langhi: Is out after spraining his right ankle in practice. The Rockets expect him to be ready for
    the regular season.


    The Rockets seemed a good pick to sneak into the playoffs before Taylor's injury. Now it's up to new
    guys Jackson and Griffin to fill in (5th, Midwest Division).


    Projected starting five

    PF Kenny Thomas: A long-time understudy finally will get his chance to start after Maurice Taylor's
    SF Glen Rice: A pure shooter whose attitude sometimes is deadlier than his textbook jump shot.
    C Kelvin Cato: Sometimes shows incredible skills, but they're often overshadowed by bonehead plays.
    SG Cuttino Mobley: Oozes confidence on offense, but most nights a subpoena is needed to get the ball
    from him.
    PG Steve Francis: Could emerge as the best point guard in the Western Conference, but he must score

    The rotation (in order of expected appearance)

    PG Moochie Norris, C Jason Collier, PF Eddie Griffin, SF Walt Williams, SF Dan Langhi.

    The rest (in order of expected appearance)

    SF Terence Morris, SG Damon Jones.
  2. SteveFrancis3

    SteveFrancis3 Contributing Member

    May 15, 2001
    Likes Received:
    No way this happens. Mobley and Steve would be the last guys in the NBA I could see this happening to. They both love the game too much.


    LOL. Does Cato really shoot 3's in practice and shootarounds?

    Agreed. PLEASE Rudy, make him stop.

    :eek: Collier before Griffin and Walt! Say it isn't so!
  3. chewy

    chewy Member

    Aug 17, 2001
    Likes Received:
    How is Cat's defense overrated? Cuttino's never been rated as a grear defender.
  4. getsmartnow

    getsmartnow Contributing Member

    Feb 27, 2001
    Likes Received:
    LOL :D One of the funniest things I've read about Cato!
  5. getsmartnow

    getsmartnow Contributing Member

    Feb 27, 2001
    Likes Received:
    D'oh. Let me try that again!

    And the guy is apparently so fragile that he practically
    has to be bubble-wrapped on the bench.

    That's better. :rolleyes:
  6. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

    Sep 1, 2000
    Likes Received:
    He says KT waited patiently behind Othella Harrington....what a load of crap!! Othella was traded a couple months after KT was drafted!!
  7. Wakko67

    Wakko67 Contributing Member

    Jan 8, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Very nice article. :)

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