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With Howard hobbled, backups power Rockets [FRAN BLINEBURY]

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by T_Man, Dec 5, 2014.

  1. T_Man

    T_Man Contributing Member

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    http://www.nba.com/2014/news/features/fran_blinebury/12/04/backups-keep-houston-rolling-along-despite-howards-absence/

    HOUSTON — Dwight Who?

    There is Tarik Black toiling harder than a lumberjack among the tall, sturdy trees of the rugged Grizzlies lineup, standing toe-to-toe with Marc Gasol, looking Zach Randolph squarely in the eyes. He's an undrafted rookie who caught coach Kevin McHale's attention on those first few days of training camp when he brought hustle, brought scrap, brought attitude.

    Dwight Who?

    There is Donatas Motiejunas suddenly making himself harder for a defender to pick up than a handful of Lithuanian phrases, rolling through the paint on one possession to brush in a 6-foot bank shot and confidently stabbing in a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner on another. He's in his third year of wearing a Rockets uniform, but the first where it actually looks like it fits him.

    Dwight Who?

    There is Kostas Papanikolaou with a feel for the game, a nose for the right play and the kind of natural confidence that makes you wonder how to say swag in Greek. He drops in breezy runners on sorties into the lane and flips nifty passes for lob dunks around his own driving layup on back-to-back-to-back trips down the floor. He'll really be something if he ever gets that jumper to fall consistently.

    Dwight Who?

    There is Joey Dorsey, turning 31 in a couple of weeks, who has been in the Houston locker room before but has spent the past three years on an international tour of Spain, Greece and Turkey. He rises up like something out of a missile silo to destroy a layup attempt by Quincy Pondexter and then hustles down the floor with a thunderous put-back dunk.

    The Rockets, of course, are going nowhere near the deep end of the Western Conference playoff pool next spring without their smiling All-Star center and franchise linchpin, Dwight Howard, healthy and prowling the paint. But for now the long road to get there is being paved by a crew that doesn't seem to know what it doesn't seem to know.

    After a 105-96 beatdown Wednesday of the formerly best-record-in-the-league Grizzlies, in which they led by as much as 27 points, the Rockets remain among the upper crust with a 14-4 record, including a 5-2 mark in the two weeks that Howard has been sidelined by a strained right knee.
    Howard was strong and fit and ready to assert himself until he was injured on Nov. 17 in Memphis. He has undergone platelet rich plasma therapy and is back to sprinting at practices. But two seasons after Howard pushed himself past reason following back surgery, returned to labor at less than full strength and exposed himself to ridicule in that lost year with the Lakers, there will be no short-cutting the recovery process this time.

    Nor is there a necessity. With James Harden upping his elite level game and McHale quite capably juggling a lineup of rookies, wannabes and guys who just want to play, the Rockets have kept up their early rhythm. In addition to Howard, the Rockets are missing two other starters, power forward Terrence Jones and point guard Patrick Beverley, and just lost backup point guard Isaiah Canaan to a sprained ankle.

    Everybody doesn't get the opportunity all the time. But boy, when your number's called and you do perform, it does give me a lot of confidence to say, 'OK, go [back] out.'
    – Houston coach Kevin McHale

    Yet while the offensive rating has sagged without Howard's low-post game, the defense has remained ranked among the top three in the NBA. The Rockets have not lost ground in the Western Conference race.

    This is how teams develop the depth and the know-how to become a contender. Out of necessity.

    "It's a credit to those guys," McHale said. "We kinda talked about no one in the league cares if you're hurting or not. They're trying to beat you. So we can't feel sorry for ourselves.

    "Every time there's an injury for one player, there's an opportunity for another player. Our guys have done a good job of that. [Assistant coach] J.B. Bickerstaff with the defense has been fantastic. We've really worked hard on that and he's done a great job. That's been a big, big key is J.B. taking control. We talked this summer about how we wanted to defend and be more aggressive and J.B.'s done a great job of getting guys to do it. It's just been a really good team effort by everybody.

    "The guys who haven't played, played well and that's a credit to them. Everybody wants the opportunity to play. Everybody doesn't get the opportunity all the time. But boy, when your number's called and you do perform, it does give me a lot of confidence to say, 'OK, go [back] out.' It also gives me a lot of pride in those guys that I know that they care that much and they work.

    "It's not easy in our league to be down three starters and find ways to win. Again, it's a credit to those kids in the room."

    Those "kids" in the Houston locker room aren't the ones asking Dwight Who?
    They're asking Who's Next?
     
  2. clutz

    clutz Member

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    It would be interesting to see how the Rockets would do with everybody but Harden healthy.
     
  3. FeaR

    FeaR Member

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    Without another Playmaker, i don't want to find out.
     
  4. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    I like it. It would have been nicer if Ariza and Terry got credit as well.
     
  5. waytookrzy079

    waytookrzy079 Member

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    and TR Dunn.
     
  6. DreamShook

    DreamShook Member

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    Mchale says JB is the man behind the defense.
     
  7. bongman

    bongman Member

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    Jet and Cisco are offend.
     
  8. jtr

    jtr Contributing Member

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    I loved this article. Thank you so much. Blinebury is a Houston homer, but given who I am I can do nothing but admire him for that.
     
  9. T_Man

    T_Man Contributing Member

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    T_Man faints.....

    [​IMG]
     
  10. pmac

    pmac Contributing Member

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    We all know the defensive focus has been great but my question is about the overall performance. Is our bench really this good?

    The consensus before the season was that the rockets were basically 4 guys (Howard, Harden, Ariza, and Bev). People were saying we were weak at the PF spot and had no depth anywhere else. Since then it looks like the entire bench (Canaan, Terry, Papa, DMo, and Black) have stepped up. But, rarely is there this type of accross the board improvement, especially when you include rookies. I don't really know what to make of it.
     
  11. count_dough-ku

    count_dough-ku Contributing Member

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    We don't really know til we get everyone back and see if the bench guys can sustain this level of play for a long time. Papa's been hustling all season long, but can he get that jumper to fall consistently and can he learn to finish around the hoop? Is D-Mo capable of doing what he's doing off the bench night in and night out? Will McHale actually play Canaan when Bev comes back? Can Terry stay healthy? Can Cisco get his shooting up to at least 30%? Are Black, Dorsey, and D-Mo enough to man the back up 4 and 5 spots?

    I still think this team needs a legit backup 5, another playmaker, and a quality 2-3 backup so Cisco can be relegated to the bench. But it's gonna be tough for Morey to fill all of those voids before next offseason.
     
  12. charlieaustin

    charlieaustin Contributing Member

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    Listening to Tarik Black's post game interview after the Memphis game there was a comment that stood out to me..."Experience is the best teacher". This got me thinking about Howard's mystery injury. Now I'm probably reaching but what if the Rockets are trying to get key backups experience early in the season using minor injuries as an excuse. We all know the Spurs do this but not quite as extreme as this many games in a row.

    Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying the Rockets are making up injuries. I'm just saying they seem somewhat suspicious. The team has three strange injuries at the moment (Canaan's was obvious). The players that need the most experience are Dorsey, Black, Papa (although he doesn't apply here), DMo, Canaan (until he got hurt but you could say Terry needs playing time to gain chemistry). The team knows what they have in the injured players.

    The team started well and could lose a few games in exchange for experience without sacrificing much in the standings. Again, this is similar to what the Spurs do. If the team started losing they could bring back Howard and Bev (not sure about TJones). *edited to add: Have you noticed that as the team keeps winning the player's return dates keep getting pushed back? * The purpose is to have everyone fully prepared for the second half of the season and playoffs and if one of these guys goes down again the backups will be able to step in and the team doesn't miss a beat. The opposite is letting these backups ride the bench or get spot minutes and if someone goes down they aren't ready to go and the team suffers until/if they get up to speed. Even if it doesn't work and the team loses the starters are rested for the stretch run.

    Pure speculation of course. Either way, getting these guys experience is key to future success. Harden will need rest at some point but I hope it's not for as many games.
     
    #12 charlieaustin, Dec 5, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  13. count_dough-ku

    count_dough-ku Contributing Member

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    I think you're reading too much into it. Now I have had my own suspicions about Dwight's injury given how the team seems so reluctant to give updates or a timetable on his return. But Bev's hammy is a serious issue. It ain't being exaggerated. Same with Canaan's ankle and T-Jones' leg.

    The Rockets are just very fortunate to have a guy like Harden who can carry the team, veterans like Ariza and Terry who are stepping up, and young guys who have no fear and are just going out there and busting their behinds. That can't sustain itself much longer, but it's been enough to go 6-2 in their last 8 which is remarkable.
     
  14. peleincubus

    peleincubus Member

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    Only thing I could buy into would be that they will be more cautious bringing Beverly and Howard back if the rockets continue to win. If they had lost 4 in a row right I think they would be clamping to get them back on the floor.

    The little I have reAd about jones is he is really injured and is while away. Hopefully not he is and papa are probably my favorite players on the team.
     
  15. peleincubus

    peleincubus Member

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    Clamoring****
     
  16. count_dough-ku

    count_dough-ku Contributing Member

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    Is there any recent update on T-Jones? Last I heard was another month, but that was 2 weeks ago. I'd be thrilled if he were back before X-Mas, but something tells me that ain't happening.
     
  17. FeaR

    FeaR Member

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    No news but there is this video of him shooting FTs so he is training without contact ?

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WIm2wGY0QLw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
  18. BowlingBaller

    BowlingBaller Member

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    Yeah aren't they older than McHale?
     
  19. charlieaustin

    charlieaustin Contributing Member

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    Whatever is going on it certainly is working to the team's advantage as the starters should come back fresh and the backups are getting valuable playing time. It seems as though Dorsey and Black are figuring it out and Papa is is getting up to NBA speed. I've been really impressed with the way Terry has got the offense moving and it seems contagious when he sits. Dmo finally clicking... Hopefully it all continues! :)
     
  20. The Sensei

    The Sensei Contributing Member

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    Let me tell you why I loved the Memphis game so much and think I could watch it over and over again.

    It wasn't Harden and the role players. The game was about the role players with Harden goodness sprinkled throughout.

    After facing a hot shooting Memphis to start the game, the Rockets responded.

    It started with Jason Terry swishing a couple of threes. He then got the crowd behind him, fueling the rest of the team. You could see Terry talking, cheering, and leading the young squad. He was what ignited the Rockets' offense and continued to coach his teammates to victory.

    An unlikely hero then stepped up next. Joey Dorsey. When everyone was writing him off, he came in off the bench with a monstrous slam. It was a redemption dunk, wiping away the sourness of the dunk being blocked by the rim a few games back. He provided toughness inside and some rim protection.

    Not to be outdone was Black. His toughness, hustle and willingness to go after the rebounds helped give the Rockets so many second attempts. He and Dorsey were instrumental in keeping the 2-headed beast of ZBo and Gasol to one of their poorest performance of the season.

    But the big-man of the game award goes to DMo, who showed flashes of Hakeem the Dream, as he dismantled the Grizzlies' big men with an array of spins, fakes, and post-ups. And his dominance wasn't on just one side of the ball. His quickness and speed on the defensive end anchored the entire Rockets' defense.

    Then came the KPap show. He came in off the bench and instantly improved the ball movement. He drove and dished, getting teammates open looks. He seemed to be involved in just about every one of the Rockets' highlight plays from the night.

    The first half came to the close, with the Rockets seemingly on their way to losing their huge lead, when Trevor Ariza went berserk. Consecutive steals, lock-down defense, fast-break points, and 3-pointers. Although his box score may not show it, Ariza's effect during the 3rd quarter helped solidify this win.

    And sprinkled throughout was James Harden. His unstoppable drives, heat-check 3s, assists for open looks, and renewed commitment to defense was the true epitome of a superstar leader. This is the true MVP James Harden. No more sticky-ball that we used to see so often last year.

    All players knew they had to play exceptionally to win this game. It was a brilliant display of chemistry and hard work, and hard to believe that this team is still 3-starters away from running on all cylinders.

    Best game of the season by far.
     

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