February 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

Hakeem Olajuwon to be honored for 50th Anniversary Special

Hakeem Olajuwon 50th Anniversary

It’s now time for the greatest Rocket of them all.

Hakeem Olajuwon will be honored at tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic as the Houston Rockets continue to celebrate the achievements of the organization’s 50 year history.

The Rockets have called Houston home since 1971 after relocating from San Diego. Since the beginning of the season, the organization has honored some of their best alumni at home games throughout the year. Shane Battier and Yao Ming were honored earlier this month at their respective games.

“Fifty years – it’s an incredible milestone, but being part of the community is both historical and aspirational based on where the organization is,” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said to the Houston Chronicle last September. “Having won the only major sports championships in the city, you have this connection with fans that historically is celebratory.”

Olajuwon, who originally won over the city while playing college ball at the University of Houston, was with the Rockets for 17 years and led the team to back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. The first 3,000 fans at tonight’s game will receive this Hakeem hat.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 3, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Rockets knock it out of the park with Yao Ming intro video

Yao Ming Jersey Retirement

The Rockets retired Yao Ming’s jersey Friday night at halftime of their game against the Bulls, and the whole thing was first class all the way. The Rockets brought in Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Shane Battier and Yao’s family for the occasion.

But the intro video telling the story of Yao that opened the ceremony? Phenomenal. It got a little dusty in here at the end.

Here’s my recording of it:

If you want to watch my fan recording of the entire ceremony, here it is:

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 2, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Rockets Say ‘Thank You’ To Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is back in Houston — this time as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

As Howard made his first return Thursday night since leaving the Rockets as a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets paid tribute to him with a ‘Thank You’ video that they aired in the first quarter.

Howard was initially received by the crowd with a mixture of cheers and boos as he was introduced. Those boos grew louder early on as Howard threw down four slams in the first four minutes of the game. But when the tribute video aired, there was some nice applause as Howard acknowledged the crowd.

I’m firmly of the opinion that Dwight deserves applause, despite the painful 2015-16 season, Dwight’s last with the team. This was a superstar who left a glamour city to come here and join forces with James Harden. He represented the city well, always willing to get involved in the community. He also was the team’s best playoff performer while here and, frankly, I don’t think it was that close.

But that final season left a sour taste with some. Harden and Howard never seemed to be on the same page and the egos of both players definitely played a role.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
January 27, 2017 at 10:31 am

On Rockets’ struggles, Carmelo Anthony and the approaching trade deadline

Houston Rockets James Harden Carmelo Anthony Trade Deadline 2017

After a brilliant start, the Houston Rockets have lost six of their last nine games.

David Weiner, aka BimaThug, joins the podcast as we discuss what’s currently ailing the Rockets and how that could change things as we inch closer to next month’s trade deadline. The discussion ranges from the new CBA, to Carmelo Anthony to players around the league that could draw interest from Daryl Morey and the Rockets.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
January 19, 2017 at 6:55 pm

James Harden named 2017 NBA All-Star Game starter

James Harden 2017 All-Star Starter

It’s official: James Harden will start the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

That may seem silly as far as being news. After all, Harden is having a monster year and is the leading candidate for MVP through half the season. But in the West, it’s not that simple.

Stephen Curry, a media darling, is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons. Russell Westbrook, a huge fan favorite, is averaging a triple-double. With only two guards allowed to start, the clear frontrunner was not even a lock to crack the top two.

But they got it right and Harden gets the starting nod. This is the fifth time Harden will be on the All-Star team but the first time he will be a starter. It’s extremely well deserved. The Rockets are 33-12 behind Harden’s averages of 28.9 points on 44.4% shooting, a league-leading 11.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds.

Props to Houston’s fans who did their part, staying on top of social media to help get the fan vote. The media and players made up the other 50%, but the fan vote was going to play a big role.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
January 19, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Rockets 50th Anniversary Honorees – Who’s Up Next?

Houston Rockets 50th Anniversary Mario Elie Hakeem Olajuwon

For the 50th anniversary of the Houston Rockets, the team has been honoring legends and alumni at every home game. They don’t announce who will be the honoree until closer to that day, but we’ve been able to get word of some of the schedule in advance in the past and have been told who is coming for the next several home games. Here’s the breakdown:

Matt Bullard
January 20 vs Warriors
I can’t think of a better game to honor Houston’s favorite sharpshooting big than one which could break the NBA record for combined three-pointers taken.

Dikembe Mutombo
January 31 vs. Kings
The finger wag gets the salute on a Tuesday night against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.

Shane Battier
February 2 vs. Hawks
This date is interesting since Dwight Howard could have been a candidate given the criteria this season (folks, Maurice Taylor has been honored) and Dwight’s return to Houston is that night, but it’s Mr. Intangibles that gets the nod for the Hawks game.

Yao Ming
February 3 vs. Bulls
This game belongs entirely to Yao as his jersey will be retired. Fans will get a T-shirt to commemorate the night.

Hakeem Olajuwon
February 7 vs. Magic
Update 1/31 — Confirmed: Hakeem Olajuwon will be honored for this game on February 7th. The Rockets are giving away an Olajuwon #34 hat that night.

TBD, but… Do not be surprised if it’s Hakeem Olajuwon this night. His schedule is always in flux, but this could be the game for Dream against the team he swept in the 1995 NBA Finals.

Mario Elie
February 11 vs. Suns
It’s only fitting that Elie’s Night will be against the Suns, commemorating the “Kiss of Death” shot in Game 7 of the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals in Phoenix that completed the comeback from down 3-1 and sent the Rockets to the West Finals (a wee bit more significant than KJ Dunk Night). Look for a very cool giveaway this night — the Mario Elie “Kiss of Death” bobblehead.

Otis Thorpe
February 15 vs. Heat
It’s very rare to see the soft-spoken Otis back in Houston at a game so this will be special.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
January 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

Houston Rockets: The surprising contender

James Harden Houston Rockets

MK Bower joins Dave Hardisty at Toyota Center after James Harden and the Rockets beat Russell Westbrook and the Thunder 118-116 Thursday night. The pair discuss the game, the MVP Race, the stunning 28-9 record for the Rockets and a look at what this team needs as we start to see the February trade deadline on the horizon.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
December 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

Eric Gordon, Professional Shooter

Eric Gordon Houston Rockets

Nobody in the NBA has made more three-pointers than Stephen Curry to start the 2016-2017 NBA season. That’s been the norm for the last few years. However, his running mate Klay Thompson isn’t second. Neither is James Harden, Damian Lillard or Kevin Durant. It’s Houston Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has 112 three-pointers made with just about a third of the season played.

Last season, the Rockets employed a motion offense centered around James Harden’s ability to facilitate the basketball. With a combination of flare screens and pick-and-rolls, the Rockets hoisted up numerous three-pointers. However, the lack of spacing and shooting created an inefficient and ineffective offense.

Enter the 2016-2017 season, with the signings of Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The pair, along with Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and Sam Dekker, are all complementary pieces and shooters, and all are shooting upwards of 38% or better on three-point attempts. With the addition of professional floor-spacers and improvements to the offense, where ball and player movement are constantly emphasized, the Rockets have developed a potent offensive attack in which Gordon is thriving.

Houston’s second-leading scorer, Gordon is averaging 17+ points per game while leading the race for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. He’s also shooting a blistering 45+% from three-point range after only converting on 38% of those shots last season with the Pelicans. As Bill Worrell says, his range extends to Sugar Land, Pasadena, and other places. With his promising start to the season from three, we decided to look at the film to understand how and why Gordon has seen so much success.

1/2 DHO (Dribble Hand-Off)

I’ll be releasing a film study soon on the Rockets “21 series” Pistol offense that will analyze the Harden/Gordon and Harden/Beverley pairings and their offensive production from this formation. Until then, here’s a preview, in particular the “21 series” Dribble Hand-Off (DHO) between the ball-handler and three-point shooter. This is where Beverley has assisted Gordon on 27 three-point field-goals.

DHO

The ball handler (1) dribbles the ball towards the right (or left) corner where a shooter or wing stands. Another post or wing player stands on the elbow or high post area adjacent to the corner. If you pay close attention, it’s an isosceles triangle between the three players. What ensues is either a DHO between the 1/2 or a simultaneous screen-and-roll between the 2/4. In the case of Gordon and three-pointers, the DHO is the primary result of this formation. If he is run off the three-point line, he’ll get into a pick-and-roll with the Big at the elbow. However, as we’ll see, Beverley and Gordon have great chemistry and Patrick’s screens more than free up Gordon to get off a shot with his quick release.



Beverley sets a proper screen, as he does on all DHO plays with Gordon. He has a good base by spreading his feet and slightly bending knees forward. His waist eliminates Gordon’s defender from contesting his jumper. Yes, in the play above, Lou Williams does a poor job of contesting Gordon, but many opposing defenses elect to take away the pick-and-roll threat. Teams will slide over a third defender to chip the roll man (especially with Clint Capela). However, with Gordon shooting 44+% from both wings, teams must shoot the gap and take the risk of Gordon attacking the closeout. As we’ll discuss in a later piece, that’s easier said than done with Gordon’s exceptional hesitation dribble and footwork to finish inside.

Defense Overloading on James Harden’s side



James Harden has become one of the best passers in the NBA, and his ability to connect with shooters off skip passes and cross-court passes make him and the offense incredibly difficult to guard. The San Antonio Spurs like to trap, double, or switch defensively on Harden when he runs sideline pick-and-rolls. In the scenario above, they decide to double and mitigate his drive to create penetration. Patty Mills rotates over from the help side. Once Harden begins to drive, Nene recognizes Mills and sets a flare screen. This takes away Mills’ ability to rotate back towards Gordon and now Kawhi Leonard is forced to rotate over to defend a Gordon three. It’s not quick enough for Gordon’s release, and Eric hits the three-pointer. As long as defenses continue to overload the strong side to contain the basketball and pressure Harden to make a decision, the help-side defense will be vulnerable and will consistently have to be cognizant of Anderson, Beverley, and in particular Gordon.

Eric Gordon Screening



This half-court set has become a pet play of the Rockets, particularly in situations where they want to pick up the pace and score quickly. This play entails a pick-and-roll, the main component of Houston’s spread offense. It’s an especially clever play because Gordon does not start out at the three-point line. As Harden starts to cross half court, the Rockets’ Big (Nene) sets a screen on the hip of the defender. Simultaneously, with Brook Lopez staying back to protect the paint after the screener slips, Gordon sets a screen on the back of Lopez. Gordon’s defender watches Nene and is too late to get out of the way of Lopez rotating over to defend the roll. Gordon leaks out to the three-point line, gets the pass and hits a three-pointer in rhythm. Gordon’s back screen forces the opposing defense to react to the roll man. That creates mistakes and miscommunication, allowing Gordon to run out behind the arc and get a wide-open three-point opportunity.

Lateral-Step Dribble



The Splash Brothers of Golden State are masters at this. Essentially a small head fake or a quick dribble to the right or left opens up the shooter to a wide-open attempt. When defenders close out with their hands up, the shooter can pump fake, make a quick dribble and lateral step, collect their balance, then launch the three-pointer. Although Gordon missed on this attempt, he’s able to regain balance and properly gather and release the basketball. His personal shooting mechanics are impeccable within the flow of the offense.ketball. His personal shooting mechanics are impeccable within the flow of the offense.

Posted in Houston Rockets |