April 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Rockets-Blazers: Behind the numbers

The defense of Omer Asik could be crucial against Portland

The defense of Omer Asik could be crucial against LaMarcus Aldridge and a large Portland front line.

The scenario math is over. Courtesy of Portland’s overtime win over Golden State on Sunday night, we know the Rockets (53-27) will open up the postseason next weekend against the Blazers (53-28) in the 4 vs. 5 series, with the winner likely to play No. 1 San Antonio in the next round.

What we don’t know is where each game will be played. The Rockets are still in the driver’s seat for home-court advantage, but they need one more result to seal it.

If that happens, and assuming good health, the Rockets have to feel good about their chances. The Rockets won the tiebreaker vs. Portland by virtue of taking three of four regular-season matchups, including both in Houston.

There’s also the fact that in a similar 4 vs. 5 battle five years ago, the Rockets took out LaMarcus Aldridge and his Blazers in six games, marking Houston’s only playoff series win since 1997. (Though it should be noted that not even one current Rocket was on that roster.)

As far as the current crop of Rockets goes, a quick look at the schedule and numbers between the teams shows several trends. Here’s a rundown of the relevant issues:
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Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
March 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Wolverine: Beverley won’t require surgery, expects to return this season

Patrick Beverley

Patrick Beverley wasn’t just pumping out sunshine.

Houston’s starting point guard will not require surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis but is expected to return to the Rockets this season.

Beverley told us on Saturday that he would be meeting with Dr. James Andrews and that he expected to return this season. The meeting with Dr. Andrews on Monday confirmed that Pat wasn’t being overly optimistic.

Those who witnessed the team’s point guard play on Saturday night against the Clippers know how important it is to get back a healthy Beverley. The Rockets had 13 turnovers in the first half and had to assign Chandler Parsons to guard Chris Paul. Jeremy Lin struggled mightily to score or complete passes (though his shot not falling was simply a sign of a bad game) and Isaiah Canaan, while showing some solid outside shooting, had some bad turnovers.

About an hour before the news broke today, Beverley put out a simple tweet.

Here is the complete audio from Beverley’s media session Saturday before the game.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Remove or repair? Medical experts mull options for Beverley’s meniscus

Patrick Beverley's torn meniscus isn't necessarily a season-ending injury.

Patrick Beverley’s torn meniscus isn’t necessarily a season-ending injury, according to a former NFL lead doctor.

With the diagnosis of a torn meniscus now confirmed and surgery seen as likely, Patrick Beverley and the Rockets have two possible outcomes.

Remove or repair?

For Beverley and the Rockets, each contains a major downside. If the torn part of the meniscus is repaired with stitches, Beverley’s long-term recovery and prognosis would be excellent, but it would end his 2013-14 season and significantly damage Houston’s shot at a championship this year.

Meanwhile, if torn part of the meniscus is simply removed or trimmed, Houston’s starting point guard could return within weeks or even days. However, his knee would be more vulnerable to future problems.

It’s often framed as a choice for the player and the team pitting short-term desires against long-term health. But in reality, it seems to be less of a “choice” and appears more conditional on the specific results of the MRI or even the exploratory surgery.

“The vast majority of meniscus tears are trimmed,” said Dr. David Chao, currently an orthopedic surgeon in California and formerly the head doctor with the San Diego Chargers. Chao has also handled numerous injured NBA players, including a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Most tears have no real option to sew.”

The trim scenario could have Beverley back to the Rockets within weeks, possibly even by the start of the playoffs in late April.

For Dr. Chao, it all comes down to the specifics of the tear, which the Rockets should know more about early next week. Beverley’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, told the Houston Chronicle that he expected clarity in the coming days and would list Beverley as “out indefinitely” until more is known.

“The periphery of the meniscus is vascular,” Dr. Chao said.  “If you have a clean tear that is in the periphery, even if it’s a larger tear, you want to sew those because it preserves your knee long-term.

“But if you have a tear that’s not clean and not in one place, then it’s not going to heal and you have to take it out. Another scenario is if it’s a smaller tear but in the inner rim, where there’s no blood supply. And only tears with blood supply can heal.”

“In the end, you end up trimming much more often than sewing.”

As far as a timetable for Beverley’s return, that would very much be up in the air. Houston head coach Kevin McHale said it would be 7-to-10 days before the team would know a possible timetable.

“[Recovery] can be very short,” said Will Carroll, lead writer for sports medicine at Bleacher Report and author of The Carroll Guide to Sports Injuries.  “A lot depends on their response to rehab and swelling. In 1984, Mary Lou Retton came back in weeks. Ten-to-14 days is an accepted standard.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a torn portion of his meniscus removed in January of this season and did not return until mid-March.

“It’s harder in basketball [to return] because of all the cutting,” said Dr. Chao. “Especially for a point guard. It’s not uncommon for football players come back in 1-to-3 weeks, but basketball is harder.

“It comes down to how big the tear is, as well as the associated damage that’s inside. Three-to-six weeks is not unreasonable, but it could also be two months.”

In the past year, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Chicago’s Derrick Rose each had their meniscus repaired — rather than removed — in procedures that would sideline each for at least four months. That outcome would undoubtedly end Beverley’s 2013-14 season with the Rockets.

Dr. Chao said those decisions had less to do with a trend toward choosing repair and more to do with the simple fact that they could be repaired, unlike many other meniscus tears.

“From a medical perspective, I don’t think there’s a trend toward repair,” said Dr. Chao. “It’s always been a focus. But because the media is getting smarter and reporting it more these days, fans are learning more about the difference. For me, I repaired about the same amount of meniscus tears 10-to-15 years ago as I do today.”

Miami’s Dwyane Wade, however, said in training camp this year that he regretted having the meniscus in his left knee trimmed in May 2002 when he was a college star at Marquette.

Wade, who has battled chronic knee injuries since then including bone bruises and tendinitis, said that if more of a long-term approach was used in 2002, he may not have had as many issues.

“My knee problems and the things I’ve dealt with started from that,” Wade told reporters at Heat training camp this year. “That was [11] years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.

“At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, ‘Dwyane’s going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,’ maybe I wouldn’t have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best.”

But even among NBA stars, there seems to be little consensus. As a freshman at Oklahoma, Blake Griffin – one of the most athletic players in the league — had his torn right meniscus trimmed and actually played just six days later.

Four years later, Griffin tore a portion of his left meniscus in July 2012 while preparing for the Olympics. Griffin’s meniscus was again trimmed rather than repaired, and he returned quickly and has shown no ill effects since.

“It’s different for every athlete, but it’s something we’re learning more and more about,” said Carroll. “Everyone has to measure the consequences and make an informed decision.”

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Patrick Beverley has a torn meniscus, likely out for the year

Patrick Beverley

Nothing good could come from the Sixers game, and nothing good did come.

Patrick Beverley left in the first half with an injury Thursday night against Philly and an MRI on Friday revealed he has a torn meniscus. The type of tear is unknown at this point, but with the playoffs just three weeks away, there’s a good chance that Beverley is done for the season. No official timetable has been released as Beverley and the team are seeking a second opinion.

There’s no spinning this — this is a huge blow to the Rockets. Beverley provides something to this team that no other player can replace — elite on-ball defense making it difficult for the league’s top point guards. When you consider the point guards the West will feature in the playoffs — Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker and Goran Dragic to name a few — it’s a scary thought for the Rockets.

Not only does it hurt the starting lineup, but it hurts the bench as well, a bench that already had been struggling. If what we saw in Philly is any indicator, then Jeremy Lin will step in to start and Isaiah Canaan will take the backup point guard role, a spot that Aaron Brooks took most of the season when Lin or Beverley dealt with injuries. Lin certainly has the potential to put up big numbers offensively, but offense has not been a problem for the starting lineup and lack of perimeter defense may again become a big story.

Will Daryl Morey add another player to help out? We shall see. As David Weiner wrote after the trade deadline, the team still has their Room Exception to use if they want to. It’s hard to tell how much faith they have in Canaan just yet (McHale kind of laughed in post-game about that, saying at least he’ll be getting good experience), but they may seek a veteran point or experienced European player with that spot considering that another injury (especially to Lin) would leave them near helpless at the position.

This has been an amazing season for the Rockets so this one really hurts. We’ll see how they respond with a playoff test tomorrow night against the Clippers.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Wojnarowski: Rockets join Bulls atop Carmelo Anthony’s wish list

Carmelo Anthony appears interested in joining the Rockets this summer.

Carmelo Anthony appears to be intrigued by the Rockets.

The New York Post first reported it a week ago, and now Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is confirming: the Rockets could be a real player in 2014 free agency for Carmelo Anthony.

In Wojnarowski’s latest column published Tuesday evening on Phil Jackson‘s arrival in New York, the esteemed NBA reporter cites sources close to Anthony as saying the current New York forward has genuine interest in Houston.

“Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports,” Wojnarowski wrote.

“The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deal alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.”

To make the salary math work, the Rockets would likely need to find homes for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik — either through a direct sign-and-trade with New York or to another team for cap relief, such as Houston’s trade that sent Thomas Robinson to Portland last summer before signing Howard.

Jackson, who joined the Knicks as team president, said earlier in the day that he envisioned Anthony as part of his new team’s future plans, so the team will make a bid to retain him. And as with Howard in July 2013, the Knicks will be able to offer the 29-year-old Anthony a contract lasting five years, while no other team — Houston included — can offer more than four years.

The New York Post also identified the Lakers and Clippers as potential suitors for Anthony once free agency opens this July.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

With Lin and Asik still in Houston, Parsons may find his payday delayed

Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin

The presence of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on the Houston payroll could impact the timing of Chandler Parsons’ eventual contract extension with the Rockets.

Five months ago, I touted the merits of giving Chandler Parsons a long-term contract in July 2014. He’s certainly made his case for it on the floor this year, with his points, field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and overall efficiency (PER) all rising relative to last season.

But with the trade deadline passing without a major move, it’s time to contradict myself and explain why that scenario no longer makes sense for the Rockets, who now seem likely to delay Parsons’ extension until July 2015.
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Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

Podcast: Troy Daniels’ Journey to the NBA

Troy DanielsAfter the trade deadline passed, the Houston Rockets didn’t waste much time making sure they had in the fold one of the NBDL’s best prospects, signing Troy Daniels to a two-year deal.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been called one of the best shooters they’ve ever seen by his coaches and general manager Daryl Morey as he shattered the NBDL record for made threes in a season and is currently averaging almost 23 points a night.

The newest Rocket joins Dave Hardisty on the podcast to discuss how he felt signing a deal with the Rockets and the path he took to get here — from his days lighting it up with Virginia Commonwealth University to his current long-range assault with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

“I’m finally going to get my chance to show the whole world that I am a great shooter,” said Daniels.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts | Tagged , , |
February 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

Rockets Playbook: Examining Jeremy Lin’s favorite set

Jeremy Lin smilesBrowsing through the ClutchFans forum, I saw Jeremy Lin reveal his favorite Rockets set in an interview with Nick Hauselman, also known as “Coach Nick” of Bballbreakdown.

His favorite offensive set? The backside pick-and-roll.

I immediately knew what set Jeremy was referring to and have several clips of the Rockets running it successfully, so let’s take a look:

As Jeremy explained, the initial high pick-and-pop is just false motion to get the defense moving and disguise the Rockets’ true intent. In reality, what they’re looking to execute is a backside pick-and-roll/dribble hand-off.

This is very hard to guard because it happens so fast. As a result, the defense frequently ends up out of position — thus limiting their ability to hedge or force the the pick-and-roll down (toward the baseline/sideline).

This, in turn, also leaves the defense vulnerable to middle penetration, which good defenses generally try to prevent. Once middle penetration occurs, it opens up all sorts of options for the offense (see 0:00-1:38 of the video compilation).

The only way for the defense to prevent middle penetration, really, is either by going under the screen — which opens things up to players pulling up from three, as James Harden is great at recognizing and taking advantage of — or denying the ball to the player coming up from the corner, which makes the defense vulnerable to back-door cuts or leaves an open jumper for the Rockets’ power forward.

Simple, yet very effective, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that both the Spurs and Thunder also make use of this set.

I was actually a bit surprised to hear that it’s Lin’s favorite set, though. Although it’s one of the most effective sets for the Rockets, Jeremy usually only gets to initiate it, rather than play the key role.

Nonetheless, rather than be overly concerned with his role, Lin still seems to be on board due to its success for the team as a whole. It’s another reason why he’s a very easy person to root for.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Rockets Playbook |