Okay, since the Rocket-Laker game was nationally broadcast on ESPN Friday night, I’m sure many of you all saw the debacle like I did, so I’m going to spare you the details. You saw how it all went down. So I’m going into my “loved it” and “hated it” list instead:
* It ticks me off the Lakers can come back from a 21-point deficit to close the deal, while the Rockets didn’t close out their home game against the Lakers a few days ago after making a 25-point comeback (all because of damn missed free throws at the end of the game). I thought the Rockets would have enough revenge and anger in them to put away the Lakers in this game. When they were up by 21 points in the first quarter, and 18 in the second, you KNEW they were going to blow it, and they did thanks to another 3rd quarter collapse. They still haven’t learned to maintain big leads. I’m tired of it. Radical changes are in order (more on that at the bottom of this post).
* I’m chapped that Yao put up unbelievable numbers in front of a national TV audience (35 points, 15 boards, 8 blocks) and the Rockets still didn’t win. I am concerned about his making only 15-of-35 shots, one of his worst shooting games with that many attempts taken. But it was a two overtime game, he’s tired after the 41-minute game the night before, and he’s carrying the load for a missing T-Mac.
* I’m bummed that stud guards like Kobe Bryant and Baron Davis will always be more valuable to a team’s overall success than a superstar center, mainly because players like them can slice through defenses and create their own shot. That was clearly evident these past two games.
* I’m tired of all the turnovers the Rockets are coughing up. They turned the ball over 25 times Friday night after turning it over 20 times in each of their last two games.
* I’m furious at Rafer Alston for turning the ball over 2-3 times in the final two minutes of regulation (7 turnovers overall!), as well as shooting an airball late when it counted most. He hurt his team when they needed him the most. And 8-of-22 shooting for the night! Oh my God!
* I don’t like how Bob Sura is taking up a roster spot. Either retire or start practicing. The Rockets cut Casey Jacobsen at the end of the preseason because Sura thought he could still play once he’s healed (whenever that happens), and the Rockets thought Sura deserved the chance because he was a proven veteran. I think Sura could really bring something to the table, but c’mon, it has been almost 1 ½ seasons now and there are still no signs of him making a contribution. Meanwhile, Jeff Van Gundy loved Jacobsen before he decided to let him go, and I thought he brought penetrate-and-dish ability into the offense, as well as a capability to hit some jumpers more reliably.
* I don’t like how Luther Head only put up 7 shots and scored 7 points after scoring 26 and 21 the previous two games. He can’t disappear like that while T-Mac is out.
* I’m mad the Rockets got unlucky with Kirk Snyder breaking his hand a few weeks ago. They could really use his speed and penetration ability right now.
* I’m still pissed that the Rockets let one get away Thursday night against Golden State they should have won.
Here’s what I LIKED, which isn’t much in comparison:
* I liked how the Rockets were putting Kwame Brown, a 40% free throw shooter, on the line with a Hack-a-Kwame strategy late in the game. But Luther Head stupidly fouled Brown with less than a minute remaining, putting Kobe on the line by rule, and that FT helped them tie the game and send it to OT. Pretty dumb. I guess I should have put that in the what-I-hated-section. Oh well.
* I like how Bonzi is starting to come around. Nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds. It’s getting better. We need you Bonzi. Thank God you’re around to give this team some hope with T-Mac’s fragile back hijacking this season into mediocrity.
* I liked Juwan Howard‘s hitting 7-of-8 shots (14 points) and 6 boards. I was getting a little down on JuHo over the past several games. He’s still got some game left in him.
* I love how Yao finally came out and made the most demonstrative plea of his career about the officials. Maybe when a class act like Yao starts sending messages like the following to David Stern, he’ll listen and do something about it:
“I feel that is not fair. I can’t only shoot eight free throws yesterday (against Golden State) and six free throws today and they just let their big guy keep pushing me. I would say Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum fouled me 10 times in tonight’s game, and yesterday’s game also, and they did not call it. That’s not fair.
“I know I’m big. That’s not my fault. They have two hands pushing on my back and keep pushing while I’m shooting the ball. They’re not fouling upstairs, not fouling on my hands. They foul on my body. I shot only six free throws. I know that’s not right. I hope the league, somebody can help with this. It’s not just one or two games. It’s been a couple weeks already.”
* I also liked how Yao seemed to be enjoying the moment like I haven’t seen in the past. His determined fist pump after a big baseline jumper, the smirk he had on his face after missing another one late that could have won the game, and his joking with Kobe Bryant as they were lining up in the lane for a free throw during crunch time all showed to me that Yao is extremely confident in being himself on the court. In other words, he knows he’s good. Damn good. And he’s not afraid to let people know how he’s feeling.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations:
This is the worst feeling. You know the season is slipping away — like I commented even after the win against Washington last Saturday night where T-Mac’s back spasms knocked him out of that game — and there isn’t much you can do about. You just get the feeling T-Mac is going to have back problems the rest of his career and the Rockets are doomed….UNLESS they decide to go for broke and realize they can’t continue to have this problem lingering that can strike at any time.
It may be the time to consider the bold moving of trading him to a similar team that may be struggling, has a superstar guard looking to win a ring with a big center like Yao, and also needs to take a chance to mix things up (remember the ‘risky’ Clyde Drexler trade with Portland in 1995 that resulted in another ring for the Rockets). And I’m not talking about Iverson at Philadelphia. He would not fit in with this Rockets team. How about someone like Ray Allen? I know he’s hurt with a strained foot, but hey, that’s not as bad as a bad back. And the Sonics are 10-14, so maybe they are looking to shake things up? I don’t know. I’m just throwing stuff out there to get something started. It’s better than squeaking into the playoffs knowing they are going to get knocked out in the first round…again.
If there is no other player available to replace T-Mac via trade (there has to be) who can do what Baron Davis and Kobe Bryant can do, I say play Vasillis Spanoulis and/or John Lucas III at point guard many more minutes to see if their positives far outweigh their drawbacks. Both players have shown flashes of brilliance this season in limited duty. Bring back Casey Jacobsen while you’re at it. I’m desperate. If Phil Jackson of all people (6 rings, prefers veterans over rookies) can give a rookie guard like Jordan Farmar more minutes and upset a veteran like Smush Parker, then Van Gundy (0 rings, prefers veterans over rookies) can do the same. The Rockets need someone better than David Carr, er, I mean, Rafer Alston quarterbacking this team. Carr (Houston Texans’ quarterback) and Alston are similar in some ways: they put up decent stats, have athletic skills, but they are not winners who can make plays in the final minutes to get their team over the hump.