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Rockets lose first preseason game

Sunday, October 12th, 2008
by John

Houston lost a chippy game against the Celtics last night, losing 90-89. It took on the tone of a regular season game with several agitated episodes between players on both sides.

Yao scored 16 points in 24 minutes of action, shooting 4-of-7 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the line.

Tracy McGrady played his first game of the preseason, scoring 10 points. Luis Scola scored 14 points, Ron Artest scored 13, and Carl Landry scored 11.

Click here for Raymond’s photos from the game. Click here for the Chronicle’s game story.

Rockets win 2nd pre-season game

Friday, October 10th, 2008
by John

The Rockets won their second preseason game Thursday night, this time against San Antonio, looking much better than they did in their first victory.

Yao played 24 minutes, hitting 4-of-8 from the field to score 8 points, and grabbed 4 boards. His timing is still a little off, though:

“He’s just got to keep playing through it,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I wasn’t going to play him that long. But I wanted him to keep playing, because he’s got to get his timing back. He’s kind of out of sorts right now.

“He did kick it out of the double-team a couple of times when they were coming at him. But I thought there were times when he re-established his post position, and he’s just got to be more aggressive and go ahead and take it. I thought he was hesitant and a lot of it is timing. We’ve got to keep playing him in longer stretches and let him get his timing back.”

Click here for Raymond’s photos from pre-game and the game itself. Click here for the Houston Chronicle’s full story.

Rockets win first pre-season game

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008
by John

It wasn’t pretty, but the Rockets won their preseason opener at Toyota Center against Memphis 96-93.

October 7th, 2008 - Yao shoots over Pau Gasol in the Rockets' first preseason game

Here’s what the Chronicle wrote about Yao’s performance:

Yao Ming, despite struggling so much in the first quarter that he said he felt like a rookie again, looked fully recovered from last season’s stress fracture. On one occasion, he got the rebound on one end and was the first player down the floor on the other. After missing his first four shots, he dropped in a jump hook, scored on a spin move to a lefthanded layup, and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes.

“It (felt) new,” Yao said. “I think eight months not playing NBA games — this high-intensity, high-speed game — in the first quarter, I felt like I am new here.”

Click here for more of the game story from the Chronicle. Click here for more photos.

The preseason is finally over after Spurs top Rockets

Saturday, October 27th, 2007
by John

I wrote alot of notes during the Rockets-Spurs game last night, which the Rockets lost 99-92, and was planning to put them in this blog post since I thought this final preseason game would be close enough to a real game to finally make my notes relevant.

But it was still too “pre-seasony” of a game to get a glimpse of where the Rockets stand as a team. Most starters didn’t play their regular minutes. For example, Yao Ming only played 29 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 boards.

Yao Ming shoots a hook shot over Tim Duncan in the final preseason game for both teams on October 26th, 2007

The Spurs rested Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen, along with Robert Horry who is tending to a family matter. With those guys out, the Spurs still shot 51% from the floor. I guess every Rocket fan is concerned about the drop-off in defensive intensity we’ve seen this preseason, but I’m still not convinced yet it’s that big of a deal. To modify a phrase Allen Iverson once used , “It’s preseason. We’re talkin’ about preseason.”

Maybe one of the reasons the Spurs were hitting so many outside shots (like 9-of-17 three-pointers) is that everyone legs’ are still fresh because it’s still early yet. Maybe once the grind of the season kicks in, those shots won’t be falling as easily. The Rockets did keep the Spurs out of the paint for the most part.

Instead, during this preseason I have looked more at what the Rockets are doing on offense. By halftime, the Rockets outscored the Spurs 24-8 in the paint and 12-0 on second-chance points. I can live with that.

Tracy McGrady looked great, getting to the hole with ease in the first half and scoring on multiple layups. Part of the reason for his ability to drive to the hoop was because the lane wasn’t as clogged with Yao now spending more time in the high post area. McGrady finished with 21 points in 29 minutes.

Not that Yao is spending too much time camped outside of the lane. All his points came in the low block, including an impressive basket in the first quarter. In the block, Yao spun baseline, faked like he was going to take a shot from underneath the basket, pulled the ball down, then spun away from the basket (and Tim Duncan) to score on a little baby hook shot. It reminded me so much of that famous play where Hakeem Olajuwon did the same thing against David Robinson in the 1995 playoffs. Maybe that was one of the things Hakeem taught Yao during their workout sessions during the off-season.

Yao scored his 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field. One of the concerns I had for him from this game is that he missed a few chip shots around the basket as he was moving toward the basket, showing a lack of touch. In one sequence alone, he missed two consecutive shots around the rim, then after getting the second rebound just decided to dunk it for the score. I think he missed those because of a lack of concentration, which should get better as his brain gets ‘warmed up’ as the season starts up.

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Translated interview of Yao reveals concerns with offense still

Friday, October 26th, 2007
by John

Our Raymond has done an awesome job translating an interview that Titan Sports did with Yao Ming yesterday. Yao still doesn’t feel comfortable with the new offense yet. Click here for the translation.

Similarly, the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen wrote a similar piece (but shorter) in his Saturday column.

Yao doesn’t suit-up in Memphis preseason game

Thursday, October 25th, 2007
by John

Neither Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston or Steve Francis suited up for Wednesday’s game in Memphis, which the Rockets lost 96-90. After losing to Memphis on Tuesday night, I thought it would be a good opportunity for the Rockets to get used to the grind of playing back-to-back games again, but apparently Rick Adelman agreed with my original thought when I saw the game in the schedule — this game was a waste.

Adelman didn’t even play Shane Battier (11 minutes), Chuck Hayes, (23) or Luis Scola (23) that many minutes, opting to spread the love around to 13 players. Rookie Aaron Brooks got the most number of minutes (35) and made only 3-of-16 shots for 10 points.

Kirk Snyder finally got some decent minutes (28), but unfortunately if the Rockets only look at this game to decide if they will keep him, he probably won’t stick around. Snyder made 4-of-11 shots, including only 1-of-5 three-pointers, turned the ball over 4 times, and picked up 5 personals.

I like Snyder. He’s an articulate guy, as you might remember from this interview I had with him during Austin training camp, starting off with my question regarding how Yao was disappointed that former coach Jeff Van Gundy didn’t play him during last year’s Utah series loss.

In this game, I was surprised Snyder attempted 5 three-pointers in this game when his mid-range game and going to the basket are more the strength of his game. At least you can say he’s fearless, opting to take the open shot rather than try to force a lower percentage shot in traffic.

Rookie power forward Carl Landry played well for the second consecutive game, this time hitting 5-of-6 shots, scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 boards. Luis Scola was solid as always, getting similar stats as Landry: 10 points on 4-of-8 shots, and 7 boards.

Overall, though, you have to throw this game out as an indicator of how the Rockets are really doing. I wish the NBA would just shorten the preseason by at least one game, get rid of back-to-backs against the same team, and take the extra time they would save and putting it into the long and grueling regular season where the players could use the rest.

Rockets hit speed bump in preseason loss to Memphis

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
by John

The Rockets’ high-powered attack, which had won their last two games by 37 points combined, struggled against the Grizzles at Toyota Center in a 109-107 loss in two overtimes.

Both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady made 4-of-11 shots to score 10 points each in 29 and 26 minutes, respectively. Shane Battier, who scored 19 points on Saturday night, only scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting.

The culprits were 26 turnovers and giving up 24 fast break points.

After the Seattle game on Saturday, maybe I spoke too soon when I wrote the Rockets’ commitment to defense seemed to be intact from the Jeff Van Gundy era despite having an offense that would give them a false sense of security they could just outscore people.

The Rockets had six-point leads multiple times at the end of the game and both OTs, but they still let Memphis back into the game.

Mike James led all Rocket scorers with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-4 three pointers. Luther Head scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and dished 7 assists. And Carl Landry surprisingly scored 12 points and grabbed 7 boards. Not to be outshined by his rookie protégé, Chuck Hayes made 3-of-4 shots for 6 points, grabbed 10 boards, and had 4 steals.

On the other end, Rudy Gay, who the Rockets traded to Memphis on Draft Day last season for Shane Battier, showed Houston what they are now missing. Gay scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, grabbed 5 boards, and had 4 steals.

Second-year Memphis guard Kyle Lowry out-did everyone with a triple-double, scoring 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, grabbing 11 boards, and dishing 12 assists. That shouldn’t happen against a veteran team like Houston, preseason game or not.

At least the Rockets have a chance to get serious right away when they play in Memphis tonight in a rare preseason back-to-back. At first when I saw it on the schedule, I thought it was stupid. Back-to-back in the preseason? But now I guess it can serve a purpose by letting the Rockets show immediately that last night’s performance was just a one-game lapse. Look for a ‘statement game’ tonight in Memphis.

Click here for photos from the game.

Yao reads once again in annual Read-to-Achieve ritual

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
by John

Yao Ming and most of the other Rockets did their annual photo-op with some Houston school children for the Read to Achieve program. I think it’s a fine program, and kudos go to the players for participating.

But honestly, I get a little nauseated each year when I see the NBA promoting it out the ying-yang through their commercials. Wouldn’t it be great if these sessions happened without all the video cameras around and having that video pushed through the NBA marketing machine? Still cameras are fine, like the photos you can see here. Thanks to Raymond for the pics.

More thoughts after Saturday’s win over Seattle

Monday, October 22nd, 2007
by John

Last night I watched Saturday night’s Rockets-Seattle game on my DVR, and there were a few things I noticed that are worth pointing out:

* In the first quarter, Luis Scola hustled for a rebound and tipped it to Yao, who scored an easy layup. Yao is going to really benefit from Scola’s toughness this year, even more than what Chuck Hayes offered last season. Scola is also showing a nice shooting touch around the basket, hitting a couple of jump hooks in the lane, and he even threw a bounce pass to Yao for a layup that went through a Seattle defender’s legs! Nice! Scola most likely will win Rookie of the Year.

* The defensive intensity doesn’t seem to have dropped off now that Jeff Van Gundy is gone. In the first quarter alone, Scola, Shane Battier, and Tracy McGrady drew charges. And this was a preseason game! Hopefully the dedication toward defense won’t wither as the Rockets’ revved-up offense makes them think they can win games by just outscoring opponents.

* Near the end of the second quarter, the Rockets ran a fast break that even had the Seattle fans ooohing and aaahhhing. With all the Rockets on a run, Scola grabbed a defensive rebound, threw an outlet pass to McGrady, passed it to Rafer Alston, who then touch-passed it to McGrady for a layup, and he was fouled! I had to replay that fast break several times to savor this new run-and-gun emphasis.

* I like how the Rockets seem to be taking their 3-pointers more wisely, hitting 40% of their treys, and that’s even with McGrady missing 4-of-5. Shane continues to tear it up on offense, hitting 5-of-7 three-pointers on Saturday night and also taking it to the hole for sweet jump hooks in the lane. I just love how players like Shane and Rafer are flourishing under this new coach!

* Rookie Carl Landry can hit the outside shot, hitting two shots from about 18 feet! Impressive.

* Aaron Brooks can fill it up, getting to the hole at will blowing past his defenders and hitting 2-of-5 three-pointers. It’s somewhat unique to see a player that is as small as Brooks making 3-pointers — I guess that’s because there aren’t many players his size in the league. He also threw a beautiful long-court pass to Jackie Butler for a layup.

* The Rockets don’t have to be afraid of anyone this season, even the Spurs. They already seem to have a swagger about them with an expectation they’re going to win against whoever they play. I haven’t seen that in years.

Yao not needed much in blowout preseason victory over Seattle

Sunday, October 21st, 2007
by John

Last night’s game against Seattle was obviously a late one, having ended close to midnight. I also had a very long travel day that got me in way past that, so I haven’t been able to watch the game on my DVR yet. But I plan to check it out because the Rockets’ scoring binge continues to amaze. Here Yao Ming shows his pleasure during an easy 117-94 win.

Yao made room for his teammates by taking only 8 shots, and making just two of them, to finish with 9 points and 5 rebounds.

Filling it up was Tracy McGrady, who came back strong after missing a couple of games, scoring 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting. And since rookie Aaron Brooks was making his return to his hometown, he had to get some minutes, and he ended up taking 7 shots to finish with 12 points.

Then throw in Shane Battier taking 12 shots and scoring 19 points, Luis Scola scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and a total of 15 Rockets getting playing time, it didn’t leave much time for Yao to play big minutes.

It looks like coach Rick Adelman is going to continue play as many guys as possible before the first regular season game against the Lakers on October 30th, so don’t look for Yao to rack up big numbers for awhile. With the depth and talent the Rockets have, it will be interesting to see if they even need Yao to score as many points as last year.

Like I mentioned the other day, the Rockets could create a ton of frustration for fantasy leaguers this season who will think their players will consistently rack up big stats this season. There are just too many options for the Rockets to turn to if anyone struggles, or has a minor injury and needs to rest when normally they wouldn’t.

Click here for more photos from the game.