Posts Tagged ‘Donatas Motiejunas’

Howard An Upgrade For Houston, But Role Players Still Critical

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Say what you want about the way Dwight Howard has carried himself away from the basketball court over the last couple of years, the way he has held the basketball world hostage on multiple occasions, and the way he walked away from the Lakers less than a year after requesting a trade out of Orlando. Feel free to question his character or his ability to be a leader.

The bottom line is that he’s an impact player on both ends of the floor and the Houston Rockets are happy to have him (assuming he doesn’t change his mind in the next five days). Over the last five seasons, Howard’s teams have outscored their opponents by 1,989 points with him on the floor and have been outscored by 231 points with him on the bench.

Highest raw +/-, last five seasons
Player +/-
LeBron James +3,330
Dwyane Wade +2,055
Dwight Howard +1,989
Tim Duncan +1,872
Kobe Bryant +1,822

Plus-minus always needs context, but a five-year sample speaks of both talent (on both offense and defense) and durability. And over the last five years, only two players have had a higher plus-minus than Howard (see table to the right), who didn’t have much of a supporting cast until he went to L.A.

Last season, though his mobility was limited as he recovered from back surgery, Howard still made an impact defensively. The Lakers allowed just 101.7 points per 100 possessions – which would rank 10th in the league – with him on the floor, but 107.8 – which would rank 28th – with him on the bench. Their weak-side defense was consistently atrocious, but he held them together with his paint protection.

(In 586 minutes with Howard on the floor and Kobe Bryant on the bench, L.A. allowed just 98.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark which would rank third, behind only Indiana and Memphis.)

When Howard was on the floor, only 31.7 percent of opponent shots came from the restricted area. When he was on the bench, that number was 37.3 percent. Not only did he keep opponents away from the basket, but the Lakers also fouled less and rebounded better when he was on the floor. Those numbers are a reflection on the guys replacing him as much as they are on Howard, as well as an indication that the Lakers’ defense will be awful next season.

Omer Asik is a very good defensive center himself. In fact, Rockets opponents only attempted 30.3 percent of their shots from the restricted area with Asik on the floor last season. And his on-off-court DefRtg differential (5.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) was almost the same as Howard’s (6.0).

Asik isn’t the shot-blocker that Howard is, but he doesn’t foul quite as much and was a better defensive rebounder than Howard last season. Asik grabbed 30.3 percent of available defensive boards when he was on the floor, while Howard grabbed 27.5 percent.

We can expect Howard to be more mobile and, therefore, more of a defensive force next season. And he’ll play more than the 30.0 minutes per game that Asik logged for Houston last year. An additional six minutes of great defense every night is worth about three spots in the defensive rankings and two more wins in the standings.

But if the Rockets are to improve from 17th in defensive efficiency to the top 10 (where a team needs to be in order to truly contend for a title), they’ll need better D on the perimeter in addition to the upgrade from Asik to Howard. (It’s assumed here that they trade Asik before the season. If they have both centers, then they have 48 minutes of rim protection, a top 10 defense, and less depth on the perimeter.)

Offense is where Howard is a bigger upgrade over Asik. In his three-year career, Asik has shot 56 percent – worse than the league average – in the restricted area. In the same three seasons, Howard has shot 68 percent in the restricted area. A bigger target with better hands, he also gets more shots there.

The Rockets ranked sixth offensively last season, scoring 106.7 points per 100 possessions. Only two teams – Denver and Detroit – took a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area, only one – New York – took a greater percentage of its shots from 3-point range, and only three – the Lakers, Thunder and Nuggets – attempted more free throws.

Turnovers were an problem. The Rockets committed 16.6 of them – most in the league – per 100 possessions. Asik was responsible for a lot of them, but Howard’s turnover rate was almost as bad in L.A. And Houston will make up for the miscues by taking the right shots and getting to the line.

The shooting numbers from the field should be even more extreme next season, because Howard isn’t going to be shooting many pick-and-pop, mid-range jumpers. And, of course, about a third of L.A.’s free throws are moving to Houston. James Harden and Howard ranked first and third, respectively, in free throw attempts last season. Now, they’re both on the same team and foul trouble for Houston opponents promises to be a regular occurrence.

For the Rockets to reach optimum efficiency, Howard needs to shoot better from the line. Over his last two seasons, he has shot just 49 percent on free throws, making each trip worth only 0.98 points. Over his first seven seasons, each trip was worth 1.20 points, more than a shot from the field (1.15 points).

Either way, the Harden/Howard pick and roll promises to be deadly, especially if the Rockets surround the pair with 3-point shooting. Chandler Parsons (38 percent from beyond the arc last season) is a good start, but more shooters are needed and Carlos Delfino (38 percent) will be missed. Bringing back Francisco Garcia (37 percent) on a minimum contract (a deal reported Saturday afternoon) is a good move. But if Houston can’t pry Ryan Anderson from the Pelicans, the development of Donatas Motiejunas as a stretch four will be critical.

So Rockets general manager Daryl Morey still has some work to do. He’s acquired two stars in the last 10 months, but needs to build the right supporting cast around them. And it’s all about perimeter defense and perimeter shooting.

Air Check: When A Call Goes Wrong

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Here are a few more moments that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.

Last Week: Showing Their Colors

1. The dagger that wasn’t

Game: Detroit @ Washington, Feb. 27
Broadcast: Washington


You’ve seen this play and heard Steve Buckhantz‘s call already, but we obviously had to include it here. It’s sort of uncomfortably hilarious.

But guess what? The Pistons announcers got the call wrong, too. And frankly, I thought the ball went in as well … and I already knew it didn’t.

Under the weather, I crashed early on Wednesday. When I woke up Thursday morning, I had an e-mail telling me that we needed to include the blown call “of Trevor Ariza’s missed shot” in the next Air Check.

So I knew the call was wrong. I knew the shot didn’t go in. And when I pulled up the game on my iPad, I knew the final score. But when I watched the play, I thought, for a split second, that the ball went through the basket.

So yeah, it was a tough moment for Buckhantz. But if you read this interview with Sarah Kogod, you’ll understand that he had a bad angle. And we’ll take a mistake like that over some of the other nonsense we hear on League Pass from time to time.

2. Classic Tommy

Game: Chicago @ Boston, Feb. 13
Broadcast: Boston


Tommy Heinsohn is an unapologetic Celtics homer. Heck, he’s been a part of the Celtics organization for most of the last 57 years. And of course, Heinsohn can go a little over the top with his analysis of officials’ calls. This one is a perfect example.

He calls the official “terrible” and says that Avery Bradley “plays this perfect.” As the replay clearly shows that Bradley didn’t beat Nate Robinson to the sideline and fouled Robinson with his shoulder, Heinsohn gets louder. “PLAYS IT PERFECT!”

“You couldn’t have played it any better than Bradley played it.”

Not really. But that’s Tommy.

3. Donatas’ Never-Before-Seen Post Moves

Game: Dallas @ Houston, March 3
Broadcast: Houston


I’ve watched this play more than a dozen times and I’m still not sure I see a travel. It’s possible that Donatas Motiejunas‘ left foot was his original pivot foot, and then he switched it to the right. He gathers the ball and makes his move so quickly that it’s hard to tell. But that’s not really the point.

What’s hilarious is Matt Bullard‘s insinuation that referee David Jones, with his 23 years of NBA experience, has never seen a move like that before.

“That’s the problem with young players in this league,” Bullard says. “The officials have not seen their moves. I think D-Mo surprised not only the Mavericks’ defender, but also the official.”

It’s also kind of funny that this was the fourth possession of the game and we’re already getting into the complaints about the officiating.

Bullard does take back his complaint after seeing the replay and Clyde Drexler notes that, you know, officials are good at their jobs. But it’s the instinct to immediately complain about a call against your team that’s bothersome.

4. Actually, he’s from Brooklyn

Game: Oklahoma City @ Denver, Jan. 20
Broadcast: Denver


Scott Hastings‘ absurd homerism was noted in last week’s post. We should probably give him some time before a second mention, but this one was so ridiculous, it couldn’t wait. Hastings continues to feed conspiracy theorists and question the ethics of NBA officials with unsubstantiated comments.

Late in a close game, Ty Lawson gets his hand on a Russell Westbrook pass, and official Mark Lindsay says the ball went off of Kevin Durant. Then Hastings takes over.

“Scottie Brooks runs to his guy Zach Zarba and says, ‘Hey can you review this?'”

“His guy.”

The officials indeed decide to review the call, because the best thing to do is make sure that the calls was right. And then Hastings chimes in one more time.

“Zach lives down around Tulsa or some place,” he says.

Yikes.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

How Many 3s Does It Take To Insult You?


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HOUSTON — Now, if the question ever comes up and you have a chance to win a bar bet, you’ll know.

How many 3-pointers in a single NBA game does it take to make an insult?

The answer, evidently, is 23.

That’s the NBA record-tying number poured in by the Rockets on Tuesday night that finally got under the Warriors’ skin.

Not 17, 18 or 19. Not 20, 21 or 22.

23.

It wasn’t until there were just under four minutes left in a 140-109 thumping and 7-footer Donatas Motiejunas slung one in from the right corner that it seemed to occur to anyone wearing a Golden State jersey that this was just a bit embarrassing.

So with the Toyota Center crowd on its feet and chanting: “One more three! One more three!” the Warriors decided it was time to play with whatever pride — if any — they had left.

Which then resulted in the final three minutes more closely resembling recess at an elementary school. The Rockets kept running their offense and shooting 3s. Houston reserve Patrick Beverley hammered home a dunk, then taunted the Warrior bench and drew a technical foul.

Golden State’s Draymond Green was flagged for a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected when Beverley tried to let fly with a corner jumper in front of the Warriors’ bench. Houston’s Marcus Morris was hit with a technical and tossed out on the same play.

In the final two minutes, the Warriors would not let the Rockets even attempt a 3 in order to break the record. Warriors coach Mark Jackson ordered his players to foul the Rockets intentionally on each possession.

“We’re not going to lay down,” said Jackson, ignoring the fact that his team already had. “I’m an old-school basketball player and an old-school coach. If you can’t appreciate that, that’s on you.

“We’re not going to lay down. If you’re going to get the record, we’re going to stop it. There is a way to do it, that’s all. Understand it, appreciate it and I would expect nothing less if I was on the other side.”

Rockets coach Kevin McHale just happens to be an old-school guy himself. You can tell from his limp. And also from searching on YouTube for a clip of him clotheslining the Lakers’ Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

“We just had to keep playing,” McHale said. “I really didn’t even know we had a chance to break the record until late in the game. We shoot a lot of 3s, that’s just what we do. If we were to get them in the flow, we get going to get them. Mark didn’t want it to happen and fouled and I didn’t have no problem with how they played. Mark’s got to coach his team. I have no problem with that.”

For 44 minutes, the Warriors didn’t seem to have a problem with anything the Rockets did either. Otherwise you’d think they might have played just a little bit of defense.

“At the end of the day, we just continued to play,” Morris said. “… And we were just taking the shots the defense was giving.”

Until the Warriors decided they’d had enough.

How many 3-pointers does it take to make an insult?

If you’re asked, remember to shout: “23!”

Then duck.

Old School Rules or New Age Touchy Feely?

Round Two is Tuesday night in Oakland.

Rockets’ White AWOL Again

HOUSTON – The difficult path to a successful NBA career for rookie Royce White keeps getting harder.

After it was announced that the Rockets forward was among three rookies — also Donatas Motiejunas and Scott Machado — who were being sent to the NBA Development League, White once more did not attend practice on Tuesday.

White has been inactive for most games this season, including Monday night against the Heat when he did not sit on the bench.

“That’s tenuous and it’s tough to talk about something like that, but I think we can handle it internally,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “If he doesn’t work out, well, it’s tough to lose a draft choice.

“I feel bad for Royce and I feel very bad for the team. We’ve had internal repercussions which I’m not going to talk about.”

The Rockets knew that White suffers from generalized anxiety disorder when they chose him with the No. 16 pick in the draft last June.

Problems first surfaced when White did not show up for the start of training camp, which was held at the home of the Rockets’ D League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers. During that time, White and his representatives worked out a plan with the Rockets and the NBA which would allow him to travel to many road games by bus, since a fear of flying exacerbates his anxiety disorder.

It is believed White has missed other practices, though it is not known whether Tuesday’s absence was related to anxiety.

When asked why White did not attend practice, acting coach Kelvin Sampson said: “I haven’t talked to (general manager) Daryl (Morey). I didn’t realize he (White) wasn’t here today until we got to practice. I guess after this little deal, I’m going to find out what’s wrong. I’m not sure what’s wrong right now. We talked to Scott and D-Mo last night. Royce wasn’t at the game last night as far as I know.”

White,  in a statement released by his publicist Tuesday night, said: “In hindsight, perhaps it was not a good idea to be open and honest about my anxiety disorder — due to the current situations at hand that involve the nature of actions from the Houston Rockets. As a rookie, I want to settle into a team and make progress; but since preseason, the Rockets have been inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship.”

White claimed he is not AWOL.

“Any other response is inaccurate,” he said in his statement. “This is important to me, it is a health issue. I must advocate for my rights, it is a player-commodity league — the failure to meet my requests for support will end with me being unhealthy and that is not a consequence that I am willing to accept to play any sport.”

It has been customary for all Rockets rookies to spend some time in the D League. First-round picks Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris have been there the past two seasons and made the most of the experience. In addition, point guard Jeremy Lin said he used it to resurrect his career.

“For me personally, my experience in the D League helped my career go a little longer,” said Lin. “If I didn’t go to the D League when I got cut by Golden State, I’m not sure if Houston and New York pick me up if I never played in the D League the year before. It can be used as a positive in the right way.

“I think we’re all worried for (White). But he’s a tough kid and the best part about it is he’s a really good basketball player. So if he gets on that basket and he just is himself, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

International Rookie Class Goes Well Beyond 2012 Draftees

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – When it comes to international talent entering the NBA Draft, this was a down year.

No international players were selected until the Nuggets took France’s Evan Fournier with the 20th pick. And at most, there will be four international rookies from the 2012 Draft on NBA rosters this season.

But there will be plenty of other new international faces in the league, five from previous drafts and four more free agents that have signed with teams this summer. Here’s what we might expect from each of the nine, listed in order of which guys could make the most impact.

1. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto, 2011 Draft (No. 5 overall)
The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian had an underwhelming performance at the Olympics, playing less than 12 minutes per game and getting lost at times when trying to defend pick-and-rolls. He’s just 20 years old and may need a few years to make the jump, but there’s a lot of potential there, and he could eventually be the second-best player out of last year’s draft.

2. Mirza Teletovic, F, Brooklyn, Free agent
Teletovic, who turns 27 next month, probably won’t start for the Nets but he should have a pretty big role as a big man off the bench. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.3 boards for Caja Laboral last season, and was the leading scorer (21.7 ppg) in Euroleague play. He’s a bit of a gunner, but has a pretty complete offensive game. Defense may be an issue.

3. Donatas Motiejunas, F, Houston, 2011 Draft (No. 20)
The way the Rockets’ roster is shaping up, the team should be pretty bad, and Motiejunas should get plenty of playing time. He’s a seven-foot stretch four whose range doesn’t quite reach the 3-point line. Still, he had an impressive Rockets debut at Summer League, averaging 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per 30 minutes in Vegas. (more…)

Rockets Appear To Have Landed Asik





HANG TIME, Texas — Maybe it’s time the Rockets struck up a partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. You know the motto: “We always get our man.”

The Rockets appear set to go 2-for-2 in their pursuit of free agents, reeling in center Omer Asik from the Bulls just a week after landing point guard Jeremy Lin from the Knicks.

Chicago has until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday to match the Houston offer sheet, which is a similar $25.1 million bookend to the deal they gave Lin. But it seems the Bulls have already made their decision, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

And just as the Rockets spent that Saturday lockup up a replacement, the Bulls agreed Saturday with a player who could fill in for Asik.

“The Knicks signaled their intention to let Lin go when they reached a sign-and-trade agreement with Raymond Felton. The Bulls appear ready to sign center Nazr Mohammed to replace Asik, with Mohammed indicating via Twitter he is leaving the Thunder.

The Rockets had reached agreement with Asik in the first full day of free agency after meeting with him as soon as the free agency recruiting period began at midnight July 1. They tried to trade for Asik, a stellar defensive player off the Bulls’ bench, the past two seasons. He averaged 3.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game last season.

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Selby, Lillard Named Co-MVPs

By Drew Packham, NBA.com

LAS VEGAS — Memphis guard Josh Selby and Portland point guard Damian Lillard were named co-MVPs of the Las Vegas Summer League on Sunday.

Selby, the Grizzlies’ second-year guard out of Kansas, led all players in scoring at 27.5 points per game as Memphis went 2-2 entering its final game Sunday. Selby shot 59.3 percent from the floor — including 70.6 percent on 3-pointers. Selby made at least five 3-pointers in each game, talling 24 in the four games (24-for-34). Selby was also active defensively, averaging 2.5 steals.

Lillard, whom the Blazers took sixth overall in the 2012 Draft, averaged 26.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists in four games. Lillard shots 43.8 percent from the floor, highlighted by a 31-point, seven-assist performance in Thursday’s 84-78 win over Atlanta. Lillard finished second in scoring (first among rookies) and sixth in assists (third among rookies).

All-Summer League Team:
Josh Selby – Memphis Grizzlies
Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
Malcolm Thomas – Chicago Bulls
Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
Tobias Harris – Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson – Milwaukee Bucks
Jeremy Lamb – Houston Rockets
Dominique Jones – Dallas Mavericks
Cory Joseph – San Antonio Spurs
Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
Kemba Walker – Charlotte Bobcats
Donatas Motiejunas – Houston Rockets
Jae Crowder – Dallas Mavericks

Rockets Rookies Off To Hot Start




By Drew Packham, NBA.com

LAS VEGAS — If it’s not one Rockets rookie, it’s another.

Houston has a plethora of first-year players trying to break trough in Las Vegas.

So far, they’re all making their cases well.

Three Rockets are among the top 13 rookies in scoring through four days of action, which must make management happy as they try to take the franchise into a new era which potentially includes the addition of Dwight Howard. With the young players excelling, the pieces must look more and more enticing to Orlando, if Houston does decide to go that route.

  • No. 12 pick Jeremy Lamb is proving to be an even better scorer and slasher than advertised — and holds a top spot in the most recent Rookie Ladder — with a 20.3 point averaged on 51 percent shooting.
  • No. 18 pick Terrence Jones out of Kentucky has been a beast, averaging 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds.
  • Houston’s Draft night pickup from 2011, Donatas Motiejunas, is proving to be quite the asset as well. Motiejunas has been up and down in the three games, but is averaging 15 points and 6.3 rebounds.
  • No. 16 pick Royce White, known for his versatility, nearly notched a triple-double in Monday’s victory over the Kings. White scored 11 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists in his best game of the summer.

White says it’s a quick learning process as he tries to adjust to the new level.

“It’s a different pace, a different length,” White said. “But it’s still based on the same principles, the same fundamentals. The coaches are just telling us to play hard and have fun. Sometimes I get too caught up with wanting to do well and the team doing well and we just need to have fun.”

When they’re playing like this, there’s plenty of fun to go around.


Las Vegas Summer League: Day 1 Recap

By Drew Packham, NBA.com



The first day of Summer League action in Las Vegas closed out a marathon day of hoops (Just ask Lang Whitaker, who was a trooper  and blogged the whole thing for NBA.com). We got our first look at several lottery picks, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals to help the Bobcats blow out the Kings 121-87 in the nightcap. Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker was an animated backcourt for the Bobcats, bringing a lot of energy, laughing and clapping throughout the game. (This is what winning feels like, Kemba.)

Rookie of the day: Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets. The Rockets’ 2011 draft night acquisition scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his first action with the team. Motiejunas was aggressive and showed off his shooting touch, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.

Non-rookie of the day: Klay Thompson, who came on in the second half of the season, scored 24 points to lead Golden State’s 90-50  dismantling of the Lakers. The second-year guard out of Washington State was 6-for-8 on 3-pointers and showed why the Warriors were willing to deal Monta Ellis to the Bucks last season.

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Motiejunas Has Eye-Opening Debut

By Drew Packham, NBA.com



LAS VEGAS — Rockets rookie Donatas Motiejunas was happy, but not satisfied, with his eye-opening Summer League debut.

Houston’s 7-foot big man scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and showed he’s not only a big man who can run the floor, but one that can knock down the outside shot as well. Motiejunas hit both 3-pointers he took and showed no hesitation showing off his smooth lefty stroke.

“If people don’t know, I will show them what I can do,” Motiejunas said. “I’ve been doing it in Euroleague, so it’s nothing new.”

Along with the range, the 21-year-old ran the floor hard, showing athleticism and aggressiveness, which the coaches love, but want him to rein in.

“He needs to become efficient,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of the rookie, who was 11-for-13 from the floor. “A lot of times these young guys mistake activity for achievement. Sometimes you can get a little bit out of control, a little bit wild, but that’s all part of the growing process. You don’t have to worry about him — he’ll go hard.”

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