Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Feigen’

Style Changes On Tap For Rockets





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The most intriguing question about what should be the most intriguing team in the NBA this season has already been answered by the one man who will have the most control over the situation.

Coach Kevin McHale — not Dwight Howard, James Harden or Jeremy Lin — will have the final say on how the Houston Rockets play now that Howard is in the mix. If McHale decides that the Dwight-in-the-middle approach that helped the Orlando Magic to The Finals in 2009 is the way to go, it will be. But if he has other plans, that’s his call, too.

Howard’s coach in Los Angeles last season, Mike D’Antoni, made it clear that he would not change his style fit his superstar personnel. We all know how that turned out for the Lakers.

There will be style changes for the Rockets this season and McHale is already laying the groundwork in advance of the start of training camp. He went into detail with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Q. A lot of last season’s success was based on the team’s clearly understanding how it needed to play. Can there be carryover, or do you have to change how this team needs to play?

A. I think we’re going to play basically the same style. We have to get better defensively, and with Dwight we have to have more of an emphasis on trying to get the ball in the post. Through Dwight running and Dwight doing different things, I think we can do that without really having to change our identity. We still want to get the ball up and down the floor. We still want to be aggressive and run and attack offensively. I think we have two of the top rim protectors in Dwight and Omer [Asik], so we have to use those guys. I’d like to use them together. It gives us a chance to have a defensive presence and run off our defense a little more. Our style will change a little bit because our personnel changes, but it won’t change dramatically. At least I hope it doesn’t.

Q. You put so much emphasis on spacing the floor last season with range shooting. Are you confident you can play Dwight and Omer together?

A. I’m definitely going to give it a shot. Your job is to try to put your best players on the floor. Omer is one of our best players. We have to figure out how we’re going to get him on the floor. That’s going to be a big thing where we’re able to get them on the floor together. We’ll rebound very well. They have to space each other. There’s going to be some challenges. I’m really looking forward to see. I want it to work. We’ll see if it does work.

Even better than McHale’s brutal honesty about how things will have to change for the Rockets is his no-nonsense approach for Asik (or anyone else) who isn’t ready to adapt to whatever style changes are coming:

Q. Have you had a chance to see how Omer feels about the addition of Dwight?

A. I have not.

Q. Are you concerned about how he reacts to all this? There were indications he was not happy about having another center coming in.

A. I didn’t know Omer was the general manager. That surprises me. He’s a player. His job is to come in and play. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk with him about all that, but Daryl (Morey‘s) job is to try to improve the team. Omer’s job is not to wonder how that affects him. His job is to figure out how they can play together and be effective.

If things don’t go as planned this season in Houston, it won’t be for the lack of clarity on the front end. McHale’s making it easy for everyone on the roster to stay in their lanes this season and let things evolve naturally.

Any tweaks to the way the Rockets play will handled accordingly, by the man in charge.

Jordan At 50: Could He Just Do It?

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HANG TIME, Texas – It starts out like the beginning of an old joke.

You know, somebody says that as great as Bill Russell was in winning 11 championships with the Celtics, he’d have difficulty winning even one against today’s class of NBA athletes.

Of course, goes the punchline, Russell will turn 79 on Tuesday.

But Antawn Jamison wasn’t kidding when he told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Michael Jordan could still play effectively in the league right now.

Jordan turns 50 on Feb. 17, coincidentally the day of the NBA All-Star Game.

“I wouldn’t doubt that in the right situation with a LeBron (James) on his team or with a Kobe (Bryant) on this team, he could get you about 10 or 11 points, come in and play 15-20 minutes,” said Antawn Jamison before the Lakers played the Bobcats on Friday. “I wouldn’t doubt that at all, especially if he was in shape and injuries were prevented and things of that nature.”

That’s saying a lot, considering Jamison has Bryant on his team, and only averages 8.1 points per game in 20.5 minutes per game and he’s “only” 36 years old.

Jordan averaged 20 points in 37 minutes per game in his 15th and final season in the league before retiring for good at age 40.

Would it ever happen? Could it ever happen? Other than Larry Bird actually sprouting real wings, is there anything you might imagine that is more preposterous?

Remember, it was Jordan himself who raised the possibility near the end of his challenging, often vitriolic speech at the 2009 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50,” Jordan said. “Oh, don’t laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

We know that on the court there were never any limits or fears to Jordan, only challenges — some real, some imagined — that he used to constantly lift himself to a higher plane.

That is precisely the reason I have a standing bet with my good friend Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that was made when Jordan hung up his Wizards jersey. I said then I didn’t believe His Airness was finished and one day we’d see him back on the court in an NBA game. At the start of each new season, Jonathan tries to get me to surrender. Then along comes word that the owner of the Bobcats showed up at practice one day in December to show them how it’s done. Or maybe just to feed his ego.

But after taking on some of his kids — Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo — in a little one-on-one, it’s always clear that the competitive spark is just below the surface and the skills are still there.

“He’s still got it. He can still shoot,” Henderson said. “I don’t know about his defense, but he can still score.”

Biyombo: “He’s pretty good.”

So we mark down Biyombo for understatement of the year, consider the opinion of Jamison and ponder the possibilities.

I once asked Hakeem Olajuwon, who just turned 50, if he thought he could still play in the league.

“Not full-time. But for a few minutes, yes,” he insisted. “ I’m in shape.”

When a 50-year-old Clyde Drexler was asked the same question, he nodded his head. “Absolutely. I could go out there and run up and down the floor with those guys one night,” he said laughing. “Then the next day I’d be in traction.”

So what do we do with the Jordan question? Could he? Would he? Should he, as the old Nike slogan said, just do it?

I’ll tell you one thing I’m not doing: Paying off Jonathan. Yet.

Can Rockets Prove They’re For Real?


HOUSTON
— When the Rockets wore down and sprinted past the creaking Celtics, it was youth over age.

When Jeremy Lin recreated the old magic at Madison Square Garden and the Rockets wore out the Knicks, it was hope over their own struggles.

When James Harden made it all look easier than a walk in the park in a thumping of the Grizzlies, it was speed over power.

Now after winning five of their past six games, the Rockets have to prove they are as much substance as style.

While hanging around the .500 mark (14-12) through the first third of the season, this totally reconstructed Houston lineup has been equal parts entertaining and unfulfilling.

So as they enter the meat of the schedule, our very good buddy Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes this might be as good a time as any to determine whether the Rockets are legitimate playoff contenders in the Western Conference.

Beginning with the Christmas Day game in Chicago, the Rockets will play four games in five days, facing the Bulls, Timberwolves, Spurs and Thunder. Only the final game of that stretch, against Oklahoma City (21-5), will come at home.

“This road trip is key for us,” guard James Harden said. “It will be a good test having three games on the road against really good teams. In order for us to make the playoffs, we’re going to have to win some road games, and this is the time. I think we’re on a roll now as far as us playing together, so this is going to be big for us.”


Assuming some of that stretch will be difficult, the Rockets said they are better prepared for what will come than they were a week ago, when they crumbled.

“We are different,” guard Jeremy Lin said. “We made some big differences in terms of figuring out what works with our identity and what doesn’t work. A week ago, I would say we were not as sure of what to do as we are now.”

Since returning from his leave of absence two weeks ago, coach Kevin McHale has repeatedly stressed that the young Rockets lineup has to remain committed to the team’s up-tempo style of play.

“Every team has a style,” McHale said. “A lot of teams are trying to find that style. Once you find what works, you have have to be dedicated to doing it.

“I liken back to the old Hakeem Olajuwon days. The team didn’t one day say, ‘We’re never going to throw the ball to Hakeem tonight. We’re going to ice him out. We’re just going to shoot jumpers.’ They threw the ball to him every single time. That was their style.

“As a team, we’ve got to find our footing where we play the same every night. We may not shoot it as good and may not do a lot of stuff, but we have to play the same style.”

That is, besides pushing the tempo, sharing the ball, moving it side to side to create open jump shots and open lanes for Harden and Lin to drive through.

Since losing at Toronto eight days ago, the Rockets have averaged 118 points, 25 fast break points per game and hae made 53.6 percent. In Saturday night’s whipping of Memphis, they assisted on a season-high 32 of 44 field goals.

But now Houston starts a difficult week with a Christmas night game at Chicago, where the Bulls rank third in the NBA defensively, allowing 90.3 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting and 32.6 percent 3-point shooting.

The Bulls are quite good at stifling opponents’ pace by playing solid half-court defense and having the hyperactive Joakim Noah blow up the pick and roll and many attempts in the lane.

Often this season when they’ve been slowed down and forced to play deliberately, the Rockets have deteriorated into a group of individuals that stand and eventually tried to do too many things 1-on-1.

They say they’ve grown. They say they’ve changed. They say they are for real.

Now they are staring at a short, difficult window — four games in five nights, ending with OKC at home — to prove it.

White Fires Back At Rockets

HOUSTON – While the ongoing spat between the Rockets and Royce White shows no sign of ending, neither does the rookie’s inclination to keep digging the hole deeper.

After an insider told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that White was being fined for every day he remains away from the team or chooses not to attend sessions with a therapist the Rockets have arranged for him, the 21-year-old forward fired back with a barrage on Twitter:

– My #anxiety is fine, besides being disappointed in the communication, and worried about consistency and the effect that has on my health.

– I’m not saying anything inappropriate or anything thats wasn’t said or OMITTED by the organization, they have their media, this is mine.

– It’s NOT unprofessional to respond to misleading media provided by your employer, setting the record straight should be EXPECTED.

– I’m not saying anything negative about @HoustonRockets Im saying what I will and won’t stand for. Last Thing: #Mentalillness look it up.

The Rockets have hinted that White’s dissatisfaction stemmed from lack of playing time.

White, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, has not played at all this season and has been on the inactive list for the past four games. He did not attend practices Sunday or Tuesday, and did not show at the Toyota Center for Monday’s game against Miami or Wednesday against New Orleans.

General manager Daryl Morey reportedly told White in meetings last week that other players had earned playing time before him. White maintains that he has not been given a chance to show what he can do, and has claimed the Rockets are holding his anxiety disorder against him.

White has not attended sessions with Dr. Aaron Fink of the Baylor College of Medicine that have been set up by the Rockets.

About one hour before tipoff against the Hornets on Wednesday night, White seemed to raise the level of his social media vitriol by tweeting:

– “@HoustonRockets Fining me for saying I’m more COMFORTABLE with my own Doc. vs yours is for sure showing “support” to my health. That’s low!”

That tweet was later deleted from his Twitter timeline.

Jeremy Lin Working His Way Back




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s awful quiet on the Linsanity front these days.

That might have something to do with the fact the fact that Houston Rockets’ point guard Jeremy Lin isn’t generating the sort of attention most folks are used to from a player who became the global toast of the game last season while starring in New York.

There’s a reason for that, though. Lin, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, is still trying to work his way back from the knee injury that ended his season prematurely:

Though he has not had any setbacks or missed practice time, Jeremy Lin acknowledged on Tuesday that he is still working his way back from last season’s knee injury.

Lin had always maintained that he was 100 percent healthy, though Rockets coach Kevin McHale had often spoke about Lin’s comeback. On Tuesday, Lin said he expected to be at full speed in time for the Oct. 31 opener, but was not there yet and does not expect to play extensively in the preseason opener.

“My speed and my explosiveness and my agility (are not) there yet,” Lin said. “I’m still trying to recover from knee surgery and get to where I was pre-surgery. I probably won’t get to play too much. Hopefully, as the preseason goes on I’ll get to play more and more to build that endurance.”

The Rockets have to have Lin in “pre-surgery” form by Halloween. With the amount of responsibility they have placed on his shoulders and the fact that he is the unquestioned face of the franchise, Lin has to be ready to go.

But it makes the conspiracy theorists among us wonder, did the Knicks know something the Rockets didn’t about Lin and his knee injury when they allowed him to walk in free agency?

Believe It Jeremy Lin, You Are The Face Of The Rockets!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
Jeremy Lin was back on a teammates’ couch his first night in Houston, huh?

Some things never change.

(According to the report in the Houston Chronicle, Chandler Parsons wins the teammate couch challenge over ex-Knicks teammate Landry Fields.)

The former Knicks sensation and new face of the Houston Rockets clearly hasn’t forgotten where he came from, even if he still seems a bit bewildered by the cosmic ride he’s been on since breaking through last season in New York.

And we hope he never does.

Hopefully Lin takes a page out of the book Grant Hill will write one day about being the consummate and humble pro that all burgeoning stars (willing and reluctant) should aspire to be.

Stay hungry and stay humble through whatever comes your way.

Lin didn’t sound like he was 100 percent ready to take the reins in Houston, telling a crowd of reporter (our main man Jonathan Feigen being one of them):

“I don’t know if I’m the face of the franchise just yet,” Lin said, while surrounded by about 40 media members. “We’re a young team, and we’re all going to buy in.

“The thing about us is it’s not going to be any one person that is going to carry us where we want to go. It’s going to be everybody.”

But he has no choice.

This is real, young fella. Believe it, you are the face of the franchise … even though we love that you are pushing back on the idea. Because it will give you much more locker room cred if you don’t embrace the Texas version of Linsanity.

(more…)

Kobe Won’t Change His Spots … Or Shots

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HANG TIME TEXAS – Do you really expect that someday you’ll hear about a leopard walking into a salon and asking the stylist to change his spots?

So then, why should anyone think a 6-for-28 night in Denver would make Kobe Bryant think about shooting less?

Kobe, after all, is Kobe, as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles reminds us:

“I do what I do. If guys are open, I kick it to them, if they’re not, I shoot it,” Bryant said. “I play my game.”

Bryant, playing with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right (shooting) wrist that he suffered during the preseason, started off the season averaging 27.8 points on 48.1 percent shooting through the Lakers’ first four games but had difficulty with his accuracy over the weekend. He averaged just 16.5 points on 12-for-26 shooting (26.1 percent) in a back-to-back against the Nuggets that the Lakers split 1-1.

Through the first four games of the season, when Andrew Bynum was sidelined with a suspension, Bryant averaged 20.3 shot attempts per game. In the two games since Bynum came back, Bryant’s shot attempts actually increased to an average of 23.0 per contest. Meanwhile, Bynum has averaged 23.5 points per game on only 15 attempts per game and is shooting 66.7 percent from the field.

“We always start inside-out,” Bryant said, when asked about Bynum and Pau Gasol‘s effectiveness on offense. “If you mean (to ask me) if I’m going to shoot less, the answer is no. It starts with me. I do what I do and we play off of that. That’s not going to change.”

All that’s missing is a corncob pipe and a can of spinach to be Popeye the Sailor in short pants: “I yam what I yam.”

(more…)

Labor Talks: Season On The Brink …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Your anger is understandable.

Mostly because the actions of so many are indefensible.

With this latest breakdown in talks between the two sides in the NBA’s labor madness comes a sobering truth about this entire process. It’s never been about saving the game or even preserving it for the fans. It’s about two sides fighting over a billion dollar pie and each one wanting the biggest piece. Someone has to win and someone has to lose, compromise be damned!

We knew as much when this thing started, but we seemed to lose sight of that in the past few months with all the details tossed into the fray to deflect our attention from the fundamentals of this dispute. Our confidence has been betrayed by the men who have asked for that very thing from us, the basketball loving public,. And here we stand, just days away from what should have been the start of a season, staring at a potential season on the brink.

When the federal mediator both sides agreed to let dive into the middle of this battle packs up his stuff and heads for the door after three days of listening to everyone talk, it’s clear the “gulf” between the positions NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke of last week is greater than most of us imagined.

Unlike many of my less cynical colleagues here at the hideout and beyond, I wasn’t expecting a resolution to this process this week. I did (foolishly) assume that some tangible progress this week could lead to a deal sometime in the very near future.

But not after reading these words from NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler after the Board of Governors meeting:

“This meeting was hijacked. Something happened at their [owners] meeting. This is not the move where the owners were yesterday. We were making progress, as you heard.

“They came back, they came without the commissioner. They came with Paul Allen. We were told Paul Allen was here to express the views of the other members of the Board of Governors. And that view was: ‘Our way or the highway.’

“That’s what we were told. We were shocked. We went in there trying to negotiate, and they came in and said, ‘You either accept 50-50 or we’re done. And we won’t discuss anything else.’ “

Point fingers in whatever direction you like. Both sides are doing the same now without hesitation.

(more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 57)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Maybe we’re going to see that 2006 NBA Finals rematch after all.

The Dallas Mavericks have a commanding 3-1 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals, thanks to Monday night’s 112-105 overtime thriller. The Miami Heat can join them in the commanding lead department with Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on tap tonight in Miami and the Heat leading the Chicago Bulls 2-1.

If the Mavericks and Heat do end up doing it all over again, we’ll have plenty of time to dissect that matchup on the next episode of the Hang Time Podcast. But we’ve got something a little different for you this week on Episode 57, what with coaching searches going on in places like Los Angeles, Houston and Indiana and the NBA Draft just a few short weeks away.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle joined us to discuss the Rockets’ opening and where former Rockets coach Rick Adelman might land (reports have him at the top of the Lakers’ wish list). We also picked the brain of NBA.com’s Scott Howard Cooper, HT’s West Coast Bureau Chief and also NBA.com’s draft guru (who has peculiar love jones for Oklahoma City).

Feigen also updated us on Yao Ming‘s status and what’s in store for a Rockets team that finished ninth in the Western Conference this season, just behind the Hang Time Grizzlies for that eighth and final playoff spot.

Howard Cooper schooled on us on who impressed (Enes Kanter‘s name came up) during the Chicago predraft camp as well as names we need to focus on come draft night. But don’t just take our word for it, check out Episode 57 of the Hang Time Podcast for yourself.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our super producer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

About Last Night: Jazz Do It Again

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Utah Jazz made some comeback magic for the second straight night and John Wall showed off a little triple double wizardry of his own before the Magic Man himself.

We’re only three weeks into this marathon but it’s clear we were right about this being the most anticipated season in years, for all the reasons you see on a nightly basis.

Don’t just take our word for it, take a couple of minutes (with the Daily Zap) and see for yourself:

The Top 10, complete with the vocal stylings of our main man Kyle Montgomery, is yet more proof that you’re seeing things this season you never have before:

Wall’s first triple double was historic (he’s the third youngest player in league history to do it) in addition to being filled with sick highlights. Here he is talking to the Game Time crew about his huge night:

Not all the news Wednesday night was good.

In that same Wizards game Yao Ming limped off the floor in the first quarter with a strained tendon in his left leg, the same injured leg that cost him all of last season. The details of the severity of his latest injury won’t be known until later today.

But Yao did not seem “optimistic,” per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, who detailed the Rockets’ breakdown and sixth loss like this:

After taking their last lead midway through the fourth quarter, they gave up a 10-0 run in which they missed all four of their shots, had five turnovers and surrendered three offensive boards with the Wizards scoring on them all.

That’s how you lose to the Wizards, and not terribly different from how they lost to the Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets and Hornets.

“You get paid to make plays,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “Our guys, we got to make plays. With the game on the line, you have to find people who can do that. Right now, we’re searching for it. It’s not happening.”

Yao of course could be the Rockets’ closer, at least on the offensive end. He didn’t look like it on Wednesday. He did not take one shot in his six minutes. But he has that ability.

Now, the Rockets don’t know if they have him.

They won without him last year, but don’t know how to win this season.

Most NBA games are close in the fourth quarter. That’s when teams are defined and revealed, and the Rockets have been exposed. They are 1-6 for a reason and it’s not because Yao Ming limped off in the first quarter. That just made the latest loss hurt just a bit more.

Ouch!

Stay tuned for more details on Yao later.

*** Check back later for a complete breakdown of all 10 of Tuesday night’s game in our weekly edition of Did You See What We Saw? ***