Thusday Afternoon Rockets/NBA Links

Jerome Solomon has a column posted on the Chronicle's website, accusing Ariza of seeming "out of place" as a leader.

OK, maybe not the face-making, but Adelman wanted some attitude.

Ariza kind of brought it, but kind of didn't. He is just not that guy. Never will be.

Ariza just doesn't have the assassin's mentality that makes stars super. Prior to this season, he had never taken 21 shots in a game as he did Wednesday, and it seemed he didn't want to take some of those.

Kobe Bryant was the only other player on the court firing up shots at that rate. Bryant got off 30 attempts and scored a game-high 41 points. Unlike Ariza, Bryant is quite comfortable firing away.

If Ariza had more Aaron Brooks or Kyle Lowry in him, he might be a perennial All-Star. But he is what he is, and that's OK.

The Rockets knew what they were getting when they signed him with their mid-level exception.

There's good analysis, there's bad analysis, and then there's no analysis. And I'm having a tough time deciding if this is just bad analysis or a failure to even deal with what's happening on the court.

Look, it's fine to discuss "mentality" when we talk about players. Basketball, unlike baseball, allows players to take over the game, and so a player's thought process, emotions, etc. really do matter. But at the same time, we (as fans and as writers) need to be able to distinguish between "stuff happening in a player's head" and "stuff happening in reality."

Ariza's problem is not that he lacks some mystical "killer instinct," nor is it that he doesn't have "ice water in his veins" or whatever other cliche you want to use. Ariza's problem is that he can't create off the dribble. His ballhandling isn't pretty, and the result is turnovers and forced shots. A "mentality" is not what makes a star a star: it's pure ability, and Ariza isn't there yet.

Did his emotional desire to play well against his old team lead him to take bad shots? Maybe, but that has nothing to do with an "assassin's mentality" (whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean). Indeed, it seems to contradict that: he wanted to take those shots, and so he took them and failed. The point, however, is that the difference between the Kobe/Lebron/Wade wings of the world and the Arizas of the world is one of skill, not mentality.

The lesson to take from this game is not that Ariza has to "step up and be a leader." That's ridiculous. He, like everyone else, needs to play to his strengths and the system. And if the coaches, front office, and Ariza want him to become something more, then he needs to work on that in practice and in games against the Kings/Thunder/Nets of the league, not against the reigning champions.

As for being a "leader," I think it became fairly clear around March of 2008 who the Rockets' on-court leader is, and it isn't Brooks, Ariza, Yao, or McGrady. He's the guy running the defense and being the real "floor general." But I wouldn't want Battier to try to "take over" the game with his "assassin's mentality," either.

With that particular pile of crap dissected, let's get to some news:

 

Rockets.com's Jason Friedman has a much better analysis of what happened last night, including quotes from Adelman and players.

 

“We were talking amongst the guys: we stopped attacking,” said Shane Battier. “We have to be an attacking team and we tried to just go in isolation mode and run the pick-and-roll. We’re at our best when we’re attacking the basket, taking threes and we got away from that. We have to do that every night, no matter who we’re playing.”

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Delonte West, if you didn't know, has some mental problems. Cleveland Scene looks at the difficulties writers face when covering a player with significant emotional issues.

 

Details like West “staring into space” present problems. Not every episode of silence — or joviality — is evidence of a disorder, but can start to look that way when West’s emotional state is the subject, especially when taking a retrospective look at a series of incidents. Otherwise, Windhorst’s piece put Delonte’s struggles throughout the year into perspective and illustrates the difficulties writers face when dealing with West’s actions. That struggle will undoubtedly continue through what could be the most important year in the Cavs’ history. There is no rule book for such situations, so the Cavs and the reporters who cover them better start writing one.

Shoals at Free Darko also comments on this issue.

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If you're looking for some reactions to last night's game, Hardwood Paroxysm, Dwyer, and the Basketball Jones all have good perspectives on the night. It might be tough to see through the cloud of post-loss rage and disappointment, but we witnessed a pretty great game, after all.

TBJ also briefly discusses the subject of Ariza as a #1 option, while Dwyer offers his opinion on our man Chuck's evolution as a player:

 

Chuck Hayes is a 6-6 Kevin Garnett. His footwork belongs on Mt. Rushmore. His hands belong in the Smithsonian. He had two steals tonight, and caused as many jump balls. He's a center that's in the top five in steals, per game, in barely half a game. His defense is unbelievable. And now (7-9 shooting, no hesitation around the hoop) you have to pay attention to him when someone drives and dishes.

Hyperbole? Maybe, but that was probably the best game of the Chuckwagon's career. It's a shame we see it when Yao is out.

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Basketball Prospectus looks into the improving Cavs offense. It's an in-depth, technical look at a team, and I hope they cover Houston in similar detail at some point.

 

In Cleveland’s case, their overreliance on James (granted, he’s an easy guy to rely upon) is inhibiting the team's ability to become interdependent. Instead, when they need a result, they give it to one of the best players in the world and let him figure it out. This stunts their growth and fails to maximize how good the Cavaliers can be. It took Bryant and the Lakers a few years to learn this lesson—how long will it be before James and the Cavaliers take the next step?

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Lastly, here's a link to an interesting discussion of three-point shooting at APBRmetrics. The Rockets struggled to make their threes last night, but they're one of the leaders in attempts. Most basketball statistical analysts will tell you that the three point attempt is one of the game's best shots, and yet we see stats-oriented teams like the Thunder seemingly focus on players like Russell Westbrook. Weird, huh?

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