Friday Afternoon Rockets/NBA Links

An intriguing game is scheduled for tonight, featuring your Houston Rockets and the NBA's finest rising star: Kevin Durant. The Oklahoman looks into Durant's growth as a player, as well as his contributions on the court.

More after the jump.

B-Reference Blog, inspired by Tom Brady's Patriots and the Houston Rockets, takes a look at the NBA's best at "spreading it around."

Just as Brady had to cobble together a passing attack while throwing to Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel, Jabar Gaffney, and the aging remains of Troy Brown, the Rockets are facing the Yao-less, McGrady-less reality of forging an offense from a lineup without stars. The early returns have Trevor Ariza, Aaron Brooks, and Luis Scola shouldering the brunt of the workload, combining to take on 245 of Houston's 473 possessions so far this season, but you have to think that the offense will start to be spread out more as the season goes on, since all of Houston's players -- those three included -- are charting new territory in terms of usage.

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Hasheem Thabeet hasn't looked too good on the court in his first few games, but he could have been much, much worse.



"He was really bad,'' Hollins said. "Even though he's a shot blocker, he only had to stand in the paint in college. Now you've got guys attacking you and how you have to go meet them, he knew none of that. He had no footwork. He had no jump hook. He had nothing. And I can say that out of all the rookies in this draft, he probably has come the farthest. He has the farthest to go, and he still has a long ways to go.''

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Last year, I liked Solomon because he seemed to provide some much-needed perspective on McGrady. Everyone else on the Chronicle staff was bugging the fuck out, but Solomon emphasized the need for patience. He's seriously pissing me off this season, however.

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Just in case you missed it, the Rockets will be debuting their new alternates this evening. This will be a first for them: they've (rightly) shied away from the alternate-uniform trend in pro sports. Still, they look pretty cool.

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Jason Friedman goes into Chuck Hayes' burgeoning campaign for a spot on the NBA All-Defense squad. And he understands that the only guys who get on the team can play offense, too:

 

The transformation is rather incredible, especially given the fact that, for the better part of the past two seasons, Hayes displayed a propensity to turn even the most wide-open of layups into an edge of your seat, "how’s it going to end?" thrill ride. Now he’s backing down Mehmet Okur in the post and casually flipping in left-handed jump hooks. What changed?

"One, his fitness is great," explains Rockets’ Assistant Coach and big man guru Jack Sikma. "Fatigue, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim, is a real difference maker. And he put in work this summer on spinning the ball and having it come off his fingertips and not being in a hurry, whereas last year his shot was kind of just a quick push. With that, his confidence has grown and the guys have confidence in him.

"He has to finish. If opponents are lying off of him, he has to find his spots around the rim where he’s open. And if we’re good enough to find him and he gets the ball, it’s got to be two points, which is what’s happening; his conversion rate has been very high."

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Lastly, hoopnumbers.com has calculated the most exact Adjusted Plus-Minus numbers publicly available. Which Rockets have been in the top 50 across the last three years? Yao, Battier, and Chuck.

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