That's the question I keep asking myself. Is it wrong that I have nothing to say right now? I'm here doing previews pretty much game in and game out, but sadly that's about it. My co-writers have things to say, why don't I? This isn't my full time job, far from it really, but it's a passion I've had. It's been hard to do lately though as work has been hard and slightly depressing. One of my dreams has always been to write something though, anything I felt I would enjoy doing. And this is my outlet for writing. So why did I sit here with a blank screen thinking of what to write for half an hour? I don't have an answer, so I decided to throw this together and keep typing until I run out of words.
This Rockets team is clearly the most frustrating team in the history of the franchise. Seriously, if I told you that Ron Artest was going to be on good behavior 50 games in, you'd say the team was playing great. Right? If I told you Yao would have only missed 1 game, you'd say the Rockets would have won 70% of their games. Right? If I told you that Dikembe Mutombo decided that he wanted to play one more year and for the Rockets at that, you would think the Rockets were clearly on their way to a championship run. Right? If I told you that Luis Scola got 20% better between this year and last year, you would have thought he was the greatest 4th option in the league. Right? (Okay, that may actually be true, but you get the idea)
Here are the top 10 problems with this team in my opinion:
10. I hate writing this, but we all know it's true. Yao hasn't gotten hurt... yet. Does it happen? Can we really believe it won't?
9. Von Wafer's minutes dissapear when McGrady and Artest play. This doesn't make sense. For long periods of time he's been the second best player on the team, yet Rick Adelman refuses to put him in the game late.
8. Brent Barry is either completely done, or Rick Adelman just keeps forgetting that he's there. We need a shooter on this team badly, and that's what he is supposed to be. You don't lose the ability to shoot like that in one season. Sure, you can't get open as easily, but you can still shoot it when you get the ball. So why isn't he playing? Why isn't he taking 3-5 threes a game on sheer principle?
7. Aaron Brooks gave Rockets fans a taste, and then hasn't really played that way more than a few times in over a month. Part of that is due to his lack of consistent minutes, part of it is his shooting went down to Peru. He has played well the last few weeks and then got the flu. Here's hoping this isn't an issue the rest of the way.
6. Dikembe Mutombo isn't playing and the Rockets don't have anyone else to backup Yao. I know he's not able to play long stretches, but 12 minutes a game isn't too much to ask I don't think. That's the perfect amount of rest and he showed he was able to play more than that last year. Here's the problem though, it's likely that Deke is 53 right now, so maybe I do get it. But we don't have size. Is that what we go after in the draft (you know, if we have any picks)? Is there anyone out there we like? Who can we even trade?
5. Shane Battier has dropped off. It's not that much, and a lot of people don't even see it, but it's there. He's not hitting the three when it's been needed, he's about 6 inches short and a half second late on his face guarding on long jumpers, and he's not able to guard the faster guys as well.
4. Ron Artest clearly has an issue with his game when Tracy McGrady is in the game as well. He should be leading Tracy by example and taking the ball to the hoop, posting up weaker players (also known as just about everyone) and never shooting a three where he isn't set.
3. Rafer Alston tries to be a vocal leader, he tries on defense, he wants to win. I will give him all of those things, but more often than not, he can't give this team enough out of the point guard spot to deserve being the starter. He's not a good passer. Yes, he takes care of the ball, mostly because 80% of his passes come outside of the arc. He can't throw an entry pass to Yao and he doesn't choose well under the basket when he does drive. He's also the worst fast break point guard that I've ever seen, both at finishing and at decision making with the pass.
2. Tracy McGrady, and this is the hardest one for me. I love McGrady, wanted him worse than any player in the league when the Rockets got him. Bought his jersey the first day I saw one after the trade. I know he can't be who he was, I don't even want that. I want him to realize that what he does leads the team. If he shoots a 27 foot jumper, everyone else thinks it's okay. If he goes down 3 possessions in a row and shoots without a pass, then the rest of the team feels it is urgent that they shoot as well. He just needs to pass the ball and drive to the lane when guys play up on him, it's that simple. If you get hurt, you get hurt. You can't play scared, and that's what he's been doing every game
1. Rick Adelman doesn't know what to do with this team or it's wealth of options. He continually reverts to playing the starters in the last 5 minutes of games even when the bench is winning the game for him. His lack of control over shot selection would be comical if it wasn't so tragic. In short, I yearn for JVG, but know that Adelman can figure this out.
How can you be happy or get up to write when all of that is so depressing? No, it's not depressing like the economy is, but in ways it makes that news even worse. This is what I'm supposed to be watching and the thing that should be making me happy while my 401K tanks and I worry about my day job every day. It's supposed to be fun. There are supposed to be good signs of the team at least trying to get it. Just a few signs that guys making millions of dollars actually care. You know, other than Yao and Scola. I know those guys care.
So, to get myself back in the groove, and to get back to me being "the optimistic one" here are my top 5 predicitions for the last 30 games:
5. Ron Artest will learn how to fit into the offense, he will also continue to be more vocal with the media. It will get under Tracy's skin, but will make him a better player. Ron will also step up the defensive intensity to a new level.
4. Tracy McGrady will average less than 13 shots a game the rest of the way and at least 5 assists
3. Things will start to come together in the next 10 games with Brooks and Wafer getting more minutes.
2. The Rockets will win every game left in February, book it
1. Yao will average 25 and 10 the rest of the way and broadcasters will say things about him like this "If Lebron and Kobe weren't having such great years, everyone would be talking about the year Yao Ming is having down in Houston"