Quick intro: My name is Armin Khansari and I will be doing the Rockets game previews whenever I can. I really enjoyed reading them last year, but I understand that they are difficult for the other guys to get to. So I will try to give some insight about the matchups while still keeping the preview informative.
As for this game, it's been dubbed a "homecoming" or "reunion." However, don't expect it to be all sunshine and rainbows. There are several players in this game that want revenge on their previous squad. Not many players like to be traded, as that means having to move and learn a completely new offensive and defensive system for a new team. Look for the game to be sloppy due to the familiarity, but the Rockets need it badly just the same if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.
The Kings played and lost 113-107 to the Thunder last night in OKC, so the Rockets get a break there. The Rockets and Kings have split the series 1-1, with each team winning on its home floor, with one more game in Sacramento on 4/12 to come. When the Rockets won in Houston, Evans was out with a hand injury.
Brooks vs. Tyreke Evans
When Jason Kidd was selected as a replacement in the All-Star game and Rockets fans were up in arms about ABZ's exclusion, Tom had a great post about how Tyreke Evans deserved the spot over both. I completely agree. Evans is averaging over 20 points a game this year while shooting 47% from the field, and over 25 ppg over his last four games. He's also made a home at the free throw line, average almost 7 attempts per game. Add that to his 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He's also big (6-6, 220lbs), so he'll give AB nightmares just like Deron Williams does, and without Lowry, the Rockets will have to bring help-side defense repeatedly, which plays right into his hands. His driving ability reminds me of an unpolished LeBron, though I've only seen him play 3 times, so that may just be my impression. Obviously, the Kings are lucky to have his veteran presence on the team to help them rebuild their young prospects. Wait, he's a rookie?! Dude is going to be sick for years to come. The only knock on him is that he's not a great shooter, so if you can keep him away from the basket, you've got a chance, but good luck with that.
Also, the Rockets didn't re-sign Garrett Temple (the Kings did), so Will Conroy will be the backup.
Udrih is actually on my fantasy team, so I know him pretty well. He's playing a lot better since the Kings gave the reins to Evans to run the offense. He's much more suited for the shooting guard position where he can still facilitate without the pressure of having to keep everyone involved. He and Evans play really well together, which is why Udrih has the starting job at the SG. That being said, there was a reason he sat behind Martin in Sac-Town.
Battier vs. Omri Casspi
Affectionately called the "Playa from Judea" by Kings fans, Casspi came to Sacramento through the first round pick from the Ron Artest trade last season. He's been struggling lately, and Paul Westphal told the Sacramento Bee that he thought the season was catching up the rookie. That's understandable. How many rookies are able to withstand the grind of a full NBA schedule? I daresay we'll never see a 20/5/5 rookie in the NBA. Dammit, I forgot Evans was a rookie again.
The real interesting matchup issue is how Adelman will use Battier. Will Sleepy use him as help-side D for the slashing Evans or will he put Battier on him full-time? With no Lowry, Adelman may show Evans different looks.
Scola vs. Carl Landry
That even hurt to write. I'm still coming to the grips with the reality that Ole Toothache is no longer a Rocket. Nevertheless, I'm glad to see Landry as a starter in the NBA. He deserves it, and he's got a bright future ahead of him, whether it's in Sacramento or somewhere else.
As for the matchup, the respective skills of the dual identity that is Luis Landry has been beaten to death on the site.Landry has a better low post game, Scola is a better rebounder, etc.
Don't be surprised if Chuck ends up guarding Landry and Scola moves down to the 5 on defense.
Edge: Tie-come on, what did you expect? It's Luis Landry!
Hayes vs. Spencer Hawes
Despite having similar last names, the Chuckwagon and Hawes (Haw-Hawes?) are completely different players. Hawes is a subpar defender, whereas Chuck makes his living playing D. Hawes isn't afraid to shoot the three-ball (32% on 71 attempts), while I might have a heart attack if Chuck ever took that awful shooting stroke of his past the free throw line (shudders while imagining Chuck setting up to shoot a three).
Remember, though, that it was another trigger-happy center (Brad Miller) who killed the Rockets when the Bulls visited the Toyota Center. Hawes has been struggling as of late, so of course that means he's going to go off against us. He did last time, with 24/9.
Kings: Another former Rocket, Donte Greene, gets serious minutes, as does Francisco Garcia. Also the mass that is Sean May comes off the bench, but I'm really hoping Joey Dorsey gets some minutes in Houston. He's averaging 8.5 mpg with the Kings.The Kings signed Garrett Temple to a 10-day contract, so we may get to see him, but I doubt it unless the game turns into a blowout.
Rockets: I'm not sure what Sleepy is doing with his bench these days, but David Andersen had a great bounce-back game against the Raptors. Jeffries and Budinger will get their minutes, too. Will Conroy was called up for a 10-day contract, so he'll get to see some action.
Edge: Rockets-they're awfully young over there on the Kings bench
Kings: Nocioni (suspension-DUI), Jason Thompson (two fractures in lower back-ouch!)
Rockets: Yao, Lowry, Ariza
Prediction: Rockets come out strong, let up, come back, try to blow it, and barely eke out a win. What? You say that's how every Rockets win goes?