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I was this close to making Aaron Brooks our first repeat winner. He had two fantastic games against Golden State and Philadelphia, and a decent performance against Memphis. If you want to do this purely based off of scoring, then Brooks will get the award nearly every week.
Then I noticed something peculiar about Carl's stat sheet from this past week: he went to the free throw line 28 times in three games. He scored 24 points against the Warriors on only nine shot attempts. He had his first double-double in a month against Philadelphia, and had he been able to perform better against the double teams he was receiving, he may have won this award by a couple furlongs. He also had five blocks, and after looking at some more advanced stats, only six of his fifteen field goals were assisted - he did the rest on his own.
Landry has drawn plenty of attention from the public this year after starting off the season on a scoring tear. Now he is beginning to receive the same level of attention from opposing defenses, as opponents have begun to front Carl on the block as if he were Yao Ming or something.
Whether dealing with teams throwing zones around the paint, switching on the perimeter, double-teaming Landry when he catches passes or starts moves, or Saturday's return of defensive fronting, the Rockets' offense has been fragile, breaking when hit with something different.
"Yeah, they basically gave me the Yao treatment," Landry said, "so we've got to figure out some ways, some options to keep the offense flowing when they play me that way. ... They defended us differently, and we may see that the rest of the season, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
As much as there are opportunities on the other side of the offense, the Rockets cannot afford to let teams take Landry out of the mix, especially in fourth quarters. The emphasis, however, has been on how to attack when Landry is double-teamed with the ball rather than to keep the ball from him.
"Somehow we have to find ways to get Carl the ball, and it's got to be a combination of him figuring out what they're doing and us finding a way to get him the ball," coach Rick Adelman said. "They're going to front him in there, they need to have someone in there with a high-low game or something. For some of our guys, that's not a good situation. It's a thing we need to figure out."
Adjustments. It's something the Rockets have managed to do all season long without Yao Ming. But when it comes to making specific adjustments against opposing defenses, the Rockets can't do a whole lot. They're incredibly predictable on offense because they don't have the personnel to diversify their attack. Landry will have to make his own adjustments, but the key will be what the other Rockets do around him to make it much riskier for an opponent to front or double. Whether it involves adding Scola down to the opposite block to force an extra rotation or making more skip passes (which is rarely a safe option), the other Rockets will have to step up. This is nothing new for Adelman and everyone else - they saw the same thing with Yao Ming against Portland and many other opponents. Needless to say, it will be much more difficult to adjust this time around.
That said, if anybody can re-work his game to counter more attention, it's definitely Carl. His progression from "that energy guy" to probable team MVP in just three seasons has been stunning, especially given how undersized Carl is for the position that he plays. When it comes to finding loopholes in opposing defenses, Carl has been the man for the job. He's too smart to let something like double teams bury him for too long.