Rockets coach Kevin McHale has blasted the team for not displaying enough effort in their humiliating loss to the Warriors on Saturday, only to follow that game up with a less-than-convincing win over the Pacers considering the team was up 24 points in the third quarter.
The inconsistent effort thing has been big for McHale for the last month. It's his main complaint around his team. It's an easy complaint because it takes blame away from players' abilities or lack thereof (see: Beverley, Patrick; and Smith, Josh) and is something the fan base will never disagree with.
I don't fully agree with it. Yes, the team can look lackluster at times, but this is an 82-game season. Eighty-two, 48-minute games are really effing tough on the human body. Maybe he should look inward and wonder why the team looks so sluggish on a macro level. Is it because the offense lacks creators? Is it because the defense has to do so much running closing out on shooters?
Harping on a "lack of effort" is easy, but it's also lazy. There are real issues with the Rockets. They have gotten nothing offensively except open three-pointers from Patrick Beverley. Jason Terry has been a shell, albeit an enthusiastic one who always gives a ton of effort. Josh Smith plays his butt off every second he's on the floor, but so much of his sterling efforts are misguided that they can hurt the team. Who knows what Kostas Papanikolaou is doing these days.
McHale has not lost the locker room. The guys are still playing hard for him. No one is excusing their miserable performance against the Warriors, or the fact that they appeared to sleepwalk through the second half. But I'd like to hear more directives that hint at real solutions McHale is thinking up for his time, not vagaries that assign blame anywhere but inward.
To the rest of Rocket Fuel:
The Grantland Basketball Hour’: James Harden Is Rocket Fuel | Grantland
Two nits to pick about this piece: one, it totally stole the name I invented (and am using for this here piece). Two, it's basically Kirk Goldsberry narrating his piece from last week, which is fine and totally allowed. It's still great to see real analysis into just how ridiculously special James Harden's season has been thus far.
Greg Monroe takes high, silent road on topic of Josh Smith | Ball Don't Lie
This is after the Pistons' win over the Pacers on Friday. When asked what's different about the Pistons, Monroe said nothing, just glancing around at the gathered reporters. Monroe and Brandon Jennings have been the most improved since J-Smoove was cut loose. Both have gotten more touches. I would argue Monroe should have been getting more touches with Smoove around anyway, which is mostly his/SVG's fault. But whatever, keep blaming Smith while the Rockets keep winning with him.
Corey Brewer receives warning for flop in Rockets’ loss to Warriors | Ultimate Rockets
Brewer flopped in the second quarter against Andre Iguodala. Sidenote: does anyone know if James Harden has been fined/warned for flopping this year? Nothing is ringing a bell, but he's the biggest flopper in the league if you ask Mavs/Spurs/Blazers/Jazz fans.
NBA power rankings: Rockets at No. 5 | SBNation.com
The Rockets are at No. 5, but Drew Garrison has a disturbing stat: Dwight Howard is the worst frequent post-up player at post-ups. He gets .735 points per possession, turns the ball over 16.8 percent of the time and posts up almost 10 times per game. By contrast, DeMarcus Cousins has a 13 percent turnover rate, with eight post-ups per game and .978 points per possession.
Other power rankings that listed the Rockets the week: ESPN has the Rockets at No. 6, CBS has them at No. 7, Yahoo! has the Rockets at No. 5 and NBC Sports has them at No. 7