Welcome again, to Five Out, the series statistically most strongly correlated with me writing about the Houston Rockets, and the NBA. Five Out will shift to a lot more General NBA when the season ends, as the Rockets might not be doing much at that point.
In the meantime, run to your respective corners.
This was meant for Thursday, but Spring Break, and (rare) good weather had other plans. I hope it will be fun to read over the weekend, anyway.
1 - Eyes On The Post
In The NBA of Yore, there used to be a lot of play in the post. Big men attempting shots from close range was deemed the best way to go about things. For reasons that are sound, the game has moved to the 3pt line in large part, and few players do much of anything in the post. But just as we know that 3 is more than 2, we also know that 3 point shooting has stretched the NBA court to a large degree. It should be possible for more than, say, three or four bigs to operate successfully, efficiently, in the post.
Why don’t they?
Many observers will point to the fact that few players are well-trained in throwing good entry passes. If you have watched the Rockets, you can bear witness to this fact. Even so, there are great passers in the NBA, and it’s not the hardest thing to do. Still, few bigs operate in space that’s often around in the post.
So, again, why not? Fashion? Probably, to an extent. The game demanded floor stretching bigs, and the development programs did their best to deliver, and now most bigs who operate there aren’t American.
I think however, there’s another reason. Watch what happens to a big who tries to set up in the paint to catch a pass. It’s a mugging. Only the strongest big men can hold their ground.
What if the NBA called pre-pass contact on bigs the way they call it for featured shooters, like Curry, or Lillard? Instead of letting a defender swarm over the back of a big to “have an equal right to the pass”, instead of constant elbows to the kidneys, we saw foul calls? It’s not impossible to call. Players would quickly adjust, or foul out. Big men would be able to catch a pass in close on occasion, without it being inch perfect.
Sure, defenses are better, and cover that pass better, but I ask you to watch play in the low post. Watch how it’s called, for almost every team, versus play on the perimeter.
My current working theory is that by allowing two sets of rules on contact, one in the paint, one outside it, the game has lost what was once a crucial element. Not only has the game shifted to the 3pt line, that shift has been reinforced by officiating.
2 - Logical Disconnects
If you’ve watched the NBA for any length of time ,you’ve learned that referees will almost always call a foul for certain star players, won’t call it nearly as often for young, less established players. This explains, for instance, the mauling the almost entirely non-established Rockets often get in the paint. (see below for more)
Along with “They let you get away with more in the playoffs.” these are truisms that NBA fans simply accept.
How can this be true, and yet we get 5-7 minute stoppages of play for video review? Officiating can just have double standards that everyone is aware of, and moreover, accepts, and then we must see minute scrutiny of one single play? What is really gained here? Why not attempt more consistency, and no review? If the NBA is ultimately entertainment, what is entertaining about a review?
What is gained from this system of generally accepted double standards, and forensic level video scrutiny?
3 - Liquid Def
This week we learned Jalen Green is now a spokesperson and an investor in a drink called “Liquid Death”. No, this isn’t an Extreme Energy Drink. Or Death Wish coffee, Jolt cola, or Black Black gum. Nope. It’s water. Just water, almost certainly from a municipal water supply, and maybe filtered. The company claims aluminum cans are more eco friendly, as they are easier to recycle or at least more commonly recycled than plastic. This is true.
You can get it still, or carbonated. The graphics are “edgy” in an early 2000s Ed Hardy shirt sort of way, so people might think you’re drinking a really rugged energy drink, or a boozy energy drink. Maybe there will be a Liquid Undeath, with alcohol?
Apparently water really hydrates you, and is “death” to dehydration. Who knew?
Good for Jalen. He’s not in the top tier shoe contract world, but apparently if you can sell cans of water at a high price, it’s a great business model.
Because I love all things Rockets, I tried carbonated Liquid Death, for you. I can report that it’s perfectly fine carbonated water.
4 - What Do The Rockets Need Most?
This is going to be the sort good-natured, pragmatic, boring conclusion I often make that drives people I know a bit mad, sometimes.
While I plan to fully participate in the “What Do The Rockets Need” discussion after the season ends, and offer my views, and while maybe these views are even correct, they don’t address the heart of the matter.
What the Rockets mostly need is time. They’re all impossibly young for a full NBA team.
It’s true, you can get breakthrough players at a young age, usually they have some experienced guys around them (like Memphis, to an extent).
It’s also true that a team can have great young players who just don’t look great, because they haven’t put enough time into their craft in the NBA. Look at the Suns. Devin Booker is likely an all NBA player. Some thought he was just an “empty calories scorer”. Sound familiar?
Mikal Bridges, unleashed as a primary option, has shown that he’s probably a 2nd star for a good team.
The truth is, neither we, nor anyone commentator out there, know the future of the young Rockets. Many Rockets playing right now, are younger than guys who will be drafted in 2023. It’s impoertant to keep in mind.
5 - Different Kinds of Tanks
Tonight the Worst of The Worst are playing, and one team must win (currently in progress).
The Rockets and the Pistons despite being similar in intent (tanking) and record (ultra tanking) are very different teams. Detroit has largely been an exercise in futility for quite a while. The Rockets are rebuilding in the wreckage of the Harden years.
I’d rather be the Rockets. The Rockets nearly touched the sun. Detroit has been trying, and failing, to win for a while, before sort of embracing a full teardown. Detroit signed players, and hoped to be good, while also adding young guys. They tried this because they could, because they had the salary to spend.
The Rockets, honestly, couldn’t do that. Not only did the Rockets have the roster wreckage of Harden’s departure, they had some real salary issues as well (Wall contract among others). Only this offseason will the Rockets have money to spend. Should they spend it? More to come on that, as it’ll be along off season, but there’s a path to being a lot better, quickly, but as Detroit shows, it’s not as easy as it looks to follow it.
What Do The Rockets Need Most?
This poll is closed
A New Coach.
A Grizzled Veteran.
To Learn To Set A Pick.