Five Out is back. I’ve been traveling, and then after six months where I am in which the temperature didn’t climb above 70f and the “spring” was a derisory joke of cold and rain, we finally got warm weather, and with it, long delayed outdoor work.
Should I have written more while it was raining? Of course.
Anyhow, here’s Five Out, blooming with relevance.
Rockets Hire Ime Udoka - The Change
Hiring Ime Udoka in a purely organizational sense marks an important change in stance. We now see a shift off the “We want to lose to min/max our odds of a high pick. We no longer have a pick, and the clock is ticking, in so many ways. We now signal that we are serious.” strategy of the past two seasons.
This is good, after two years of futility, and a jazz fusion experimental roster that may never be repeated in NBA history.
Did the Rockets develop? It’s hard to tell from the stats of the Rockets who were drafted two years ago that they did. Of course it can be hard to tell in the second year of many NBA players on bad teams, and even on good ones.
Anyway, that’s over now. The Rockets have paid real money, gotten a coach other teams really wanted, but one who is, to put it mildly, a bit of a fuzzy lollipop. Do tigers change their stripes? We’ll see. Perhaps Ime’s learned his lesson with a year off to get tanned and rested and field interview requests. If nothing else, we can hope he’ll be most discreet, which is all we can really expect of consenting adults who aren’t breaking any laws.
Ime - The Coach: Defense
Ime is going to expect players to play tough, physical, defense, with the expectation to play a number of different schemes based on matchup, and communicate.
What does that mean for the Rockets?
Jalen Green should cancel his order on custom made bullfighting capes from Spain, maybe take down the Trae Young poster.
Alperen Sengun should hire a PR firm to put together a “reel” of him defending the basket, put it on all social media.
Tari Eason should keep on being Tari Eason.
Jabari Smith should hit the weight room (and check the new CBA guidelines).
Kevin Porter Jr should pretty much keep doing what he’s doing. And what’s he going to do next, bring the teacher an apple, and sit in the front row? Real character issues on display there. (As an aside, could the media learn to distinguish between “stupid crap many young guys do” and “possible accessory to murder”? Sure, driving too fast is a “character concern” but that doesn’t make someone an aspiring mafioso. We aren’t asking these guys to command a nuclear missile sub.)
TyTy Washington should send up a flare, to make sure the team knows he exists.
JaeSean Tate should breathe a sigh of relief.
Ime The Coach: Offense
This will probably depend more on his assistants. He’s from the “San Antonio Tree” which emphasizes ball movement, and everyone at least touching the ball fairly often on offense, rather than being the equivalent of a cycling “domestique”, and just setting picks and playing defense. Will he emphasize the final evolution, as seen by the Warriors and Kings (which is to say San Antonio meets Mike D’Antoni). Maybe. The offense in Boston was less movement oriented, and shot a ton of threes, like most modern offenses. I think that doesn’t take advantage of some of the Rockets skills fully.
The answer is, we don’t know. Boston had Will Hardy, now with Utah, and Joe Mazzulla, currently coaching the Celtics, on Ime staff. Both seems like very good coaches in their own right. Did Boston management (Stevens, Ainge) pick them? Did Ime? I’m not sure.
We can hope that the Rockets will follow suit with talented assistants, and also keep some Rockets talent on hand, like Abdelfattah, and Lucas.
The Rockets Vibe Now
We are done with hopefully the last season wandering in the wilderness. Not the last season of being bad, but hopefully the last season of being deliberately so, with every move made to optimize cap space, to clear spots, to enhance draft odds.
Now the Rockets, due to the immortally bad Westbrook trade, have little reason to be bad. It can really only help OKC. I never want to help the Sonics thieves in Occupied North Texas.
So from now on, the moves are to win, now. Hopefully the draft lottery is what dream of, and Wemby joins the Rockets “Legacy of Bigs”. If not, we’ll be talking all about it anyway.
I believe there’s enough talent on the roster now, especially given the salary cap space, the current NBA landscape, and the VERY punitive luxury tax changes aimed squarely at the Golden State “Luxury Tax Title” for the Rockets to be a competitive, if not contending, team in short order.
Pat Yourself on the Back, Xiane
I don’t particularly like Miami, but I really, except for a couple of players, dislike Milwaukee. Yes, Giannis proved me wrong, and won a ring, and good for him. He’s not my cup of tea, but good for him. Aside from him, Holiday and Lopez, that team is a real collection of players I don’t love:
Grayson Allen, Myers Leonard, Wes Matthews, Jae Crowder, Bobby Portis. I mean, why did they rescue Meyers freaking Leonard from well-deserved obscurity? Just to be assholes?
Anyway, assuming health, give me Boston and then Philadelphia in the East. I just don't trust Milwaukee's halfcourt offense.— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) March 5, 2023
MIL feels like a Budenholzer team of old - it's basically fully optimized right now - there's not another gear for the playoffs, etc.— Notorious Data Poisoner (@xiane1) March 5, 2023
I’ve thought this about Budenholzer teams for a long time. They’re basically what they are in the regular season. They’re supercharged, overclocked, and fully optimized. It was essentially Giannis finding his best self in the Finals that brought them a ring. Budeholzer can’t adapt, because he’s already DONE everything. There’s no buttons to push, because he’s pushed them. Or at least, he thinks he has.
It’s something to think about when the Rockets are good again. You want to be the team that looks good, but not their very, very, best in the regular season. Even if the regular season is very competitive.
Also, Tomball’s Jimmy Butler is a straight badass. It’s nice to realize, in an age of analysis, and often, over analysis, that sometimes basketball comes down to who is a bigger badass.
The super optimized, mostly unlikable, #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks, got outbadassed by #8, in 5 games.
Rockets Sentimentometer Offseason
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