Friday, November 7th, 2008 at 3:17 pm  |  66 responses

Links: The Rockets’ Dead Glare

Plus the AI/Billups deal…

by Lang Whitaker

As the Blazers and Rockets wound down last night, I had to keep reminding myself that we’re early in the season. Otherwise, why would Brandon Roy have fouled Yao Ming with less than a second to go. Similarly, why would the Rockets have left Brandon Roy open with 0.8 on the clock?

Like Charles Barkley said on Inside the NBA…

“One of my pet peeves with basketball is you should never score when the ball is out of bounds for the simple fact that you have five guys guarding four guys. That’s exactly what you just had (in the Rockets/Trail Blazers game) and (the Trail Blazers) still got a wide open jumper. That’s terrible defense.”

Terrible defense from a team that is allegedly one of the best defensive teams in the game, no less. I realize Battier is out, but really, that was the best defense Rick Adelman could come up with? Watch the play again here…

That play is why I don’t trust Rick Adelman or the Rockets to win a set of nice, shiny rings this year. Break down!

1. At the start of the play, T-Mac is guarding Brandon Roy on the block, which seems insane to begin with (T-Mac is your best defender?), considering you also have a guy on your team known for playing tough defense and also for running into the stands and punching fans.

2. HOWEVA!, the Rockets have Artest guarding Travis Outlaw on the same side of the lane. So apparently the Rockets thought that Outlaw would set a pick for Roy, and on the switch the Rockets would end up with Artest on Roy and then T-Mac on Outlaw, which makes sense.

3. A little background information needs to be injected here: NBA teams always switch picks on inbounds plays at the end of games. Always, always, always. I have never played in the NBA, yet even I know this rule: You always switch the pick. Always.

So what do you do if you’re involved defending a pick on an inbounds play at the end of a game? SWITCH AND GUARD THE OTHER GUY! If there’s not a pick? STICK WITH YOUR MAN!

Got it? Because T-Mac doesn’t.

4. When the play starts, Brandon Roy immediately makes a cut for the ball. T-Mac makes no attempt to deny the ball (or the cut to the ball) whatsoever. Now, Outlaw is standing there as if he could set a pick for Roy, but Roy, unguarded, doesn’t need it. He just runs right past Outlaw, catches the pass and shoots an open jumper to win the game.

5. How did this happen? T-Mac thought Outlaw was going to set a pick for Roy. As Roy runs away from him, T-Mac sort of idly points at him, as though he was expecting Artest to switch onto Roy. The problem was that no pick was ever set, so Ron Artest didn’t switch onto him. Which means who was guarding Roy? Nobody! Yay Rockets! T-Mac assumed the pick was going to happen. The pick didn’t happen. And we all know hat happens when you assume…

6. If you’re a Rockets fan and you really want to feel bad about the play, watch when Roy actually catches the ball. Artest sees him running around free, so he runs at him just as T-Mac finally catches up to him, which works as a late double-team (as the shot was already in the air). If Portland wanted, they actually had Travis Outlaw completely unguarded right at the top of the key, also. So while playing 4-on-5, Portland basically created two wide open shots to win the game.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Brandon Roy, because that jumper was a tough shot no matter the circumstances. Maybe getting Battier back will make a difference for the Rockets — you wouldn’t have had T-Mac involved in that play, for instance — but it was a lazy play for a team that’s supposed to be one of the best teams in the NBA.

(Also, Portland still needs a point guard. But we’ll talk about that another time.)

• My Atlanta Hawks are balling right now. For my Hawks.com column that went up yesterday (yep, I’m back again this season, every Thursday, on hawks.com — hey, they brought me on last year and we made the Playoffs!) I channeled Barack. I’m pushing for Yes We Can to be the new Hawks slogan. Josh Smith claims to have my back on this.

The New Orleans win was particularly significant, because the Hawks spent the first half being sliced and diced by Chris Paul. This isn’t completely surprising, considering CP3 is the best point guard in the world right now. He has 19 at the half, but in the second the Hawks bottled him up and held him to 3 points, mostly because Mike Bibby got benched and Flip Murray had the half of his life.

I checked with the Hawks right after that game and was told Bibby was not injured. Which means he was just benched. It’s understandable, because at the time Flip Murray was playing out his mind. Still, I was wondering if this was a situation that blow up and cause problems. That’s the kind of stuff that on young teams causes linger issues.

But I feel better today after reading Sekou Smith’s report on the situation. The Hawks are growing up right before our eyes. And tonight they get to go against the Raptors, so maybe we’ll get some respect from Canada now. I’m sure it’ll be enjoyable. (BTW, I’ve got my fingers crossed that Chuck Swirsky’s not doing the game on League Pass.)

• I like TNT’s new graphics, except for the way the score bug on the screen has a yellow line under the team with the lead. I already understand the basic principles of math, so I knew the team with the higher amount of points is in the lead. But the yellow line makes it look like that team is carrying a yellow card or something.

• I spent about two hours last night reading, initialing and signing various copies of contracts for The Book. And as I discovered while poring through the pages of legalese, one great thing my agent negotiated me: If my book about being a fan of the Atlanta Braves gets turned into a theme park ride, I get 100 percent of the royalties and the book company, Scribner, gets zero. Suck on that, Scribner!

• Finally, the Iverson/Billups trade…

Long-term, I think the deal makes the Nuggets better. They lose scoring but gain a floor leader and gain size, which should improve their team defense. Chauncey isn’t the player he was five years ago, but he can still ball. Does this push Denver to the upper echelon in the West? No, at least I don’t thing so, because they probably still need a starting-caliber two guard (sorry, JR Smith). But it does make them better than they were.

With Detroit, meanwhile, it’s hard for me to shake the idea that they essentially gave up not only on this season but next one as well. By all accounts, the main reason the Pistons traded away the glue of their team in order to get Iverson was because his contract expires this summer, so instead of being locked into Chauncey through 2012, they’ll now have gobs of money in the summer of 2010, when Bron, Bosh and all those dudes become free agents.

That’s great, but what happens next? The Detroit Free Press immediately referred to Iverson as “new point guard Allen Iverson,” which seems like a bad idea from the jump. AI has never been mistaken for a point guard, and I don’t think that’s going to change at this point in his career.

At the same time, Iverson needs the ball in his hands and needs to work off the dribble to be successful. Doesn’t that kinda negate Rip and all the running and cutting and weaving he does? Also, if Iverson starts at the point and Rip at the two, where does that leave Rodney Stuckey? If Iverson and Stuckey start in the backcourt, where does that leave Rip, or Tayshaun, or Sheed, or whomever? And if Detroit is really concerned with making a run right now, why would they also trade their most valuable bench player in McDyess? Does Detroit have enough firepower and depth to win the Eastern Conference? That’s got to be their goal, right?

At the end of the day, it’s a strange move for Detroit, at least in the short-term.

Or maybe it’s just me. I dunno…after this trade, it just seems like there’s more questions than Answers…

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    First off, Joe D said this move was to get AI because he thinks Allen can help the Pistons win a championship. Clearing cap room was a secondary consideration. Did you read anything Joe D said?

    When the Pistons are in the Finals this year you will be the first to give Joe D props, I am sure.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Lang fails on two points in this post, doubting the A.I. move (I know, I know, you’re just following the popular opinion of the rest of the SLAM staff) and secondly, losing an overtime game, on a millisecond prayer from 33 feet away, shouldn’t constitute calling a squad, in no uncertain terms, horrible at defense. If it wasn’t for Artest’s D at the end of regulation on Roy, there would have been no overtime to play in. Just saying.

  • adams

    Oh please. Of course he’s not gonna sit next to AI at the press conference and tell him he was the best thing he could find in the bargain bin.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Lang, i don’t know if agree with why you think they won’t win a ring, you thought that BEFORE this play happened and prior to that the Rockets hadn’t had a brain dead defensive collapse like this on such an important posession. Last year they played solid D all year. I think there’s other bigger, more consistent flaws that may explain why they won’t get a ring.

  • Tom

    Excellent breakdown of that last play Lang. Tmac was totally caught off guard. As for Swirsky, he’s not the colour man this year, he’s doing radio for the bulls now i think. His replacement though….lets just say he’ll make you wish swirsky was back.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Also, if you want to get really really technical, ESPN time the shot and it took 1.6 seconds, i’m not complaining though because that’s what homecourt is all about and would expect it in Houston too, but the D wasnt THAT bad considering they didn’t let anyone get open facing the rim, which would allowed them to really catch and shoot in .8 seconds….also Outlaw being open didn’t matter because they knew only one attempt was possible with .8 seconds, any pass or dribble would have eneded the game.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @ALLRIGHTS: I read what Joe D. said. I don’t believe him, though.
    @RV: Agreed. this is the one sticking in my head this morning, though. Also, Why did Yao only get 13 shot attempts in a game that went into overtime against a team using Ghost Face Przyzbilla to guard him?

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    ALLRIGHTS fails by barking that Lang must not know what he’s talking about because JOE D said Allen Iverson was there to win a championship, but not respond to every other logical point that Lang listed (which I have already listed) in terms of why the AI trade is going to be tricky.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @RV: I meant pump-fake to Roy, then inbounds the ball to Outlaw.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    I thought another problem with the play was that Yao was so far away from Blake. Crowd the same guy, you’re 7’6! I know you’re trying to block shots that are closer to the basket, but because you angled yourself so far away, that Blake-to-Roy pass was as easy as it possibly could have been.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    *same guy = damn guy
    *trying to block shots = trying to block passes
    Need to proof read

  • Tom

    As for the Iverson trade, I think they’ll make it work between him and Rip work. And the biggest thing Iverson brings that Chauncey stopped bringing was when Detroit would go into their scoring droughts they now have someone who can make their own shots. So even though the expiring contract was a huge part of this deal, i don’t think it means they’re throwing in the towel for this season by any means.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    as for their positioning, Ron deserves the blame there, he wasn’t ready to switch, you can’t blame tmac for it because he was inside and had he chased Roy, he leaves the paint wide open and Outlaw can cut in for a wide open lay up. Battier is a lot more important than people think, he’s an extension of the coach, but i don’t mean Adelman, i mean JVG. JVG would have made sure they knew to switch, Battier is the kind of player who’d make sure they all knew that before the play.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Did I miss something? Did Brandon get a layup? If the Rockets would have crowded him on the heave, there was a good chance that he would have got 3 free throws with the Yao call still fresh. Sure they could have switched and had better coverage on the play but it’s not like he even had time to take a dribble, it was just a bangbang play….and he just so happended to have made it. Great shot by Brandon, questionable strategy by Adelman, but give Brandon that shot 50 more times in that same scenario, I’d bet he couldn’t knock it down 5% of the time.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Jukai, Yao actually got in Blake’s face, but for some reason the ref came over and told him to step back and pointed to the floor, as if saying don’t go past this point, not sure if there’s a rule now?

  • http://phoenixsunsrising.blogspot.com Hersey

    Chauncey at his best got Detroit a ring. A player like that isn’t easily replaced even if it is a major scorer like AI. The team has to gel and with the NBA champ sitting in your conference along with the LeBrons, Detroit isn’t the same team so the expectations should be reset.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @RV: I don’t think they could’ve got the ball to the rim because that was about the only pass Yao was denying.
    @Eboy: Not sure they would’ve called a foul, either, because Roy really hacked Yao on his shot, which is the only reason they called it (remember, they let T-Mac drawing the foul slide the play before that).
    Either way, helluva shot by Roy.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Eboy, since Roy was the one got stripped in regulation and then fouled Yao, i think he concentrated extra extra extra hard on the shot, so yeah it was more about him than Houston’d D.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    RV, if it was only so easy. :)

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    i also think the Rockets had a reason to suspect a lob, that may be why Yao took that angle in guarding the inbounds and why Tmac stayed inside, he’s more likely to get up there and defend a lob than Artest.

  • Bryant Reeves

    I thought Chuck Swirsky was the color man for the Bulls now? Come on Lang…

  • MD

    Lang – Swirsky left the Raptors to do radio for the Bulls (thankfully). Matt Devlin now does tv play by play.

  • Bryant Reeves

    Eboy – you’re right, I don’t think Roy could hit 2.5 shots either. I hope someone else does your accounting.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    Look, I watched the damn play, this was 100% T-Mac’s fault (and once again, 10% Yao’s fault for not crowding Blake more. So it’s 110%). Artest is not going to switch off on Roy if T-Mac isn’t going to be on Outlaw. T-Mac literally just stood there. I don’t get it, what in the world was he waiting for? If he was waiting for the switch, there was no way he could have gotten to Outlaw in time to be fully effective. Maybe they were daring Outlaw to shoot it instead of Roy. Whatever the case, no blame should be put on Artest for waiting for the play instead of predicting it. Ya got me?

  • Jeronimo

    It all was T-Mac’s fault!! Hahahaha.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    RV: Although I do wonder if there IS a rule saying you can’t crowd the inbounds pass. I think they were telling Yao to move back so they could bounce pass the ball in without Yao’s foot hitting it, but Yao really should have got up in Blake’s face with .8 seconds left. Five seconds left? Don’t crowd, because you gotta be able to get on your man if yer mismatched. LESS THAN A SECOND LEFT? Smother Blake.
    Unless it’s against the rules. Anyone?

  • Tom

    Jukai, I think Tmac was expecting Outlaw to run down and set the screen rather than Roy run out. It’s a 1pt game, so it looks like adelman was certain they were going for a shot near the rim, maybe a alley or a tip. Still, great shot by Roy.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    There is a rule about guarding the inbounds guy — I think you’re supposed to give them three feet or something like that. Watch on plays at the end of games — especially those side-outs — because the refs always show the defender where they’re allowed to stand.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    Tom: Ahhhhh, so it was going to block Artest from behind. Also, I realize now it was just a one point game… so any shot woulda been a game winner… and now I come to the realization that this was actually more of an AWESOME fake-out by Brandon Roy rather than a total collapse of Houston’s defense.
    So I’m toning it down by saying this is only 75% T-Mac’s fault

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    Thanks, Lang!


    AI at point will work fine. Billups was too slow up the court and could not break down a defense which forced us to run Rip off screens and do all sorts of hocus pocus to get him shots. That won’t be an issue anymore and Rip will get tons of looks off of AI double teams. The idea that AI doesn’t fit is silly. The Pistons needed an energy boost. This trade was brilliant. the only thing tricky about it is all the backpedaling the so-called experts on this board will be doing when they see how good it turns out. JOE D THE OG.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    It’s just you, Lang.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Charles Barkley complaining about lousy defense is like Craig Sager complaining about ugly suits.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Tom, that makes the most sense………even if the scenario was how Lang described it, i dont think you leave the paint that open under any circumstances, one good cut, and someone has a lay up. If that means you leave someone open for a turnaround J 30 feet out, so be it.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    RV: that’s a bit of denial. Getting “one good cut” with .8 seconds is a bit more difficult than getting that turnaround J

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    getting an open 30 footer may be easier than getting open from a good cut, but i meant the shot itself, a lay up (that results from the cut) is easier than a 30 footer.

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    morey’s made some great moves for Houston, but you can’t help but wonder…the rockets failed to trade up to get Roy and ended up with Gay for Battier, then Rudy was targeted, but was taken one spot before the Rocket’s. Rockets also had Batum, but made the Green/Dorsey trade…

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    from the chronicle: “Roy had been going against Ron Artest most of the night, and had begun to roll late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. But for the last play, the Rockets switched Tracy McGrady on to Roy, assuming McGrady would get picked off and that Artest would pick up Roy from there.” Artest’s fault..

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Way to throw your newest savior under the bus, RV.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    rv, it’d be too hard for blake to get a pass into the paint, considering yao was angled to deny a pass in that direction

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    David, Yao is only long vertically and Blake has some playground in him, i could see him throwing a pass right by Yao’s knee with some backspin so it would bounce perfectly and catch outlaw on the run, if not him, then Rudy(i think), who cut right to that spot at the end of the play, so that was probably another option they had.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @RV: Wait, that’s what I said too: “So apparently the Rockets thought that Outlaw would set a pick for Roy, and on the switch the Rockets would end up with Artest on Roy and then T-Mac on Outlaw, which makes sense.” But Artest didn’t get picked. So if he doesn’t get picked, there shouldn’t be a switch, right?

  • http://slamonline.com RV

    Tad, i call it like i see it, i think Artest focused too much on defending one on one that he forgot about the switch, so its not necessarily a bad thing…but he got lucky at the end of regulation because he fouled Roy before stripping him, he also got crossed by Roy earlier, and got faked out by Roy when Roy hit his first “game winner” before Yao’s shot. He’s a great defender, but he’s thinking too much, anticipating, cheating, he needs to go back to the basics. This is another reason why Battier would help, he sticks to the fundamentals of defense and doesn’t get ahead of himself or the play.

  • http://www.sprint.com/sero Dma

    you know, this isn’t the first time tmac has messed up on a last second in bounds play.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Good info on the inbounds thing. Yao is tall but immobile and he couldn’t react well to Blake passing to the side instead of over the top.
    TMAC was read to swtich the pick, but the pick never came and he just had a brain fart. It happens. They still forced a super tough shot by a guy who is not a great three point shooter.
    But, Lang is right. Yao needs more than 13 shots and he keeps getting stuffed by the rim and wack players. Is he already declining physically?

  • Pic

    Hey Lang, don’t worry, Chuck Swirsky doesn’t do Raptor games anymore, I believe he’s now does radio for the Bulls!

  • Bubba Chuck

    I wouldve done tha same thing if i was detroit but maybe im strange 2

  • http://www.myspace.com/2536545 Bryan

    I totally disagree with your take on the Iverson trade,but missed the rocket game so maybe you’re right on that point sir.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    they should have had carl landry on the inbounder, not yao. that would have pushed the pass and therefore the shot farther out.

  • rob stewart

    Its possible the Pistons can win a title with A.I. It is impossible for the Nuggets to win a title with Billups, especially out west.

  • whooo!

    so on the play, you’re blaming rick adelman for the coaching, but it really just looks like laziness on his players’ part. t-mac is also a very seasoned vet who shouldn’t need to be coached into following a man on defense.

  • whooo!

    and also, barkley thinks nobody should ever score off an inbound, but that’s ridiculous. if 2 of those 5 on defense are double-temaing someone, the second the balls inbounded, someone’s wide open. remember .4 where they double-teamed kobe and left the inbounds open?

  • James

    Lang, the Pistons run a completely different offense this year under Michael Curry. They’ll occasionally run some of the same sets Flip had, but they mostly run a motion offense now where multiple people handle the ball and initiate the offense. They are 3rd in the league in scoring and 1st in offensive efficiency and this is after playing two games with no Billups or AI. The Pistons don’t need a “true pg”…they need some one who can create shots for themselves and others, especially in the playoffs. AI knows this is the best team he’s played on, he saw how KG and Ray Allen sacrificed last year for a championship…he’s got a lot of reasons to be extremely motivated.

  • Tommy Patron

    Barkley needs to go.

  • tealish

    I’ve read your points, but somehow I still fail to grasp how giving up 17/7/45fg% for 26/7/46fg% constitutes as tanking not only this season but the next.
    With his talent, I’m willing to wait and see how AI can adapt his game to a team with more-than-capable players. He’s never had this collection of competency so I’m going to hold off on the tanking-talk, and watch the HOFer do his thing.

  • seppo

    before the trade the pistons weren´t going anywhere. not with a washed up and injury prone point guard and rip hamilton as their number one scoring threat. AI will be extremely motivated and i expect him to put up 25 ppg easily. i really think they have a good chance of reaching the finals. and the pistons fans have a reason to be excited again.

  • Corey L

    I didn’t catch the Rockets game, but it was funny as hell to hear you commentate on it. Also, I think the deal was better for the Pistons than you’re giving credit. We will eventually see how it works out though. Good article nonetheless.


    The AI experiment will prove to be a success if the first half is any indication of things to come. Yes, SIR! JOE D THE OG

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    That whole HOU vs POR game just pi*sed me off.
    No rythm, no flow and Yao was awful the whole game bar some of the 1st q and that end shot. I would have expected Outlaw to shoot the ball at the end of the game though, Roy had hit only 5 shots prior to his previous game winner.
    If he hadn’t hit that shot, then Outlaw is option 1 on the inbounds (not that they would be in that situation anyways, because the Rockets would’ve won on a previous play).

  • Ken H.

    For your info Lang, Swirsky chose Bulls radio over returning to the Raptors. Get out the Salami & Cheese on his Canadian broadcasting career.

  • http://www.hoopmixtape.com Simon S.Y Lawy

    yeah, Hawks are rising …

  • MeloMan13

    LOL at Russ.
    unfortunately chuck doesnt do raptor games anymore

  • starbury&stevey

    i blame T-Mac for that….

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    Didn’t Swirsky just get his Canadian citizenship, too? Boooooo….

  • ab_40

    dice will be back. but the pistons in the confrence finals arn’t or they have to face orlando in the semis who’d they destroy

  • Will Lee

    Totally agree. Tmac is not a champ cuz he’s just not in it. I am surprised to see him hustle so much in the game, then just give it up with 1 second to go.

    And in Detroit, yes. I said in Iverson’s first few years in the league (check your email back then Lang), Iverson’s never going to win champ with his style.