In last night’s preseason win over San Antonio Houston’s big men came up, well, big.
Yao Ming played six minutes per half and managed 3 impressive blocks. Two of those blocks were consecutive. Yao is clearly not in game shape, but for not playing in almost one and a half years he is finding his touch rather quickly. Early in the first quarter Yao also muscled his way to the rim and drew the foul. The Great Wall was cleaning the glass fairly efficiently as well, grabbing 7 rebounds in 13 minutes. On the negative side, undersized forward DeJuan Blair was easily able to pry the ball from Yao and showed some Chuck Hayes like defense in the post. Yao should be able to take advantage of those mismatches better.
Speaking of Chuck Hayes, in 24 minutes the Chuckwaggon pulled down 10 boards, 2 blocks and a steal. Shane Battier said it best when it comes to Chuck, “Three-fourths of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Chuck Hayes.” During a couple of offensive possessions, Chuck would grab a rebound and immediately go back up with it in the paint amidst much taller defense. While as a fan I appreciate the aggressiveness, Chuck is just too undersized to be immediately going back up to the rack against the likes of Tim Duncan. At least throw a pump fake in there Chuck, or better yet give the ball to an open shooter.
Much like the first game, while there were some great individual performances, the overall performance of the Rockets as a team was lackluster. This squad is playing with no cohesiveness on either end of the court and Rick Adelman knows it. The motion offense looks poorly executed and most of the time the help defense is almost nonexistent. I think tonight fans got a glimpse into Rick’s rotational scheme. Usually during preseason, coaches like to test the fringe roster players in the fourth quarter (like Jermaine Taylor, Ish Smith, and Patrick Patterson) but Rick stuck to the starters and bench. He let the bench finish out to the game almost as a test to see if they would blow a lead against San Antonio’s scrubs (which they almost did).
Aaron Brooks: At times in this game I was literally in awe of Aaron’s poise. He seemed to be the only player on the floor who playing this game like it was preseason. Aaron didn’t force any shots as we’ve been used to seeing. He stepped up when it was imperative but mainly let the other guys on the team showcase their abilities. He was feeding the ball with precision to the low post and he even managed a block late in the first quarter. How a generously listed six footer was able to block anyone’s shot is beyond me but I suppose sometimes timing is everything. Aaron had two steals and 14 points and looked like a perennial all star warming up for the season to come.
Kevin Martin: To most basketball fans, this may not come as a revelation, but coming from a fan who only reticently started watching Kevin Martin I simply cannot believe his ability to draw contact. Kevin Martin is elite at drawing the foul. His ability to get to the line when shots aren’t falling could be a difference maker for this team down the line. Martin also showed us a little of his extended range knocking down one of his two three pointers from a good 3 feet beyond the arc. His jumper was looking like silk on one inbound play in particular. I cannot wait to see what kind of numbers Kevin is going to put up this year.
Jordan Hill: Trade bait or bench standout? Who cares, last night we finally saw some competent offense from the first round pick. Jordan was popping the midrange jumper like a seasoned vet and finished with 16 points. Jordan’s greatest strength on the court is his offensive rebounding ability and there was only one of those last night. He also had some sloppy post play and ended with 5 turnovers. There were also some times when his hands just weren’t there. Someone would feed him the ball and he would just lose it. He’s been a mixed bag from day one but if he can continue to improve his offensive game he’ll stick around in the league for years to come.
Mediocrity: Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson, and Kyle Lowry all saw minutes. As advertised, Chase hit one of his three pointers and a couple of jumpers coming off of the screen. Courtney Lee impressed with his all-around game. The kid is athletic and hustles. His play will pay off in dividends this season but I’m still not sold on the outside scoring he allegedly possesses. Patrick Patterson played 16 minutes and didn’t do anything stupid. He’s not going to do anything stupid and that might be the best thing he’s got going for him right now. I’m going to be sad when Rick sends him down to the D-League. Kyle Lowry was awful. At one point he even punched Matt Bonner in the face. Don’t get me wrong, if I was out there I might punch Matt Bonner in the face, but pairing that with his over-aggressiveness and poor shooting was not a great combination. He assisted his teammates well, but there were way too many times when he would drive down the lane into a San Antonio frontcourt that had obviously read the scouting report. Lowry looked ineffective and overpaid last night, but lets just keep reminding ourselves that this is preseason.