I just wanted to go through a laundry list of mistakes in the Rockets loss to the Lakers. I’m not usually someone who looks back at all the things that should have happened, but there were so many of these “should have happened” situations in last night’s game that it’s forcing me to look back at all the things that could have made a difference in Rockets winning or losing. Even when the Rockets were down by 20 or so points, there was no doubt in my mind that the Rockets would win the game. The Rockets are just a better team. The problem is, the Rockets have a very bad coach and they got totally out coached in last night’s game.
Some of the mistakes are unique to last night’s game, others are ongoing. I blame McHale for most of the mistakes. The more I see McHale coach, the less confidence I have in him as a coach and the more I want Lin to be traded. I’m beginning to feel strongly that this team is not the right fit for Jeremy Lin, because they are severely under-utilizing his talents. Of course, the caveat is that the season has only just begun, but I don’t see a lot of these issues changing–especially for Lin. Things can’t go anywhere but up from here for the Rockets, but I don’t see things changing much for Lin. At least Lin has been consistently one of the best three players on the court in every single game so far this season. In last night’s game, Lin was the best Rockets player. Now onto the list of atrocious mistakes:
- McHale is still mismanaging his player’s minutes, over-using some players and under-using others and taking away minutes from players who deserve more minutes. This is an ongoing issue with McHale. I think the Rockets have a deep enough bench for them to have at least a 10-man rotation, but McHale can’t seem to figure out how to do this. Last night, Beverly went 1 for 10 from the field and was pretty much ineffective overall, but still played more minutes than Lin. While Lin was arguably the best player in a Rockets uniform. Even though Harden scored 35 points, he did it very inefficiently. Lin was highly efficient and effective on both ends of the floor. If Lin had gone 1 for 10 from the field, he would have been benched by McHale with a quickness, yet Beverley is allowed to play significant minutes even though it looks as if he’s still recovering from his injury. McHale’s favoritism of Beverley at the expense of Lin is sickening. Instead of Beverley, we could have had Casspi or Garcia out on the floor. I think having one of these guys rather than Beverley could have made a difference in winning or losing. Beverley made a defensive mistake in the play that caused Blake to hit a three pointer to win the game for the Lakers. Beverley had no business of being on the court last night, but McHale appears to be blinded to Beverley’s weaknesses. Also, McHale is still severely over-using Harden. I think Harden would be much more effective if he’s given some rest and he’d make better decisions. I think some of Harden’s turnovers are due to fatigue. Of course, a lot of them are just him making bad decisions. Also, the Rockets have a very deep bench. They would be a lot tougher to beat if McHale actually uses some of the players on the bench. When he over-uses one or two players and under-uses the rest, the rest of the players lose their rhythm. I think this is a huge mistake in the NBA to over-use your stars at the expense of your role players. But, of course, this is something that’s very difficult to prove. I just think it’s better to have every player on the court full of energy at all times than to have a very fatigued superstar on the court most of the time. This is not true in all cases, but when you have a deep bench like the Rockets do, it’s your job as a coach to use them. McHale just lets most of his players sit on the bench and rot.
- I understand the need to make the Asik/Howard lineup work in order to keep Asik happy, since Howard will be playing significant minutes. So if Asik isn’t allowed to be on the floor with Howard, then he’ll be playing 15 minutes or less a game. So this is a tough situation. THE solution, to me, is to play Howard about 32 minutes a game and Asik 20 with two minutes or so per game in which they overlap and are on the court a the same time. Now there are certain teams where you would want them to be on the court at the same time more often, but this should be the general way to use Howard and Asik if the Rockets are all about doing what’s good for the team, rather than some crazy experiment to keep Asik happy by keeping Asik as a starter. By the way, Asik is not happy with this situation, since he ends up not playing that much anyway. I haven’t looked this up, but I think Asik is playing less than 20 minutes a game as it is, even with this sham starting lineup. One of the issues with my solution is that Howard will be playing fewer minutes, so this is probably unacceptable for a Max guy. BUT if we’re all about doing what’s best for the team, then this is THE solution in my eyes (often times a lot of coaches and general managers forget that doing what’s best for the team is not always what’s best for the superstar). Asik comes off the bench and plays 20 minutes or less and Howard starts and plays 32 minutes or less. Now I don’t know who exactly is responsible for this Howard/Asik experiment, but McHale has to take the blame for this one. As a coach, it’s one of his most important jobs to manage player’s minutes. He’s doing an awful job of this–especially with respect to this absurd and laughable Howard/Asik experiment. Every coach worth his salt would be able to figure out a solution that makes sense for the players and is good for the team. McHale is, apparently, incapable of this. The more I think about this, the more I really really want McHale fired. He does not deserve this team that he’s coaching and he DEFINITELY does not deserve a player of Lin’s abilities and character. In last night’s game, if McHale hadn’t stuck stubbornly to this laughable starting lineup and continued to stick with it in the second half–even though there was overwhelming evidence that it hurt the Rockets in the first quarter, then Rockets would have EASILY won last night’s game.
- McHale doesn’t know how to run an offense and doesn’t know how to play to his player’s strengths. This is an ongoing issue with McHale, but it was most apparent in last night’s game against the Lakers. The Rockets played superbly against the Blazers. They used a lot of PnRs and they utilized Howard in the post extensively. But then suddenly, all that went away completely in just the next game. The level of inconsistency of offensive execution is mind boggling. This is not even just the case from game to game. It’s also the case from quarter to quarter. I think it has a lot to do with McHale’s marginalization of Lin. The Rockets don’t have a Point Guard. There’s no one really running the show, so this is why their offense is so inconsistent. This should be Lin’s role, but because of McHale’s blindness and marginalization of Lin, the Rockets end up without a consistent Point Guard presence and this is a major reason why their offense is so inconsistent. And for the life of me, I still can’t figure out why any coach in their right mind would have Beverley run the offense over Lin. And this is a major reason why I want Lin to be traded. McHale either doesn’t understand how to use Lin or he doesn’t care to understand and the Rockets suffer as a result. I don’t understand why they would use PnRs with much success in one game and then do away with them almost completely in another game–especially when they have three of the best PnR players in the NBA. Howard’s inconsistent post up game can be blamed partly on Howard, but as a coach–especially one who was a preeminent low post player–it is up to McHale to make Howard a low post presence. I cut McHale some slack here, because it’s one of those things that takes time. But I cut McHale no slack for misusing or under-utilizing Lin. If McHale had let Lin be the primary play maker–especially when he’s on the floor with Beverley, then the Rockets would have won last night’s game easily.
- If McHale can actually draw up end of game schemes, Rockets could have won last night’s game. Parsons made a critical error by throwing an inbound pass to Howard during one of the last few possessions. This was a critical mistake, because it allowed the Lakers to foul Dwight Howard to put him on the line. So when Parsons in bounded the ball to Howard, this was like giving the Lakers a gift wrapped in a purple and yellow ribbon. Howard missed both free throws and Lakers had possession down only two points with a chance to win the game (which they did). You can certainly blame Parsons for a boneheaded move, but if McHale could draw up schemes to free our guys for in bounds then this would have never happened. In last night’s game, if Parsons hadn’t in bounded the ball to Howard, Rockets would have EASILY won the game.
- There’s a lot of talk about Howard’s lack of seriousness. Well, in general, I think this talk is overblown. But in last night’s game, I did see where his critics are coming from. During one of the last Hack-A-Howard possession, when the Rockets were in transition, Howard tried to run away from the Lakers players so they wouldn’t foul him. I have no complaints about this, but he did it in a very comical way, laughing, as if he’s playing tag. Of course, I understand and can relate to Howard’s humorous state of mind at the time, because it is pretty funny trying to evade being fouled by the opponent. But I think that took his focus out of the game and after that possession, he looked totally out of focus and missed four straight free throws. As a professional, you have to maintain focus–especially when you’re on the court. Again, McHale should have recognized this and should have called time out to let Howard regain his focus. The way he was behaving was inappropriate for the do-or-die situation that the Rockets found themselves in. That’s another ongoing issue with McHale is that he neglects to call time outs when he should during critical junctures of the game. If McHale had called a time out and let Howard regain his focus, Howard could have hit at least one of those four free throws and Rockets could have won in overtime (Rockets had momentum in the fourth quarter, which likely would have carried over into overtime).
- Harden keeps wasting possessions when there’s one or two possessions left in a given quarter by doing the same thing over and over, which is to dribble out the clock and force up a shot, rather than actually making plays. Again, I’ve said this last year, but Lin should be the one with the ball in his hands during these types of situations. Not Harden. The Rockets are a lot more dangerous with the ball in Lin’s hands–especially during these situations and especially this year, now that they have another superstar on the team. I don’t know why the coaches continue to let Harden do this and continue to waste these critical possessions. Again, the blame is on McHale, for either not recognizing that this is a serious problem or for not knowing how to resolve this problem.
There are more issues, but I think I’ll end here for now. I’ve always favored Lin staying with the Rockets, but have now changed my mind. I think this is the wrong place for Lin as long as McHale is the coach. McHale has marginalized Lin on this team and severely under-utilized his talents. As a result, Lin’s teammates respect Lin less and less and Lin is not allowed to do what he does best, which is to be THE floor general. I’m sure Lin will have a good season, but if he was on another team, I have no doubt that Lin would have a Linsanity 2.0 type of season or close to it. Lin is ready. He’s been playing well and, more importantly, he has been very consistent. He’s been the most consistent Rockets player so far this season, actually. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if people within the Rockets organization recognize this that Lin has been one of the best three players in every single game so far this season.