Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rockets News Roundup

Jason Friedman interviews two of our point guards:

Rafer Alston (TrueHoop's article on the Rockets)

"This will be the second time in my career I get to play with a fellow Queens, New York guy. We knew and heard so much about each other growing up, so it’s going to be exciting. I had a chance to play with (Queen’s native) Lamar Odom in Miami and we had a wonderful year – ended up going to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, so I look forward to advancing with Ron this year."

Aaron Brooks

"The reality is that, everyday, Ron works the hardest out of anybody here. He's right up there with Yao - he's a gym rat. And he's a good guy; from the time I've been here he's been real nice. Honestly, he's been real cool; smiling, laughing and joking like a regular guy.I think he just likes the situation here. He's got Mac and Yao, and he gets to team up with them and his buddy, Rafer."

1 comment:

Earnie Banks said...

TBR # 2 Luther Head(AKA Alston 2k8)

(Yo chris, i do not know how far Illinois actually got with Luther, and i am iffy about which number pick he was in the draft.)

There is nothing more pleasing to me than Rafer knocking all of the haters off his back last year. Unfortunately Rockets fan's negativity is like an itch that travels to different spots in your body, once you have satified one itch it will itch somewhere else.

In 05/06 the rockets drafted Luther with the 22nd overall pick from Illinois. I am not much of a college basketball follower, given I am a Houston loyalist, but Luther made a name for himself playing alongside Deron Williams all the way to the Final Four. Still in need for athletic, and young gaurd play the Rockets were really impressed with Head, mainly his shooting ability and quickness.

When T-mac and Yao went down in 05/06, and Alston took over the lead PG role, Luther was inserted as a starter for 27 games at the SG position. For a team that were in the playoffs the previous year, speaks volumes about our injury situation, and Jeff Van Gundy's intent on re-building a new supporting cast around his super stars.

Watching Luther that season was a treat. He was completely unphased by the situation. He truly was a breathe of new fresh air. He ran around with the energy of a college basketball system and played every play like it were an elimination game. It is the first time I saw this kind of talent and energy on a Houston Rockets team, maybe dating back to Vernon Maxwell. As previously mentioned in my Alston testiment, the Rockets record that season was very misleading. We lost many close games that year that we should of been blown out of. Rafer and Luther were the most impressive on the floor.

The following year, the team was healthier and Luther's minutes went down. He still was a major contributer off the bench and found his role as our #1 backup to T-mac. He shot a stunning 44.1% from the 3 point line! This was by far our best shooter on our team. He still is, with small competition with newly aquired Brent Barry.

In the playoffs we ran into Utah that year. It is true that he went into a slump, but watching every game that year it was easy to understand why. Somehow the referees allowed Yao to be single gaurded by Mehmet Okur, as he pushed and pulled, while Yao would get punished for turning his body. This single coverage allowed Utah to man up with Luther and every single shot was a contested one. Jeff Van undy didn't adjust, and Luther's role became an impossible one. JVG just kept pounding it in to Yao. Our whole game plan is for his shooting to relieve Yao of his double teams, yet there weren't any double teams for most of that series. Either you blame Yao for not taking control and demanding the double, or the referees for pre-determining the series. As news and comments keep coming, i am a strong believer in the latter. No matter the reason this series gave Luther this "choke" title that is FAR from deserved.

Last season was Luther's worst in terms of shooting. He was off at the begginning, and it was a real slumps. Once again Yao went out and his role had to adapt to something he wasn't. At times he was the PG, which really isn't his position. It's not like he ever had to worry about that at Illinois(I think D Williams had it covered).

My favorite thing about Luther, and in my Addict opinion his most important asset to our team will be hitting big time three pointers late in the game. You can just go ahead and translate that into "clutch". He has been absolutely amazing in the 4rth and it is no fluke. He has hit at least 3 game winners in his short career and probably close to 10 stake-in-the-heart three-pointers. If you watch his interviews, and see his work ethic, it is not suprising at all. He is a very soft-spoken, cold-faced, and hard-working persona. He loves the game of basketball in a way that JVG couldn't resist. He never seems to lose his cool no matter how bad he is struggling, or how intense the game situation is.

My final point involves last year's playoff series against the Jazz where he did not make a shot. Now Houstonians are asking for his head(no pun intended). Once again, we did not have Yao and even Alston at times, and he was forced to dribble and run around more than he should. On another note, he was being refereed very unfairly. I have never seen Luther so upset, then i did in Game 4 of that series while he was on the bench. It wasn't a mad at himself act, it was a complete hatred for the referee's calls. In my opinion, referees target young players like Luther, and they know people will be quick to blame him without much investigation.

Believe me, if Yao was not our main guy, and we didn't have the type of superstar talent we have, then Luther would not be the championship piece that we need. But we rest our whole future on Yao and T-mac and Luther fits PERFECTLY in that plan. When Yao goes down, Luther does too. When Yao is here, Luther is a valuable 8th man this season.

Everyone thinks he needs to be traded. Radio broadcasters joke that we can't even "give" him away. This is how they justify the fact that Daryl Morey loves Luther. These are the same people that thought Steve would steal Rafer's job after being bought out for 30 million. Here is my prediction, Luther will hit some of the biggest shots of any Rocket this season, and playoffs included. I just wish people would stop talking so badly about these players, including T-mac. It will really be shame if the Rockets win a championship despite Houston instead of for Houston.