Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rockets Preseason Preview

It may not need to be stated any more, but the preseason is not about the "W"'s. It's easy to understand why a casual fan would get bored by that fact, but as an addict I couldn't be more excited about the month leading up to the season. The beauty of the preseason is that there are so many different unknowns that are being played out and evaluated. Each player and each coach has their own purpose and each one can be a vital piece of a winning season.

Veterans need some minutes to get warmed up and to begin trying to get into somewhat of a comfortable rhythm heading into the season. They also get minutes to see how the younger guys and new pieces will work together. Rookies need to get over the fact that they are in a game with people they have watched since they were in 8th grade.

Rookies and sophomores are fighting for season minutes, and with this health-depleted team it is VERY important that we evaluate them properly and honestly. Chances are they will be our X-factor this season. That being said, I hope these guys will not need to be depended on in the playoffs, when we go to a 7-9 man rotation.

The purpose for each player on our roster differs. Here are some of the things I am watching closely during this preseason.

Rafer Alston - his injuries really change his focus. He, like a Battier or Scola, is very consistent and is reliable veteran talent, and you know exactly what you are going to get from them. His minutes should be limited to make way for Brooks to prove himself and for Rafer to stay healthy. While he is playing I would like to see how his shooting looks, that is always going to be Alston Achilles' heel.

Shane Battier - Will not play b/c of his injury. He may just become a coach and evaluator.

Luis Scola - Will get a lot of minutes at the center position (otherwise known as the five). We do not know completely how this will work. It worked well at times last season, but as of now we are strongly dependent upon his ability to play that position. In the playoffs, most of his time will be at the four, but he is a second team starter at the five, as well; and will probably only be on the bench when Dorsey, Landry, or Hayes are in with Yao. It’s also important to evaluate how he works when a team doubles Yao. He must find his spots and sometimes hit the open 15-footer.

T-Mac -He will complain about injuries and really not play much at all. We should see how he and Artest work together early on. It's not anything I’m worried about, but it will be fun to see for the first time.

Yao - will get some good minutes for a preseason. Maybe 20 to 30 minutes at times. He has to get his endurance up or he will get killed early in the year. Hopefully his season minutes will stay low, for obvious reasons. He will also be there for rookies and young players to practice the art passing to him in the post and for the catch and shoot when he is doubled.

Dorsey Vs. Landry Vs. Hayes - This will be a very competitive battle that is not even close to being worked out. Hayes is pretty much the veteran of the group and his professionalism and intelligence will be valued in certain season and playoff games, but it will not need to be evaluated in the preseason. We know how to use him and when. Landry will probably see more minutes than Chuck during the season, because of his scoring ability and decent defense. His knee will get tested and we will see some dunks this preseason. Dorsey will get more minutes in the preseason than the whole season. He will have to prove himself as more than a rebounder or defensive player to overtake any of Hayes' minutes. His scoring and offense will be the unknown that will be looked at the closest.

Aaron Brooks - Is the MOST IMPORTANT player to be evaluated this preseason. He has worked hard in the preseason knowing this, and it will be great to see how it will affect his game. He will run the point and the offense a lot. We must see him guard some bigger guards and shoot like he is capable of. In my opinion, he will never be able to play Alston's role, but, with higher court IQ from experience, he can really change the dynamic of the team by being a high flying offensive-minded point guard. Cross your fingers for Brooks. We will need him to be great in order to win a championship.

Brent Barry - This veteran will play for fun. He will do things the right way and show the Rockets how to shoot without any care. I would like to see him with Yao, T-Mac, and Artest in these games to see just how open he will be. It's scary to think about. Also he will be bringing the ball up a lot in the preseason. We did not bring him here to be our backup PG, but it will be evaluated early, just in case Brooks can't handle his tough role this early in his career.

Luther Head - He is in trouble. He will be a third team player with Dorsey if he does not get better at running the offense. His SG role is already a proven commodity and we know how to use him at the two. However, with T-Mac and Barry ahead of him, it may not be a needed role. He will be very vital if T-Mac or Barry go down in the season, which is very likely.

Ron Artest - This is the most complicated evaluation. It is a very positive dilemma. He can be used in so many ways that his role will depend on who else is in the game not on his best skill-set. He will have a set number of minutes in the season, and he will be effective at almost every position; just as he was used by Adelman in Sacramento. This will be awesome to see and cheer for.


Submitted by Earnie Banks


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