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The Unsung Hero: Chuck Hayes shuts down Amar’e Stoudemire

It was pointed out by mario713 of our Rockets forum that Chuck Hayes was the player of the game Sunday against the Knicks, but the highlight reel didn’t reflect that at all.



Houston Rockets Chuck Hayes

Chuck Hayes filled his role to perfection Sunday night against the Knicks

It was pointed out by mario713 of our Rockets forum that Chuck Hayes was the player of the game Sunday against the Knicks, but the highlight reel didn’t reflect that at all.

Very good point. We mentally make note of the smooth offensive plays or flashy defensive plays, but solid, hard-nosed defense — the kind Chuck Hayes brings — goes largely unrewarded by the fans and ignored by the replays.

Not this time.

Hayes changed the complexion of last night’s game by doing exactly what he was called upon to do: shut down the red-hot Amar’e Stoudemire. Size, scoring ability… we all know Hayes’ weaknesses and in large playing time doses they get exposed, but when used as a situational defender, Hayes can have a tremendous impact because his one-on-one post defense is in an elite category. We’ve seen that time and time again.

It’s not yet known if the Rockets will get to a state of being a contender this season, but it’s fairly clear that any contender would love to be able to bring a guy like Chuck Hayes off the bench.

Here is a highlight reel clip of Hayes defending Stoudemire Sunday at the Garden. Watch as he uses his strength and quick footwork to consistently stay in front of Stoudemire and get him out of his comfort zone. Even if he fouls him or just forces Amar’e to pass the ball out, Hayes makes sure his face has been spray-painted on Stoudemire’s goggles.

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Armed with a bizarre fascination for Mario Elie and a deep love of the Houston Rockets, Dave Hardisty started ClutchFans in 1996 under the pen name “Clutch”.


Rockets are throwing an awesome House Party, but how long will it last?

Danuel House has all the love from Houston right now, but will he stay here beyond this season?



Danuel House Houston Rockets Return

Danuel House Jr. made his return to the starting lineup for the Houston Rockets on Friday night and the results were everything he and the team could have hoped for.

The versatile forward played just over 35 minutes in the win over Phoenix, tying his career high with 18 points while going 6 for 11 from the floor 4 for 8 from three while throwing in 4 rebounds with an assist and a steal. He also had what ultimately proved to be a decisive play in the final minutes, preventing Josh Jackson from scoring after stealing the ball from James Harden.

The Rocket announcers and fans all instantly reacted to the foul, believing it to be clean. While I myself was prepared to call it an awful foul call, House shared with Dave Hardisty after the game that he believed he made a little contact with Jackson on the follow-through and doesn’t blame the refs at all for making that call. Block or no block, the play proved huge for the Rockets as Jackson would miss both free throws and essentially end the game.

Clutch and the media caught up with House following the game:

After the impressive performance, fans are once again abuzz about what House means for this year’s team. Is he a starter? Will he come off the bench? Will he steal minutes from the thus-far-underperforming Iman Shumpert?

The Rockets will get answers to those questions over the final leg of the season as they head for the playoffs, but it seems pretty clear that House will play an important role in the Rockets title chase this season. His skill in shooting the three, combined with his ability to put the ball on the floor when his defender closes on him, is something sorely missing from this team. He demonstrated the combo repeatedly Friday night, attacking the rim and showing off his athleticism as Suns defenders tried to close him out on the three-point line.

Will they lose the House this summer?

Despite the excitement, you can’t help but let your mind wander to the offseason. Regardless of what happens to end this year, the Rockets are going to be in an interesting spot financially. After winning his stare down with Rockets management, House was converted to a standard NBA contract for the remainder of this season that will allow him to become a Restricted Free Agent heading into the 2019-20 NBA season. Gauging the market for House is extremely difficult right now and could fluctuate with his performance from here on out, but this much is clear; keeping House for next season will be complicated.

By virtue of his restricted free agency, the Rockets will have the right to match offers for House this offseason, but it comes with a catch. With the Rockets set to be over the salary cap, they can only match contract offers up to the mid-level exception. As a likely tax payer team next season (more on that in the offseason) that number will further be reduced to the tax-payer version of the MLE. Any contract for House above his qualifying offer ($1.88M) or Non-Bird rights (just north of $2M) would require the Rockets to pay him using those MLE dollars.

David Weiner (a must follow for any Rockets fan!) does a great job of breaking these options down on twitter. Basically, the Rockets could offer House up to 4 years and around $8.65 million in total dollars without using the MLE. That gives the Rockets three options to retain House next season:

  1. he plays on his qualifying offer ($1.88 million)
  2. he signs for a Non-Bird contract ($2+ million)
  3. he signs for all or a portion of the tax payer MLE ($5.6 million)
Assuming House plays well between now and the season’s end (hopefully sometime in June) the first two options seem unlikely.

Complicating matters for the Rockets is that beyond House, they will likely need that tax payer MLE to have a shot at keeping Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried, both significant additions following buyouts this season. If one or both would accept their one year Non-Bird offer for a modest salary increase next year, it would certainly makes things easier, but even then the MLE would be the only avenue the team would have for adding talent in free agency this offseason (aside from the minimum).

Despite a perceived snub picked up on by Bill Worrell and Clyde Drexler, House has said he hopes to remain with the Rockets and went so far as to say “I trust Daryl” in an interview with Jonathan Feigen. House’s agent, Raymond Brothers, said that their priority was for House to remain with the Rockets in that same interview.
By converting House now instead of waiting until the end of the G-League season, the Rockets did ensure House earns $200k+ more than he would have otherwise, so perhaps that will create some goodwill heading into offseason negotiations. Still, with House and his agent so steadfast in their desire to hit RFA this season, you have to wonder if they have reason to feel confident that there is an offer out there already from another team.

It’s not impossible to imagine plausible scenarios where everything works out for the Rockets, both during this season and in the offseason. Could one of House or Rivers take their Non-Bird right contracts with the other taking the MLE? Absolutely. No matter what happens between now and the end of this Rockets season, keeping Danuel House for the 2019-20 NBA season will be an interesting challenge. Rockets fans can only hope that the decision has to be made following a strong showing from House throughout a deep playoff run.

There’s no question that the Rockets have title hopes once again this year and Danuel House, a player who went unclaimed on waivers twice this season, has managed to make himself an integral part of those hopes.

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Lin and Yang: Why Choose One Point Guard When You Can Have Two?

As fans debate over who should start at point guard — Jeremy Lin or Patrick Beverley — Jeff says the Rockets will be fine with a heavy dose of both.



Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley

A lot is being made over the fact that Jeremy Lin leads all NBA point guards in true shooting percentage through the first handful of games this season. Conversely, Patrick Beverley, the named starter, has had a rough go of it so far, fighting through a rib injury and some poor shooting. As those who spend any time at all on message boards like the one here at ClutchFans can attest, those who like Lin are more than a tad miffed.

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Conspiracy Theories Be Damned – Just Enjoy The Game

With national media railing on Dwight Howard and local Rockets fans speculating on the locker room and Jeremy Lin, Jeff says let’s relax and watch this team grow



Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Dwight Howard

Despite problems showing on both ends of the floor, the Rockets are 4-2 with potential for more

I’m not a big fan of hyperbole in much of anything, least of all sports. Overly simplified explanations for problems or successes are almost always inaccurate when it comes to the intricacies of performance and they almost always create expectations that are unfair of both the performer and the fan.

For the Rockets fan, the diehard who reads ClutchFans and watches every game with great intensity, this generates a kind of duality that is difficult to resolve. In this case it is the macro versus the micro, and both are a problem.

The Macro

The macro is epitomized by current sports culture as driven by highlight reels. Before ESPN, fans, writers and others only had their personal observations from watching games, box scores and reports from other broadcasters/journalists on which to base their assertions about a player or team. For the most part, they stuck with what they saw, fearing that if they went only by a box score or, for journalists, stories they didn’t write, they might sound like an idiot — at least for those who cared about sounding intelligent.

Today, with highlights splattered across networks and the Internet, and every news outlet, blog and gossip column digging for the tiniest morsel of dirt, everyone is an expert, except they aren’t.

I respect the opinions of some national commentators, but for the most part their narratives are based out of little more than some highlights and a handful of observations. Take LeBron James. For years, he was killed by the national media for not being a winner. He gave up the ball too often in the waning moments — because being unselfish is akin to being soft — and he couldn’t lead. Put him on a loaded Heat team and he wins a title. Now, he’s obviously a winner.

Nevermind the fact that his numbers across the board didn’t change from his time in Cleveland. Nevermind that he still deferred at times in critical situations. Now, he’s one of the true greats because he “learned how to win.” Or maybe he just learned that he needed other winners around him to win. Of course, even that “decision” was met with stultifying scrutiny until he got his ring.

In similar fashion, the collective jaw drop by national media members at Dwight Howard choosing Houston over LA would be comical if it didn’t fit neatly into their narrative about Howard the player. Like LeBron’s exit from Cleveland, Howard was met with derision because he dared to leave the vaunted Lakers. At least with James, the argument was over HOW he exited rather than why. For Howard, the discussion becomes his fear and insecurity when, in truth, he picked a better team if not a more glamorous city. No one argues his game must improve, but the myth that a player must have Kobe-like intensity to win a championship is nonsense. Unfortunately, it is one of the primary driving forces behind the public’s perception of Howard as a player.

The Micro

On the other end of the spectrum is the dissection of every tiny detail, the micro. I don’t mean intelligent analysis from brilliant minds of the game or even the study of quantitative metrics. For me, the micro is more about scrutiny based on the tiniest detail, the best example which is what I call “camera face.” This is the moment when a person is caught on camera for a few seconds or even a single frame and how fans and pundits extrapolate from there. One smile in the wrong moment — during a bad loss, for example. One glare. One mouthed curse word. That’s all it takes for a player or coach to be judged as soft or mean or uninterested or dispassionate or whatever other negative terms might be applied.

Instead of a rational dialogue about the entirety of a player’s game, we get a wealth of conspiracy theories and conjecture. It is understandable that the average fan would not have the time to study film and take the time to gain insight into how the game is played. It is also reasonable to believe that most people will never have the level of expertise necessary to work in sports. It’s why I cut even seasoned writers slack because, despite devoting a large amount of their lives to the game, much of what they do is report on what they see, not study every nuance and become experts on the motion offense or individual player tendencies.

Yet, there is a great desire it would seem by fans and casual observers to apply a sort of Occam’s Razor approach to sports analysis. If there is a rumor of players bickering in the locker room, the entire team is in turmoil and that two-second shot during the game is proof. It is the same overreaction that causes people to want to bench players after a single game or fire coaches in midseason for a losing streak.

But that kind of fandom is as old as sport itself (people just watched in person before the cameras were beaming hi-def signals into our homes). A newer phenomena is how this information is disseminated and legitimized by the Internet. Just as the web fuels the fires of the ridiculous (conspiracy theories) and the untoward (sex scandals), a single rumor started on a message board can go from outlandish to implausible to possible to a legitimate theory with little or no actual fact to back it up. It’s analysis paralysis spread into the realm of legitimate thought and it can be infuriating.

Years ago, a friend of mine who worked in sports media told me that we will never know what really goes on behind closed doors, in locker rooms, in meeting rooms, in training rooms. That inner sanctum is guarded like Google’s search algorithm or the codes to missile silos. It is sacred to players and coaches because of the privacy it affords them both from gawking fans and the prying eyes of the media. Still, we speculate.

Solving the Conundrum

Unfortunately, the whole thing frustrates the hell out of me, not just because the behavior of both ends of the spectrum is annoyingly pervasive, but also because I don’t have the answers either. Maybe Howard is too jovial. Maybe there are rifts between players that are only spoken of in hushed tones behind closed doors. Maybe winning and losing is simple or maybe it is ridiculously complicated. I don’t know.

But, I do know that, despite a really disturbing loss to the Lakers Thursday night, the Rockets are 4-2 and a mess on the floor. That indicates to me they have the talent to beat most teams they should (even Miami lost to Philadelphia already) and will struggle to figure out how to win against good teams, at least for now. They are better than we think and worse than we think too. Truly, we don’t know who they are at this point. It’s too early in the season.

If 30 games from now, the defense still looks out of sync and the offense is stagnant, well, I’ll consider the possibility that Howard hates our point guards or that he smiles too much. Maybe I’ll lend some credence to the critics and bend an ear to the conspiracy theorists. For now at least, I’m just going to enjoy watching some basketball.

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Rockets can not trade their 2011 draft pick

There have been several columns and reports, most recently one by ESPN Insider, that mention the Rockets potentially including their 2011 first round draft choice in a trade.




There have been several columns and reports, most recently one by ESPN Insider, that mention the Rockets potentially including their 2011 first round draft choice in a trade.

Only one problem — they can’t.

ClutchFans confirmed on Friday that, due to the Ted Stepien rule that restricts teams from trading away future first rounders in consecutive years, the Rockets can not currently trade their first round pick for this summer’s draft. The Terrence Williams trade, which sent Houston’s lottery-protected 2012 pick to New Jersey, has restricted the Rockets in the same fashion as the Knicks were handcuffed by the Tracy McGrady-Jordan Hill+picks deal last February.

But wait — don’t the Rockets have a 2012 pick? Technically they may have two. If the Rockets finish in the lottery in 2011-12, they keep their pick. If the Knicks’ pick doesn’t end up in the top 5, it goes to Houston.

However, the Rockets do not have a guaranteed pick that year. If the Rockets make the playoffs and New York’s pick strikes top-5 gold, the Rockets have nothing.

There are some loopholes. The Rockets can be free of that restriction by acquiring another team’s unconditional 2011 pick or an unconditional 2012 pick. If not, they will be able to trade the pick on draft day the moment the selection is made, so technically they could work a deal beforehand and make the pick for another team, similar to what they did when they picked Rudy Gay for the Memphis Grizzlies at #8 in 2006.

One other draft pick asset to keep an eye on — the 2011 second round draft choice of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets have the option to switch second round picks with the Clippers by virtue of the Steve Novak trade in 2008. The Clips are looking like a bottom five team once again, which could make that a high second rounder (the kind that Daryl Morey and the Rockets love).

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You Spin Me Right Round, Baby: Why Poor Defensive Rotations are Killing the Rockets

We’ve all been spoiled. During the Rudy Tomjanovich era, the Rockets didn’t have the best athletes or even the best one-on-one defenders (a certain center excepted), but they played lock down defense. When Jeff Van Gundy manned the ship, the team had an odd mix of players, none of whom were particularly big (another center excepted) or overly athletic, yet they were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.



Even Flo Rida plays defense.

We’ve all been spoiled. During the Rudy Tomjanovich era, the Rockets didn’t have the best athletes or even the best one-on-one defenders (a certain center excepted), but they played lock down defense. When Jeff Van Gundy manned the ship, the team had an odd mix of players, none of whom were particularly big (another center excepted) or overly athletic, yet they were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

Now that Rick Adelman is in charge, we have better athletes and more size than we’ve had in some time, yet our defense is abysmal. Why is that?

Playing defense in the NBA is about more than one-on-one defense, especially in the post-hand-check era. To be a good defensive team, you have to know how to rotate to the correct spot on the floor and close out on the shooter – in essence, to help out on the guy that is open even if he isn’t your man. It’s been a while since we have witnessed a Houston Rockets team so poor at both.


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