Rockets > Knicks?

I haven’t been paying attention to the Knicks at all this season, but now that we’re a third through the season, I thought it might be interesting to do some comparisons between Lin’s current team and his former team.

The Knicks got off to a hot start and I had been expecting them to do pretty well this season for a number of reasons:

– The biggest reason is that Melo is playing with a different mindset and a lot of confidence. I also think being on the Olympic team helped his game (it made him more comfortable playing off the ball) and conditioning in the off season.

– Woodson is a solid coach who finally has a team full of superstars to work with for a full season.

– Kidd is a huge upgrade to Baron Davis et al.

– Felton is a slightly better fit for the Knicks than Lin, because he’s a better perimeter shooter and Lin’s game would take away from Melo’s dominance (this is debatable whether or not this helps or hurts the Knicks).

– They’re playing with a huge chip on their shoulders–especially Felton and Melo.

As a result, I haven’t really scrutinize their blazing performance, thus far, because it wasn’t unexpected to me. Currently, the Knicks stand at number 2 in the Eastern Conference, behind Miami and just a half game above Atlanta with a .677 winning percentage. A number 2 ranking looks excellent on the surface, but when you consider how ridiculously weak the Eastern Conference is the number 2 ranking is deceiving. A .677 winning percentage is only good for a tie for the 5th spot in the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors.

The Rockets, on the other hand stand at number 6th in a very tough Western Conference that has 5 teams over .600 (the Eastern Conference only has three teams over .600). They’re currently 17-14 with a .548 winning percentage.

Currently the Knicks have a better winning percentage than the Rockets, but when we dig deeper this is about the only thing that the Knicks really have over the Rockets: a better win to loss record currently. Aside from this, I think a very good case can be made for the Rockets actually being a superior team to the Knicks–especially going forward.

– Rockets blew out Knicks both times they played with and without Melo, at home and away (the second time on a back-to-back road trip for the Rockets). So I think it’s safe to say that the Knicks are over-matched by the Rockets one-on-one. So in that sense, the Rockets are clearly > Knicks from a match-up standpoint. So this is a big factor in assessing whether the Rockets are > Knicks overall.

– Rockets have had a tougher schedule than the Knicks so far. They’ve played with 12 “top tier” teams (I’m including the Lakers in this group), while the Knicks have played only 8 games with “top tier” teams. Knicks beat Miami twice and San Antonio once. They loss to Chicago twice and Memphis once and traded games with the Lakers. In comparison, The Rockets beat Chicago twice, Loss to San Antonio three times, OKC twice and Miami once. They traded games with Memphis and Lakers. It should be noted that the Knicks have yet to face OKC (while Rockets faced them twice) and they have only faced San Antonio once, while the Rockets have faced them three times. So it’s conceivable that the Knicks could have a record much similar to the Rockets had they faced similar number of “top tier” teams. To make this point a little more simply, the Rockets are currently 12-2 against the weak Eastern Conference, while the Knicks are 13-3.

– Rockets have managed to keep pace with the Knicks even though they just had their team thrown together with a bunch of young guys who needed a lot of time to get any sort of chemistry going–not to mention a last minute trade of Harden. The Knicks have had some new additions to their squad, but there’s no comparison to what the Rockets have had to deal with in terms of getting new players on board, etc. So for the Rockets to even keep pace with the Knicks with only a third of the season to get some cohesion going is saying a lot about the potential of the Rockets going forward.

– Knicks started hot and are cooling off, while the Rockets started slowly (as expected) and are just starting to heat up. Knicks are 5-5 in their last 10 games, which include consecutive losses to the lowly Kings (without Melo and Felton) and the Blazers (despite Melo’s 45 points with an injured Felton). It’s unclear how long Felton will be out, but that’s a huge blow to the Knicks, although Kidd is very capable of filling Felton’s shoes. By contrast, the Rockets went 7-3 in their last 10 games, which include a terrible schedule of back-to-back games against the top teams in the NBA (Spurs and Thunder). Their latest performance has been highlighted by consecutive blow out games against top tier defensive teams, such as the Bulls and Grizzlies. The coaching staff is finally having confidence in Lin and letting Lin play more of Lin’s game. As a result, the Rockets have looked like a more cohesive team and their chemistry as a unit is building. Brighter days are ahead for the Rockets, while the Knicks could remain in limbo until Felton returns. Knicks could also get a boost from Shumpert’s return later in the season.

– Hollinger’s NBA Power Rankings has the Rockets at #5 and the Knicks at #10. Of course, these rankings need to be taken with a huge grain of salt and are extremely short term in focus, nevertheless it is a factor in assessing whether or not the Rockets are better than the Knicks.

So although the Knicks currently have a better record than the Rockets, I think the Rockets are actually a better team. And this is not something I had expected to say at the beginning of the season. I think Knicks will end up with a record similar to the Rockets or slightly better than the Rockets, but it’s because they’re in a much weaker conference. I think if the Rockets were in the East or the Knicks were in the West, the Rockets would end up with a better record. My bold prediction for the Rockets is that they finish with 50+ wins, as long as there are no significant injuries to their key players: Harden, Lin, Asik, Parsons. Rockets will end up 5th or better in the East. I’m hoping I haven’t jinxed the Rockets with this bold prediction, but I figured it’s about time to say some definitive things about this team and put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I’ve been saying from day one that I’m confident the Rockets will make the playoffs, so I figured it’s time to put some numbers to it.


22 thoughts on “Rockets > Knicks?

  1. And a W against New Orleans 🙂
    Nice bold prediction Mr.Philosopher 🙂
    I am actually praying the same, the Rockets to the playoffs and a healthy JLin for the entire season and as always 🙂

  2. I gotta give props to McHale in the New Orleans game for recognizing that Lin was an important factor in the game, despite Lin not scoring much in the game. Even though Douglas did well, McHale stuck with Lin, because he recognized that when Lin was out, the Rockets struggled. Lin provided stability on the offensive end and also contained Vasquez, who was very quiet in the first half and most of the third quarter when Lin was on him. Vasquez started going off when Douglas was guarding him. That was a rare move by McHale to play Lin over 40 minutes, even though Douglas did well scoring the ball. Lin’s teammates are starting to look Lin off again. He was open many times, not just on the perimeter, but around the basket during transition and such, and his teammates didn’t pass it to him. Lin rarely got the ball back after he gave it up in tonight’s game. I’m just glad we won a game that we should have won. As long as the Rockets continue to win games that they should be winning, they’ll end the season with 50+ wins.

  3. Playing over 40 minutes in a game might be unhealthy for Lin. Mchale benched Lin for too long in the OKC game, and then he played him for too long in the next two games. (Are we having a streaky coash?) This makes me wonder if Mchale has any rules in mind for properly managing a player’s time. Hopefully bringing in Beverley or Machado will help, Jeremy will manage to score more, and the coach will make better and healthier use of Lin.

    • I agree, Ashley, that it’s not good for players to play 40+ minutes a game. In Lin’s case, he rarely plays over 40 minutes a game, so I think it’s okay every now and then. Since I’m always pointing out how McHale benches Lin for every little mistake, I felt it was necessary for me to point out times when McHale lets Lin play even though Lin isn’t scoring efficiently. And last night was one of those rare times. I was really surprised and impressed that McHale recognized that Lin was a positive factor, even though he wasn’t scoring the ball. And even more surprising, because Douglas was actually doing well.

      • It’s kind of you to give McHale credit for “recognizing Lin as a positive factor,” but what’s weird is that he made no mention of Lin in the post-game talks of these two recent games in which Lin played so hard and for so long. Particularly in the Hawks game, Lin did well both defensively and offensively, but Mchale praised everyone except him. This might be something too trivial to fuss about, but it just can’t escape people’s attention. (Sigh!)

  4. This stop in the lane turnaround pop is what I’d like to see Lin do more of. It’s at 2:50 in this video:

    I think Lin should mix things up by stopping short in the lane and popping up a short jumper. That shot is there for him pretty much whenever he wants it. He shouldn’t always feel the need to drive all the way to the basket. I think Lin can get plenty of easy shots just by stopping short in the lane and surprising the defense that’s expecting him to go all the way to the hoop.

    • I concur with you that Lin should mix up his shots with plays like this and not drive to the basket all the time, Philosopher.

      May be I am biased and, as a result, seeing things, but it seems like Lin is the one Rockets that sacrifices his body, taking a ridiculous number of hard fouls (to match his “ridiculous” salary) out there on the floor.

      Lin is one tough cookie, but a human body can only take so much punishment. I am deeply concerned about Lin’s longevity in the NBA, if he keeps getting hit and knocked down hard without any call from the refs.

      • Lin does get a lot of hard fouls (and often doesn’t get the calls) and also falls down way too much. I think some of it has to do with him not being in enough control when he drives in the lane. He often lands off-balanced. I think if he incorporates more short jumpers into his game, that will help preserve his body. Not sure why his shooting coach and the Houston coaching staff aren’t drilling this into him. I’ve talked about this in the past. It seems like the short jumper has disappeared in the NBA these days to the point that it can become a competitive advantage. Tony Parker is one player I’ve noticed that has a very good short jumper game.

      • Got five stitches in his bleeding head tonight. How much more could he bear? My goodness!?

      • I missed the first half of the third quarter so i didn’t see how Lin got hurt, but did see the stitches when he checked back in in the fourth quarter.

      • Sanders tried to steal the ball from Lin and collided into Lin.
        Got this from Clutchfan:

      • I see. thanks for the link, CH and MrPingPong. I saw that picture on Dreamshake and a lot of people say that the bloody mark on the side of his head looks like a dragon (and they weren’t being racist). I happen to agree. It does look like a dragon. very appropriate since Lin is a dragon.

      • Good to know Lin got hurt inadvertently. I thought he got hammered under the basket or something.

  5. I’m glad that McHale put Lin back too. When I saw Lin got hurt and left the court, I was quite depressed thinking that this could be Lin’s worst game ever because not only was he injured, he would also get the lowest points ever. I just didn’t expect that he would come back in the 4th quarter and the win was absolutely a huge surprise! Well, I hope he can be more scoring-minded and brings out his best in the first half–in case there might not a chance later to redeem himself, e.g., due to an injury. But I guess the coach probably has come to realize that Lin could play well even if he sucks priviously.

    • Lin licked his own blood, just like in a Bruce Lee movie. And that’s when you know things will get interesting! 🙂

      Lin is a 4th quarter man. During Linsanity 1.0, there were many games where he would suck in the first 3 quarters and then came alive in the 4th, the most memorable of all being the Valintine massacre.

      The 4th quarter is what separates the men from the boys. Your lungs are screaming for oxygen; your arms and legs are turning into rubber; what’s left is your heart and your spirit, which is what Lin is all about.

      I pray the GOB to protect Lin from serious injuries.
      Onto the Cavs tonight!

      • Another noteable example last year was against the Sixers when everyone, including Lin, sucked until Lin turned it on in the fourth quarter scoring 18 points to single-handedly win a game the Knicks expected to lose. This was post-Linsanity under Melo’s and Woodson’s reign.

        I hope this is a turning point for McHale in his dealings with Lin. It does seem that way, because McHale surprised me two games straight by his confidence in Lin. We’ll see if this continues. Lin is still struggling mightily with his shooting. This is what is hurting his game most right now. Again, if he could just incorporate short jumpers into his game, which he did more of during Linsanity, I think that would help his scoring a great deal. I’m not sure if Lin’s shooting coach handles this aspect of his game (i.e., the short jumper), but if so, then Lin needs a new shooting coach. It’s probably not a good idea to switch shooting coaches mid-season, but I’m hoping he finds a better shooting coach in the off-season. The guy he has now seems like a really good guy from that one interview I saw of him, but doesn’t seem to be getting it done. Lin’s had that shooting coach for a while so now that Lin is a big star it might be time for an upgrade. I think loyalty is a fine attribute, but sometimes it’s best to just move on when something isn’t working.

      • Lin vs Cavs 2012-02-29: Lin and Knicks sucked in the first half, then came alive in the second half and ended up winning 120-103.

        Let’s see what the GOB have in store tonight for Lin and Co!

      • I know I’m probably alone in this, but for some reason that I still haven’t been able to figure out, something feels a little off seeing Lin in a Knicks jersey. I like him more in a Rockets jersey. I also like Lin’s Rockets teammates, coaching staff and management a lot more than those counterparts in the Knicks Maybe that’s the reason. Lin belongs more with Rockets, also because they’re a running team that’s all about team ball with a bunch of young guys that have very little egos.

  6. JLIN is such a fearless fighter! bleeding or not.
    But of course I love to see him winning with a healthy body.
    Yes God, please protect Jeremy every single game that he plays 🙂
    Thank you! 🙂

    versus Cavs, GO JLIN! GO ROCKETS!

  7. I am with you Mr. PP and Rubielyn. Just pray and hope he can finish the entire season with a healthy body and injury free. But NBA can be very physical sometimes and hoping him injury free becomes unrealistic. GO Jeremy!

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