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Houston Rockets vs. Washington Wizards: Regular Season Game 61 Open Thread


The Essentials:

Rockets (31-31) vs. Wizards (21-39)
7 p.m.
Verizon Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable Rockets numbers this season

15th in expected winning percentage (.498)
8th in pace (93.6 possessions per game)
15th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (106.8 points/100 possessions)
14th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (106.8 points allowed/100 possessions)

Pre-game links

The Dream Shake, SB Nation's Rockets blog
Red94 blog
Clutch Fans
Jonathan Feigen's blog for the Houston Chronicle
The Dream Shake: The Spring Of Our Discontent

Tonight's Projected Starters
Rockets vs. Wizards
Aaron Brooks PG Randy Foye
Kevin Martin SG Mike Miller
Shane Battier SF Al Thornton
Luis Scola PF Andray Blatche
Chuck Hayes C

JaVale McGee

Flip Saunders has taken some heat from you all about his post-game comments regarding Andray Blatche.  Over two-thirds of you felt he was out of line to call out Blatche for his behavior while feuding with Kevin Garnett in the Wizards' loss on Sunday.  

Saunders confirmed that he and Blatche had a discussion, to put it mildly.  As Saunders said it, "we screamed, talk, and did a lot of everything."  Blatche was still arguing that he couldn't let someone talk to him like Garnett did, while Saunders stressed that the best course of action is to not talk back.  

"[Garnett] gets more frustrated with guys like Tim Duncan who don't talk back to him," Saunders said.  "Guys that talk back to him, he feels like he's getting inside their heads.  It motivates him.  It gets his juices flowing."

I decided to ask Saunders why he elected to, in my words, "challenge" Blatche when some coaches always defend their own player in similar situations.  Here's what Saunders said.

"The bottom line is to win the game," Saunders said.  "There might be personal agendas within the game, but the proof in the pudding is that Garnett won.  In the last six minutes, Dray didn't score, had three turnovers, went to three different spots offensively, so [Garnett] clearly got to him from that standpoint."  

"I'm always going to defend my player," Saunders continued, "but my argument to him was 'You've got to be above those kind of things.'  Because here's the thing: the intensity we saw in the last six minutes, and the intensity we saw in the Milwaukee game, that's what you see in the playoffs for all 48 minutes.  So to take that next step [as a player], you've got to understand that's how it's going to be all the time.  You have to be able to withstand those things.  

"It's a mental game," he continued.  "You never want to let your opponent know he's getting the best of you.  That's just how I think.  If that's how you want to be, that's how you want to be."

Saunders also told the story of one of his former players, Darrick Martin.  During the Bulls dynasty, Martin apparently talked some trash to Ron Harper in a Timberwolves win in Minnesota.  The next time the two teams played, Michael Jordan checked Martin on the first possession and defended him so well that Martin couldn't even advance the ball to halfcourt.  Saunders was forced to take Martin out, and Jordan apparently walked by Saunders and told him, "I knew I was going to send [Martin] back to the CBA.  I didn't know I could do it in a half."  The lesson, according to Saunders, is to not get great players riled up, or something.

Back to Blatche, Saunders closed with this: "I told him that if you're going to be the main guy, you have to be the guy who everyone else is looking to," adding that Boston's main leader, Paul Pierce, always keeps his cool on the court.  He said Blatche eventually understood what he was saying after the long talk.

Convincing?  I'm not sure, but regardless, I appreciate Saunders explaining himself in great detail.  

Some other notes before tipoff:

  • I was curious about whether the Wizards were one of 16 teams represented at last weekend's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, hosted by Rockets GM Daryl Morey.  Basically, the conference is a place for people to discuss the growing use of advanced stats and other analytics in sports.  (Here's more information).  I asked a Wizards source, who told me that, to the best of his knowledge, the Wizards weren't represented.  However, one conference attendee, Ryan J. Parker, informed me on Twitter that assistant GM Tommy Sheppard was in attendance.  Another conference attendee told me Sheppard was on the attendee list, but that he didn't see him.  I really hope Sheppard was there, because the teams that are putting resources into this stuff are the ones winning games.  Last year, six of the final eight teams in the playoffs had an analytics department (the Lakers and Hawks were the only ones who didn't).  The Blazers apparently sent a large contingent of people there this year.  I know that Ernie Grunfeld is not a big stats guy, because he told me himself, which is a shame.  Hopefully he either changes his tune or we get someone in here who is into this stuff, because it's a great tool for evaluation.
  • If you watched the video Jake posted earlier today, you'd know that James Singleton is big on pranks.  I asked him about the video and he said that, yes, Elie Seckbach talked to him, and yes, he's into pranks.  Several of us then informed him about some of Gilbert Arenas' pranks, which perked his eyebrows.  Intrigued, I asked him what he'd do if Gilbert Arenas pulled some prank on him.  He said he wasn't sure, but added that "don't worry, I'll be ready."
  • Sam Cassell was the master of the mid-range pull-up jumper when he played, so it should come as no surprise that Cassell was specifically working on Randy Foye's pull-up mid-range jumper in warmups today.
  • This probably means nothing, but Alonzo Gee already has a nameplate above his locker.  Mike Harris did not.  Just throwing it out there.