Lin's jumper, GM Morey's hidden talents, more notes from Houston
Jeremy Lin, shooting just 34.8 percent this year, is attempting to change his shot
Rockets GM Daryl Morey is an excellent ping-pong and Pop-A-Shot player
Also: Rockets still think the world of Royce White; Morey's 'letter from God'
In this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, Chris Ballard writes about Daryl Morey, the Rockets' philosophy of team-building and the James Harden trade. The issue can be found on a newsstand near you.
I recently spent some time in Houston watching the Rockets and shadowing GM Daryl Morey. You can read the result in this week's magazine.
As often happens with such stories, I gathered a ton of interesting material, not all of which made it into the story, so I'm going to share some of it here. Think of it like a very low-tech version of DVD extras.
Below you'll hear about Jeremy Lin and his new shooting motion; from Morey on Royce White and Clyde Drexler's ping-pong prowess; and receive a full breakdown of Morey's 1994 NBA fantasy basketball squad.
Jeremy Lin's jumper: Lin told me he's been working with Doc Scheppler, a shooting coach, to reduce the arc on his shots, which is unusual, as more often players need to increase their arc. Said Lin: "Like 80 percent of my shots are short, and he [Scheppler] thinks it's due to the high arc."
While I was there, I watched Lin in pregame warmups and could see his new stroke. The shot was flatter -- though it looked to me as if he was imparting a touch of sidespin -- and he was making it regularly. Come gametime against the Hornets, however, Lin went back to firing his high loopers. And indeed, he missed short, finishing 2-of-10 from the floor. (In his defense, it takes a while to learn, and then trust, a new shooting motion. It also takes courage to try to change it in-season.)
The lingering OKC effect on Harden: When I spoke with Harden, he credited Thunder players like Nick Collison and Kevin Durant (as well as his mother) with teaching him about leadership, and it's clear his time in Oklahoma City, which stresses culture and professionalism, had a profound impact. During his first practice with the Rockets, a day after the trade, the 23-year-old Harden took over the team huddle, saying "Family on three. Family!" Then he yelled at his teammates to tuck their shirts in.
Team owner Les Alexander on the Rockets philosophy: Alexander was a fascinating guy to interview. He's brusque, skeptical and quick-witted. He had a stack of poker chips on his desk -- from the Golden Nugget -- and he flipped through them as we talked. The previous night, he'd had dinner with Michael Lewis. The theme of their conversation was the same as the one Alexander and I had: risk. Alexander's philosophy on the subject as it pertains to the Rockets: "If you want to be really good and if you're not in L.A. or New York, you have to take a lot of risk. I'm willing to take a lot of risk."
The Rockets' strategy of trying for every big-name player: "There's a chance for everything, even if the probability is low, so why not take a shot? That's one thing I don't understand about other teams, why they don't do it. Maybe for PR reasons."
The value of traditional scouts vs. analytics: "One thing traditional scouts have done for a long time that's useful is note how bad a player's missing. If a guy's missing and it's just off it's no way as bad as if you're missing like three-feet wide."
Whether he's involved with team promotions and game entertainment: "No, thankfully not. I have all these opinions about the dancers but they should be kept to myself. No one consults me. I keep asking to be invited to the dance tryouts but no one ever allows me there. I'll just say this: My general philosophy is that you can teach them to dance."
Sam Presti: "I think Sam is the best GM in the game, I mean he's really, really good."
His high school hoops career: "My career was like Luther Head's. I had a lot of time then I went downhill. By senior year I wasn't playing at all."
The analytics job the Rockets are currently hiring for: "We're looking for something that's pretty unlikely to exist. So it's No. 1, a passionate basketball fan so that they'll not just know basketball but be willing to work long hours for low pay; and No. 2, a really good analyst, so that's stats, probability, forecasting; and No. 3, right now the biggest need is they're really a top-notch programmer. [Here he motions in the air.] This is the Venn diagram and we haven't found anyone in the middle. It's really hard."