The Houston Rockets were one of the most aggressive teams in the NBA this offseason. The Rockets signed Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin and they made a blockbuster trade to bring James Harden to Houston as well. Those moves have paid huge dividends early on this season. After a bit of a slow start, Jeremy Lin has picked up his play and is the engine driving the number one scoring team in the NBA and James Harden has shown that he will be just fine without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The beard is fifth in the NBA in scoring and is everything the Rockets were hoping for when they made the trade for him.
Kevin McHale joined KBME in Houston with Matt Thomas to talk about the play of Omer Asik, what he thinks of the scheduling in the NBA, what has surprised him when it comes to James Harden’s game and whether he thinks the game against Chicago on Christmas was the best game of the season for Houston.
On the play of Omer Asik after signing him to a big contract this offseason:
“He’s doing a really good job for us. He’s rolling and getting the ball in good spots and finishing. For us, especially with the amount of pick and roll we run, with Marcus (Morris) and Patrick (Patterson) stretching the floor, there’s room in the middle for O (Omer Asik) to roll, catch the ball and finish. It’s good to get that because even though we didn’t shoot the three really well teams get spread out a little bit and there is an opening in the middle. O has done a good job, Greg (Smith) has done a good job and Patrick has done a good job exploiting that.”
What he thinks of the scheduling in the NBA and playing four games in five nights at times:
“Yeah you’re playing basketball, you’re not laying bricks in 100 degree heat in the Houston summer. We’re playing basketball and we’re getting up and down, but these guys are well conditioned athletes and I honestly believe 90 percent of that is between your ears. There are days in the NBA when you feel better than others but you might not feel good after four days off because you tweak your ankle in practice, charlie horse, whatever, there are just days you feel better. The key to the NBA is you have to play hard and you have to go out and play well when you don’t feel great. That’s a lot of nights in the NBA where you don’t feel great but the four out of five and all that stuff, I have never, ever believed that is as big as we all make it out to be.”
What he learned about James Harden that he didn’t know previously:
“His passes and he’s a really good decision maker. I didn’t know he was that good at it. He’s got a great feel for making the right pass and sometimes the right pass is a difficult pass and he makes it look easy. He has great vision for a player and that’s really something. A lot of great scorers don’t have the vision to go with it. His ability to pass the ball and the obvious is when he’s coming down hill and playing he just is really a major, major problem trying to stop.”
On the importance of the win over Chicago on Christmas in front of a national audience:
“Yeah that was really one of the games where we really put it together. It was just fun to be a part of. I was on the bench talking to our coaches during the game and I was like ‘wow we are really playing at a high level and not only that but we were converting, our space, our pacing, it was really a great game for us and I was glad we were on national television and people around the country got a chance to see the team play. That was probably the highest level we have played all year.”
Listen to Kevin McHale on KBME in Houston here (Audio begins 1:40 into the podcast)