Front Office View
Dennis Lindsey shares his insights in his Rockets.com blog
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Dennis Lindsey is entering his 11th season with the Rockets and fifth as Vice President of Basketball Operations/Player Personnel. He assists General Manager Carroll Dawson with the evaluation of draft prospects, free agents and potential trades. In addition, he helps in salary cap matters and statistical evaluation for professional and amateur talent. Lindsey also coordinates the scouting of amateur and professional talent.
Lindsey will be offering his insights and thoughts on the Rockets throughout the 2006-07 season in his periodic blog.
Basketball Without Borders
Feb. 12, 2006
Gersson Rosas is a Personnel Scout/Video Coordinator for us. Gersson is an important member of our Basketball Operations Department due to his wide variety of skills and basketball experiences. He has been a coach, scout, video coordinator, shoe company representative and an agent within the basketball business. In addition, Gersson is bilingual so he is the person who heads our South America scouting. When Gersson first approached me regarding a job in our operations department, I gave him a few ideas on how to broaden his skill set so he could set himself apart from others trying to break into the business. Within a couple of years, he did everything we recommended, and when we had a spot that he could fill, we felt like he could compliment our staff well. Most importantly, Gersson is a good person who is very loyal to the Houston Rockets. Enjoy the read!!!
The Houston Rockets take pride in having a strong international tradition woven into the team's fibers, as the franchise's history has been highlighted by global stars including Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo and Carl Herrera. The team is fortunate to have an owner in Leslie Alexander, who firmly supports our efforts in scouring the globe in order to evaluate and assess developing talent from all over the world. The realization of the value and potential of these efforts have been strongly held by the organization, and as a result, has yielded the team a strong presence in basketball markets outside the US. One of the fundamental bases of this strategy has been the support of basketball development programs and clinics throughout the world, specifically the NBA’s Basketball without Borders.
Featuring current and former NBA players and team personnel as camp coaches, Basketball without Borders, a global basketball development and community outreach program, is a basketball instructional camp for young people that also promotes friendship, healthy living and education with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Since its inaugural year in 2001, Basketball without Borders has taken place on five continents and featured more than 160 NBA players, coaches and team personnel from 30 different teams who serve as camp coaches and mentors for more than 1,000 young athletes from over 100 different countries and territories. The NBA family and the campers have traveled more than 85 million miles and logged more than one million hours of community service participating in Basketball without Borders. The camps are highlighted by extensive community outreach activities focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness, education and grassroots basketball development. The NBA and FIBA also donate products, such as basketballs, rims and sporting goods to local basketball federations and communities. The Rockets have been one of the NBA’s most ardent supporters of this program through participation in all facets, which includes directing, consulting, coaching and overall involvement in the NBA’s Basketball without Borders.
Throughout the life of the NBA Basketball without Borders, the Rockets have been a recurring partner of the program and have had a consistent presence in all continents. I had the great experience of coaching in the past two Americas Camps (Argentina/Puerto Rico), where the benefit of speaking Spanish allowed me to interact with the kids on a more personal level and to better understand how passionate they are about the game and their desire to improve individually. Our team personnel has also been involved in the following facets: Yao Ming (player representative) and Dean Cooper (camp director) played vital roles in the launch of the Asia Camp (China) over the past couple of years; Dikembe Mutombo (player representative), Dennis Lindsey (coach) and B.J. Johnson (coach) have all been heavily involved in the Africa Camp; while Gianluca Pascucci (coach) has served as coach in the European Camp (Italy). We all take our commitment in this program very seriously, as our involvement varies from consulting on selection of players, skills instruction and mentoring. One of the highlights of our summer is tracking each other's wins and losses from the different camps in order to see who did the best and worst job of "coaching." And I will tell you, there is nothing like coaching a team of players who are from different countries, speak different languages and are all in their early phases of basketball development -- in addition to being coached by over competitive players and team personnel. Seriously, though, the true value of our participation is the opportunity to teach youth throughout the world the fundamentals of the game of basketball, while developing special relationships across different cultures and languages. We have had the opportunity to establish special relationships with key league and international basketball personnel as a result of our efforts in supporting the NBA's vision.
The impact of our involvement in this program holds a special benefit as we get the opportunity to see, before our very own eyes, the evolution of international basketball. This past year, we witnessed the first draft pick from a Basketball without Borders camp, as Mouhamed Sene was drafted by the Seattle Sonics as the 10th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. Other examples of the success of this program are the rise in the level of play in the participating countries. As well as the impressive number of camp participants that have moved on and are now playing in structured or professional leagues throughout the world, former participants are also competing in U.S. high schools, prep schools and colleges. The bottom line is that kids from around the world are getting the opportunity to develop their basketball talent through a structured program that is changing the face of international basketball, as it fulfills the desperate need for fundamental basketball instruction and life skill training. The Rockets are proud to play a lead role in this global initiative, fittingly as basketball ambassadors.
The So-Called Offseason
Jan. 18, 2006
Dean Cooper, our Director of Scouting, has been with the Rockets organization eight years. Dean coordinates all of our personnel scouting that we do throughout the year -- worldwide. In addition to his scouting duties, Dean also directs our personnel for summer league entry. Our summer programs have been very fruitful over the years. Dean and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau (Summer League Head Coach) are the biggest reasons why we have 1) procured players from our summer program and 2) have gone undefeated the last two summers combined. We appreciate Dean's diligence and hard work with our summer programs. Here's what Dean had to say about the team's work in the summer:
During the summer months when the Rockets aren’t playing games inside packed NBA arenas, people typically refer to that time as the offseason.
That description doesn't ring true in our offices.
The NBA season might not be in full swing, but a supplementary season of evaluating and scouting talent begins in earnest with the league’s annual summer leagues.
The summer league has many facets. We have the opportunity to evaluate our new players (draft picks), non-drafted free agents (players from current class that have gone undrafted), minor league prospects (players from the NBDL and CBA) and International free agents (American and International players who spent the previous season in Europe and abroad). From these various groups, we choose a handful of players to participate in summer activities with us.
The summer activities consist of a free agent camp, a mini-camp and the actual summer league. Most people are most familiar with summer league since a handful of these games are shown on ESPN and NBA-TV.
We put in a ton of research and preparation into the construction of our summer league team. During the course of the season, we compile a list from the aforementioned groups that we would like to evaluate over the summer. Since other teams are also interested in evaluating the same players that we would like to see, there is some negotiating with the agents of a particular player about why they should be part of the Rockets summer program. Generally, this is an opportunity for guys to earn a roster spot or earn a chance to participate in veterans camp in October. We want to evaluate players that have the best opportunity to be on our team just like the agent.
After the list has been compiled and our regular season roster has been evaluated, we sit down with the coaches to choose a list of prospects that we will pursue. This is a process that generally takes a several weeks to complete. The team is trying to get the best prospects and the agents/players are trying to go to a place that best affords them an opportunity to make an NBA roster.
The summer league gives our draft picks their first opportunity to play at the professional level. Steve Novak (our 2006 draft selection) played very well in the summer of 2006. In his first NBA summer league action, he made six three-pointers, picking up right where he had left off at Marquette. He proved that he would be able to make the transition from the college to the NBA three-point line.
Novak’s minutes have been limited so far in 2006-07 since he’s still learning in his rookie season. Steve has made some big shots in the time that he has gotten and he continues to improve in all areas of his game. His work ethic is wonderful. When his minutes increase and an opportunity presents itself in a larger fashion, we are confident that he will answer the call.
We have also had success finding non-drafted free agents in the summer league. We have two of those types of players in John Lucas III and Chuck Hayes. In our evaluation process, we believed both guys were good players that had slipped through the cracks and were capable of producing in the NBA.
Before joining our team, Hayes was a guy that simply helped his team win at the University of Kentucky by making winning basketball plays. He played well in the NBA pre-draft tournaments He was the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational and he helped his team go 3-0 in the Chicago pre-draft camp. We asked Chuck to be a part of our summer program 2005. In that summer at the Minnesota Summer League, he played very well and our team went 5-0. We invited him to training camp, but we had to release him to the D-League because of we had a full roster. He continued to play well for Albuquerque in the D-League and we kept our eye on him. After dealing with some injuries, we called Chuck up from the NBDL. He played well in his minutes and earned a contract for the remainder of the season along with an option for the 2006-07 season. In the summer of 2006, he again participated in summer league and helped lead us to a 5-0 record. In two summers, Chuck has become an important piece to our regular season roster, becoming a starter.
John has been around the Rockets organization for many years, growing up in Houston with his father John Lucas, a former Rocket. Again, we saw a very skilled player that simply needed the right place and the right opportunity. John was the Big 12’s player of the year in 2004-05 and was a very capable point guard with a variety of skills and tremendous will to win. He is a unique player at his position that has both the ability to score the ball and distribute at the same time. He is amongst the safest players in the NBA with the ball -- a very important component for a young point guard trying to make his way in the league. His play has grown and he has proven himself worthy of being part of the roster and earning his minutes along the way.
So there you have a glimpse of our offseason. It is a valuable tool and time for us in the organization. There is much to be done with lists to compile, stats to be read, video to be watched and agents to contact.
So with that said, I am off to get a head start on the so-called offseason.
International Scouting Trip
Dec. 23, 2006
During the first half of December, Gianluca Pascucci, our International Scouting Consultant, set up a 12-day scouting trip throughout Europe for us. Gianluca did a great job of setting up our schedule to see the top prospects in Europe for the upcoming drafts in addition to seeing many future free agent players. We started out in Madrid, Spain, but our hectic scouting schedule didn't leave us with any time to absorb much of the culture.
The games in Europe are usually played late (around 9 p.m. locally, on average) and we would normally spend the day after a game traveling to make at least one connection to our final destination. So 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls are more common than not. The trip turned out to be a big success because we saw more games (13) than we actually had scouting dates (12). I have to admit that, at times, I thought Gianluca was crazy for putting us on this type of pace. There were times when I thought Gianluca was starring in Too Fast, Too Furious when he had us flying through the mountains in Italy to get from game to game (Milan to Sienna), but I was so tired from the night before I did not mind being a human-test dummy.
And we got a lot done.
Typically, when NBA scouts go to Europe, we partner-up to help with the travel costs. When we shared some time with a couple of other scouts on our schedule, I got a couple of blank stares and few other "Are you guys insane?" comments when we told them about our trip. Chris Wallace, the General Manager of the Boston Celtics, joined up with us on a leg to LeMans, France to see Tau @ LeMans. The great thing about Chris is that he always has terrific stories and he is always willing to let you drive and pick up the dinner tab!!! Chris and I are both from small towns -- Chris is from the hills of West Virginia and I am from Clute, Texas. So at times, we are not the most savvy international travelers.
I have been with Chris twice when he has not been able to turn on the shower. Therefore, he now has a new patent on the "Euro-Splash Bath Technique." My shower problems are of a different nature. I am totally incapable of showering without flooding the entire hotel room, therefore I now go by the tag of "Hurricane Dennis, the Natural Disaster." Many times, the trips are long and lonely, so the ability to laugh and create bonds with other basketball people is what keeps you sane.
The good part of the trip was the last leg to Malaga, Spain where we watched Maccabi play Unicaja in a Euroleague contest. We have the NBA rights to a 21-year forward who plays for the legendary Maccabi Basketball Club. His name is Lior Eliyahu. I thought you might like some of our scouting notes on Lior from this game. Please excuse some of our scouting jargon, we have created language over a numbers of years that can be hard to understand outside of our circle:
Maccabi @ Unicaja 12/14/06
#8 Lior Eliyahu
Big 1st dunk on a dive ... great hands to finish ... shot block/rebound/outlet ... team scored a lay ... middle iso to a spin and scoop lay under the defenders arm, yes ... assist on pass back to Jasitis ... unselfish play when he had the drive ... fouled on a elbow iso drive vs. Danny Santiago (2-2 fts) … plus length, hands, and agility…
Very good w/the "get" pick and roll ... good sense when to pass and dive ... great hands to catch and finish on the roll ... has natural instincts on how to play ... great pass late to Jasitis on a duck in ...
Came back in the 3rd quarter down 5pts, and finished the quarter up 9pts .. he and Halperin scored on the pick and roll 4 straight possessions ... they put Santiago in the play w/Lior setting the screen and got paint shots each time ... CHANGED THE GAME, TOOK THE CROWD OUT OF THE GAME...
Scored on a lay on a step thru move and was fouled on a dive to open the 4th quarter (0-2 fts) ... took a charge on the next possession ... fouled on two straight possessions when securing defensive rebounds (3-4 fts)...
Deflection that lead to steal and lay ... took on the diving 5 ... got switched on Santiago in the 2nd half and force him into a turn shot that Danny missed (showed some backbone)...
Poor stab when loading to the ball on a full court play at the end of half ... his reach and lack of full body help opened the gate for the lay-up ... has to mature in this area...
Needs strength and body maturation for the fight inside ... needs to increse his consistent shooting range ... such a good finisher he always looks drive 1st/2nd ... needs to run back harder in the load...
Good performance that impacted the win for Maccabi …
The Shane Battier Trade
Nov. 22, 2006
We wanted to start off our 2006-2007 Basketball Operations Blog with some brief insight on some of the goals that we wanted to accomplish this past off-season. Our two main goals were to add depth and, if possible, add a championship-caliber player in his prime to the core of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
Looking back to the 2005-2006 season, we expected some injuries given the age of our 2005 roster, but it was difficult to overcome the loss of Tracy, Yao and Rafer for significant portions of the year -- not to mention the loss of Bobby Sura for the entire year. The 2006 NBA Draft was our first real opportunity in the off-season to address our goals. It is well known by now that we traded our first round pick (the eighth overall pick) along with Stromile Swift for Shane Battier.
We could have made a selection with the eighth pick, but given who was left and which needs we wanted to address, we decided Shane was best for our organization. The front office and coach Jeff Van Gundy went through a long process of identifying players that we could conceivably trade our pick for (like we do in all other drafts) and Shane's name was one that consistently came up at or near the top of everyone’s list. Very few times do you get near unanimous opinion on a specific player. This case was unusual, but Shane is a unique player and person who allowed us to simultaneously address both goals of depth and adding a championship-caliber player.
There are clearly guys who can score the ball better than Shane or create shots for their teammates at a higher rate than Shane. But if you look at some different measures on how the team functions when Shane is on the court, it is clear that he creates a winning margin that a typical box score does not pick up. On top of that, it was apparent from our research that Shane is the type of person we wanted to represent us and help Yao and Tracy in their leadership roles.
Shane can play multiple positions, which helps a coach game plan for different types of teams. Teams that can play against different styles can be more effective over the course of a long season. Shane can effectively play three positions: power forward, small forward and two-guard. Therefore, even just adding one player like Shane helps with the depth and versatility of your team and your “playing group”, which is usually eight to nine players during any NBA game.
The cost for Shane was high because we went through a lot of pain to get the 8th pick and had to give up Stromile Swift, who was signed to a reasonable contract for three more years. Carroll took some criticism for the deal, but to get a quality player that can help your team right away in this league, a team has to be willing to give up some of their own assets. Shane fit that descripition for us. One thing potentially overlooked is the advantage of Shane’s versatility as a player and asset. We cleared some money to sign other players, we opened up a roster spot by doing a two-for-one trade (an open roster spot opportunity can be a commodity) and this move cleared up some playing time for Chuck Hayes, a player that we wanted to see get a larger share of the minutes at power forward.