Rockets defenders have turned taking a charge into an art form
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AUSTIN - Its the kind of play that rarely, if ever, makes it on SportsCenter. You probably wont see a player pose and preen after the fact at most you might witness a weary fist pump after all, its pretty tough to celebrate utilizing the full smorgasbord of histrionics when youve just been flattened by a giant human racing full speed ahead.
Still, surely the time has come for drawing charges to step out of the shadows of obscurity and into the spotlight. For too long has it toiled in relative anonymity behind its sexier sibling, the blocked shot. In fact, perhaps its helpful to think of charge-taking as one of the lesser-known Kardashian sisters: like Khloe and Kourtney, its not quite as hot as Kim and doesnt bring quite the same amount of glitz, glamour and pizzazz to the table, but its still highly effective and capable of carrying the show from time to time.
Or better yet: dont think of the Kardashians at all. As in, EVER. Instead just focus on the basketball value behind drawing a charge: like the block, it negates a scoring opportunity for the opposition. Better yet, it guarantees possession for your team (a block doesnt do that) and burdens your opponent with a cumbersome personal foul (nope, blocks dont do that, either).
In Houston, of course, taking a charge was perfected to an art form last season as the Rockets not only led the entire league in offensive fouls drawn, they also boasted a whopping five players (Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Kyle Lowry and league-leader Jared Jeffries) who ranked in the top-15 in the NBA in the category.
To be sure, the Rockets ranking was due in part to the fact they had to survive via small-ball last season without Yao Mings monolithic presence in the middle a reality that forced Houston to start Hayes at center, ensuring the club was an entire foot shorter at the position than it had been the previous seven seasons. Shot blocking was simply not something upon which the Rockets could rely, so instead they went into MacGyver mode and made do with what they had, transforming themselves into charge-drawing dynamos.
Its really just knowing your opposition and knowing how to be at the right place at the right time, and knowing your team and your defensive schemes, says Lowry, while describing the keys to eliciting offensive fouls from opponents. Last year our blocked shot was to take a charge
Its just a challenge for guys to know the right spots and to know your rotations the right way to be able to be there to take a charge.
Its also a case study in knowing ones own strengths and weaknesses. If youre Dwight Howard, no question, you need to be leaping tall buildings in a single bound and attempting to swat as many shots as possible (though try keeping more of them in play, please). If youre Shane Battier, a player actually gifted in both disciplines (Battier has averaged exactly one blocked shot per game during his 9 years in the league), then you rely on your skill, savvy and split-second decision making when determining whether a block or charge is the better play. And for the ground-bound, like Luis Scola, drawing a charge can be the great equalizer.
Im not a good shot blocker," says Scola, "So thats what I try to do to compensate. Its just about trying to do what you do best and trying to do whats productive for you.
Of course, with Yao returning to action, the addition of Brad Miller and Patrick Patterson, and full seasons of support from Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, the Rockets will no longer bear any resemblance to Team Mini-Me. Size, or lack thereof, along the frontcourt should no longer be an issue.
Thats not to say charges drawn will lessen in significance this season; Head Coach Rick Adelman and his players insist it will continue to play a pivotal role in the teams defensive strategies. It simply means the Rockets should be a more versatile defensive team this time around welcome news for a club desperate to return to its dominant defensive roots.
I believe we can be better at defense overall, says Scola. Its not about just charges. Charges are just one of the weapons. If it happens to be our best weapon, then we need to rely on it. But if we can have a lot of weapons, then well be a better defensive team and thats what its all about.
And 1s: The Rockets kicked off the Austin leg of training camp Monday and though they certainly fared better than did the Longhorns football team this weekend, the team did experience some very minor attrition. Shane Battier came down with a bout of food poisoning, while Rick Adelman said Kyle Lowry and Jermaine Taylor banged up their knees. Nothing serious, but with Chase Budinger and Brad Miller already sitting out with sprained ankles and Yao Mings minutes being monitored as well, it did leave the Rockets a little thin at times during the days practice. Those diminished numbers, however, had seemingly no impact on the intensity level witnessed during Mondays workout.
Its a very good, competitive group, theres no doubt about it, said Adelman. Theyre going after each drill and the way were trying to play is taxing its taxing because were pushing it and trying to be aggressive.
As for Yao, all signs continue to be positive during his return from a fractured left foot that forced him to miss all of the 2009-10 season. Hes participated in scrimmages and drills during each day of camp thus far, which in and of itself, is clearly a step in the right direction.
I think just having him on the court and playing and participating in all the drills thats what youre looking for, said Adelman. If anybody expects to see the same guy from two years ago youre kidding yourselves because hes coming off a major injury and hasnt played 5-on-5 for 15 months. So Ive been encouraged by just the fact hes out there and going through the drills. Hes just going to get better.
I think just (his teammates) seeing him out there and when he does certain things its encouraging to the team because they know what kind of team we can be with him. But right now its just limited and you have to understand that.