On the Rockets and innovation in a counterinsurgent response

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /
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Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images /

Defensive reinforcements

The Rockets’ revolt is geared for exploiting their offensive advantages. General D’Antoni has always held this as paramount in his coaching philosophy and Houston’s two battlefield leaders are more feared for their attacking prowess rather than a commitment to defensive principles. Therefore, the focus of this counterinsurgency is to disrupt their greatest strengths while also forcing them to face their weaknesses.

Some tactics are fairly obvious in theory although more difficult to put into practice. Discipline is not only necessary for offensive success, but on defense as well. No and-1s. Once they are beat, defenders need to just give up, retreat and fight another day, but when they do foul, foul HARD and without letting the ball get to the rim. Harden and Westbrook should be constantly picking themselves up off the floor after forays into the paint and get increasingly frustrated each time. Nothing flagrant or dirty, but nothing cheap either.

The defense should attempt to trap Westbrook around the 3-point line when he has the ball and looking to get to the rim. They should also play him physical to get him frustrated while trying to make him into a jump shooter. Russ is susceptible to mental warfare and while he could go off on a tear, he is just as likely to get T’d up, focus in on a matchup battle and get off his game.

Harden is tougher because he is craftier, has every weapon in a vast arsenal and may be the best  exploiter of his personal defender’s weaknesses in the league. The best thing to do may be to make him a driver, since two points are less than three after all, but outside of the realizations of first-grade arithmetic, throw him every look a team of NBA coaches can think of.  As mentioned, the 3-2 is good to trap out of — especially on the deep wings to top of the arc where he loves to play — if you extend the middle defender out. A high-playing middle could also force Harden to drive to one side or the other and into predetermined defensive reinforcements.

Although less than Westbrook, Harden can also be gamed with a bit of organized mental subterfuge. Play him physical as well and force him into the mid-range. See if he takes the bait or tries to push his particular game style into action. Strategies against Harden have to be adaptable possession by possession, but the 3-2 zone could be a good plan that confuses the Rockets, because no one runs it, while providing enough defensive leeway to combat Houston’s offensive capabilities. It could force the Rockets to win from their most loathed of all ranges and be successful in crushing their upstart rebellion.

Discipline, commitment and innovation are paramount to any good campaign, be it on a military battlefield or basketball court. The Rockets have laid down the gauntlet in their quest for a new revolution to sweep across the fractured lands of the NBA. Just as Caesar adapted to his enemy to lead a vastly outnumbered and outflanked army to victory, the NBA’s brightest need to create their own strategies for success upon a changing landscape. Do so and they too could emerge victorious while sealing their own names into the annals of history. A little much, but I need a good ending. All Hail Caesar!