The supersized tandem couldn't pass the eye test or the statistical exam. It looked too big, too slow and too offensively challenged to survive in today's pace-and-space NBA.
That might still be the case, but McHale is open to the idea of giving it another shot in Houston's first-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers. Whether he actually employs that strategy may come down to the Rockets' ability to contain Portland's massive frontline of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez without resorting to these drastic (potentially disastrous) measures.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle explained:
Rockets coach Kevin McHale would not directly say he would play Asik and Howard together again, elevating it only from a topic he would not discuss to “it’s possible.
“We haven’t done it a lot lately,” he said. “They were effective earlier at stages, and this might be one of those games where if we’re having a heck of a time with Aldridge we might try one of our big centers on him.”
It might be a matter of when not if Aldridge gets it going.
The three-time All-Star posted career marks in scoring (23.2) and rebounding (11.1) this season, upping the ante in both during four meetings with the Rockets (26.8 and 15.5, respectively).
Feigen notes the Rockets would "rather have Terrence Jones produce" at the 4. The second-year forward can function away from the basket, spreading the floor for Houston's lethal pick-and-role game with Howard and James Harden.
The numbers don't disagree with Feigen's assessment. Houston's offense was far more efficient when Jones shared the floor with Howard (112.0 offensive rating) than when Asik lined up alongside Howard (88.6).
But there's an obvious give-and-take to that strategy. The 6'11" Aldridge has a size advantage over the 6'9" Jones, and Howard admitted he might need Asik's assistance at times in the series, per Feigen:
On more relevant issues, Howard pretty much said there will be times he and Asik will play together, though Jones on Aldridge remains key.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) April 19, 2014
McHale has remained adamant that Houston's key to winning is sticking to its identity.
That said, employing his towering twosome sounds like one of the changes he'd be willing to make. And he's optimistic it will produce better results this time around.
"I think the ball is playing ahead of our bigs more than it was, and we’re not waiting for them (the bigs) as much," McHale said, via Rockets.com. "I think everybody is a little bit more comfortable with what we’re doing, so yeah, you hope it works better."
It's hard to imagine it being any worse than it was earlier in the year.
I guess there's a reason to never say never when it comes to the NBA playoffs.