With Battier As Backbone, Look For 2009-10 Rockets To Never Give Up

Denton Ramsey@DentonRamseySenior Analyst IOctober 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 04:  Shane Battier #31 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Despite their shortcomings, the Houston Rockets are still poised and ready to make a run for postseason play this year in the NBA.

We may not have a team of All-Stars, but we do have one secret weapon that has propelled the Rockets to numerous victories; Shane Battier.

As we've all seen, Battier does a lot of everything; from hustling for loose balls, to playing defense against the best of the bests, to draining 3’s from the corner; Shane is everywhere.

Add him with young additions such as Trevor Ariza, Chase Budinger, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu; plus up-and-coming stars such as Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, and Luis Scola, and you very well might have a playoff bound team.

Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman has to be happy with the team he has hitting the hardwood in Houston, despite the fact they will begin the year without Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

Let’s not forget to mention names like Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry as they both played pivotal rolls in the Rockets run last season.

Houston also added a new big man in signing 6-11 David Anderson, and although he is a rookie, hopefully he can quickly pick up the game with leaders such as Battier, Brooks, and Adelman close by at all times.

There’s absolutely no doubt that this season will be a challenge for the Houston Rockets. But, we can still have a very successful season regardless of what you hear on ESPN or other sports networks.

We’ll have to play quick basketball and hustle constantly. We’ll also have to hit our open shots and focus on playing good, hard defense. Basically, we just need five of Shane Battier playing every second of the game.

If every Houston Rockets player and coach will put in as much time, effort, love, hard work and determination for their team to succeed as Battier, we will have a great season and return to the playoffs.

I personally have no doubt that team work, true chemistry, and discipline will lead the Rockets to a great 2009-10 season. It will take a lot of work and it will likely take some bumps along the road; but if the Rockets can learn from their mistakes and continue to fight and never give up, Houston is bound to make a statement this year.

In their next to last preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Oct. 19, the Rockets took care of business in a 105-85 victory.

“We had a very nice offensive night but tonight I was more proud of our defense,” Battier told Rockets.com following Monday’s win. “People have to understand this is who we have to be every night. We have to be a team that fights, attacks, plays loose and at the same time stays true to our principles."

“We don’t have the talent to just be Team Cool and turn it on in the fourth quarter and expect to win ball games. We have to come out and scrap for every loose ball, every rebound and be the aggressor every single night. And the sooner we figure that out on a nightly basis, the better this team will be.”

DEFENSE WILL BE KEY

On top of having a young-gun team, the Houston Rockets will also have to put a lot of time and focus into playing solid defense.

And if the Rockets can play up to the tempo they played against the Thunder in a 20-point preseason victory on Monday night, they have a promising season ahead of them.

“I was just really pleased, especially with the second half,” Adelman said following Monday’s victory.

“I thought the whole game we moved the ball really well as a team, but in the second half we defended situations a lot better. We made it tougher on them and got in the open court a lot. That’s about as well as we’ve passed the ball all year long – just a wide variety of people."

He also spoke about the Rockets mistakes.

"We turned it over too much in the second half, but when you’re going to try to do things in the open court you’re going to make make mistakes sometimes. But, overall, I thought we were pretty good in the second half.”

Battier agreed with his coach’s impression of Monday’s win, laughing when talking about scoring a small victory defensively.

“I was much more pleased with our second half effort,” Battier said after Monday’s win over the Thunder. “They only scored [52] points in the first half – we kept them under 60 today, so small victory. But tonight we showed each other the type of effort we’re capable of playing with."

“It’s only the preseason but we have to find out what we’re capable of doing and when we’re flying around covering for each other, playing defense the way we know we should, that’s going to be the standard now.”

OFFENSE HAS TO REMAIN A BALANCED THREAT

Obviously, many people believe that defense wins championships.

And that very well may be true.

But you have to score some points in order to win a game; and regardless of having a great defense, a team still needs a powerful and threatening offense.

“It’s about trying to get the defense off balance so we can attack them and you saw some instances tonight where Kyle [Lowry] and Chase [Budinger] got it going pretty good with the hand-off for three and the back-cut; things that if you keep doing the repetitions, you’re going to start looking for things,” Adelman said on Monday, Oct. 19.

Adelman also spoke about the defense, specifically, Chuck Hayes.

“I thought Chuck [Hayes] was really crucial the way he played; he was really solid the whole way through. I just liked the way we approached the game and the way we played. We saw some steps forward in defending situations that we really got hurt on the last two games before this, so it’s just something we’ve got to keep working on this whole week and try to keep gaining ground on where we want to be.”

Being aggressive will be key to the Rockets offense, as the team aims to score quickly and often in addition to playing smart basketball.

“We were out there running and when we run hard, we get good things,” Lowry said on Monday, Oct. 21. “Even when Aaron [Brooks] is out there pushing the ball we get good things. It’s a matter of us going out there and pushing the ball.

“When something works, the energy and the guys level of play goes up. When something works and we get a layup or dunk there is energy and enthusiasm and the crowd gets into the game, so of course the next possession guys are going to run even harder.”

Running hard will be a key to success for this year’s Houston Rockets, but this young and energetic bunch is ready to hit the hardwood for the regular season.

“We try to emphasize pushing the ball and trying to get a lot of transition buckets,” Mensah-Bonsu said Monday, Oct. 19. “We have a lot of quick guards. A lot of guards that like to get up and down the floor and the wings like to get on the wings and finish plays. You have some big men that can run, like myself, and finish plays too. I just try to make sure that I go out there and fill the lane for them.”

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SEASON TIP-OFF AND BEYOND

With the NBA’s regular season right around the corner, it’s time to take a closer look at the 2009-10 Houston Rockets basketball schedule.

The Rockets tip-off the new season on Tuesday, Oct. 27, on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers; followed by a road match-up with the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Houston returns home to host their first game of the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 31, in a Halloween showdown with Portland at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Center.

The second week of the NBA season calls for the Rockets to hit the road against the Jazz on Monday, Nov. 2, before returning home to host the L.A. Lakers on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Nov. 6.

BRIEFLY LOOKING BACK AT THE LAST TWO PRESEASON WINS

The Houston Rockets conclude their preseason schedule on Friday, Oct. 23, against the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center, with tip-off slated for 7:30 p.m.

Taking a look back at the Rockets last two preseason victories, let’s explore what may be in store for this years Houston Rockets basketball team.

Houston 105, Oklahoma City 85

Budinger took control against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Oct. 19, leading the team in scoring with 17 points en route to a 20-point Rockets victory.

Also hitting double-digits in the scoring department were Ariza (16 points), Landry (15 points), Mensah-Bonsu (13 points), and Battier (12 points).

Lowry also had a team-high 10 assists in Houston’s preseason win over Oklahoma City, while teammate Brooks dished out five assists.

Houston 124, Toronto 112

Battier went eight-for-nine from the three-point line as the Houston Rockets made a valiant come-from-behind victory over Toronto on Thursday evening, Oct. 15, defeating the Raptors 124-112 in regulation.

In a high scoring affair, the Rockets outscored their opponent 31-26 in the third quarter and 31-23 in the fourth and final quarter; as newcomer Mensah-Bonsu made a remarkable debut with 17 points for Houston.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2009-10 ROCKETS SEASON

My guess is that the Rockets will indeed make the playoffs this year.

I know we have a short-handed team and are without our two super stars.

But just last year, the Houston Rockets proved what they could do without those guys, taking the L.A. Lakers to seven games before bowing out.

This season, we’re adding speed and energy along with young talent.

If the guys that comprise the Rockets roster come opening night can learn to play as a team and build a unique Houston chemistry, this team will absolutely be headed towards postseason play.

It’s going to be a learning experience, there’s no doubt. But as long as we have a solid leader like Shane Battier as the backbone, and a core coach like Rick Adelman at the helm, the Rockets are bound for greatness.

It’s just a matter of time before we see the real Rockets hit the hardwood for the regular NBA season.

Regardless of whether this team pans out to be a success this year, Adelman has the right pieces in place to build a championship team and restore Houston’s hoops team to the glory of the back-to-back title days.

We’re heading in the right direction and I personally can’t wait for the regular season to tip-off in a week.

Watch out Western Conference, these Houston Rockets aren’t about to fall without a fight.

And we’re going to fight until the very end…

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com