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…The Rockets Are Red Hot
By Gene Peterson, Radio Play-by-Play, KILT 610 AM
Posted Mar 13 2008 5:59PM
NBA.com caught up with Houston Rockets’ broadcaster Gene Peterson to discuss why and how the Rockets are in the midst of a 20-game win streak. The Rockets expert provided 10 solid reasons that explain the team’s recent success.
1) The team’s adaptation to Rick Adelman’s system
The defense was there a year ago, which was something that Rick obviously was pushing hard to have continue, but they have adapted to his offensive style after taking a couple of months to fully adjust. His is a motion offense that is structured around everyone passing the ball, of everyone being involved. They did it earlier in the season before Yao got hurt and it has just continued. That is the most important factor as to why they’re playing so well right now.
2) A top notch T-Mac
Tracy is playing the best he has ever played in his entire career. I’ve told him that and he’s said other friends have told him the same thing. There is no question about it. He had to do a lot of things in Orlando – mainly scoring – that no one else could do. He even led the league in back to back years (’03 and ’04). Here he hasn’t had to do that. He’s been the consummate team player and very, very unselfish. He scores when he has to score. For example, against New Jersey he scored 19 but he could have scored two and we would have won that ballgame. He has adapted himself to Adelman’s style.
3) The coaching of Rick Adelman
The job that he has done as head coach is absolutely phenomenal. His substitution patterns have been terrific and when Yao Ming went down he was able to get this team to continue to play his style of basketball. Rick makes sure that they take it one game at a time. These guys are not caught up in a 20-game winning streak. How could they be when you see how close it is from No.1 to No.10 in the Western Conference? They are caught up in trying to make the playoffs. He has done a marvelous job of coaching this basketball team and I think he is one of the best in the business. This year he has really proved that.
4) Rafer Alston – no longer just ‘Skip To My Lou’
Rafer has been absolutely superb. A lot of people have maligned him but they don’t realize that he’s averaging double figures in scoring; he hands out six, seven, eight assists a ballgame; and he only turns it over twice a night. This young man is playing the best of any point guard in the league right now. That’s not to say he is the best point guard, but he is playing superb basketball and is a major reason the Rockets are having the success that they are.
5) The adaptation of the Van Gundy defensive style
Jeff Van Gundy instilled a lot of his defensive principles into these guys’ minds that were here last year and it has maintained. They have adapted that philosophy, led by Shane Battier, who is probably the best defensive forward in basketball. Every single night Shane gets the tough scorer. The other night he did a marvelous job on Vince Carter holding him to 5-for-15 shooting. Night after night he does it.
6) Daryl Morey: The Team Architect
Our general manager, Daryl Morey, has done a great job, mainly because he was given carte blanche by our owner, Leslie Alexander, to go get the likes of Luis Scola and Carl Landry. The deals were made and both have been major, major parts in the play of the Rockets this year. Scola had tremendous success while playing in Europe with Spain and with Argentina as a professional. Even though he’s one of the older rookies in the league at 27, this is a new story for him. The NBA is a much different style of basketball. And Carl Landry was just a gold find, having been obtained from the Sonics on draft day. This young man is a terrific young player and he’s got the heart of a lion. We’ll give a little bit of credit to the youngster, Aaron Brookes, too. Despite the arrival of Bobby Jackson recently, he’s had some very good moments with the Rockets.
7) The ageless Dikembe Mutombo
How about the play of this guy at 41 years old? He had to step in with just unbelievable shoes to fill with Yao Ming out for the year and all he did his first game in there was block four shots. The next game he blocked four more. The next game three more. Against New Jersey he blocked five. So in about 130 minutes of play he’s blocked about 15 shots. Dikembe Mutombo is just the consummate professional. He’s not going to score a lot of points for you, but he does the job in the middle. He plays 23-24 minutes a ball game and is extremely effective. His contributions have been a major reason as to how we’ve won eight straight without Yao Ming.
8.) Yao Ming, pre-injury
Yao Ming is just a terrific, terrific professional. He has skills that I don’t think any other 7-6 guy has. Because of his size he has defensive liabilities and he doesn’t have the greatest of hands and leaping ability, but when it comes to offensive skills, he has it all – the jumphook, the fadeaway jumpers. How many guys do you know 7-foot-6 that shoot 86 percent from the free throw line? He was a major part in this run for 12 games who was enjoying his best season to date before the unfortunate season-ending injury.
9) Chuck Hayes, Luther Head and the entire Rockets’ bench
Chuck Hayes is a guy that people say can’t start because he can’t score, but he has been another major factor coming off the bench for this team. He was starting for a long time, but since Scola was inserted in the starting lineup, we haven’t lost a game. Coming off the bench in situations where defense is required, and I’m talking about against the Tyson Chandlers of this league, the seven footers, you can’t say enough about Chuck Hayes and the great hustle that he provides. And as an added bonus he’s even had 12 assists in his last five games. Luther Head has been another guy who, with this outside shooting ability, has affected the game for the Rockets. Overall, whenever anybody has been called on by Adelman, they have gone in and done the job.
10) The Red Rowdies
The electricity of the fans in Houston over this last series has been terrific and I think the players would agree with that. Sometimes it hasn’t been as volatile and vociferous as you’d like it to be, but lately it has been a big boost. The city of Houston right now is caught up in Houston Rockets basketball, not in the Astros or anything else. Let’s face it, there’re only two championships in the city of Houston as big as it is – the fourth largest city in the United States – and both of those championships belong to the Houston Rockets.
“Voice of the Rockets”
Gene Peterson enters his 45th year in broadcasting this fall and his 33rd and final season as the “Voice of the Rockets.” In his career, Peterson has only missed 25 contests out of a possible 2,592 regular season games with the Rockets.
Peterson’s career began as a disc jockey in Brookings, South Dakota, with a dream to one day broadcast professional basketball games. His career took him to WECL in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, KOB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, KCMO in Kansas City, Missouri, and finally to KPRC in Houston, where he took the job of sports director.
In 1975, Peterson’s dream came true as he became the play-by-play announcer for the Rockets. Over three decades later, Peterson has called both NBA Championships for the Rockets, as well as the action of Houston’s greatest players from Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on through the years to the current All-Stars of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.
A native of Albert Lea, Minnesota, Peterson became interested in broadcasting while serving his military duty with the United States Air Force. After his tour was over, he returned to Minnesota to study broadcasting at the Brown Institute in Minneapolis.
Been a tough week in the SLAM Dome, as we put the finishing touches on SLAM issue 118. And I’ve had to ignore The Links the last two days, because one million other things all needed to be done all at once. But you knew I had to watch tonight’s game in Atlanta, where the Rockets were gunning for their 20th consecutive win, which would tie them with a couple of other teams for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. I’ve got a good feeling about my Hawks tonight. Let’s get it on!
• I’m glad to see Mt. Mutombo back in The A…and Josh Smith is also glad, as he out-jumps him for the opening tip.
• FSN Houston announcers Bill Worrell and Matt Bullard tell us that Mutombo hosted a party last night at his Atlanta home for all his teammates. Hopefully he took ‘em out to Magic City afterwards, too.
• Apparently the Rocket bench players keep standing until they score their first basket. What is this, a high school team?
• Luis Scola picks up 2 fouls fast, probably in less time than it takes to dry his hair.
• Joe Johnson drains a three to make it 5-0, early. The Houston bench is still standing. Luckily there’s nobody in the seats behind the bench.
• After missing three consecutive jumpers, the Rockets decide to drive the ball…and Rafer blows a layup. Then Marvin Williams nails a long jumper to put the Hawks up 7-0.
• Meanwhile, Luis Scola came out of the game and was replaced by Wild Ass Chuck Hayes. Scola walked over to the bench and was handed his warmup top, but because the Rockets haven’t scored he couldn’t take a seat on the bench. So Scola stands there all sweaty, perhaps cheering harder than anyone else on the Rockets for them to break into the scoring column.
• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes scores! Scola makes a beeline for the bench.
• Why the Wild Ass with Chuck Hayes? About a year ago I was interviewing Shaq, and, well, just read on…
ME: Is this the hardest season following a championship season that you’ve ever been through?
SHAQ: No, no. It’s been a weird season, because once again there was another freak injury for me. I’ve never had an injury where I just go up and pull a muscle or hamstring — it’s always landing funny or something freaky. So this time, wild-ass Chuck Hayes was coming through the middle. Our knees bumped, his knee was messed up for about 6 weeks and I had to get surgery.
The funny thing about it was the way he said it, completely even-voiced, as if Chuck Hayes’ first name was actually “Wild Ass” Chuck Hayes. And since then, every time I hear his name I can’t help but to preface it with “Wild Ass.”
• Mike Bibby is better help defender than ball defender. That’s probably not a good thing.
• T-Mac sticks a three and makes it 9 to 4 with 8 minutes to go.
• Bibby responds my tossing up a jumper that hits the rim and then bounces up and over the backboard and out of bounds. My friend Mike used to always note than when someone shoots and ball that bounces up and over the backboard, it always feels like you it’s somehow worse than just shooting and bricking one off the rim. Even though it’s not. But somehow, it still kind of is.
• Joe Johnson rips a 3 and I check the clock on top of the screen…which is stuck on 8:12. I guess Mutombo took the FSN Houston clock out last night, too.
• Marv lobs a lovely alley-oop to J-Smoove to make it 14-4 with 6:50 left. Adelman, who’s apparently been napping this first quarter. finally wakes up and gets a TO.
• According to the announcers, this is the biggest deficit of the 19-game in streak for Houston, a pretty amazing stat. I just can’t believe an NBA team with Rafer Alston starting at the point has won 19 straight games. After Worrell reads that stat, Bullard says “that’s why they’re not panicking.” What? Obviously, they shouldn’t panic because the game just started and all, but shouldn’t facing your biggest deficit of the streak cause you to panic?
• Worrell also mentions that Deke lives near Janet Jackson. Maybe Rhythm Nation 1814 was inspired by the year Dikembe was born?
• A Battier three makes it 14-8. The Rockets definitely aren’t panicking.
• Another Battier three makes it 14-11, taking down the FSN Houston scoreboard again. The announcers claim the crowd is over-half full of Rockets fans. Come on now, guys. There aren’t that many Rockets fans in Houston.
• Joe Johnson hits another three and then the Hawks throw a ball away that Josh Chill sorta leans after as it rolls out.
• Bobby Jackson in for Houston. He just doesn’t look right without a headband.
• Novak checks in for the Rockets. Sounds like a good name for a wacky neighbor on a sitcom.
• T-Mac hits a two to make it 16-14. The quarter’s almost over, and both teams look like they’re nursing 19-game losing streaks.
• FSN Houston finally just gives up on the clock. Good move.
• Zaza Pachulia trots onto the floor and looks like he’s playing at half-speed. He immediately loses a rebound to Novak, hilariously flipping the ball into the air and directly to Novak about two feet away, like only Zaza Pachulia can do.
• Novak makes the easy lay-up to tie it at 18-all after one quarter.
• I keep waiting for Mike James to check in for Houston. instead, we are given the gift of Luther Head.
• Zaza Pachulia cannot jump off the floor. This has long been a defining trait of his game, and yet he has managed to work around this little flaw and forge an NBA career. Nobody has told Houston, however, because Zaza catches in the post and spins to the basket and then sort of dives to his right and collapses, drawing a foul on the Rockets even though Zaza never had any true intent to shoot that ball.
• The scoreboard is back. And so are the Hawks, as now they’re down 3.
• The absolute worst place to pass Zaza Pachulia the ball is when he’s completely unguarded standing directly underneath the rim.
• By the way, last night I was making the bed and my dog Starbury celebrated the Knicks season by throwing up all over the sheet. So that was fun.
• 8:24 to go in the second, and Luther Head somehow drives directly through Salim Stoudamire with touching him to make it 25-22. The bad news is that as bad as the Rockets were in the first quarter, they’re even worse without T-Mac out there creating opportunities for everyone else. The good news is that they’re playing the Hawks tonight.
• Following Starbury’s lead, the Hawks perform a tribute to the Braves bullpen and issue back-to-back walks. Houston is clinging to a 27-24 lead.
• Mike Harris checks in for Houston. No, me neither.
• Billy Worrell says Luis Scola told him that he’s lost almost all confidence in his three throw shooting. TMI, Luis! Probably better you don’t let word get out, so teams don’t play Hack-A-Luis. And maybe If you’re having a problem with some part of your game, you shouldn’t tell it TO YOUR TEAM’S ANNOUNCER!
• And almost simultaneously, Scola picks up his third foul on beautiful open field tackle. Back to the bench for Scola. This time he’s allowed to take a seat.
• I can say this about Al Horford: He’s by far the best-dribbling power forward the Hawks have had in the last few decades. He’s always grabbing rebounds and trying to start fast breaks. I really like him, especially how hard he works, but the one thing that bothers me is how stiff he always seems. Can’t we send him to ballet classes or something in the offseason?
• I would try to describe the flow of this game to you, but how do you describe nothing?
• Mike Woodson goes small, and Joe Johnson immediately hits a three to make it 32-28. Don’t tell me JJ’s not an All-Star. He’s carrying the Hawks lately.
• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes gets his 3rd foul, too, trying to keep up with the faster Hawks. How about it, Woodson? Nice job working the lineups.
• Tonight’s Southwest Airlines destination of the game is Phoenix, whatever that means.
• FSN Houston redeems screwing up the clock by showing the tape of guys doing their Mutombo imitations that was all over the internets yesterday. If you didn’t see it, it’s really brilliant.