On the Rockets and innovation in a counterinsurgent response


Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets have thrown off the shackles of conventional lineup tyranny and have been running rampant ever since. It is up to the NBA’s ruling powers to create new strategies to combat the rebellion in their midst and return order to the basketball realm.

Do you hear that? It’s the pounding of probing dribbles that seem too relentless to be believed, but a shrill and eerie whistle confirms what you already know: that the marauding horde that is the Houston Rockets have just sacked your village defenses for another and-1 or forced turnover. You can see the panicked expressions of helplessness as James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the crafty and daring captains of the Rocket legions, rain step-back attacks from 3 and slashing salvos to the rim at an overwhelmed opponent as high fives count the casualties of battle.

Houston has embraced its playing style rebellion by unleashing the best aspects of its two superstars. The Rockets’ 10-3 record since revolution day and the three-point total margin of defeat from two of those losses tells the NBA overlords that this isn’t a protest to be ignored. All great military strategies eventually create counter tactics in response, and since the Rockets are doing something that hasn’t been done in the modern game, the answers need to be just as innovative as they are.

I’m going to assume that everyone is as familiar with the Battle of Alesia in 52 B.C. as I have just recently become. The sudden sound of crickets tells me a little recap is in order. In ancient times, the tribes of Gaul grew tired of the rule of the Roman Empire and rebelled to great initial success. Under the leadership of a forward-thinking chieftain (Mike D’Antoni), the Gallic armies (Rockets) were able to defeat the Romans for a short time.

But Julius Caesar and his armies (the rest of the league’s teams and coaches), were able to lay siege to the Gauls (Houston) from an attacking standpoint while also defending their rear positions from Gallic reinforcements. It wasn’t without peril and times of doubt, but a stifling adherence to offensive principle and some innovative defensive tactics let Caesar prevail on a battlefield in which he was outnumbered by four-to-one. The Rockets’ opponents will need to invent some similarly forward-looking strategies to have the same kind of success that Caesar enjoyed so long ago.

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