Veteran athletes across professional sports often trumpet the axiom, "Rookies should be seen and not heard." The thinking here is that, like children, first-year players don't have the breadth of experience or perspective necessary to add anything of real value to adult conversation, so they'd be better served playing things cool, keeping quiet and going about their business until they've put some big-league miles on their odometers.
If you live in the locker room, that probably makes sense. But because we at Ball Don't Lie don't, and because we firmly believe in freedom of expression (unless you're being a jerk [unless you're pretending to be Juwan Howard]), we oppose that time-honored notion. Especially when said rookies, having barely stepped off the plane to greet fans and media in their new NBA homes, choose to use their big yappers to fling little zings at established All-Stars.
Y'know, like Houston Rockets draftees Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas did in their introductory Lone Star State press conference on Friday.
As Jonathan Feigen wrote at the Houston Chronicle, when asked how Motiejunas — a 7-foot, 20-year-old power forward/center from Lithuania chosen 20th in last Thursday night's 2011 NBA draft — would transition to the rough-and-tumble life of an NBA big man, newly hired Rockets coach Kevin McHale was reserved. His young charge? Not so much.
"[Players like] Dwight Howard, these guys are strong, strong men," McHale said. "The first time you play against Dwight Howard, you'll understand a lot better." [...]
"I just want to say maybe one word now about the thing about Dwight Howard," Motiejunas said. "He can push me. If he can catch me, then we'll see."
Hearing this, McHale said: "Easy, big boy, easy. They got TVs in Orlando."
I respect your attempts to corral the freshman yang-talkin', Coach McHale, but I'd vastly prefer it if your efforts continue to fail miserably, as it did when Morris — the former Big 12 Player of the Year who was chosen by Houston one pick after his twin brother, Markieff Morris, became a member of the Phoenix Suns — was asked about a pre-draft comparison he'd drawn between himself and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony that centered on what Morris considered a similarity in their mid-range games:
On Friday, [Morris] clarified his thoughts on the comparison.
"I'm not going to take after him on the defensive side," Morris said.
"They have TVs all over," McHale warned.
Reached for comment, Rockets' second-round selection Chandler Parsons said, "Um, [EXPLETIVE] Joe Alexander?" (Not really.)
Hit the jump for video of the gentle shots being fired, thanks to the fine Rockets-loving folks at ClutchFans.
If you've been following stories about Morris and Motiejunas in the run-up to the draft, the bold statements weren't too surprising. Not long after the former University of Kansas standout proclaimed himself "a mid-range king," Motiejunas told NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper that he's "a different type of player than all the other Americans are," one who brings to the table an old-school offensive game. ("You cannot find those moves anymore in the game in the States, the shots like I have.") These guys certainly don't lack for confidence, even when faced with battling two of the top performers at their respective positions.
Frankly, maybe that's something that Houston needs.
Coming off back-to-back seasons of just-over .500 ball that failed to produce a playoff berth, the Rockets will once again likely enter the next basketball season (whenever it begins) without oft-injured starting center and signature star Yao Ming. The Rockets rarely had all their pieces in place at the same time during Yao's best years, but with him, a still-dangerous Tracy McGrady, and a well-stocked roster full of supporting players capable of doing the dirty work and filling in the blanks, Houston had a defined identity and (at least theoretically) posed a threat to contend for the Western Conference crown.
Without him, though, and with the ghost of McGrady long gone and those supporting players forced to move out past their depths, the Rockets have become a middling squad set adrift in a ferocious conference. The frequent personnel swapping of always-active general manager Daryl Morey has of late felt more like the rearranging of deck chairs on a luxury liner set not to crash into an iceberg, but rather to float aimlessly out into the dark water and disappear.
The Rockets' transition began in earnest when the team and well-regarded head coach Rick Adelman elected to part ways and Morey brought in McHale as his replacement. While none of this year's three draftees profile as in-the-paint bangers, selecting Morris, Motiejunas and Parsons to provide additional forward depth certainly seems to signal a belief that a change is needed up front, as well. Sure, Luis Scola and Kevin Martin might lead by example through grim brutality, wispy efficiency and combined skill, but on a roster that now features very little in the way of discernible personality, maybe more jaw-jutting ain't the worst thing in the world. It worked out pretty well for Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies this year, right?
Say: Now there's a guy you should take after on the defensive end, Marcus.