Wednesday night's game in Houston featured Sacramento's best possible rebounding rotation among the bigs: Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson starting, Shelden Williams and Kenny Thomas off the bench. Meanwhile, the Kings played almost even with the Rockets when it came to shooting (50 eFG% for Houston, 49% for Sacto), turnovers (19 for Houston, 20 for Sac) and free throws (17/20 for Houston, 15/21 for Sacto). If rebounding had ended up even between the teams, Houston would have had something like a three-point lead in the closing moments. That's different than a 12-point lead.
But -- despite our best possible rebounding line-up -- Houston killed Sacramento on the boards. The Rockets grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in 38 opportunities (37%; on the season, Portland is No. 1 in the league with ... 33%). At the other end, Houston grabbed 28 of 33 defensive rebound opportunities (85%; on the season, on the season, San Antonio is No. 1 in the league with ... 78%).
Our best possible rebounding rotation, and we got killed on the glass. Houston is usually league average in offensive rebounding and No. 4 in defensive rebounding. Sacramento is No. 25 and No. 29, respectively. THIS IS A PROBLEM, and we can't blame Brad Miller, or Mikki Moore, or Beno Udrih, or Reggie Theus. Our starting frontcourt is the BIG FUTURE -- the hope for our franchise. In 65 combined minutes, they had 10 total defensive rebounds. In 67 combined minutes for Houston's starting frontcourt, the Rockets pair had 20 total defensive rebounds. The Kings BIG FUTURE had one total offensive rebound. The Rockets duo had nine.
Yao Ming and Luis Scola are great rebounders -- No. 11 and 14 in the league in rebound rate, respectively. But Jason Thompson's a great rebounder! (He's No. 18 in the league.) Blame a lack of familiarity with Yao, or the end of a road trip, or foul trouble. But next November, the excuses stop working. This frontcourt, if it is to be the frontcourt of the future, needs to figure out how to rebound. (This team also needs a three who can rebound -- most of the league's two-guards rebound better than John Salmons. (Well, except Sacramento's two-guards. Bobby Jackson -- 35 years old, 6'1 -- is actually the team's best non-center/power forward rebounder.)
The point of all this: this team will probably get killed on the glass regularly, even with the future core playing most of the minutes. We wanted Shock & Hawes, we got Shock & Hawes. Shock & Hawes got destroyed (destroyed!) on the glass by a team that's somewhere between fair and good by league rebounding standards. If that's going to be the case, the team will have to find a facet in which to triumph to have a chance against decent teams. Will it be efficient shooting? (Hawes has huge strides to make there.) Will it be unflappable ball-handling? (EVERYONE has huge strides to make there.) Unpenetrable defense? (Ummmm...)
I'm all aboard on the Happy Thoughts Train. But my faith isn't paying off.