Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Turning Up The Heat: Eddie House
By John Krolik
Eddie House finished the season strong for the Heat, scoring nine points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Welcome to Turning Up The Heat, a 10-part series that will take a look at all the players currently projected to be in the Heat's rotation for next season. We'll talk about what each player did well last season, what each player didn't do well, and who each player might want to watch video of as we wait for the season to begin.
We start our series with Eddie House, which makes things a bit tricky because House may be the most one-dimensional guard in basketball and, at 33, is fairly set in his ways.
House is a shooter. He's not exactly a spot-up shooter, since he doesn't wait patiently in the corner or near the top of the 3-point line in order to guarantee himself a wide-open look at a 3. He's not exactly a "pure" shooter, either, since he's too small and can't adjust his shooting stroke enough to be very effective shooting coming off screens or off the dribble. House is a player who will fly around the perimeter without needing any plays called for him, almost never venture into the paint, and fire up a long jump shot whenever anything resembling a look at the rim presents itself to him.
In Jack McCallum's "Seven Seconds or Less," an opposing team's scouting report on House said that he "won't shoot, unless he has the ball in his hands." Basically, no matter what the situation is or who House is playing with, he plays basketball like there is an invisible monster living in the net that poses an immediate threat to everyone in the arena, and the only way to kill it is by hitting it with a basketball.
House is a long-distance specialist, and he's never been shy about it. When he caught the ball, he shot it, and when he shot it, he shot it from outside -- 5.1 of House's 5.7 field goal attempts were from outside of 16 feet. His aversion to doing anything that did not involve heaving it at the rim was, as it always has been, a double-edged sword: House had the lowest turnover rate of any point guard in the NBA last season, but only two point guards finished with lower assist ratios than House.
House shot 38.9 percent from beyond the arc in the 2010-11 season, which is almost exactly on par with his career 3-point mark of 39 percent. While one might expect that playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would have allowed House to push his 3-point accuracy into the low-to-mid 40s, it doesn't appear to matter all that much to House who he's on the floor with. With his lightning-quick release and willingness to shoot at any time, House doesn't approach a wide-open 3-point shot any differently than one where he has a fraction of a second to get the shot off.
Unsurprisingly, House was a lights-out free-throw shooter -- he's shot 90 percent or better from the line in four of the last five seasons, and he shot 95 percent from the free-throw line in 2010-11. Of course, House almost never gets to the free-throw line, but he can always be counted on after a technical foul, an intentional foul, or the off chance that someone actually makes contact with him while he's trying to shoot. House is also a surprisingly feisty defender, capable of putting pressure on opposing guards and coming up with the occasional steal.
Perhaps the most important thing about House is that he's a veteran who has won a title, knows his role and never gets rattled. He made a game-winning 3 against the Thunder on national television to give the Heat one of their few close-game wins in the regular season, and in doing so gave LeBron, who passed up an open 3 of his own to give House the ball, a brief break from media scrutiny.
After being benched for basically the entirety of the playoffs and scoring a grand total of two points in the first 15 games of the postseason, House came off the bench in Game 6 of the Finals and, as the rest of his team melted down, knocked down three of his six 3-point attempts, some of which actually helped keep the Heat competitive in their final game of the season. Considering that House hadn't made an in-game 3 in almost exactly two months, that's a fairly impressive feat.
What didn't work
Of course, there were reasons why House was essentially left out of the playoff rotation. As I mentioned, House doesn't pass, can hardly dribble and, while he tries hard on defense, is something of a liability on that end of the floor because of his lack of size and athleticism. And while House's fearlessness to fire up a shot at any time is what's kept him in the NBA for so long, a quick trigger isn't much of an asset when every shot you take is a shot that LeBron, Wade or Bosh isn't taking -- the opportunity cost of each one of House's shots is extremely high in Miami, which doesn't really suit his playing style.
Ultimately, Erik Spoelstra felt that Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers were better bets at point guard than House in the playoffs. While Bibby's historically terrible play in the postseason could be fodder for an argument that House should have played more, I don't think that anybody expected House to be a legitimate part of the playoff rotation from Day 1. House provides floor spacing, can fill it up in a hurry if he gets hot and can fill in if one of the Heat's other guards gets injured, but he's not a make-or-break part of the Heat's rotation by any stretch of the imagination. Even with Bibby gone, I'd be surprised to see House in the 2012 playoff rotation.
Time for House to break out the Celtics' 2008 championship DVD.
Who to watch
Future installments of this segment will be more ambitious, but the Heat don't want House to be anything other than the player he was for Boston in the 2008 playoffs.
House didn't have a great regular season that year and lost his spot in the rotation to the ancient Sam Cassell late in the season. But when Cassell's play became unfathomably terrible, House was re-inserted into the lineup for the Finals, and his 11-point Game 4 helped Boston pull off one of the biggest comebacks in Finals history and change the entire course of a series the Celtics ended up winning.
House has one skill -- he can make a long jumper from anywhere on the court at any time, regardless of the situation. The Heat don't need House to miraculously turn into Chauncey Billups next season. They don't even need him to turn into B.J. Armstrong. They just need to accept who House is, and hope that House makes his big shots when the Heat ask him to take them -- he'll certainly be ready and willing.