Posts Tagged ‘Rockets’

The NBA’s Dark Horse

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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As the NBA season enters its final leg, teams are starting to show their true colors.

 While we all know teams like Miami, Indiana, and Oklahoma City are the three favorites to win it all, there is another team that may just be better than all the others. That team is the Houston Rockets.

 With tremendous depth, strong leadership, and all around talent, the Houston Rockets are the dark horse to win the title.

 Lets start with the talent that Houston possesses. The Rockets have two, separate, but equal All-Stars. At shooting guard, James Harden has been stellar. Since being traded from Oklahoma City to Houston, Harden has averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. He has been a force on both sides of the floor and has become one of the most feared and respected players in the NBA.

 In the frontcourt, Dwight Howard continued right where he left off in Orlando. The embattled big man has averaged 18.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Since signing with the Rockets in the offseason, Howard has regained his ferocious style of basketball that we were all accustomed to seeing.

 Now with those two players alone, the Rockets would have a good team. However, when you look at the rest of the roster, it is an understatement to call this team great. Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverly, and Jeremy Lin provide quality minutes night in and night out. In addition, disgruntled center Omir Asik  and newly acquired forward, Jordan Hamilton, provide and even greater spark. Plenty of teams in the NBA have talent, but only a handful are eight deep.

 Lastly, while the talent is there, the Rockets wouldn’t be surging like they are without coach Kevin McHales discipline. The Boston Celtics legend has this team playing hard 48 minutes a night. Furthermore, with potential locker room trouble simmering, McHale has done a fantastic job of keeping all of the players on this team, happy or not, in check and accountable. It is a mini miracle in itself that Dwight Howard hasn’t caused any problems, and the credit for that is due to McHale.

 Despite last night’s loss to Oklahoma City, the Rockets remain a top contender in the West. With their talent, depth, and leadership, the Rockets have the potential to win it all. Get ready to see a lot of them in May. 

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Despite the fact he was still rehabbing a tear in his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant was awarded a two-year contract extension on November 18th. The terms of the contract are two years for approximately $48.5 million.

Bryant and the Lakers have faced a lot of backlash since the move, with fans and analysts calling Bryant selfish for taking so much money from a team that has plenty of other issues. Bryant took to his twitter page the next night to defend the extension. Bryant tweeted “The cap rules players have to be “selfless” on To “help” BILLIONAIRE owners R the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in #think.” He also tweeted “Don’t just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes.”

There is no denying the impact that Kobe has had in the NBA and that he has earned this money. However, Bryant may need to take some of his own advice and learn the sports industry. If nothing else is true about this industry, the one fact of the industry is loyalty means nothing. With these tweets and the situation in general, a bigger question can be raised. Should teams have to pay homage to there former stars?

To start this off lets look at some of the contracts of the biggest stars in major sports. Derek Jeter, at the age of 39, just signed a one-year contract for $12 million. This comes after he signed a three-year contract for $45 million at the age of 36. Playing in a total of 17 games last year, Jeter hit .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He then injured his ankle and was done for the season.

Bryant’s and Jeter’s situations are even more similar when you look at the situations of their teams. Both the Yankees and the Lakers are in a free fall. Both teams have money tied up in bad contracts and have a general lack of talent on their respective teams. Yet, Jeter and Bryant had no issue taking these large contracts that deter their teams from fixing their issues.

The argument for Jeter and Bryant making their salaries is that they need to be paid not only for what they will do, but what they have done. It is undeniable that these two are among the best of all time in their respective games. Jeter led the Yankees to 5 World Series rings & may go down as the greatest shortstop of all time. Similarly, Kobe has 5 rings and arguments (granted to a lesser extent) have been made that he is the greatest basketball player of all time.

The question ultimately comes down to this. Do teams have pay their long tenured players more because of their past actions. The answer to this question varies. Look at Jim Irsay. He only had to pay Peyton Manning what his contract already was. Instead he released Manning and selected Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This move was praised by some and criticized by other. However, there was one universal agreement, there is no loyalty in sports.

This example can go even further. When Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was bombarded with criticism for having a lack of loyalty to his players. Yet, the deal was better for the team, as a whole, in the long term as they brought in expiring contracts and future draft picks to build their team with.

The one option not many people mention is why don’t these players just take less money. That’s the situation of future Hall of Fame PF Dirk Nowitzki. Reports have surfaced that Nowitzki will want to slash his salary by more than half next season so that his team, the Dallas Mavericks, can continue to rebuild. This is an admirable situation, which, unfortunately, does not happen as often as it should in the professional sports.

So is it wrong to trade Pierce or release Manning? At the end of the day, an owner, general manager, and coach need to decide whom they have to be loyal to. Do you have to be loyal to a specific player or an entire team? Last time I checked, there are 52 players on an NFL team and 24 on and MLB team. So why must you be loyal to the minority? Yes this is a utilitarian type of thinking, but it isn’t as far fetched, as it may seem. Must there be more loyalty to Kobe Bryant then an entire team and that teams fan base? That is the ultimate question.

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.

Dallas Mavericks:

Where they have been:

After winning the NBA finals against the Miami Heat in 2010-2011, the Mavs have found themselves freefalling in the NBA. After allowing Tyson Chandler to walk (among other key pieces of their title team) the Mavs got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The following season (2012-2013) saw the Mavs miss out on the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Hoping to pair up an aging Dirk Nowitzki with a star the Mavs took to free agency, striking out on all the big names. They recuperated by adding Monta Ellis, a borderline All-star.

Who they have: The Starting Lineup.

The Mavs starting lineup is good. Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalemebert will be able to score and while none of the players in the starting lineup are defensive wizards they will be able to play on that end of the floor as well.  Calderon, one of the more underappreciated point guards in the league, will bring stability at the point. Ellis will be able to produce his usual points. Dirk will produce, and with Ellis there to take pressure off from scoring, will be more effective (it also won’t hurt that he’ll finally be fully healthy.) Shawn Marion will defend, rebound and score when needed, so will Samuel Dalembert, just without much scoring.

Who they have: The bench:

The Mavs bench is solid, but doesn’t distinguish themselves. Their best bench player, Vince Carter, is past his prime, though still capable. Devin Harris will be solid, being able to play either behind or along Jose Calderon (or Monta Ellis.) Dejuan Blair, is an undersized forward/center, who will produce, but he won’t be able to play against players that tower over him for extended minutes. From there, the bench includes no-one distinguishable, with Wayne Ellington and Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright rounding out the back up unit. The rest of the bench will most likely see garbage time action.

What to Expect:

The Mavs aren’t winning any titles, in fact they’ll be competing with a handful of other teams for the bottom two rungs in a loaded Western Conference. They’re deep and talented enough to win anywhere between 42 and 50 games, with 45 wins around  what I’d expect from them.

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Here we go folks, the NBA season is less than a week away from Tip-Off, and that makes us VERY happy. There are so many questions to answer, but let’s just stick to the ones that are on the forefront of my mind right now.

The Questions:

1) Will Kobe Bryant come back from his torn Achilles tendon as the Mamba/Vino, or will he be just a shell of his former self? Will Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo?

2) Will the Miami Heat fail or succeed in their bid to secure a three peat, and make it to the NBA finals four years in a row? If they don’t, where do they fall, and whom do they fall too?

3) Which team, if any, in the NBA can unseat the Heat? Is that even possible after the past three years (2 championships, 3 straight trips to the finals, arguably the best 1-2 [and 3] combo in the league, the best player in the league, and a 27 game winning streak)?

4) Will the Clippers finally distinguish themselves where it matters most, in the playoffs?

5) Are both of NY’s team’s contenders, or pretenders? Which one of them has a more legitimate chance of competing for a title?

6) How serious are the Rockets?

The Answers:

1) Kobe is Kobe. There are few who can match his competitive drive, and after a whole summer’s worth of hearing people debate about how he’ll come back, he’ll do whatever it takes to come back as his old self. Derrick Rose is back, 21.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 7.9 assists through the preseason should alleviate any and all worries Bulls fans might still have. Same goes for Kevin Love who is putting up his monster double doubles, on a daily basis. Though Rondo isn’t due back for some time, there is no reason to think he still won’t be a top point guard, the only difference; he won’t have Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to pass to.

2) At first guess, the answer is, yes The Heat will succeed and LeBron will win a third title. However, personally I don’t think they will. The eastern conference has become much more competitive, with the Pacers, the Bulls, the Nets and the Knicks adding pieces to already solid rosters. Of those 4 the Pacers are the team most likely to supplant the Heat. Consider last season’s E.C.F finals where they took them all the way to game 7, and were a potentially bad substitution away from winning. They retained their core, Danny Granger is back, and Lance Stephenson has something to prove, after an encouraging season. Next they added Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and CJ Watson to shore up their bench offense. While they might not match up with the Heat in terms of pure Star power (though Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Paul George aren’t a bad star lineup), they DO match up (and win) in depth and bench production.

3) Expanding upon question #2, the Indian Pacers are the team MOST likely to unseat the Heat. The other serious contenders on this short list include the Chicago Bulls, the Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. I can’t put the Thunder in here because this is the first season they’re playing without an established 3rd man, if someone can step up and fill that role, they’ll be back in contention.

4) I put the Clippers on question 3 for a bunch of reasons. An elite, no nonsense coach that knows what it takes to win a title is the first step toward legitimacy. The next reason is their depth. They have what it takes, from the role players (Louis Admundson, Willie Green) to the stars ( Paul, Griffin) they are a legitimate 10 deep team, with players who can (and will) take over close games. Look for the Clippers to aim for a 60 win season, a top 3 seed in the Western Conference and a berth in the W.C.F.

5) Pretenders, the Knicks more so than the Nets. The Knicks have not really upgraded over the summer, adding a shooter who can’t shoot, and a great defender who is a couple years past his prime. They’ll win and they’ll be fun to watch, but inevitably they will flame out in the 2nd round (and even the first depending on whom they match up with). The Nets are a bit different, they’ve clearly upgraded, adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, to their core of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. However, they are untested as a group, their coach is brand new and they will have to compete with the Miami Heat, the Bulls (who have regained their MVP) and of course their house mates in the city, the Knicks.

6) The rockets are a wildcard in the west, talented enough to go toe to toe with any team, in any conference, but unproven. They have no Chemistry yet, and until they develop it, they won’t be able to jump over the list of Western Conference contenders that include the Clippers, the Spurs and the Thunder.