Kevin Martin has found the real Ariza

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Houston’s mistake — or at least the mistake of many fans — was to think that Trevor Ariza was a go-to-guy.

He was a role player in Los Angeles. Sure, he hit big threes in the NBA Finals, but that was because Stan Van Gundy — who had Ariza on his team just a season before and let him go because he was convinced he couldn’t hit a three — let him have wide open looks. Kobe Bryant driving the lane creates wide-open looks. He got easy and spectacular looks in transition.

But Trevor Ariza never had to create offense in Los Angeles. He was simply the beneficiary of those who did.

Then he comes to Houston, a team without the guy supposed to create their offense (Yao Ming), and suddenly Ariza was asked to fill a new role. To be the creator. And he’s not that good at that.

But in the last few weeks the old Trevor Ariza is back — because of Kevin Martin. Rahat Huq at Red94 explains (via TrueHoop):

Ariza has come into his own simply because the presence of Kevin Martin has forced down his usage and forced him back into doing the things that earned him his contract.

Because Martin can handle the ball and create off the dribble, he has now assumed the lion’s share of the complementary ballhandling duties.  This has allowed Ariza to slash off of Brooks’/Martin’s penetration, spot up for 3’s, and run the floor.  The results have been beautiful.

Ariza is a very good role player, and one who has proven he can step up on the biggest stage. The Rockets are loaded with good role players, and now have a couple of guys who can create on the perimeter. If they can get a healthy Yao back next season, watch out. And watch out for Ariza.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.