Rockets’ stand on extensions make this season now or never

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NBA_ming.jpgYao Ming does not have a contract for next season. Nor does Shane Battier. Or Chuck Hayes. Jordan Hill and Courtney Lee’s deals are at the team’s option. Aaron Brooks did not get an extension and is pretty ticked about it.

The Houston Rockets are not giving out extensions to anyone, as GM Daryl Morey told FanHouse.

“With the uncertainty of the CBA and our team and in terms of where we go, just what we get from Yao Ming this year is a huge factor in terms of how we’re planning our team,” Morey told FanHouse. “We just aren’t doing extensions.”

There is no collective bargaining agreement for next season and a lockout is very likely. (For a good primer on the issue, check out CNBC’s Darren Rovell.) The Rockets have made a business decision — and not a bad one. Offering Yao Ming an extension right now would be foolish. They have set down their blanket policy.

But it has the effect of making this a now-or-never year with the Rockets and this roster.

NBA rosters need to be built around the stars that can win you games. Morey inherited his — Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. So he started with his hands behind his back. Or his leg and foot in a cast. However you want to look at it.

What he did around that was put together a really good roster of role players Brooks, Battier, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Hayes and Chase Budinger. That’s a very nice roster looking for a star to lead them.

But with so much of the roster set free at the end of the season, there is no way this group gets back together as is. Roster turnover in the NBA is inevitable, but the Rockets have set themselves up for a big shakeup. If Yao isn’t right, they need a big shakeup.

They have a chance to be very good this year. That all hinges on Yao and how he bounces back — if he is once again the best center in the game the Rockets are the second best team in the West. A team that creates matchup challenges for the Lakers. A team that you’d want to bring back…

Now or never.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.