Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Billy Baptist

NBA Season Preview: Houston Rockets

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Last season: 43-39, which is not bad but in the deep West sends you to the lottery.

Head Coach: Kevin McHale, last seen on the bench in Minnesota where he was forced, in a fit of poetic justice, to coach the team he had built as GM. A team that wasn’t very good. He replaces Rick Adelman, who ironically ends up in Minnesota.

If nothing else McHale will tell great stories, he has amazing ones from the 80s Celtics.

Key Departures: Yao Ming is officially gone, although he wasn’t really there much. (Bitter Lakers fans would like you to know they think Kevin Martin and Luis Scola should be here.)

Key Additions: Jonny Flynn

Best case scenario: The back court of Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin make this a fun team to watch and a tough one to defend, they get enough dirty work out of Luis Scola and Chase Budinger can make some high flying plays and they can get one of the last seeds in the West.

For that to happen: To be honest, the best case scenario in Houston would be GM Daryl Morey finding someone who wants to send him a center. He went hard after Nene, Tyson Chandler and every other big he could think of to fill that void — that void is named Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet.

In a West loaded with big men of substance the Rockets cannot go far without a real big man in the middle.

More likely the Rockets will: If they don’t make a big move, the Rockets this season will be a lot like the Rockets last season — good but in a deep West not good enough.

What Rockets fans should hope for is a bold move — something that brings them the true star they need to go with the quality role players they have. Or a move that jump starts them on a total rebuild. They need a star, a franchise anchor. Right now they are living in the league’s middle ground, not bad enough to totally rebuild and not good enough to really be a threat.

Prediction: 32-34, missing the playoffs again.

Dwyane Wade with dagger dunk to seal Bulls win vs. Suns (VIDEO)

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The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.

The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.

The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.

DeMarre Carroll shoves Isaiah Thomas to ground on break, tempers flare

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Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.

With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.

Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.

Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.

Seth Curry puts up career high 31 against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

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When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.

Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.

It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.

Spurs kick off rust from layoff to beat Clippers 105-97 in Chris Paul’s return

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard dunks during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.

Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.

Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.