Playoffs are coming but Rockets not slowing down pace

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The Houston Rockets play at the fastest pace in the NBA 98.8 possessions per game (via Hoopdata). And while it’s not yet a mathematical lock, we can say the Rockets are going to the playoffs — they are the seven seed in the West, three full games up on the eight seed Lakers and 3.5 on the nine-seed Jazz.

One other thing we know — come the playoffs the pace of NBA games slows down. Teams are more cautious with how they use possessions.

But the Rockets are not playing that game — they plan on trying to run past whichever team they face in the first round, coach Kevin McHale told the Houston Chronicle.

“We want to impose ours on them,” coach Kevin McHale said of the Rockets’ style. “It’s really important that we do. If they impose theirs on us, that’s to their benefit. They’ll play better walking it up and throwing it inside than we would.

“It gets a little bit more (slow-down oriented). Teams get a little more conservative. They send one less guy to the offensive glass. But they can’t stop you from running. I can’t go up and grab you. You can run. You can’t grab people, so how can I stop you from running? They want to stop you from running. How? You just got to do it.”

Yes, but if teams are back on defense, if they harass the rebounder to slow the outlet pass, they can take away some of those running opportunities. And the easy buckets dry up.

I’m not a guy who believes you can’t win with a running style — you just have to have enough talent and enough role players who fit the system, same as any style. Go watch the Showtime Lakers. The Rockets problem right now is they don’t have quite enough talent — they are building a potentially very good team around James Harden, but they are not there yet.

By the way, I am rooting for the Rockets to pass Golden State and get the six seed (they are one game back) and for the Nuggets to surge up to the three seed. I want Denver and Houston to have a first-round track meet.

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.