Kevin McHale on Rockets: “We can play with anybody”

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Kevin McHale should feel pretty confident right now.

He’s the coach of the team that just added Dwight Howard, pairing him with James Harden — instantly a very dangerous pick-and-roll combo and potentially the best duo in the NBA. Add in some solid role players around them (starting with Chandler Parsons) and you have a potential contender.

There’s a lot of work to do in Houston, but McHale was not backing away from the idea of the Rockets as contenders in a conversation with Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.

“We’ll see,” McHale said of pairing up Howard with James Harden in the Houston lineup. “I’m just looking forward to putting this team together, and then we can play with anybody.”

As you might expect, McHale heaped praise on Howard.

“When he’s physically right, (Howard) goes out there and dominates the game in a lot of ways. He’s a unique guy. He can score 10 points and totally dominate the game. There’s only a few players in the NBA who can do that. He can get 10 points, hold down the paint, block six or seven shots, get 20 rebounds, roll hard.

“He can get people shots without touching the ball because he rolls so hard and is such a target that everyone clamps in and the perimeter guys make shots. He’s going to add a great deal. James loves to pass and loves to drive and kick. We move the ball pretty well as a team and he should fit in pretty well with us.”

McHale is going to have to deal with what Stan Van Gundy and Mike D’Antoni had to deal with in regards to Howard — he may be better on the pick-and-roll but he wants a lot of post touches (he’s good, not great, in the post). Also, how do you deal with end of game situations when he wants to be the focal point of the offense and you can’t have him on the court because he can’t hit free throws?

Still, the potential is there in Houston and I like that McHale is embracing the expectations, not downplaying them. Howard needs to as well — what he does in Houston ultimately defines his legacy.

Shabazz Muhammad awkwardly mentions Collective Bargaining Agreement during halftime interview (video)

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The Timberwolves surprisingly led the Spurs by nine at halftime last night, which takes us to Shabazz Muhammad‘s mid-game interview.

Muhammad:

We’re doing a great job on defense, Wiggs, myself, everybody. It’s a tough team, especially Kawhi and the guys. So, we’re doing a really good job and everybody’s collective – Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Um. What?

To be fair, I can’t even imagine what type of nonsense I’d spew in the midst of a taxing workout or a high-pressure situation – let alone something that qualifies as both.

Unfortunately for Muhammad, Minnesota eventually fell to San Antonio, 100-93. But hopefully, he can laugh at this moment. He should, at least.

hat tip: reddit user cjsplash

Duke’s Jayson Tatum, California’s Ivan Rabb declare for NBA draft

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Wednesday a couple of forwards expected to go in the first round of June’s NBA draft said they plan on making the jump to the NBA.

As expected, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Cal’s Ivan Rabb made their decisions official.

Duke announced Tatum’s decision.

Tatum is expected to be a top-five pick, DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 4 pick. The 6’8″ wing can flat-out score the rock, which is why teams are intrigued, as Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk told us in a recent podcast. However, teams wonder if he can create shots for others and not just himself, and if he’s going to be a good defender at the NBA level. He has the physical tools to do be a good defender, but will he put in the work game in, game out?

Rabb is a 6’10” sophomore who has a great NBA build and athleticism to spare, but at the NBA level everyone is a great athlete. Rabb doesn’t have a great perimeter game and needs to develop one and be a consistent defensive force to be a difference maker (or have a lengthy career) at the NBA level. DraftExpress.com has him going 22nd in this draft, and his stock seems to have fallen over the course of the season.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.