Houston Rockets Introduce Dwight Howard

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Houston Rockets

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Last season: The Rockets began the year with the somewhat surprising trade for James Harden — surprising because of the Thunder’s choice to deal him so soon instead of pursuing a title with him in place for one more season. It was the right call on Houston’s part, as Harden immediately turned into the offensive star many believed he was capable of becoming.

It was enough to get the team to 45 wins and and eight seed in the West, although facing the Thunder in the first round, even after Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury, proved to be too tough, and the Rockets were eliminated in six games.

Signature highlight from last season: There was no one game or single play that defined the Rockets last season as much as the overall play of Harden did, so it seems appropriate to simply enjoy his top 10 plays from last season.

Key player changes: Unless you were living in a cave during the summer, you’re probably aware of a certain high-profile free agent center that chose to sign in Houston.

  • IN: Dwight Howard, signed to a five-year max contract in free agency. Omri Casspi, Marcus Camby, and Aaron Brooks were all signed to one-year guaranteed deals, and Ronnie Brewer was signed to a non-guaranteed deal for some depth defensively.
  • OUT: Thomas Robinson, essentially given away to the Blazers to create the cap space necessary to sign Howard. The headache known as Royce White was dealt to the Sixers, and Carlos Delfino signed with the Bucks in free agency.

Keys to the Rockets season:

1) Dwight Howard: The man who has been more about drama than bona fide basketball results over the past two seasons has a fresh start in Houston, and he’ll be expected to immediately begin earning that max contract the Rockets handed him this summer.

The good news is that by all accounts, Howard is healthy, and fully recovered from the back surgery that limited him over the first half of his ill-fated season in Los Angeles. The other positive is that while Howard is as high-profile an acquisition as possible, he doesn’t have to be “the man” in Houston — at least not offensively. That’s Harden’s role, so while Howard will have plenty of opportunity to score and will get plenty of touches both on the low block and in pick-and-roll situations, he won’t be relied upon as the primary offensive option.

All the Rockets need Howard to do is return to form as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who protects the rim, rebounds, and intimidates other teams from even thinking about coming inside. The Rockets were sixth in offensive efficiency last season, but 16th defensively. Howard’s presence should immediately change that.

2) James Harden: Harden was the focal point of the offense last season, and while the team has capable point guards in Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley (who are currently competing for the starting spot at that position), more often than not it was Harden who ended up with the ball in his hands creating for himself or for others. There will be an adjustment period with Howard now, not only because he will warrant a certain amount of touches, but also because his presence in the middle won’t leave as much space for Harden to do what he does best, which is getting to the basket.

There will be an adjustment period while Harden and the Rockets figure out the spacing and use both players’ talents to their advantage. How quickly it all comes together may partially determine just how many regular season wins are piled up in Houston.

3) The rest: Harden and Howard are monster talents at their respective positions, but how much production the team gets from everyone else is more likely to determine their ultimate postseason fate. Camby is a guy who could be of real value in the playoffs, and won’t be expected to be ready long before then.

Omer Asik will be interesting to watch, as he was initially unhappy with the Howard deal for fear his role would be diminished. It will be, despite head coach Kevin McHale vowing to try to play his two big men together, though most don’t believe that will work in anything more than very short stints against very specific matchups.

Guys like Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia, along with Chandler Parsons are going to need to contribute regularly for this team to get where it wants to go before the year is through.

Why you should watch: James Harden is one of the more entertaining offensive players in the game, and a healthy Howard is one of the best defensively.

Prediction: The West is stacked, but if Howard and Harden are able to figure it out then the Rockets should approach 60 wins, and be a top-three team in the West by the time the regular season is finished. It’s tough to see them getting to the Finals in their first year together, but a deep playoff run should not only be the goal, it should be expected.

Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins sued over New York nightclub fight

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: DeMarcus Cousins #15 and Matt Barnes #22 of the Sacramento Kings talk on the floor against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Matt Barnes – with Kings teammate DeMarcus Cousins seen out with him – was involved in an altercation at a New York nightclub early Monday morning.

Other details remain contentious.

Barnes’ representatives claim he acted in self-defense and paint him as the victim. Other sources – reportedly including a videopaint Barnes as the aggressor.

A court might eventually rule on the situation.

TMZ:

Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins have just been SUED over the nightclub brawl at Avenue in NYC this week … with the alleged victims claiming they were brutalized by the NBA stars.

According to the lawsuit filed in NYC, Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell claim they were innocently hanging out when Barnes approached Jasmine and began to choke her.

In the suit, Powell says he saw the attack and tried to intervene but that’s when Cousins stepped in and punched him in the face.

At that point, Barnes allegedly released Jasmine’s neck and elbowed her in the face — knocking her unconscious. Myrone claims he was taken to the ground and Barnes and Cousins proceeded to kick and punch him in the head and body.

A rep for the alleged victims calls the incident a “vicious and unprovoked attack” And says Cousins’ initial blow was a “blindside punch.”

The rep also says the two were transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital where they were treated for “serious injuries.”

It’s important to remember there’s no burden of proof for filing a lawsuit. This is not an indication of Barnes’ and Cousins’ liability or guilt. As of last update, police are still investigating, and Barnes’ attorney has said his client was cooperating.

NBA: James Harden got away with foul on Celtics’ final possession

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The Celtics’ final possession in their 107-106 loss to the Rockets on Tuesday was… something.

Al Horford missed a layup. Marcus Smart drew a flopping warning. Isaiah Thomas got away with an offensive foul and Horford got away with a travel, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

But all that might have been moot if officials didn’t err in their other missed call in the report.

James Harden got away with committing a loose-ball foul on Al Horford in the battle for the rebound that preceded Boston’s final inbound, according to the league:

Harden (HOU) makes contact with Horford’s (BOS) arm and affects his ability to retrieve the rebound.

A correct call would’ve put Houston in the penalty and sent Horford – who’s shooting 88% on free throws this season and 74% for his career – to the line for two attempts. Instead, we got the hijinks of Boston’s final play.

Ignore these two-minute reports if you’d like. You’d have company.

But if you are interested in how games would’ve been decided with correct officiating down the stretch, start with the first missed call in a sequence. If Harden were called for this foul… Thomas never would’ve gotten away with an offensive foul, Horford would’ve never gotten away with travelling, Smart never would’ve flopped and Horford never would’ve missed the layup. The Celtics’ possession would’ve been two Horford free throws, not everything that followed.

We’ll never know how many he would’ve made, nor what the Rockets would’ve done with 7.1 seconds remaining.

But we do know the missed calls that benefited Boston occurred only because of a missed call that harmed Boston first.

If you’re curious on the details of the other missed calls, Thomas’ uncalled foul came with 5.3 seconds left:

Thomas (BOS) pulls Harrell’s (HOU) arm after the two players engage and the contact affects his ability to defend the play.

Horford’s uncalled travel came with 4.4 seconds left:

Horford (BOS) moves his pivot foot.

Report: Video of night club incident shows Matt Barnes as assailant

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28:  Matt Barnes #22 of the Sacramento Kings looks on against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Kings forward Matt Barnes, according to one account, choked a woman and punched two other people during a nightclub fight early Monday morning. Barnes’ representatives said he was acting in self defense.

The truth?

That can be hazy, but apparently a piece of suggestive evidence exists.

A.J. Perez of USA Today:

Footage of the incident obtained by investigators appears to show Barnes was the assailant, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who is not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing.

This interpretation of the video might not be the only possible interpretation. This footage also might omit key details.

But in a situation with conflicting accounts by the involved parties, it’s something.

John Wall is frustrated with Wizards’ effort. Hard to blame him.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on against the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center on November 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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There is no bigger disappointment in the NBA right now than the Washington Wizards at 7-13. They lost again Tuesday, this time to Orlando despite John Wall putting up a career-best 52 points.

There are a lot of places to point fingers with Washington. Their bench is one of the worst in the league. Their defense has been uninspired, especially if Marcin Gortat is not on the court. But after the latest Wizards’ loss a frustrated Wall went with something far more basic — effort. Via J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

“Our job is to wake up and just play hard. Before you made it to the NBA or got a college scholarship, you played hard every day to get to where you wanted to,” said Wall, who had surgeries to both knees May 5. “To still be talking about playing hard, that’s something that you should be able to do after just waking up. Everybody has a job and they have to go work hard. Our job is to come here and play hard and compete. That’s the easiest thing that you should do without any contracts or any money, just come in and play basketball … if I had the answer we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Wall is having a strong season — 24.1 points and 9.3 assists per game, shooting 39.4 percent from three. Bradley Beal has played in 17 Wizards games and doing what you’d expect — shooting 41.5 percent from three, spacing the floor and giving them 21.4 points a game. Otto Porter has come into his own at the three spot and is averaging 14.4 points, and 7.9 rebounds a game, he has been sneaky good this season. Gortat has been what you’d expect.

After that it’s a disaster. Markieff Morris has been a disappointment after a strong end of last season. Tomas Satoransky shows flashes of promise, but he’s a rookie (one being asked to play a new position for him). The Wizards bench, in general, is one of the worst in the NBA — just ask Gortat. We can debate if Wall and Beal can really meld together, but it’s kind of a moot question right now with all that is wrong around them.

Throw in a lack of effort, and this is a roster that needs a shakeup. Maybe an organization that needs one. And considering they just gave Scott Brooks a five-year deal to coach, it’s GM Ernie Grunfeld who should feel his seat getting warm.