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.

Report: Pistons signing Ray McCallum

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22:  Ray McCallum #5 of the Memphis Grizzlies dribbles upcourt during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies  at Staples Center on March 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Pistons took care of their biggest need by signing Ish Smith to be their backup point guard.

But they were so thin behind Reggie Jackson, they still needed more help at the position.

Enter Ray McCallum.

Michael Scott of Sheridan Hoops:

Detroit also has Lorenzo Brown on an unguaranteed deal. However much McCallum’s contract is guaranteed, the Pistons will likely keep whichever player wins the third point guard job in training camp. They’ve shown they’re not afraid to pay for camp competition and eat a guaranteed deal.

The loser likely heads to Detroit’s D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.

McCallum has yet to establish himself as a clear NBA-caliber player in three seasons with the Kings, Spurs and Grizzlies. His dribble-driving and strength are plusses, but he’s not quite there as a scorer or passer — let alone someone who can put it all together.

Perhaps, Stan Van Gundy gets McCallum — who played high school and college basketball in Detroit — on the right track. McCallum taking fewer long 2s would be a good start.

Report: Trail Blazers signing Tim Quarterman to partially guaranteed contract

BATON ROUGE, LA - JANUARY 30:  Tim Quarterman #55 of the LSU Tigers drives around Isaiah Cousins #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on January 30, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Oklahoma defeated LSU 77-75. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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The Trail Blazers have only one point guard behind Damain Lillard:

Shabazz Napier, who hasn’t shown much in the NBA.

Recently extended C.J. McCollum and Evan Turner provide playmaking on the wing, so this isn’t a huge need. But Portland would probably like a third point guard.

How about Tim Quarterman?

Tim Quarterman:

Partially guaranteed deals like this are often about waiving a player after training camp and assigning his D-League rights to the NBA’s team’s affiliate. But the Trail Blazers don’t have a D-League affiliate, so this is more likely about giving Quarterman a chance to earn a regular-season roster spot.

Portland has 13 players with guaranteed salaries plus Luis Montero (unguaranteed) and Maurice Harkless (qualifying offer). So, there’s room for Quarterman — at least as the roster stands right now.

The 6-foot-6 Quarterman uses his height well to see the floor and rebound for his position. But he’ll need to improve as a shooter and get stronger. There’s a reason he went undrafted.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trail Blazers add a more stable veteran guard to compete with Quarterman.

Carmelo Anthony on Michael Jordan’s donation/comment: “I thought it was brilliant…and about time that he stepped up”

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan pumps his fist as he watches his team against the Washington Wizards in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015. The Hornets won 101-87. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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Michael Jordan has been saddled for years with a line he and those around him have denied he ever said, in relation to his involvement in political matters: “Republicans buy shoes too.” (That comment was allegedly a North Carolina Senate race where Jordan actually did donate to the opponent of Jessie Helms, despite what is rumored.)

While that line may not be his, Jordan has rarely used his standing to weigh in on political events, which is why his donation Monday of $2 million — $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund — was news. In doing so he said, “…I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent.”

He didn’t stay silent, but he didn’t pick a side, either. He played it safe and down the middle.

Carmelo Anthony was asked about that and said this, according to J.A. Adande of ESPN.

“I thought it was brilliant…and about time that he stepped up.”

There is the backhanded compliment you’ve been waiting for.

Anthony stood up at the ESPYs with Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade to make a plea both for peace and for athletes to use their voice to speak to the nation in what are turbulent, divided times. Jordan would have a unique standing to do that, he often just chooses a more cautious path. Like he did with this donation, playing it right down the middle.

Report: DeJuan Blair cited for misdemeanor battery against woman

Washington Wizards center DeJuan Blair sits in the front row seats as the Milwaukee Bucks are introduced before an NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
AP Photo/Darren Hauck
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DeJuan Blair played for the Wizards last season before being traded to the Suns, who waived him.

Now, he’s facing legal trouble.

TMZ:

Las Vegas Metro PD has confirmed … officers were called to Drai’s nightclub at The Cromwell hotel around 1 AM Sunday morning to respond to a report of a man who allegedly got physical with a woman.

The alleged victim told police … she was arguing with Blair over the line into the club when he picked her up and tossed her off to the side. The woman was pissed and retaliated by striking him back — before calling for help.

Sources tell us … when cops arrived they checked security video and decided there was enough evidence to issue a citation to Blair for misdemeanor battery.  He was NOT arrested.

However, cops tell TMZ Sports Blair was also issued a “trespassing warning” from the property and told to leave immediately.

The 27-year-old Blair is a free agent. He has played for the Spurs, Mavericks and Wizards in a seven-year NBA career.