Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses

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The Houston Rockets’ offense has been one of the best in the NBA this season. James Harden on the outside, Dwight Howard inside and a good combination of role players has worked well.

But not Wednesday night. Against the Suns the Rockets shot 35.2 percent as a team and 29 percent from three. It was the reason they lost.

That is two straight losses; the Rockets played poorly against the Jazz and fell on Monday night. Howard was frustrated with the effort of him and his team and vented about it, as reported by Fran Blinebury at NBA.com.

“[Expletive] effort out there on defense and on offense,” said Howard. “The ball stuck … We didn’t move it and we can’t win that way….

“It had nothing to do with us missing shots,” Howard said. “They just played harder than us…It had nothing to do with the offensive game. They just played hard. We know what we [have to] do. It’s gotta be important for guys to come out and play the same way every night.”

Technically, it is about missing shots, but we’ll let that slide. They also miss Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons who were out injured. Yet Howard is right about the Rockets seeming somewhat disinterested the past couple games.

Also, the ball did stick Wednesday, but part of that is Howard.

The Rockets worked hard to establish him early, getting Howard post touches. The problem is on the season while Howard gets 47.6 percent of his offensive opportunities on post ups he’s shooting just 38.1 percent on them (stats via Synergy Sports).

Then midway through the first quarter they ran a Harden/Howard pick and roll and got a bucket — this season just 8.3 percent of Howard’s attempts come as the roll man but he is shooting 72.7 percent when he does.

Usually Howard shoots a higher percentage than this season in the post, but those numbers are in line with his career trends. He’s a great roll man with his quickness, yet he prefers to play in the post. It hasn’t mattered much this season, but it’s something to watch as they continue to struggle.

Howard is right about effort — the Rockets need to get back to it to keep on winning. After that they can focus on ways to be more efficient. Like getting the ball back to Howard more on the pick-and-roll.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).