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Three questions the Houston Rockets must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
55-27, lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Re-signed James Harden to a mega contract. Drafted Isaiah Hartenstein and Dillon Brooks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Sent roughly a thousand players to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Chris Paul. Added P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

THREE QUESTIONS THE ROCKETS MUST ANSWER:

1) Who is going to play the point guard spot? On paper the answer here is obvious: it’s Chris Paul. However, the big issue with the pairing of Paul with Harden is that Harden had an MVP caliber year last season while playing at the point guard position in Mike D’Antoni offense. There is a natural pairing between D’Antoni and Harden, and the Rockets had the second most efficient offense in the NBA with that combination.

Paul, meanwhile, is not necessarily a high tempo point guard and does not have a lot of experience playing in the off ball position. That really begs the question about whether or not the Rockets will be using the talent they have in the best positions for them.

Of course, you add talent when you can get talent, and Paul is an upgrade in terms of the roster they had last season. It’s also not as though Harden wasn’t already one of the best 2-guards in the NBA before last year’s big switch, so take potential issues with a grain of salt.

There is no doubt that the Rockets will be an excellent offensive squad this year, but it still remains to be seen whether they will completely blow teams out of the water as they did last season. They have a lot of 3-point shooters returning to this roster including Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon. Harden and Paul should make quick work of disturbing the ball to those players, so perhaps this question won’t be as pertinent 45 days into the season.

2) Do they still have a move to make? The Rockets really thought they were going to get Carmelo Anthony, and Anthony thought he was headed to Texas. Houston wasn’t able to make that move, likely because they were unable to unload Ryan Anderson onto a willing party.

Houston has high expectations for the season — many players said as much during their media day interviews — but whether they can really compete with the elite in the Western Conference remains to be seen. As noted above, I think that their offense will actually be quite good when compared to the rest of the West. Where they really need help is on defense, and it remains to be seen whether the players they added this offseason can help patch them up.

If the Rockets can’t find their way into a top 10 defensive rating, GM Darryl Morey might have more work to do.

3) Will the new players make this a better defensive team? Every NBA team talks about improving their defense during NBA media day. Not as many teams had the roster moves to make that change, but the Rockets were busy this summer.

Houston’s offseason moves included a former defensive player of the year candidate in Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luke Mbah a Moute. All three of them are rated as good individual and team defenders, and certainly will act as an upgrade over what Houston brought to the floor last season.

That could be the real key to this Houston run. Their offense is already good enough, and even with the change of Harden going back to playing the 2 guard, the defense will be the thing that keeps them from moving to the next level. Houston was 18th in defense of efficiency last season, and if they want to get into the Western Conference Finals they will need to be much better on that end of the floor.

Michael Beasley fouls out in 10 minutes, gets standing ovation (VIDEO)

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Michael Beasley hasn’t played all that much for the New York Knicks. The journeyman forward is 10th in minutes played for the team, and is a bench contributor at this stage in his career.

Beasley appeared to be a bit overexcited to get some run late in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, 111-107. Having played just 10 minutes in the game, Beasley quickly racked up three fouls in the span of one minute and 45 seconds.

That earned him his sixth foul — the others were picked up earlier — and a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd after his disqualification.

Via Twitter:

Support your guys, NBA fans, even if they’re out here getting DQ’d after scoring one point and grabbing two rebounds.

Kobe Bryant gave a 30-minute pep talk to the Eagles before Rams game (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant is just about everywhere during retirement. We’ve talked before about how his post-playing career revisionism is one of the greatest works of sports marketing currently underway.

Of course, Ol’ Bean has to take some days off from being a “storyteller” and that includes cheering on his hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Bryant was born in Philly and lived there for various parts of his childhood, of course going pro directly from Lower Merion High School, located in a nearby suburb.

So despite the return of the Los Angeles Rams, it appears that Kobe is still an Eagles fan through and through. He apparently even spoke to the Eagles for half an hour before the team practiced in California on Friday.

Bryant also gave the world a little video message.

Via Twitter:

The bummer news for Eagles fans, of course, was that it was Philadelphia QB and MVP candidate Carson Wentz who was hit high and low on Sunday, and the team fears that he has torn his ACL.

Kobe is looking pretty thick in that jersey. Maybe they should work him out and see if he can’t beat out Nick Foles for the starting job the rest of the season?

Watch Victor Oladipo score a career-high 47 points vs. Nuggets (VIDEO)

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Victor Oladipo was sent from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Indiana Pacers along with Domantas Sabonis as part of a major trade for Paul George.

Boy, Pacers fans have got to be glad things have turned out the way they have.

Oladipo is having a career season in terms of scoring, rebounding, blocks, 3-point shooting and field goal percentage. His advanced stats look good too, as Oladipo’s efficiency per-100 possessions in many offensive categories have seen a rise to go along with his box score bump.

On Sunday, Oladipo scored a career-high 47 points in an overtime win against the Denver Nuggets, 126-116.

Oladipo’s performance was incredible, adding seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block to go along with his 47 points. Oladipo shot 15-28 from the field, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range, and added 11 points from the free-throw line.

Watch the full highlights of Oladipo’s performance in the video above.

Rumor: NBA executives think Rockets have shot at signing LeBron James

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LeBron James is now rumored to be headed to about 29 NBA teams this summer when he can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Earlier this week, we heard rumblings that LeBron could be interested in sharing a Los Angeles Lakers roster with Dallas Mavericks center-at-large Nerlens Noel.

Now we’re hearing that NBA executives think the Houston Rockets have a chance of nabbing The King in the summer of 2018.

All aboard the Banana Boat.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, both the Rockets themselves and rival execs think Houston is a real landing spot for James thanks in part to how well they are playing this season. James Harden is having another MVP-caliber year, and Chris Paul has played beautifully in his return.

Via USA Today:

While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance. And once you really look at it, when you get past all the noise about the Lakers and even the compelling case for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, it makes all sorts of sense.

The only team we haven’t heard connecting rumors about is the Cleveland Cavaliers themselves. LeBron — whose family lives in LA — recently bought a new house there and all signs point to James heading to the Western Conference. Well, unless he goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, of course.

Then again it felt like a certainty that LeBron would head to the New York Knicks nearly a decade ago, an idea that seems hilarious in retrospect. The NBA is weird, and if LeBron dips from Cleveland expect it to get even weirder.