Thanks to an MVP-level run from James Harden, the Houston Rockets have gone 15-8 with Dwight Howard out with his knee surgery. They have held their place in a crowded West.
But if the Rockets are going to make a serious playoff run, they need Howard’s defense and rebounding. Houston is 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when Howard is on the court, and they are going to need every one of those in the bloodbath that will be the Western Conference playoffs.
The Rockets are about to get him back. Howard himself told the media that Wednesday, here are his words via Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.
Dwight Howard says he is "really close" to coming back.
Howard also said he would not play in back-to-backs the rest of the way (that would be moot come the playoffs when those disappear).
With Howard are the Rockets contenders? Maybe second tier ones, along with about six other teams in the West. It’s going to come down to health and matchups. But it’s not happening without Howard. For Rockets fans this is good news.
Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan says he’s going to look around in free agency
“I mean I’ve obviously been here seven years, and the past two have been great,” he said. “Doc (Clippers coach Doc Rivers) has been my biggest supporter and the best coach I’ve ever had. The team is great. The guys are great. We have great camaraderie. But the free agency process is definitely going to be a fun one.”
Jordan may flirt with other teams, there will be demand for his services, but expect him to remain a Clipper — and for Los Angeles to overpay a little to keep him.
The reality is the Clippers need his rebounding (14.8 a game this season), his play in the paint (shooting 71.8 percent), and his rim protecting shot blocking. More than that they can’t replace him if he bolts.
Jordan is making $11.4 million this year, and the Clippers will give him a raise off that number. Why? Because if he leaves the Clippers are still right up against the cap (due to the large salaries for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin), so the best the Clippers could do to replace him would be the mid-level exception. I’m not Jordan’s biggest fan, but the Clippers simply could not get someone close to what Jordan brings for the roughly $5.5 million of the mid-level (remember the Clips spent their mid-level last season on Spencer Hawes, he’s the caliber of player you get). The Clippers need to pay whatever it takes to keep Jordan.
Jordan also is close with Griffin. In the end, he’s almost certainly choose the big money and to keep playing for Doc Rivers.
But he’s going to look around a little.
Reggie Jackson dishes 20 assists (scores 23 too) in Pistons’ win
Reggie Jackson has not exactly been the model of efficiency and team leadership since being traded to the Pistons. To put it kindly. He’s shooting 38.8 percent, and the Pistons had dropped 10 straight.
But he looked like a leader on Tuesday, scoring 23 points and more importantly dishing 20 assists in the Pistons’ win over the Grizzlies. He looked good doing it.
Veteran Tayshaun Prince had an interesting theory as to why Jackson broke out, and it tied to Greg Monroe being out for the night, replaced by Anthony Tolliver. From the Detroit Free Press:
“When you play in Oklahoma City where there’s four shooters around him, that lane open up like the ocean,” Prince said. “You can wine and dine all night long.
“When you playing with Greg and ‘Dre, it’s going to be tight quarters in there and it’s taken him awhile to read that. As you saw tonight with only one big in there, it was kind of Oklahoma City all over again. He could get in there and make those plays that he usually makes.”