Kurt Helin

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 110-108. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Associated Press

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Rockets: “We’ve disrespected the game”


On Christmas Day, in front of a huge audience, the Rockets played their best game of the year and beat the Spurs. They defended with energy and as a team. On offense, they shared the ball and moved off the ball. They looked like the contender many thought they would be before the season started.

On Saturday they were the troubled Rockets again, leaning on isolation sets and not caring about defense, and they fell to the Pelicans 110-108.

After the game Saturday, Rockets’ coach J.B. Bickerstaff let his team have it when speaking to the media (hat tip Clutch Fans). You can see his the frustration and anger in his eyes above, but if you prefer your coach’s rants written out keep reading:

“We have to solve the core of our issue. There’s a reason why this team is so up-and-down. There’s a reason why when things are really good, things are good, when things are bad, things are bad. So to a man, starting with me, we have to solve the issue.

“Our issue is doing things right because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s going to get me a bucket, not because it’s going to get me a shot, not because I get the glory. That’s not what this is about. And that’s what our problem is right now.

We play San Antonio last night, we play a wonderful game, we play a beautiful game on both sides of the ball. We come out here tonight, things aren’t easy, things don’t go our way and we turn into the ugly Rockets again. That’s frustrating for me, frustrating for all of us I’m sure, but it’s not treating the game the right way. Over and over again, we’ve disrespected the game. Our priorities need to be clear. And I need to do a better job of playing the people whose priorities are clear.”

The Rockets do play selfishly much of the times, although the bigger issue has been and active disinterest in defense much of the season. When focused on it — as against the Spurs, but too often only the second half of the fourth quarter when trying to come from double-digits down — the Rockets can be a good defensive team. But they have not built good habits, and that defensive energy is sporadic at best.

This game against the Pelicans was a trap game for Houston — if they gave a 48-minute effort against the Spurs, the smart money was they wouldn’t follow it up with another one. They didn’t. That’s why they are a .500 team.

And the coach preaching to them about it will not be enough to change it, just ask Kevin McHale. It’s going to take the team leaders holding everyone accountable — starting with themselves. We’re looking at you, James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Stephen Curry trying to take Mark Jackson’s comments as compliment

Stephen Curry, Mark Jackson

During the Christmas Day broadcast of the Warriors win over the Cavaliers, ABC color commentator — and former Warriors’ coach — Mark Jackson said something about Stephen Curry that caused some controversy:

“To a degree, he’s hurting the game. And what I mean by that is I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is run to the three-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on your other aspects of the game. People don’t think that he’s just a knock-down shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.

Curry had a measured response after the game — unlike Andrew Bogut, who has no love lost for Jackson — but Curry’s response on Saturday tried to take Jackson’s comment as a compliment, as reported by the Contra Costa Times.

“After I heard all of what he was talking about, I understand where he’s coming from – that being for the youth of today and how they watch us play or watch me in particular, and they want to go out and try to do the same thing,” Curry said Saturday. “It’s all about practice and routine and repetition that can help you get to that point, so you can’t skip that part of the process.

“I wish he would have phrased it just a little bit differently. I think I’m trying to inspire people to see the game differently in a positive way…I get what he was saying. There was a compliment in there. Knowing him personally, I think that’s what he meant.”

Jackson’s phrasing was unfortunate.

It’s also a little bit historically naive. Starting in the driveway playing pickup with our family, every kid tries to emulate the great players of their era. We all wanted to be Magic or Jordan or Kobe or Iverson or whomever — and now for a lot of young players that is Curry. As it should be. Along those same lines, young players at the high school level or younger have made bad decisions trying to emulate Magic Johnson’s passes or Kobe’s midrange shot selection, or what have you, forever. Well, some players do. The ones that go on and advance up the ladder — maybe even eventually to play in the NBA — figure out that they need to be themselves, not someone else, and they do round out their games. That’s not on Curry, that’s on their coaches and ultimately the players themselves.

Utah’s Alec Burks throws down monster dunk; later leaves with injury

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In the video above things look promising for Alec Burks and the Jazz. DeAndre Jordan — who has posterized many a player over the years — saw what was coming and did not try to stop it. He more got out of the way.

Utah’s Alec Burks slashed down the lane, skied, and threw down a huge jam — one of those where he doesn’t get to the rim; rather he literally throws it down from distance. It was massive.

But when Burks was airborne attacking the rim right before half he was fouled by Paul Pierce and Burks hit the ground hard.

After the game Jazz players told Larson the problem was Burks’ ankle and the way it landed on that fall. He could be out a while, but the Jazz have not made an official announcement pending further evaluation.

The Jazz were already without Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, no Burks proved to be too much. Even without Blake Griffin (who will be sidelined for a couple of weeks at least), the Clippers got a 109-104 win over the Jazz in Utah.

Suns’ Eric Bledsoe goes down with knee sprain, could miss some time

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) grabs his leg after falling to the floor in the first half after being injured in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Phoenix. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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It looked worse than it has been reported to be.

In the second quarter of Phoenix’s eventual loss to Philadelphia Saturday night, Suns’ guard Eric Bledsoe went down with a non-contact injury. He had to be helped from the court straight to the locker room.

The Suns later reported this as a sprained knee. Although Bledsoe will have an MRI Sunday, it does not appear to be a serious injury, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.

Bledsoe leads the Suns averaging 20.4 points per game, he has an above-average true shooting percentage of 55.7 percent, he dishes out 6.1 assists per game, he hits the three, and his PER of 20.9 is the kind of number you expect of an All-Star.

Devin Booker started the second half in Bledsoe’s spot, and if that has to continue for an extended period of time the Suns — and their playoff dreams — are in trouble.

Lowly 76ers beat Suns 111-104 for 2nd win of season

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Isaiah Canaan #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes to the basket against the Phoenix Suns on December 26, 2015 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. 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 2015 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — Isaiah Canaan scored 22 points, reserve Nik Stauskas had 17 and the lowly Philadelphia 76ers beat the Phoenix Suns 111-104 on Saturday night for their second victory of the season.

Carl Landry added 16 points as Philadelphia (2-30) snapped a 12-game losing streak with its first win since Dec. 1. The 76ers also stopped a 23-game road slide dating to last season.

Former Suns guard Ish Smith, who was acquired in a trade with New Orleans on Christmas Eve, scored 14 points in a starting role. Nerlens Noel added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Suns lost leading scorer Eric Bledsoe to a sprained left knee in the first half. The team said he would go for an MRI.

Brandon Knight led Phoenix with 21 points. Devin Booker scored 19 points, and Jon Leuer had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Suns have lost four in a row and six of seven.

Bledsoe got hurt with 7:40 left in the second quarter and had to be helped to the locker room. He entered Saturday averaging 20.9 points and had four when he left the game.

The Sixers built a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Suns got it down to a six-point deficit twice in the last two minutes, but Philadelphia was able to hang on.

Phoenix rallied in the second quarter after Bledsoe’s injury, getting seven straight points from Booker to cut the Sixers’ lead to 40-36. But the Suns got no closer before halftime despite Booker scoring 11 points in the quarter after not playing in the first.

Booker took Bledsoe’s spot in the starting lineup to open the second half.

The Suns took their first lead since a 2-0 advantage when Knight knocked down a 22-foot jumper to make it 60-58 in the third quarter.

But Philadelphia reclaimed the lead behind Stauskas, who hit two key 3-pointers and a long jumper, the last bucket with 40 seconds left in the third. Kendall Marshall made a 3 with 0.9 seconds to go, giving the Sixers an 85-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.


The Sixers got a lucky basket early in the game when Canaan attempted a lob to Noel that he couldn’t catch in mid-air. The ball went off Noel’s hands and the rim and bounced straight up, dropping into the net for two points.


Sixers: C Jahlil Okafor, the Sixers’ leading scorer this season, sat out with right knee soreness, replaced in the starting lineup by Jerami Grant. … The Sixers ended a streak of five straight losses to the Suns.

SUNS: F Markieff Morris served the first of his two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. … G Sonny Weems, who hadn’t played since seeing six minutes of action on Dec. 16 at Golden State, had three points and three assists in 17 minutes. … The Suns got another scare 30 seconds into the fourth quarter when Booker turned his left ankle after a shot and was helped to the bench. After a quick examination during a timeout he came back into the game.