Kurt Helin

New Orleans Hornets v Dallas Mavericks, Game 4

Kevin Hart’s Saturday Night Live audition included an Avery Johnson impression (VIDEO)

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This is brilliant. Admittedly, the audience for it may be a bit small, still it is fantastic.

Comedy superstar — and four-time NBA All-Star weekend celebrity game MVP — Kevin Hart once auditioned to be part of the Saturday Night Live cast. He missed out. Which in hindsight seems a huge miss, but Hart said he understood why he missed out.

Because he did an imitation of Avery Johnson during the audition. The little general. Former NBA player and Spurs coach. While Avery Johnson’s voice is actually pretty funny, you are aiming at a pretty narrow demographic. And Lorne Michaels isn’t in it.

Still, pretty good impression.

Hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie.

It’s official: Dwight Howard will return to Rockets’ lineup Wednesday

Dwight Howard
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We knew it was coming; now it is official.

Howard has played just 32 games for the Rockets this season; it has taken all of James Harden’s will — and ability to draw fouls — to keep the team in the top three. Howard’s return should help the Rockets up front, especially with Terrence Jones out with a partially collapsed lung. Howard’s rim protection is needed as the Rockets head to the playoffs.

This stat may be the real key: Houston is 9.8 points per 48 minutes better when Harden and Howard are on the court together. That is what they need come the postseason.

Howard and Harden had a long talk in Denver — with Jason Terry in attendance — where Howard told Harden not to let up when he returns. Keep attacking. It’s on Howard to adjust to what is working, not Harden to change that. If Howard is true to his word, the Rockets just became a much tougher out

Dwyane Wade on MVP race: “I would say James Harden”

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat
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This is the most fun the MVP race has been in years. You can make a legitimate case for five guys at least — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. And that leaves off guys who should get mentions and votes like Chris Paul.

Everyone has an opinion. Mine keeps changing every 48 hours it seems as I study it more.

Former NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade has an opinion — he likes the guy who goes to the rim knowing how to draw contact and put pressure on the opposing defense. From friend of this blog Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel.

“Right now, I would say James Harden,” Wade said before Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s tough. Any one of those top guys could be MVP. I would say James Harden from everything he’s done for the full season, the entire season. With the injury to Dwight Howard and carrying that team in the tough Western Conference and being right up there. That’s pretty impressive and he’s done it all season long.”

Watching Harden draw fouls can be reminiscent of Wade circa 2006. No wonder he likes him.

For the record, Kevin Love would vote Westbrook, while Andrew Bogut would vote Curry. Well, if they had a vote (they don’t).

Harden’s case rests on the fact that he has played more minutes and scored far more points (257) than anyone else in the NBA — the Rockets are the three seed in the West because he has carried them all season long. Houston is lost without him stepping his game up to a new level. (And if you are going to argue “he doesn’t play defense” I suggest you watch some Rockets games — he’s improved on that end. He’s not a stopper, but he’s improved.)

But again, you can make a very good case for other guys, too. Stephen Curry is more than the best player on the best team; the Warriors are 18 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the court (a higher number than Westbrook or Harden). Westbrook has been a triple-double collecting force of nature who will carry the Thunder into the playoffs on the strength of his play. LeBron remains the best player on the planet and has played like it at both ends since he came back from those couple weeks off. Davis has been the best player in the NBA over the course of the season and done it efficiently — his PER of 31.4 so far this season would rank in the top 10 all time, putting him in Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain territory.

Wade and other players don’t have a vote on MVP (much to the dismay of Kevin Durant) but they wouldn’t have an easier time than the media this year. There is no clear-cut leader.

J.R. Smith ate chicken with some Cavs’ fans

USA Basketball Men's Team Send-Off Powered By Ciroc
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In the world of odd NBA promotions, this is going to slide into the Top 10.

The Cavaliers worked with a local chicken-themed restaurant on a promotion — people threw rubber chickens at a bulls-eye at midcourt, and if you hit it you got to eat chicken wings with J.R. Smith. (Cleveland is a very different nightlife than Manhattan, J.R.)

One guy nailed it. Here’s his story.

Report: Rockets’ Patrick Beverley has torn ligament in wrist, to decide course in 7-10 days

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets
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This close to the playoffs — with just a dozen games and three weeks until the postseason tips off — the Rockets are going to take their time before making a move that will end a player’s season.

Such is the case with Houston’s starting point guard Patrick Beverley, who has been battling a wrist injury that has turned out to be a torn ligament, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Houston Rockets starting guard Patrick Beverley suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist, and further evaluation in seven to 10 days will determine if season-ending surgery could be necessary, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Beverley is going to see a couple more specialists before a decision is made. The Rockets are going to explore all other options before settling on season-ending surgery.

Beverley’s pesky defense is important to a team about to get Dwight Howard back on the court and are looking to shore up that end of the floor before the postseason.

In the short term, Jason Terry will start at the point guard spot (the team is 6-0 when he has started this season).

The bigger news is the return of Dwight Howard to the court for Houston. But the loss of Beverley is something that could come back to bite Houston in the postseason — in a Western Conference loaded with quality point guards Beverley’s defense will be sorely missed. If the playoffs started today, the Rockets would draw Tony Parker and the Spurs. That could shift, and they might draw the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul, or Portland and Damian Lillard. Jason Terry just is not the same for Houston.

But we will not know what is going to happen with Beverley for at least a week.