Tag: Houston Rockets

C.J. Miles, James Harden

James Harden drops 44 points in Rockets’ win over Pacers (VIDEO)


With Dwight Howard on the verge of returning, the Rockets are in a final push for playoff seeding. And James Harden is in a final push for the MVP award, where he and Stephen Curry are the two leading candidates.

Monday night’s 44-point, 7-assist performance in the Rockets’ 110-100 win over the Pacers doesn’t hurt either cause.

It was Harden’s eighth game of the season with at least 40 points, coming less than a week after his career-high 50 points in a win over the Nuggets. It was also the second time this season he’s done it against the Pacers — he scored 45 in their January 19 home win over Indiana.

Kevin McHale says Dwight Howard could return “sooner rather than later”

Dwight Howard

The Rockets may not be without Dwight Howard for much longer. Amid reports that his health is improving, Rockets coach Kevin McHale told radio play-by-play announcer Craig Ackerman that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is on the verge of returning to the lineup, albeit on a minutes limit.

Howard has missed the Rockets’ last 23 games after undergoing a bone marrow aspirate injection in his right knee. The Rockets have gone 15-8 during that stretch and currently sit at third place in the Western Conference standings. Getting him back in the next couple of weeks will allow him to ramp up his minutes for the rest of the regular season and hopefully be at full strength for the playoffs.

Kevin Love says he, LeBron James are not best friends. So what?

Phoenix Suns v Cleveland Cavaliers

The other day LeBron James posted a pic on Instagram with the quote “Clique Up!!” It featured LeBron, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kendrick Perkins, Timofey Mozgov and others.

Not Kevin Love.

And that added fuel to the “Love is going to bolt Cleveland” rumor firestorm, even though Love has denied that every step of the way. Monday on the Dan Patrick Show (broadcast on NBC Sports Network) Love said, “I plan on being a Cavalier either way.” Meaning he’s coming back next season whether or not the Cavs win the title.

Love was also on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show and said this about LeBron (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer):

“You know, we’re not best friends, we’re not hanging out every day, but we see each other every day, whether we’re at the practice facility, whether we’re on the road or going to a game,” Love said. “I think our relationship is also evolving. I could say the same with each and every coach, coach Blatt, and each and every player on the team. But, that’s part of the NBA.”

LeBron and Love are not taking selfies together? So what? (Actually, they were next to each other in another LeBron Instagram of a few weeks back. So does that mean all is right with the world?)

If they are professional, the rest doesn’t matter. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won three titles together, and it took all of Phil Jackson’s Zen ways to keep them from strangling each other. They didn’t hit the clubs together. They still won.

Some guys need to feel loved and reassured to focus and play their best (think Dwight Howard). But sports has a long history of teams that won despite everyone not getting along in the locker room. Going all the way back to Ty Cobb at least.

Expect Kevin Love to stick with the Cavaliers this summer, for a couple reasons. One, he doesn’t want to be seen as a quitter who bolts a winning team. Second, he wants to be a free agent in 2016 when the cap goes up anyway. If he wants to leave, that’s the time to do it because teams will have the room for him and another max player, and he can team up.

Love is going through what Chris Bosh went through. He found his space in the offense and he found peace with it. We’ll see if Love gets to that same place with LeBron, but it’s going to play out over another season at the very least. Likely more.

PBT’s weekly NBA Power Rankings: It’s Warriors, Cavs at the top, likely your Finals favorites

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors

Golden State remains the class of the NBA this regular season, but for some reason there are people who don’t buy into them as contenders. I guess you can’t win until you’ve already won. The Cavaliers have slid up to No. 2 as the Hawks stumble, and the Spurs start to look like their old selves.

source:  1. Warriors (56-13, Last Week No. 1). We’ve had an Andre Iguodala sighting, his scoring has gone up while Klay Thompson is out with his bad ankle. This team is deep with somewhat interchangeable parts, which helps them weather injuries. Good tests on the road at Portland and Memphis this week.

source:  2. Cavaliers (46-26 LW 3). In their last 15 games they have the best offense in the NBA, but the defense has surrendered 103 points per 100 possessions 20th in the NBA. That defense has been worse lately. Right now the offense is covering that up, but come the playoffs that defense is going to get them in trouble eventually.

source:  3. Spurs (44-25, LW 5). If you noticed one thing lately it’s that Tiago Splitter finally looks healthy, and with that the Spurs’ defense has been more physical and improved. The win over Atlanta Sunday showed just how well this team is playing when focused. The loss in New York shows what happens when they are not. Four games against West playoff teams this week, we’ll see if that keeps them focused.

source:  4. Hawks (53-17, LW 2). They have lost three straight to top teams in the West (Warriors, Thunder, Spurs). Part of that was Kyle Korver being out for the first two, he is crucial to their offensive spacing. Also the loss of role guys Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Scott, has dinged them. Still, those three teams shredded the Atlanta defense, a very troubling sign. Easier schedule this week should get them rolling again.

source:  5. Grizzlies (49-21, LW 6). Finally Tony Allen is starting and Jeff Green is coming off the bench. Green is just too inconsistent to be trusted nightly, even if his offense is called for some nights. Win over Portland Saturday doesn’t make Memphis a lock for the two seed, but they are pretty close now.

source:  6. Rockets (46-23, LW 7). It took a while but I have finally come around: If the vote were today I would put James Harden ahead of Stephen Curry on my MVP ballot. Just how much he matters to the Rockets every game — every possession — put him over the top. His is not an elegant game, but it’s effective. That said, the loss of Terrence Jones (partially collapsed lung) comes at a tough time with seven of next nine on the road.

source:  7. Clippers (46-25, LW 8). Coach Doc Rivers and the Clipper organization is promoting DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year. He doesn’t deserve it, but that’s another discussion. Here is what Doc Rivers said about promoting players for awards: “It’s good to support players. I don’t know if I believe in it or not, if you want my real answer, but I think that’s what you should do. Because that’s what every other team does.”

source:  8. Thunder (40-30, LW 9). They have a 2.5 game cushion over the Suns for the eight seed (the Pelicans are three back). That is amazing considering Kevin Durant is done for the season and Serge Ibaka will be out until close to the playoffs (and Nick Collison is now injured). It’s all about Russell Westbrook and the offense, but that will be enough to get them into the postseason.

source:  9. Trail Blazers (44-24. LW 4). They have lost four in a row, all on the road but some of those were very winnable (Orlando, Miami) and Portland didn’t bring their best games. Their defense has been sloppy and now both LaMarcus Aldridge (re-injured hand) and Nicolas Batom could miss a little time with injuries.

source:  10. Mavericks (44-27, LW 10). This team remains up and down — they beat the Clippers and Thunder, then lose to the Grizzlies and Suns. Now there are reports Monta Ellis’ notorious up-and-down moods are impacting the team and it’s effort. If they land Memphis in the first round (the current matchup) and play like this they will be done quickly.

source:  11. Bulls (42-29, LW 14). The good news is Taj Gibson is back and Jimmy Butler is expected back Monday night. The team expects to have Derrick Rose back for the playoffs. Still, does all of that really strike fear into anyone? On paper Chicago is dangerous, but they have not played Tom Thibodeau level defense all season — they seem to have lost sight of their identity.

source:  12. Wizards (40-30, LW 16). They had won five in a row before running into the hot shooting Clippers last Friday. Then they were awful Sunday against Sacramento. Wizard’s coach Randy Whitman, what’s wrong? “We need to start games with solid defense. That’s the common theme: We need to defend. When we defend we’re pretty good.”

source:  13. Pelicans (37-33, LW 11). They had the chance to make up ground on the banged up Thunder this week and couldn’t because Anthony Davis was injured. This team is not close to the same without him (and minor injuries seem to follow him around). They are three games back of the Thunder now, they will need some help to make that ground up.

source:  14. Jazz (31-38, LW 13). They are 12-4 since the All-Star break with the best defense in the land, and they have a candidate for Most Improved Player in Rudy Gobert (although Jimmy Butler likely wins that one). Quin Snyder has done a fantastic job, the question becomes how the organization builds on this over the summer for next season.

<source:  15. Suns (38-33, LW 18). They have won four games in a row, they are playing improved defense, but remain 2.5 back of the Thunder and are unlikely to make that ground up and get into the postseason. If they are going to catch OKC they need to beat them Sunday in a showdown (which would give Phoenix the tiebreaker).

source:  16. Raptors (42-28, LW 19). If Toronto wants to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the second time in franchise history (last one was 2001) they need to hold of Chicago for the three seed. Which makes Wednesday’s showdown with Chicago huge. As does not having slip ups against teams like Detroit and the Lakers this week.

source:  17. Celtics (30-39, LW 15). They had moved into the eight seed in the East, then came the three-game losing streak. Two of those were understandable (Thunder and Spurs) but the loss to Detroit is a hard one. Also, Marcus Smart can’t afford to get suspended for punching guys in the groin or any other reason.

source:  18. Heat (32-36, LW 21). They had won three in a row before Sunday, mostly because Dwyane Wade has jumped in the hot tub time machine and had scored at least 28 in five straight games. They have seven of nine on the road and need to win away from home to hold on to that two-game cushion they have to make the postseason.

source:  19. Nets (29-39, LW 22). They have won three of four due to a resurgent Brook Lopez, and beat a couple teams ahead of them in the standings. That gets them within a game of the playoffs, with key games against Boston and Charlotte this week.

source:  20. Hornets (30-38, LW 20). They had lost five of six before getting healthy against the struggling Timberwolves Sunday. Their next five games are against potential playoff teams in the East and if they can keep winning they will hold on to the eight seed, but this will be a key stretch.

source:  21. Pacers (30-39, LW 12). Losers of five in a row, they have gone from seeming playoff lock to team on the outside looking in. Paul George may return this week and there will be pressure on him to change this, but it really will take them getting back to playing elite defense.

source:  22. Bucks (34-36, LW 17). They are 4-13 since the All-Star break and trading for Michael Carter-Williams, and suddenly they are just 3.5 games ahead of the nine-seed Celtics and missing the playoffs all together. The Bucks likely hold on to a spot because of a soft schedule, but they could use a win over Miami or Indiana this week.

source:  23. Nuggets (26-44, LW 23). Losers of three in a row, which should make management happy as they worked to cut off this team at the knees once Melvin Hunt got them winning. If Denver doesn’t pick up Hunt as their full time coach, another team should poach him.

source:  24. Pistons (26-44, LW 25). The up-and-down Pistons were up last week with wins over the Grizzlies, Bulls and Celtics. Then they lost to the Sixers. Reggie Jackson is looking more comfortable and is putting up numbers, but is he really blending with where Stan Van Gundy wants to evolve the team?

source:  25. Kings (24-45, LW 24). The DeMarcus Cousins/George Karl relationship seems to be a work in progress. The Kings are dangerous any given night — especially with Rudy Gay thriving in Karl’s system. But the defense does them in most nights.

source:  26. 76ers (17-53, LW 28). Nice loss by the Sixers to the Lakers Sunday, if they were trying to hurt the Lakers’ lottery odds so the Sixers get the pick (sixth or higher and it is Philly’s via trade). Also no, Nerlens Noel is not going to unseat Andrew Wiggins as the Rookie of the Year, but he could garner some votes farther down the ballot.

source:  27. Magic (22-50, LW 27). Elfrid Payton still has a long way to go with his shot, but he’s finding a groove in the NBA and had two straight triple-doubles last week. He’s going to get mentioned in the Rookie of the Year balloting as well (even if he can’t catch Wiggins at this point). He’s a piece they can have as part of their core going forward.

source:  28. Timberwolves (15-54, LW 26). Kevin Garnett has missed seven games in a row and with that their defensive numbers have plummeted. Minnesota has lost 11-of-13 and one of those wins was in overtime against the hapless Knicks.

source:  29. Knicks (14-56, LW 29). Their win over the Spurs last week was one of the shocking results of the NBA season. Can they pull that off again this week against Memphis or the Clippers? No, probably not.

source:  30. Lakers (17-50, LW 30). The Steve Nash signing just didn’t work out for the Lakers At the time it was a good gamble — he was relatively healthy and the Lakers thought they could contend with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard — but that third year was a question mark from the start and came back to bite them.

Reggie Jackson’s best move as Pistons’ starting point guard: Connecting with Andre Drummond

Washington Wizards v Detroit Pistons

BOSTON – Reggie Jackson, explaining how the Pistons have welcomed him, got interrupted.

“Hey, Reggie,” Andre Drummond said with a friendly tone from a couple lockers away.

“What up, big fella?” Jackson responded.

Jackson, acquired from the Thunder just before the trade deadline, has been up-and-down in 15 games with the Pistons. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game with Detroit, but also 3.2 turnovers and shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 27.5 percent on 3-pointers.

But if there’s one thing Jackson has clearly done right, it’s bond with Drummond.

Drummond is the franchise player, and there’s a decent case the Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy in part because he helped mold a similar player in Dwight Howard. Everything revolves around Drummond.

And Jackson seems like a good fit with the budding star.

Detroit’s new point guard, despite playing fewer than half as many with Drummond this season as Brandon Jennings, has already thrown Drummond more alley-oop dunks than Jennings did. You can watch all 15:

Jackson said spending time off the court with Drummond has been key.

“The majority of time that we’ve spent hanging out has allowed us to both feel a little more comfortable opening up to each other,” Jackson said. “If there’s something he likes to do on the court, he relays it to me. If there’s a way I like to play in the pick-and-roll, I relay it to him. I think just two open-minded individuals who are just trying to find ways to be better players, be better teammates and trying to lead this organization in the right direction.”

There have been questions whether Jackson is the right guy to lead the Pistons, or any organization, forward.

Jackson made no secret of his desire to become a starter while stuck behind Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, reportedly requesting a trade and then refusing to play in a game because he hadn’t yet been dealt.

“Whenever I got my shot is when I was going to get my shot. I was just vocal about what I wanted my shot to be,” Jackson said. “Some people were mad about that. Some people understood where I was coming from. But it didn’t matter where I was going to be at. I was always going to go out there and compete and do my best.”

Nobody has questioned Jackson’s effort in Detroit.

He was so excited for his first game, he made himself sick:

Jackson said he put too much pressure on himself to play like “an ideal point guard, which I don’t think anybody in the world knows what that is.”

“I think you can assign it to all the naysayers,” Jackson said. “So, I had to stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, pretend not to care too much about what’s out there.

“One thing I definitely learned from Russell is, don’t listen. Don’t listen. Don’t pay attention to them. Who cares? Just go out there and be yourself, and they’ll find a way to try to build around you.”

Jackson settled down from there, though he’s still adjusting to playing starter’s minutes. He’s also adapting to new teammates without the benefit of training camp or numerous practices.

Tayshaun Prince – who has given Jackson tips on how Mike Conley handled playing with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis – said Jackson has benefitted lately from improved spacing with Greg Monroe out a few games due to injury. That has often left Jackson to work with Drummond and three shooters. Prince said Jackson can still make it worth both interior-focused bigs, even if playing with only one comes easier right now, and Van Gundy still says he hopes Monroe returns.

But it has long seemed likely Monroe leaves as an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he does and the Pistons replace him with a stretch four – someone like Anthony Tolliver, who has started in Monroe’s absence – the Jackson-Drummond pairing could benefit.

The Pistons have scored 105.6 points points per 100 possessions since Jackson’s arrival, according to nbawowy!.

  • Drummond and Jackson with Monroe: 104.1
  • Drummond and Jackson without Monroe: 114.9

It’s probably not a coincidence Jackson has looked markedly better lately. His last four games:

“He’s playing very, very well now,” Van Gundy said. “The last four games, he’s been outstanding, making plays and creating shots for us. So, you’ve to be very, very happy with that.”

Jackson will become a restricted free agent this summer, and he deflects any question about his offseason without giving even a hint of his plans.

He’ll likely wind up back in Detroit, though. The Pistons traded for him for a reason, and Van Gundy (perhaps foolishly) said the rest of this season wasn’t a tryout for Jackson. Besides, even if it were a tryout, Van Gundy said he hasn’t learned anything about Jackson since acquiring him that he didn’t already know. A point-guard hungry team with cap space like the Knicks or Lakers could test the Pistons’ resolve by signing Jackson to a large offer sheet, but that seems unlikely.

No matter where Jackson signs, it’ll likely be somewhere he has a clear path starting at point guard. He’s living that dream now and happily says things like, “We know we’re the head of the snake. I think all 30 starting point guards in the league know that.”

But this transition to starting point guard hasn’t been ideal.

“Nah, if it worked out the way I wanted it to, we’d probably be in the fifth spot in the playoffs,” said Jackson, who despite leading the Pistons to wins in three of their last four, has a 4-11 record with Detroit.

The losses haven’t been easy to take. It wasn’t easy for him in Oklahoma City, either.

But Jackson is looking toward the future, and for him, that starts with teammates like Drummond.

“I want to be the most-winningest and just one of the best point guards to ever do it,” Jackson said. “I don’t know about the world necessarily, but I want my teammates, when it’s all said and done, I want them to be like, ‘He was a great point guard for our team, a great teammate, a great leader for our team.’ So, if I can leave that mark, I’ll be happy.