Tag: Xavier Henry

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

Opening night preview: Rockets at Lakers


There will be plenty of drama surrounding opening night’s contest between the Lakers and the Rockets, but it probably won’t include the kind created by a close game where we wonder who will win or lose.

While Kobe Bryant’s return after appearing in just six games last season due to injury would be exciting for basketball fans under any circumstances, the fact that it comes at home against Dwight Howard, who bolted L.A. in free agency after one disastrous season, makes it an especially compelling matchup.

By now, you’ve certainly heard about the messy way things ended between Howard and the Lakers, with Bryant essentially sabotaging the team’s free agent pitch meeting to try and help Dwight make his decision to leave that much easier. The two couldn’t have differed any more greatly from a personality standpoint, and the combination of Bryant’s ruthlessness with the opportunity to win by playing with a deeper roster in Houston was worth leaving $30 million on the table to do so in Howard’s eyes.

Beyond seeing how that plays out when the two are on the court, there are a few other things to watch.

The Lakers are expected to have a down season again, thanks to the roster continuing to be in somewhat of a state of flux. The team added pieces to plug holes as a kind of short-term fix until it can once again attract a star free agent or two to come to Los Angeles, two of the more prominent being Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, both of whom will be in the starting lineup for this one.

But L.A. is missing guys, too. Steve Nash is done for good, thanks to his nerve issue never quite being settled to the point where he could play on anything resembling a consistent basis. Nick Young is out for a bit after suffering torn ligaments in his thumb during practice, and others like Ronnie Price, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly have been dealing with injuries that should keep them sidelined for most (if not all) of this opening night contest.

The fact that the bulk of those players we just mentioned are so far from being recognizable by the casual fan tells you just how far this Lakers team has fallen.

Things aren’t nearly as bad in Houston, though the Rockets had a lackluster offseason that, at least on paper, undoubtedly left the team worse.

Houston swung for the fences in free agency, attempting to add a third star player next to Howard and James Harden to truly vault the team to a level of legitimate contention. But after striking out with Carmelo Anthony and coming close with Chris Bosh before Miami offered him max money to stay, the Rockets let Chandler Parsons go to the Mavericks for nothing in return, and traded a reliable defensive big man in Omer Asik away to the Pelicans for a future first round pick.

The Rockets tried to add some depth by overpaying for Trevor Ariza (again), and trading for veteran shooter Jason Terry. But that’s about it, and while Harden may not have seen the value in all that Parsons gave the team, the likelihood exists that it will be difficult for Houston to be as good as it was a season ago — when the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

None of that should matter tonight, however, against a Lakers team that will have all kinds of trouble slowing Houston offensively. The Rockets averaged a ridiculous 130.7 points per game in their three wins against L.A. last year, and barring an unexpected, transcendent performance from Bryant, Houston should end up pulling away somewhat convincingly.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Houston Rockets

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: L.A. Lakers

Opening night preview: Magic at Pelicans

Opening night preview: Mavericks at Spurs

Byron Scott says Lakers may need to trade for point guard. For now, Ronnie Price starts, Jeremy Lin off bench.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have their final preseason game Friday night, hosting the Sacramento Kings, and we’re going to see something that seemed impossible when camp opened but appears headed to become a regular season reality.

Ronnie Price will start at the point, and Jeremy Lin will come off the bench.

With Steve Nash out through most of the preseason (and now the entire regular season) Scott has leaned toward starting the journeyman Price for a while. It could change before the Lakers tip off the regular season against Houston Tuesday, but don’t bet on it. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

The more interesting comment from Byron Scott was this, as tweeted by Bill Oram of the Los Angeles Times.

I’d look for this to happen, but the Lakers are not going to take on a long-term contract in return. And no, they don’t have the assets to get Rajon Rondo, so don’t bother.

The first thing Price starting means first is Scott does not trust rookie Jordan Clarkson to run the show (although he may play some at the two guard spot off the bench). If the Lakers make a trade for another point guard, that would drop Clarkson farther back in the rotation at the one.

It means Scott likes Lin with a Lakers second unit that is more athletic and dynamic than the starters — Lin, Nick Young, Julius Randle, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly (once all of them get healthy).

Price has been in the NBA nine seasons but basally as the third point guard, a guy respected as a leader but who isn’t much of a scoring threat, nor is he a great playmaker. So far in preseason Price has looked okay at times but he’s shooting 40.9 percent overall, 21.4 percent from three, and has less than a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio. And that’s all against preseason rotations. Plus he’s not a very good defender.

In spot duty Price would be a good guy to have on the roster, but leaning on him like this shows just how much Scott is looking for anything that might work with this Lakers team.

67RIEFNS No. 14: The mysterious and unexpected Bruno Caboclo

Bruno Caboclo

The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

I prepared meticulously for the NBA draft.

I watched the college season. I read scouting reports. I watched videos. I studied statistics.

If I were covering the draft, I wanted to do so from a place of knowledge.

Entering draft night, I felt I could credibly analyzing anyone who might go in the first round – meaning I knew several prospects who would fall to the second round. The number of first-round possibilities far exceeds 30 each year. I was confident.

Then, Adam Silver stepped to the podium for the 20th time after beginning the draft and then announcing 19 picks.

“With the 20th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select Bruno Caboclo from São Paulo, Brazil,” Silver announced. “He last played for Pinheiros in Brazil.”

My thought process:

  • “What did he say?”
  • “WHO?”
  • “Man, I blew it. I guess I wasn’t prepared as I thought.”
  • “Wait, maybe it’s a player I know, but I just didn’t recognize the correct pronunciation of his name.”

For a long time in 2010, I was thoroughly impressed with Xavier Henry while also thinking his name was pronounced like the school in Cincinnati (Zay-vee-er rather than the correct Zah-vee-ay). Maybe I’d made a similar mistake this year.

So, I turned to DraftExpress for more information.

The site ranked Caboclo No. 18. Among international players. Born in 1995.

Who was this kid?

I didn’t feel quite so bad for not seeing him coming. Nearly everybody missed him.

Since, James Herbert of Eye on Basketball and Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated have written breakdowns of how Toronto discovered and drafted Caboclo.

It’s a case of throwback scouting, where old-fashioned work on the ground gave the Raptors an edge.

If they truly had an edge.

Maybe it Caboclo – the most unexpected first-round pick in recent memory – was a reach. Maybe there’s a reason no public talent evaluator was so high on him.

Or maybe Toronto sees something else nobody else did and will reap the rewards.

I love the idea of the daring risk Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri took. The NBA is a more interesting place when people break the script. Ujiri set fire to the pages.

Will it work? I have no idea. I want it to work. I want teams to be rewarded for thinking unconventionally.

At this point, some of the mystery is gone. It’s just up to Caboclo to play well.

So, there’s plenty of mystery left.