Daryl Morey on Rockets: “We feel good about our roster”

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Some media members trying to grade out the trade deadline — myself included — had the Rockets in the losers category for the trade deadline. The logic goes like this: the Rockets had a disappointing team with dysfunctional chemistry with Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Ty Lawson. Firing the coach didn’t fix things. So at the deadline GM Daryl Morey tried to repair the roster by shopping Howard and Lawson hard, but nothing came of it (because Howard wants to be a free agent this summer and would not opt-in to the final year of his deal). They are the same dysfunctional team they were before, and good luck to J.B. Bickerstaff trying to get that group to play as a unit now.

That said, this wasn’t a disaster for the Rockets. First, they didn’t make any stupid, panic trades that set the franchise back. Second, the one deadline deal they did make — Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Pistons for a top-eight protected 2016 first-round pick (and Joel Anthony, who the Rockets flipped in another deal) — is a good one for them.

Morey went on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski after the deadline and defended the moves they made.

“We’re not feeling good about how we’re playing, but we feel good about our roster. It’s the group that made the Western Conference finals last year….

“James and Dwight together have made the Western Conference finals, have won more than two-thirds of their games. This is a group that we would be very reluctant to split up. Obviously there was a lot of interest in (Howard) — I think there was a lot of noise about that — but that was something we were going to be very reluctant to break up. As part of my job, I do have to listen to everything, but nothing got close and we weren’t going to split that up unless it was something significant.”

The buzz is the Rockets were asking a high price for Howard, and some teams might have paid it because he still has real value on the court, but they weren’t going to spend those assets for a rental. They wanted him to say he would opt-in to the final year of his contract. Howard wouldn’t do that, he intends to be a free agent.

So the Rocket will ride this roster into the playoffs, where as it stands they are the eight seed and would get Golden State in the first round. Maybe the Rockets get on a little run, and they could face the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round. They have the talent on the roster Morey likes to create some matchup challenges for any of those teams. But they are not going to get out of the first round.

Then this summer in Houston will be interesting.

Royce O’Neale agrees to four-year, $36 million contract extension to stay in Utah

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Royce O'Neale is a name casual NBA fans may not recognize.

However, GMs around the league recognize him is the kind of role player teams need to win. O’Neale is asked to guard the opposing team’s best wing player nightly, while on the other end of the court he’s shooting 44.3 percent from three. He’s become a critical part of Utah’s rotation.

So the Jazz have locked him up with a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Jazz — who have won 16-of-18 — just got Mike Conley back in the rotation, and have jumped up to a top-four seed in the West (as of this writing). Things are looking up, and also they have set themselves up well financially for the future.

Bigger bills are coming in Utah, in the summer of 2021 the Jazz will need to max out Donovan Mitchell with an extension plus re-sign Rudy Gobert. Which is why locking in a quality role player like O’Neale at a fair price now is a smart move.

Watch Marcus Smart set Celtics’ record with 11 threes, still not enough to beat Suns

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BOSTON (AP) — Devin Booker had 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Phoenix Suns overcame a franchise-record 11 3-pointers by Boston’s Marcus Smart and beat the Celtics 123-119 on Saturday night.

Smart shot 11 for 22 from 3-point range and finished with a career-best 37 points. His performance marked the first time in NBA history that a player made 11 or more 3-points in a losing effort, according to Stats.

Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Mikal Bridges added a career-best 26 points for the Suns, who have won four of their last five games.

Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Gordon Hayward added 22 for Boston, which has lost three straight and six of eight.

Three years ago, Booker scored 70 points in a loss to the Celtics in TD Garden. He finished an assist shy of his first career triple-double.

The Celtics were missing two of their top three leading scorers – Kemba Walker (team-best 22.1 per game), out with left knee soreness, and Jaylen Brown (20.0), sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained right thumb.

Boston cut its deficit to 90-85 early in the fourth, but Dario Saric and Bridges answered with consecutive 3s. The Celtics had it down to 114-111 on Daniel Theis‘ breakaway dunk with about a minute left, but Bridges hit a jumper in the lane with 37 seconds to play.

Booker’s two free throws sealed it with 4.8 seconds left.

The Suns led 60-51 at halftime and answered – mainly behind Booker and Ayton – any surge by Boston. The lead never fell below seven in the quarter, with Booker scoring nine points and Ayton getting eight.

The loss of two key players showed for the Celtics in the first quarter when the Suns broke in front 26-10 before Boston’s bench helped spark a 15-0 run.

 

LeBron James gets ‘M-V-P’ chants in Houston

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Laker fans are everywhere.

Decades of stars and success — from Magic Johnson through Kobe Bryant — turned the Lakers into the biggest franchise brand in the NBA, the only thing that might rival it is LeBron James‘ brand. Combine those two and there seem to be loud, at points obnoxious, Lakers fans in every arena.

Case in point: LeBron James got “M-V-P” chants in Houston while the Lakers beat the Rockets.

LeBron called it humbling.

LeBron’s play this season — 25.5 points and a career-high 10.9 assists a game, playing his best defense in years and leading the Lakers to a West best 34-8 record — has him in the hunt for a fifth MVP award (although he’s not who we would vote for right now).

Expect to hear these chants in a lot more buildings this season.

Check out Stephen Curry the sideline reporter (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry, the most overpaid sideline reporter in the NBA.”

That’s how Curry was introduced on the Warriors broadcast Saturday night as he took over some sideline reporting duties while still out after fracturing his hand four games into the season. What else has he got to do?

Above you can see the best of Curry’s reactions, or check out his walk-off interview with Eric Paschall:

I’d say he shouldn’t quit his day job, but that job also pays a little better.

By the way, the Warriors ended their losing streak with a 109-95 victory over Orlando. D'Angelo Russell led the way with 26 points.