Carmelo Anthony will soon be a Houston Rocket. The last steps of the trade that sent him to Atlanta have to be finalized (guys have to report to their new teams, pass a physical, etc.), then he has clear waivers. All of that will take a few days, maybe a week. But he will be a Rocket.
The question everyone is asking now is about fit in Houston — Anthony isolates (as do other Rockets, but they pass out of it more), he stops the ball, and he’s not an interested defender. He’s had issues in the past with coach Mike D’Antoni. ‘Melo’s role may be closer to what he saw in the playoffs in Oklahoma City, where he sat in the fourth quarter, and can he accept that?
James Harden is still pumping up the addition and says communication — which is already underway — will be the key. Via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News:
If you’re a Rockets’ fan, you have to like that approach and mentality.
I think Anthony will fit better in Houston than his many critics do. He’s not plug-and-play for Trevor Ariza (gone to Phoenix), but the man can still space the floor, he can punish switches, he has a catch-and-shoot game, and bottom line the man can just get buckets. Not as efficiently as he once did, but he can score. The Rockets had the second-best offense in the NBA last season (virtually tied with Golden State for the top spot), and Anthony will make it better.
Picture him starting the first/third quarters, with Chris Paul and Harden making sure Anthony gets lots of touches. Those two stars get to stay a little fresher for the big pushes later. Anthony will get put in a position to play his game, and to contribute. Now, in a close game late, D’Antoni will want James Ennis out on the court for defensive reasons, and we’ll see how that plays, but Anthony is not a disaster. I think the Rockets took a small step back this summer (because of the lost defense) but they are still a threat to the Warriors.
The Trail Blazers had big expectations after reaching the 2019 Western Conference finals and signing their top players, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to lucrative contract extensions.
Instead, Portland (26-32) is in a dogfight with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns and Kings for the No. 8 seed.
Often, teams underperforming like that fire their coach.
Sam Amick of The Athletic:
A source with knowledge of coach Terry Stotts’ situation said there’s no reason to believe he’s in any danger this summer, regardless of how this turns out.
Stotts has a few things working in his favor:
So expect Stotts back next season. But also expect him to face a little more pressure. Even if a lot of what wrong this season wasn’t his fault, losing tends to increase scrutiny on the coach.
In his eighth season with the Trail Blazers, Stotts is the NBA’s fourth-longest-tenured coach (behind only the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Heat’s Erick Spoelstra and Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle). It just becomes increasingly more difficult for Stotts to meet the high expectations he has helped set in Portland.
For now, though, Stotts appears to remain ahead of the curve.
After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.
How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?
That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.
Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.
While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.
For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.
The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.
Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.
A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.
The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.
This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.
Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.
Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.
Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:
“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta
“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”
“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”
The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.
As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)
But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.