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Report: Rockets told NBA that officiating cost them 2018 championship, $20M revenue

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The Rockets are waging information warfare.

After Houston’s Game 1 loss to the Warriors – a game with plenty of officiating controversy – a study the Rockets conducted into their games against Golden State leaked. The result: Based on the NBA’s own review of calls, referees cost Houston 93 points – including 18 points in Game 7 – during the Western Conference finals.

How did Houston calculate those numbers? How significant was the effect?

Zach Lowe and Rachel Nichols of ESPN:

“Referees likely changed the NBA champion,” says the memo, addressed to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations. “There can no be no worse result for the NBA.”

In their memo — which, again, the Rockets did not end up sending because they communicated its message in person instead — Houston recommended adding a fourth on-court referee, and that the league make full-game officiating reports available to every team for every game. They also claim a trip to the Finals would have netted at least $20 million in additional revenue.

The league provided Houston with what is essentially a full-game version for Game 7 of the last two-minute report it releases after close games. The report lists incorrect calls; fouls and violations that should have been called but weren’t; fouls and violations that would only have been visible, according to the league, with enhanced video review; and uncalled “potential infractions” where the league cannot come to a definitive conclusion on whether a foul was merited.

The Rockets appear to have included all such instances in the report, including those that benefited the Warriors.

Give Houston credit for suggesting solutions, not just whining. But there is a woe-is-me attitude that trickles through the organization from emphasizing a report like this. The Rockets might think they’re working told giving themselves a competitive advantage (or eliminating Golden State’s). More likely, Houston is just instilling a mindset that detracts from the focus necessary to win at this level.

I’m also not sure how much we should trust this analysis.

It seems the Rockets determined the expected value of possessions if calls were made it correctly then compared it to the actual points scored on those possessions, which is fine. But why count “potential infractions” where the league couldn’t make a definitive determination? What would the results have been without including those? I’d be shocked if they didn’t make Houston look like a bigger victim.

This methodology also leads to some uncomfortable results. In one example, James Harden got away with a possible infraction, an uncalled shooting foul on Kevon Looney. Without a whistle, the Warriors got an offensive rebound, and Kevin Durant made a 3-pointer. The Rockets said a correct call would have produced an expected value of one Golden State point (based on Looney’s free-throw percentage and two attempts). But because the Warriors instead scored three points on the possession, Houston claimed the missed call gave Golden State two extra points.

In other words, the Rockets claimed they were harmed by getting away with a foul!

Remember, Houston’s goal is helping Houston – not improving officiating. Everything the Rockets leak like this should be met with skepticism.

Portland reportedly to guaranteed Carmelo Anthony’s contract for rest of season

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Portland was in desperate need of frontcourt help but, like the rest of the league, it was not sold on Carmelo Anthony as the answer.

The Trail Blazers decided to take a chance on Anthony, but a low-risk one — a non-guaranteed contract.

It’s worked out better than anyone had hoped — Anthony is averaging 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, and the Blazers have been +14.2 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. Portland is 4-4 since he was signed (although, to be fair, the four wins came after Damian Lillard returned from injury to the lineup).

With that, the Trail Blazers have decided to guarantee Anthony’s contract for the rest of the season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Consider this a reward for Anthony.

The bigger reward is that Anthony is getting to redefine the end of his career. Understandably he did not like the way it ended, with getting played off the floor in the playoffs for Oklahoma City, then only lasting 10 games in Houston. The market had dried up for Anthony until Portland came through with an offer.

Now Anthony will be with the Blazers through the end of the season. At the very least.

Rockets to officially protest loss to Spurs due to disallowed James Harden dunk

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After 48 hours of bluster, the Houston Rockets are going to follow through with actions.

The Rockets are going to officially protest Tuesday night’s loss to the Spurs on the grounds of James Harden‘s missed call, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. A protest requires proof of a  misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibits a team’s chance to win a game, the Rockets believe they have that and the league should allow the teams to replay the final 7:50 of the game (with the Rockets conveniently up by 15 at that point).

The Rockets prepared to file a protest of Tuesday’s loss to the Spurs, a person with knowledge of the team’s plans said, with an argument that will cite the James Harden dunk that did not count as an example of a “misapplication of rules.”

It will also cite subsequent errors in officials’ failing to grant a coaches’ challenge, though the primary argument is with points not being awarded following a made basket.

What’s not in question is that the referees missed the call on James Harden’s fourth-quarter dunk — it should have counted. After the game the officials, after reviewing the video, admitted as much.

In addition to the missed dunk, the Rockets also are arguing that coach Mike D’Antoni should have been allowed to challenge the play (another misapplication of a rule). The officials talked to D’Antoni for a handful of seconds, then moved away to debate the call itself — was it basket interference or something else — before settling on it being a missed shot with the ball out of bounds off Harden. D’Antoni said he was never given the chance to protest the call by the referees, after the game crew chief James Capers said D’Antoni did not protest the game within the required 30 seconds. Privately, some around the league question if D’Antoni actually told the officials he wanted to protest — he says he did, not everyone believes him.

Protests around the NBA are rarely upheld because the bar is incredibly high. A successful protest requires proof of a  misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibited a team’s chance to win a game. The Rockets argue that not giving Harden two points for a made basket qualifies as a misapplication of the rules, but others could argue it was just a missed call. There are a lot of those in every game (Russell Westbrook had a backcourt violation that was not called and became a Tyson Chandler dunk). 

This one play is not why the Rockets lost the game. Houston was up by 20 with 3:23 left in the third and by 10 with 3:53 left in the fourth but, as has followed a pattern with this team, could not hold the lead. Harden and Westbrook combined to shoot 17-of-68 on the night.

Because of that, and because there is 7:50 left in the game, it’s hard to imagine the league ruling to replay the end of the game. The Rockets likely will miss out on this.

But Houston — a team known in the league office for the deluge of referee complaints they file — is going to takes its best shot.

Former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov on Phoenix not drafting Luka Doncic: I sleep peacefully

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Mavericks star Luka Doncic looks is taking the NBA by storm at age 20.

Why did the Suns take Deandre Ayton No. 1 over Doncic – who went No. 3  – in last year’s NBA draft?

Phoenix’s coach was even Igor Kokoskov, who coached Doncic with the Slovenian national team.

Kokoskov, via Index, via Google Translate:

Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question because of a professional code, but when you have already asked me, I will tell you that I sleep peacefully and peaceably.

In other words: Kokoskov has no regrets about his input into the draft process. He’s hinting he wanted Doncic. (That’s easier to do after seeing how everything played out.)

Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly pushed for Ayton, who played at nearby University of Arizona. Ayton looked like a reasonable choice at the time.

But Doncic’s ascent in Dallas leaves so much room for second-guessing. Maybe Kokoskov, who got fired after last season, would still be with the Suns if they drafted Doncic. Doncic would’ve done wonders for making Phoenix competitive last year – let alone beyond.

The Suns aren’t alone in facing these questions. The Kings are getting their share after drafting Marvin Bagley III No. 2.

Marcus Morris missed Knicks games, because his ‘huge for a 1-year-old’ son jumped on him to wake him

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Marcus Morris cares deeply about his role as a father.

Morris also missed the Knicks’ last two games with a neck injury.

Those statements are related.

Morris, Ian Begley of SNY:

“Every morning, he comes in the room and jumps on me. You know, I just got the bad batch of it that morning, so I’m good now,” Morris said.

He described his son as “huge for a 1-year-old.”

“I’ve just got to be ready,” Morris said with a smile. “He gets up at a certain time and I know he’s coming. This particular morning I think I was just in a deep sleep or something and he got me. But it happens. I’d rather him do that than stay in his room.”

Adorable!