NBA

Rockets Sign Austin Rivers to a Deal for the Rest of the Season

The Houston Rockets have signed another contributor to the team, and it is someone that people are not too fond of in Houston. Austin Rivers has been a somewhat forgotten player for the Washington Wizards this season.

The Wizards are a dysfunctional franchise right now. There is drama going on between John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Dwight Howard doesn’t help the cause of bringing peace to the locker room. They have just traded for Trevor Ariza to hopefully fix all the dysfunction going on with the franchise. But notice that Austin Rivers is not the problem in this situation. He is just a bystander in the bigger picture.

For those that did not know, the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza and sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to the Suns. Not long after the trade, the Suns immediately bought out Austin Rivers and made him a free agent. There was speculation that he may end up with Grizzlies, according to Shams Charania (in a now-deleted Tweet). But ultimately, he decided to join the Houston Rockets. The timing could not have been better, as the Rockets have lost Chris Paul to yet another hamstring injury. Luckily, it isn’t the Western Conference Finals (Sorry to bring up bad memories).

The Rockets are picking up a solid player for a minimum deal. His minutes are way down compared to last year. Rivers played nearly 34 minutes per game last season, compared to the nearly 24 minutes a game he was getting this year with the Wizards. His field goal stats are also down compared to what they were last year (from 43% overall to 39% overall and 38% from three to 31% from three). So, I can see why everyone is arguing against the signing. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)

But let’s try to find a positive with Austin Rivers.

  1. He is an immediate upgrade to the Rockets’ bench.

With Chris Paul sidelined at least another 2-3 weeks, if not more, the Rockets need as many ball handlers/scorers as they can possibly have. This will relieve some of the tension from James Harden and hopefully not put as much wear and tear on him during the regular season. The Rockets need to find a way to conserve James as much as they can this season, and Austin Rivers can help the cause.

  1. He is an immediate upgrade from what Brandon Knight can offer this season.

Let’s face it, we all loved the Brandon Knight acquisition because we were finally able to get rid of the awful contract of Ryan Anderson. (Praise Morey!) But Brandon Knight is still trying to work his way back from nearly two years of not playing. It shows. Knight has played in six games this season, and the most points he has scored in any game this season is three. What is worse is that Knight currently has a -8.70 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Granted, other players have a negative PER, but it is crazy that someone has a negative effect whenever they touch the floor. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)

  1. Austin Rivers is already one of the better playmakers on the Rockets.

With Chris Paul out for the next 2-3 weeks, if you had to guess who the Rockets’ second-best playmaker was after Harden, who would you guess? (Go on, I’ll wait...) You might say Eric Gordon. The crazy thing is, Austin Rivers is averaging the same number of assists as Gordon. Gordon is a shooter and a scorer. There is nothing wrong with that; it’s why he got the contract he got. But with Chris Paul gone, you can’t run the MVP into the ground trying to create offense.

  1. Austin Rivers fits what the Rockets run.

Watch Austin Rivers’s highlights from his best season for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets’ offense is all about three pointers, free throws, and lay-ups. You don’t see a lot of mid-range shots in those clips.

All in all, is Austin Rivers the signing that is going to fix the Rockets season? Probably not. But let’s take this at face value. Austin Rivers is 26 years old and is a productive NBA player. He has a skillset that lets him create his own offense, and he has a pretty decent shot. I really like this signing and can’t wait to see him (hopefully) on Christmas day against Russell Westbrook’s Thunder!

Harden Shines as Rockets Dominate Jazz

There’s a special place in basketball history for players who excel more every night and never stop improving. The Rockets defeated the Jazz last night 102-97 in a game that had techs, ghost foul calls and travels. (Yes, travels, Houston Twitter.) By the end of it all, the best player on this team, and maybe the second best in its franchise history, showed that he has become every bit the player we thought he would.

James Harden scored 47 points while grabbing 6 rebounds, dishing out 6 assists. He also had five steals, just to add to the pure insanity of how great of a player this man has become. Last night he joined the company of Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler as the only players to have three or more games of 45-5-5-5. With Michael doing it 10 times and Clyde doing it four times, you can expect to see James move past Clyde and possibly catch the GOAT in a stat that’s beyond description.

But besides the sweet greatness of James Harden, this game had a sour taste that has lingered throughout the early season: what in God’s name is wrong with Chris Paul and Eric Gordon?

EG and CP3 combined for 23 points last night on 7-23 shooting. That’s unacceptable from two players that need to stand and be counted every single night. Granted, if this had just been one bad night from EG and CP3, you could chalk it up and move on. However, these two have not lived up to last season’s form.

Most believe that CP3 is hurt or suffers tendinitis in his shooting elbow. Whether or not he is injured, he needs to play significantly better for this Rockets team to have any shot or prayer at competing in May and hopefully June.

And I have no idea what has happened to Eric Gordon’s shot. We already knew that he was a streaky shooter, but even dating back to last year, he had never been this inconsistent or terrible shooting the three. With his recent comments to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, it’s clear that EG is not the same player that he was last year. Shooting 29% from three-point range this year won’t cut it, and Daryl Morey knows it.

It was a solid win at home but in the end, there is room for improvement for two of the four best players on this team. They will need to step up before the voices become louder and the challenge becomes harder.

All stats courtesy of NBA Advanced Stats

Rockets Take Down Grizzlies 105-97

The Houston Rockets (14-14) got back to .500 after beating the Memphis Grizzlies (16-13) 105-97, extending their win streak to three games in a row. James Harden led the way with his second straight triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Clint Capela put together a magnificent game with 26 points and added 10 rebounds, while Chris Paul had a double-double on the night with 10 points and 10 assists. Memphis was led by Mike Conley, who recorded 22 points and six assists, while Marc Gasol added 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Rockets led most of the contest and had a comfortable 21-point lead going into halftime. However, the hardnosed Grizzlies shrunk the lead to just seven after the Rockets started the 3rd quarter shooting 0-for-7 from the field. Gerald Green then rose from the bench and gave the team a spark with three straight three-pointers made, while Harden added a three himself in between Green’s triples. Memphis fought their way to bring their deficit to a manageable five points, but Houston was able to keep the lead theirs and take the road win.

The Good:

The new bench tandem of Gerald Green and Danuel House, dubbed the “GreenHouse Effect” by commentators Craig Ackerman and Matt Bullard, have brought new life to a second unit that was subpar throughout most of this season. Green hopped off the bench and gave the squad 17 points and shot 3-for-3 from behind the arc. House did not record any points, but managed a team-high +14 while he was on the floor. The “GreenHouse Effect” combined for a +24 and their contributions were crucial in helping the home-town team win versus a quality opponent in the Grizzlies.

The Bad:

Eric Gordon, who was questionable with knee soreness, struggled again tonight as he added four points while shooting 0-for-8 from the three-point line. The Rockets and their fans have been waiting for the former sixth man of the year to break out of this season-long slump, but it does not seem that Gordon is shaking the skeptics at this point. In 25 games this year, Gordon is shooting a career low 29% from three. He is now suffering his career-low field goal percentage, at 37% (stats courtesy of Basketball Reference). Obviously, there is still a lot of season left and Gordon has a career track record of being a three-point marksman. Time will tell if he can pull it together for a team that needs his contributions.

What’s next?

The Rockets next play at home with tip-off at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17 against the Utah Jazz. In their previous two meetings this season, the Jazz have won 100-89 and 118-91. Houston will be looking to stretch their win streak to four games in the contest.

Trevor Ariza to Washington in Deal with Suns

After a three-team deal fell apart last night due to miscommunication, the Washington Wizards persisted and were able to make a deal that worked. Forward Trevor Ariza returns to Washington in a deal that brings Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to the Phoenix Suns.

Adrian Wojnarwoski reported last night that the Wizards, Grizzlies and the Suns were all in discussion of a three-way trade that would have the Wizards receive Ariza, while the Grizzlies would get two second-round picks and Oubre and the Suns to receive Wizards guard Austin Rivers and Wayne Selden from Memphis. The deal eventually fell apart due to miscommunication, and after disagreement on whether MarShon Brooks or Dillon Brooks went to the Suns, the deal was announced dead.

The Suns started to look toward Los Angeles as Trevor wanted to go back to a team he was familiar with, because he used to play alongside Kobe during the Lakers Championship run in 2009. With Lebron James, the Lakers, who look to be a lot improved, still could use more of a veteran presence. But they couldn’t pique much interest when they were not willing to let go of any of their young core players.

The Wizards felt they needed the 14-year veteran when they still insisted on a getting a deal done with the Suns, even if meant not including Memphis in the deal. Early Saturday morning, the deal was done to send Trevor Ariza to the Wizards, while the Suns receive Oubre and Rivers. While Phoenix acquires young promising talent to coincide with their already present young talent, the Wizards receive a seasoned veteran that can help turn the culture around from a disappointing season thus far in Washington. The Wizards, who brought in Dwight Howard in the offseason but have possibly lost him for the year due to injury, had a season spiraling out of control with John Wall getting into it with the coach during practice, and starting the season 11-18 and are currently on a 4-game losing streak.

Washington seeks to turn their season around with John Wall and Trevor Ariza back together. Even with all the fallout this season in the nation’s capital, they are in striking distance to be within the playoff race. This being said, it is early in the season and we still haven’t hit the Christmas games yet. It will be very interesting to see how Ariza’s veteran presence in the Wizards locker room will, if at all, change the season outcome. As for the Suns, with plenty of young talent and now adding even better talent, it will be interesting to see how they develop in the following months.

Rockets Lean on Another Historic James Harden Performance to Beat Lebron’s Lakers

Everyone knew this would be a physical game, seeing that the last game between these two ended up in fisticuffs between a few players. This game lived up to the hype that surrounded it and then some. It was a physical game for all 48 minutes. There were four technical fouls, and the referees’ whistles got plenty of use. But the game came to down to a James vs. James battle, and the James that wore the snake print suit to the game had a historic night.

Guard James Harden had a night to remember. His stat line is mind-boggling to say the least. 50 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, two steals, 54% shooting from the field and 18-for-19 from the free throw line. Just about every adjective you can think of can explain how amazing Harden was in this game. Without him, they do not have a chance at winning this.

Harden had support from the bench as newly re-signed two-way player Danuel House Jr. had a big night with 15 points off the bench. It’s encouraging to see, as he wasn’t even on the roster on opening night, but he is now giving this team nearly 30 minutes a game and performing well in critical moments. The Rockets are desperate for depth at the wing position; luckily, they may have found a diamond in the rough with House to provide a spark and a scoring punch off the bench.

What remains worrisome for the Rockets is the way point guard Chris Paul is shooting the ball; it’s a problem that has haunted this team for most of the season. In last night’s game, he was 3-for-10 from the field and 0-for-6 from inside the 3-point line. When the Rockets traded for Paul, everyone mentioned how he was one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the NBA. The Rockets will need him to return to last year’s form if they want a chance to return to prominence in the playoffs this year.

It was also exciting to see Brandon Knight’s first action since February 2017. Nearly two years after his injury, Knight made his return to the court tonight. While he only played three minutes in the contest, it is still a positive sign for the Rockets, who can use an infusion of talent from any position it can get.

The Rockets’ next game against the Memphis Grizzlies tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. We’ll see if this momentum can continue for the Rockets, and whether they can get back to .500 for the season.

All stats courtesy of NBA Advanced Stats

Houston, We Have a Malfunction

By now we have all seen the horrid start the Rockets have gotten off to. Even with the win against the Blazers, the fans have been calling for the burning of the gates after every Rockets loss. The question has now turned to if and how the Rockets turn this season around before 41-41 becomes the glaring end to a season that started with a perceived chance of a championship.

With Ennis and Tucker followed by Clark and House, and with the eventual trade or release of Carmelo, the Rockets’ wing depth has fallen to the worst in the NBA. A replacement for the injured Ennis now becomes crucial for this team. Pressure is on Rockets GM Daryl Morey to pursue better role players to fit around James Harden and CP3.

Even with a trade imminent, the Rockets have to rely on rookies and underachieving free agents for at least one, possibly two games to help avoid sliding any further down the Western Conference ladder.

With so many trade rumors swirling, most of us want the big names. But with few assets to offer besides draft picks, Morey has to become creative. Look for deals that have a draft pick or an expiring contract attached to help them go through smoothly.

Some potential deals to keep in mind this upcoming weekend and leading into next week:

  • Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight for Kent Bazemore
  • Chriss, Knight and Nene for Evan Fournier and DJ Augustine
  • Knight and Chriss for James Johnson

Most likely, a few small moves will be made. But with Jimmy Butler off the board and the Washington Wizards unlikely to trade Bradley Beal or Otto Porter, it may be necessary to adjust our expectations with respect to what the Rockets can gain, when it comes to in-season trading. We would all love Anthony Davis to become available; sadly, even if this were to happen, it’s unlikely that the Rockets would be able to afford the price the New Orleans Pelicans would want for him.

This Rockets season has a chance at being the worst in their franchise history. Given the Rockets’ history and the expectations put on this season, I originally felt led as a reporter to assume it was championship or bust. Now it’s just a question of whether or not this season can be saved before it’s too late.

Rockets could be third team in trade with Lakers and Suns, The Athletic reports

The Rockets are looking to bolster a roster that was one game from the NBA Finals in the 2017-2018 season. A lackluster start has forced the Rockets’ hand in desperation. They are looking for wing depth since Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute have departed for greener pastures. According to The Athletic, the​ Houston​ Rockets​ are emerging as​ a suitor​ for Los​ Angeles​ Lakers​ guard Kentavious​ Caldwell-Pope​ in two multi-team trade​ scenarios. There are positives and negatives in every trade scenario. So, let’s take a look at both.

The Good

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has some length, which is what the Rockets have been lacking this season. Averaging just a little over one steal a game, Caldwell-Pope can play in the passing lanes and match the mode of Ariza. He is also shooting 35% from the three-point line, which the Rockets desire.

Another positive the Rockets can look at is the contract situation. Looking through that microscope, it appears likely that the Rockets would rid themselves of Brandon Knight and his 30-million-dollar contract for the next two years. They would exchange a two-year contract for a one-year contract. And we don’t know what Knight is going to look like when he returns to action, as he hasn’t played in an NBA game since February 2017.

The Bad

The Rockets missed the boat when they failed to get Jimmy Butler, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is no Butler. Kentavious can be viewed as very similar to Eric Gordon: both are scorers who have the capability to defend. But the Rockets will also lose any Bird rights for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, as he only signed a one-year contract with the Lakers this summer. Losing the Bird rights means the Rockets cannot go over the cap to sign him as a free agent. They will have to use any available cap space to re-sign him if they want him to return.

The Verdict

The Rockets should pull the trigger on this deal, as long as they don’t give up any future draft collateral. The Rockets don’t need to break the bank to trade for a player like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and he can help this team on both sides of the ball. When you’re in the Rockets’ boat, you cannot give up a first round pick for someone that you can’t even guarantee will be back next year. If the Rockets can find a way to only give up Brandon Knight in this deal, then this should be a win for them.

Rockets fall to division rival Mavericks, 107-104

The Houston Rockets have continued their recent slide of games in which they come out on the losing end, this time to one of their geographical and divisional rivals ,the Dallas Mavericks, by a final score of 107-104 Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

With the loss, the Rockets now sit second to last in the Western Conference, only ahead of the Phoenix Suns who sit in last with a record of 4-22 on the season. The Suns are the only team in the Western Conference without double digit wins so far this year.

Houston also sits in last in the Southwest Division, 0.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs who have a 12-14 record on the season to date. The Rockets are only four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for first in the division and six games behind the Denver Nuggets for first in the Western Conference.

Power forward PJ Tucker was on the court the longest with 39 minutes played for Houston. In that 39 minutes, Tucker scored five points on 22.2% shooting, with one three-pointer made in four shots, six rebounds and a steal.

Starting center Clint Capela was the only Rockets player to get a double-double on the night, with 12 points on six-for-eight shooting. Capela also grabbed 13 rebounds, nine on the defensive end, and got an assist on his stat line as well.

Point guard Chris Paul, in 37 minutes, scored 23 points with three-for-seven shooting from behind the three-point line, as well as one steal. Shooting guard James Harden tied with Paul for the team lead in assists with eight for each of them. Harden had the team lead in points, as expected, with 35 points in 36 minutes of play. Harden also grabbed four rebounds in the game.

Besides Paul and Harden, none of the other Rockets who made an appearance on the night scored more than 12 points in the game. Both Harden and Paul were also the only ones on the roster to get more than one assist in the game; they both got eight assists in the game.

The Rockets, who now sit 11-14 on the season, will have a few days rest before their next game when they will take on the Portland Trail Blazers at 7 p.m. this Tuesday at the Toyota Center.

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com

Houston Trio Milestone Tracker

On November 14th, LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain to move to fifth place on the all-time NBA scoring list. At his current pace, he will pass Michael Jordan for fourth on the list in January of 2019, and as long as he averages at least 22 points per game over the next three to four years, he will become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. What’s arguably just as significant is that the 6’8” forward is currently 11th all-time in total assists and will likely finish his career third overall behind only John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Want to go even further down the rabbit hole of ridiculous accomplishments James will achieve? He’s currently 16th in all-time steals, and as long as he keeps his current average of 1.6 per game, he’ll jump to seventh all-time in three years. This is a repetitive jaw dropper for each statistical category about LeBron James, so I will just quickly sum it up by saying when it’s all over with, the somehow still-improving 16-year veteran will likely finish his career top 75 in blocks, top 50 in rebounds, top five in steals, top three in assists, and number one in all-time points.

That got me to thinking, while his career is fun to see polish out as the greatest statistical career of all time, he chose L.A. over Houston. He’s not a Rocket, and that’s ok. We have a trio of guys in our city that we can look forward to celebrating significant milestones one day. Very few cities out there can say they have the luxury of preeminent players across all three sports all in their prime together at the same time.

Here’s what we can all anticipate over the next decade with our Houston core. Don’t take it for granted.

Jose Altuve: All-Time Hits

Jose Altuve is currently at 1,419 career hits and is 28 years old. If you take out his first year when he was called up in July 2011, he has averaged 194 hits per season. At that rate, he will reach 2,000 hits in the 2021 season. By then he will pass up Bob Watson (1,448), Lance Berkman (1,648), Cesar Cedeno (1,659), and Jose Cruz (1,937) for third all-time in franchise history behind only Jeff Bagwell (2,314) and Craig Biggio (3,060). As long as the 5’6” second baseman stays healthy, he should become a member of the 3,000-hit club in just over eight years and then quickly become the franchise’s all-time hit leader. The Astros have secured the second baseman for the next six years, showing they are committed to keeping him for his whole career, so we will all be able to witness this event in 2026 for the second time in franchise history.

Side Note: If you ever want to hear me vent about something, it’s that I had tickets to the game after Craig Biggio reached 3,000. How dare he get five hits in one game.

James Harden: All-Time Points

On November 21st, James Harden passed Rudy Tomjanovich for third on the Rockets’ all-time scoring list behind just Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon. As a member of the Houston Rockets at age 29, Harden has a total of 13,518 points scored. Since becoming a Rocket, Harden has averaged 27.9 points per game, which equals out to 2,169 total points per season. At this pace, he will pass Murphy’s 17,949 total in the 2020-2021 season. We can all agree that this feat is inevitable.

Hakeem Olajuwon is the sole leader in Rockets’ points scored at 26,511. I’d like to assume with his durability and style of play not completely dependent on athleticism that we will see his prime continue for four more years. By that time, he will be 33 years old and need to average just 22 points per game over the following three seasons to reach The Dream. It’s a long way away, but we should look forward to seeing Harden pass Olajuwon at least by the 2024-2025 season.

The Beard will be eyeing 30,000 total career points quickly after passing Olajuwon. He has a disadvantage, having started his career with three seasons coming off the bench in Oklahoma City. With those three seasons added to his Houston Rockets total, he will have a career total of 29,306 points upon reaching the top of the Rockets mountain. This will leave him with just 694 points to go, or one half of a season. If or when this happens, we might be celebrating two incredible milestones in the same season.

Despite his first three seasons coming off the bench, this is entirely possible; the only thing holding him back is his durability and longevity. Only seven players have accomplished this feat: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, and Dirk Nowitzki. Can you imagine seeing James Harden join that list?

J.J. Watt All-Time Sacks

Upon J.J. Watt’s 2015 season that resulted in his third career Defensive Player of the Year award, there was some hope that he would one day be the NFL’s all-time leader in career sacks. After his first five seasons, the three-time DPOY was 26 years old, had not missed a single game, and had 74.5 sacks. At the rate he was going, he would have reached 200 sacks in just over eight more years. If you take out his rookie season of 5.5 sacks, he was on pace to reach 200 even quicker with his 17.25 sacks per season in a four-year span. The man was on a completely different level than everyone else in the NFL.

Then, unfortunately, Watt was set back nearly two full years with multiple injuries. From back surgery to a tibial plateau fracture topped with numerous other injuries, it was a consensus thought that we had seen the end of J.J. Watt as we knew him and he would be an average player on a superstar contract with the potential of even being released from the team sooner rather than later. But the difference is that number 99 is a super-human and now has 11.5 sacks through 11 games in the 2018 season. It makes no sense how he is able to be back to a top five defensive player in the league, but I choose to just not question it.

On Monday Night Football against the Titans in week 12, Watt cracked the top 50 list in all-time sacks at 87.5. While odds are against the defensive end to continue this success, who are we to even think we know what this guy can or can’t do? He’s going to make it a fun ride to see how far he can get on the list. He’s on pace to finish this season with 16.5 sacks and go into next season with 92.5 in his career. Let’s just enjoy the history of the greatest player to ever wear a Houston Texans uniform and prepare to celebrate each 10 spots he moves up the rankings. Below are expected dates to pass each landmark by using a baseline rate of 15 sacks per season.

40th All-Time: 95.5 Sacks (Robert Porcher)

Expected To Pass: 2019 Weeks 1-4 (Age 30)

30th All-Time: 100.5 Sacks (William Fuller)

Expected To Pass: 2019 Weeks 9-12 (Age 30)

20th All-Time: 122.0 Sacks (Simeon Rice)

Expected To Pass: 2020 Weeks 13-17 (Age 31)

10th All-Time: 137.5 (Richard Dent & John Randle)

Expected To Pass: 2021 Weeks 13-17 (Age 32)

5th All-Time: 150.5 (Chris Doleman)

Expected to Pass: 2022 Weeks 13-17 (Age 33)

1st All-Time: 200 Sacks (Bruce Smith)

Expected to Pass: 2026 Weeks 1-4 (Age 37)

Bruce Smith can most likely sit comfortable with no worries of being passed and will remain the all-time sacks leader, but Watt will climb far up that list. If only the sports gods wouldn’t have taken away those two years from him…

What Light at the End of the Tunnel?

You know what’s pretty cool? Maybe in a few years we’re talking about Alex Bregman being on the same pace to become the third Astro to reach 3,000 hits. Maybe Deandre Hopkins starts flirting with some all-time receiving records. Deshaun Watson is only 23 years old, what can he accomplish? Let the dominoes fall in Houston, TX.

All stats via baseball-reference.com, basketball-reference.com, and football-reference.com

Justin Verlander Wants to Challenge Charles Barkley in Golf and We Are All Winners, Now

The other day, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods went head-to-head to show everyone just how much money they have in the richest way possible: one-on-one golf. After one hole, as they were strolling along, Tiger casually bet $100,000 on closest to the pin, and I about damn near had a heart attack. I’m having a hard time justifying $20 purchases so yeah, these guys are really your everyday Average-Joes.

#TheMatch as it was pinned on Twitter, got a lot of attention, especially from current Astro Justin Verlander. Verlander challenged Charles Barkley, who was commenting on the match from the booth, to a one-on-one showdown of their own for $100,000 to their favorite charity. Frankly, I think this is the greatest idea in the history of professional sports.

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Who cares about the shot clock? Who cares about free agency? I love this idea, JV. Give the people what they want, and what they want are World Series champs blasting tiny dimpled balls all over the green. Verlander is a professional pitcher, which means by law, he has to be somewhat decent at golf.

That’s all pitchers do in the offseason if you didn’t know. They have their arm-strengthening exercises, they play long toss, and work the 7-iron over the sand trap. That’s it. And Barkley has got some game too, despite being notorious for having a swing that looks like his body is continuously being hijacked by Space Jam Monsters all over again.

The offer by Verlander got some major backing by Rockets PG Chris Paul who offered an additional $100K to make it happen.

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Side note: all these athletes throwing around the phrase “$100K” makes me feel super poor. Carry on.

There was also another offer that I think would be a cherry on the cake: free agent outfielder and American League All-Star Adam Jones wants to caddy for JV.

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How awesome is that? I think if we tried real hard, we could get Shaq to caddy for Barkley, and every hole we would get audio of him ragging on Chuck because he doesn’t have any championship rings. If I remember correctly, I do believe Verlander has a championship ring. Need to check my sources.

I also am a big time fan of anything Justin Verlander does in the offseason. During the Cy Young selection show a few weeks ago, the dude had a big ol’ glass of Pinot Grigio 97’ and didn’t give two f’s about it. Plus, whenever Verlander smack talks retired basketball stars, we all win.

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As we head to the opening tee, JV-1, Chuck-0.

Bombshell: Dwight Howard’s Off-Court Accuser

At 8:44pm central time, a Twitter bombshell exploded. Masin Elije (@MasinElije) began a series of tweets that could potentially become a serious controversy for Wizards star, Dwight Howard. The first tweet stated, “I was afraid to speak but today my life was threatened after I was sexually harassed, threatened and manipulated, by someone I respected, my ex boyfriend NBA player Dwight Howard, and his camp also “”catfished”” by his disrespectful [expletive] PASTOR.”

The tweet was accompanied by a picture of Dwight Howard in uniform. As if the first shot over the bow wasn’t shocking enough, no fewer than twenty (20) tweets followed detailing some rather serious allegations. Masin Elije went on to explain that, allegedly, threats were made to her safety regarding her refusal to sign a non-disclosure agreement and refusal to accept so-called “hush money.”

What follows is a series of detailed tweets that include details about the beginning of the alleged relationship between Masin Elije and Dwight Howard. Masin Elije alleges that they met at a venue called Wild N Out, a hip hop improv show hosted by Nick Cannon. Over this past summer, Wild N Out was filmed in Atlanta. Atlanta is Masin Elije’s hometown.

Additional tweets detail an allegedly tumultuous relationship wherein Elije accuses Howard of cheating with a transgender prostitute. It should be noted here that Elije herself lives a transgendered lifestyle. According to Elije, the infidelity and Howard’s alleged participation in transgender sex parties caused the breakdown of their relationship.

Elije include several tweets with video of conversations allegedly held with Howard. The audio is difficult to hear and understand, and there is no identification of either participant other than as alleged by Elije. It is at this point that Elije alleges that Dwight Howard threatened physical violence, and that a pattern of harassment and stalking began.

The stalking alleged by Elije included multiple threatening phone calls from an individual alleged to be Dwight Howard’s pastor, Calvin Simmons. Elije’s final tweet alleges that she has already contacted police, and concludes with an ominous warning: “… if anything shall happen to ME, this is the truth, here is my proof and I don’t want you guys to ever stop fighting for ME and what is right! Dwight Howard is heartless and has the power to stop all this, but he WON’T!”

It should be noted that Masin Elije is currently promoting a book, “Industry Hoe,” on sale for $13.99. The website also promotes various hair weaves for sale, touting them as “high quality luxury hair.” However, Ms. Elije also tweeted that “It’s sad people will assume you’re doing [expletive] for ‘fame’ when I been lit, I been that [expletive] on and offline. Dwight ain’t no Kobe, he ain’t MJ, he ain’t LeBron he ain’t even KD. I liked him for who he was and he allowed his people to threaten and disrespect me. Period.”

At the time of this publication, there has been no official response from Calvin Simmons or Dwight Howard or anyone representing either of them.

Rockets Fall To 9-8 After Tough OT Loss to Pistons

After a 5-game winning streak and getting within two games of being in first place, the Rockets had a hard-fought game with an opponent they had seen just two days previously. (Side note, while the referees were not great in this game, I will not focus on them as we need to focus on what is really important: this team.) Clint Capela was absolutely amazing in this game. Clint has usually struggled with big men in the NBA, and Andre Drummond is as big as they come, but Capela absolutely held his own. He played 43 minutes and dropped an impressive 29 points with 21 rebounds (12 of which were offensive rebounds.)

James Harden had a rough night shooting from the floor overall: he was 9 for 27, including 3 for 11 from the 3-point line. Even though he will look impressive on the stat line with a 33 point and 8 assist night, it should not be overlooked that James was responsible for half of the team’s turnovers, with 7 turnovers of his own doing. This statistic was one of the first downfalls for the Rockets.

Chris Paul and Eric Gordon both struggled as well for the Rockets. Both of these guys shot sub-.500 from the floor inside the arc as well as outside the arc. But the most concerning thing for the Rockets is the use of the bench, or the lack thereof.

Not including a former 6th man of the year on the team, the most anyone played from the bench is 14 minutes. This statistic has to be concerning going forward as there is no other production coming from the bench. Just like last year, the Rockets are going to rely heavily on starters to pull out a miracle to be successful this year. While the Rockets have a great starting unit, the bench will continue to hinder the team with its youth and inexperience.

Although it was great to see Coach Jeff Bzdelik back on the bench (and he should help with the defense going forward), these Rockets have some holes that need to be filled. They are putting a lot of hope into the Brandon Knight route, as he is getting closer to return. But the big question has to be whether or not Isaiah Hartenstein is the answer moving forward. I believe a veteran should be the answer; maybe one will be available towards the buy-out market, but for now, in Morey we trust!

*All statistics from NBA.com/stats

Carmelo Anthony’s time with the Houston Rockets coming to a close

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets and forward Carmelo Anthony will be parting ways at some point this season.

The 10x All-Star, who didn’t fit as a starter in OKC, couldn't adjust coming off the bench in Houston. Although Anthony accepted the role Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni had given him all season, the play on the court showed he was never comfortable with coming off the bench. His last game in OKC he shot 1-for-11 for only two points and missed the last three games due to an illness. Skeptics felt that when the team issued a statement of Melo being ill was just a cover-up so Houston can allow Melo to look for other teams that were interested in his talents.

Carmelo was unfairly criticized as the problem with Houston in a very disappointing season so far. The Rockets who came off one of their greatest seasons last year winning 62 games and challenging the Warriors to a 7-game contest in the Western Conference finals are currently 6-7 on the season. They reached out to Jeff Bzdelik to get him out of retirement when the defense was as bad, if not worse, than in 2016 when the Rockets were the butt end of the joke on defense leading to Harden GIFs all over social media on his abysmal style of defense. By no means was the arrival of Carmelo the cause of this bad play on both sides of the ball, when every Rocket on the team was struggling.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey released a statement to discuss the reasoning for the soon to be departed forward.

“After much internal discussion, the Rockets will be parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution,” said Morey. “Carmelo had a tremendous approach during his time with the Rockets and accepted every role head coach Mike D’Antoni gave him. The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized, therefore we thought it was best to move on as any other outcome would have been unfair to him.”

Anthony, now age 35, will now be on the look for his fourth team, fifth if we count the few memorable days with Atlanta, in just the last three years. Hopefully, he can find a team that will utilize his talents to be a key piece and not just a forgotten star at the end of the bench. Look to see if competing teams such as Minnesota, who just loss Jimmy Butler but gained Covington from the 76ers take a stab at the 6x all NBA star.

Rockets take down the Nuggets in Primetime

The Rockets are starting to get back to last year’s team where they looked like a tough defensive team that had a few superstars to get them a win. After a rough start this season, everyone said how the Rockets would not be able to defend anyone with the loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute. However, after the first quarter against a very good Nuggets team that had four losses going into the game, the Rockets held them to 25 points or less in the final three quarters*.

You can tell why they needed to bring back Jeff Bzdelik back to the sidelines to be their defensive coach. The rough start had everyone jumping off of the bandwagon and had questions up and down the roster. Now healthy and away from suspensions, the Rockets have looked crisper on the defensive end. The Rockets have held their opponents in 5 of their last six games under 100 points*. Which is incredible to think about as the Rockets are a team that shoots quick shots and generates a bunch of possessions in the game.

The Rockets are also the beneficiary of the having the MVP of the 2017-2018 NBA Basketball season. James Harden is starting to get back into form last year as he completely took over this basketball game in the second half. At the end of the first half, James Harden was 1 for 5 with only 3 points *, and everyone was beginning to wonder if James Harden was going to show up to the game.

In the 3rd quarter alone, James Harden had eight points and six assists and helped the Rockets to win the 3rd quarter 32-21*. Moreover, just when you thought James Harden would have had enough, he then decided that he was going to close the door completely on the Nuggets and score 11 points in the 4th quarter*. He is starting to get back into form from his hamstring injury, and the Rockets are going to thank him many more times this season.

While James Harden seemingly stole the show, there were quite a few other performers that stepped up and contributed to the win. Clint Capela had a near double-double as he led the Rockets in points and rebounds with 24 points and nine rebounds*. Chris Paul is starting to get his shooting touch back as well as he finished with 21 points*.

The one concern going forward is that the Rockets are getting big minutes from 6 players from their team and getting sparing minutes from a pair of rookies. This could be a problem for the Rockets going forward as they need to find some sort of a rotation and a bench. Hopefully, the Rockets can figure all of this out as they suit them up again against the Warriors on Thursday, November 15th. This should be a fun one!

*NBA.com/stats

Rockets: Daryl Morey, This Isn't New Science

With the news per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski of Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony parting ways with the Rockets, I must take a step back and realize something: I am terrible at predictions. At the moment Carmelo was signed, I truly believed it had changed the Rockets’ bench and made them a better offensive team. However, if I take credit for the predictions I get right, I must take the L for the ones I get completely wrong.

The season being so young, I did not believe the Rockets would cut him this early or look at him as a failure of this offseason. However, with Gary Clark entering the league, it’s become apparent that Anthony was asked to take a lesser role on the team. Being a respected veteran, he became upset and asked for a meeting with Morey.

With all this speculation circling around the team, Rockets GM Daryl Morey addressed the media with a press conference before Sunday’s game against the Pacers.

“The claims that Carmelo will be released are inaccurate and expects to be back in the rotation when healthy,” Morey said via Jonathan Feigen.

In any professional sport, it’s common for a team spokesperson to say the opposite of whatever rumor is being circulated. However, the old saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has never rung truer.

If the rumors and reports that Anthony’s short time in Houston is up are true, then most Rockets fans will blame this stint on him not adapting to his surroundings. However, as this writer knows and most Houston reporters also know, it takes two to dance. During this young stretch, Chris Paul has not been the same Chris Paul. Coming off the bench, Carmelo needed CP3 to be his normal self. Carmelo was only going to work in Houston if all the stars aligned, but as we have seen in the NBA, the stars never truly align. It takes acceptance and understanding of your role as an NBA player to be successful.

Carmelo is gone, and now we can hear the “Carmelo ruined the team” jokes and hear how he was a bust. But in the end, with injuries and not enough time, we will never know how Carmelo would have worked out. But with all the smoke that has always been around Carmelo, the question to Morey should be:

Why in the hell did you sign if you knew everything he was?

I have always trusted Morey and his decisions, but he must take the blame for this. Letting Ariza go at 15 million for one year was the right move. But if Carmelo was the reason that LRMM was let go, it’s a terrible move. There will be blame for both sides, but Morey is the one who offered him the contract and has been chasing him for years. He doesn’t take many L’s, but when he does, they are very bad.

Houston Rockets fans, Carmelo is gone. You can cheer, cry or drink, whichever makes you feel most comfortable. However, as a writer of this team, there will always be a little thought repeating in my head over and over: Would Carmelo have made it work if just given more time? Alternatively, is it just the end of the career of a Hall of Fame player who will now be remembered only as a ball hog and a disruption in the locker room? Time will tell how he finishes his career, but one thing is certain: It won’t be in Houston or for the Rockets.

Reports: Melo’s time in Houston “will soon be ending”

According to New York Times NBA reporter Marc Stein, Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony has been informed that his brief stint with the Rockets "will soon be ending." This prediction comes after Anthony was listed as “out” on the Rockets’ injury report for the game tonight against the Indiana Pacers.

Despite this report, Rockets GM Daryl Morey talked to the media, claimed that there is nothing wrong, and stated that everything being spread is just rumors.

“He’s sick tonight and that’s pretty much the update,” Morey said. “One of the reasons why I’m here besides being 10 games in [the season] about, I think there is just a lot of unfair, you know, rumors and everything going around about him. He’s been great with us. As coach said yesterday, he’s been- his approach has been great, he’s accepted every role coach has given him, starting, off the bench, whatever it has been. Look, we’re struggling as a team and it’s my job, it’s coach’s job to figure out to figure this thing out.”

Anthony, in 10 games played this season for the Rockets, has averaged 13.4 points per game with 5.4 rebounds per game and 0.5 assists on average. The 15-year veteran started the season on the bench and worked his way up to the starting rotation alongside point guard Chris Paul and shooting guard James Harden.

Morey was asked about his expectation of Anthony’s role in the starting rotation when he returns from the injury report.

“Yeah,” Morey said. “I would expect Carmelo [Anthony] to be playing when he is healthy.”

In another report on Twitter from Stein about the situation he wrote, “The Rockets have denied they are waiving Carmelo Anthony, but two sources close to the situation say Anthony has been informed that his brief time with the team will soon be ending.”

If Anthony does actually get waived or traded, there are some scenarios that would be plausible to fill the space. For one thing, it would open up the three spot in the starting rotation. With that, you have a few options, one of which includes trading Melo to the Phoenix Suns and getting Trevor Ariza to fill that spot to bring back some key chemistry from last season. If that scenario does not come to fruition, then you can simply choose between Michael Carter Williams, James Ennis III, Gerald Green, or PJ Tucker to fill in the three spot until you sign someone from the free agent list or trade for a piece.

Whatever the result of this whole Melo situation, the Rockets are in a tight position with injuries, a lack of offensive production compared to last season, and a team with a sense of confusion for some of its top players on the roster.

*Stats courtesy of nba.com/rockets

*Daryl Morey quotes courtesy of Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) Twitter video

Jimmy Butler to the Sixers

The 2018-19 NBA Season is still early, but it looks like we have our first major story that will impact the league.

After 13 games into the 2018-19 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have traded their disgruntled star, Jimmy Butler, along with former 1st round pick Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for rotational forwards Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a 2022 1st round pick.

Butler, who led the 4-9 T-Wolves with 21.3 points per game, along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game, will join a young, but already proven Eastern Conference contender in Philadelphia. The 76’ers, who are led by the young, exciting frontcourt of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, are currently 3rd in the conference with an 8-5 record.

The Timberwolves on the other hand, now have a clear direction to shift their focus back to their young stars Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who reportedly (and publicly) had their on-court issues with Butler during the 2017-18 season, as well as the beginning of this season.

The situation with Butler, Wiggins, and Towns had gotten so bad for the T-Wolves that it was reported Butler had asked to be traded during the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Butler held out for most of the team’s training camp and even started a rift with the team after a team scrimmage in practice.

Another team affected by this trade is the Houston Rockets, who expressed heavy interest in the veteran forward Butler, and were reportedly willing to trade four future first-round draft picks.

Butler, a Houston native, grew up in a toxic environment from the beginning of his childhood. Butler's father abandoned him when he was an infant and he was kicked out of his home by his mother at the age of 13.

Butler was able to channel his rough beginnings by becoming a star player for Tomball High School from 2003-2007. He also played a season at Tyler Junior College before transferring to Marquette in 2008.

While the Rockets did miss out on their chance to land Butler in a trade, the star forward’s current contract has him as an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

For now, the 76er’s have a major chance to contend in an Eastern Conference that seems up for grabs.

October NBA Storylines

Up until last year, the NBA season normally tipped off at the end of October.

Then superstars like LeBron James cried for more rest and less back-to-back games, so, fortunately for us NBA fans, we are now a solid two weeks into the season. If you’ve been distracted by football or were one of the few people to watch the World Series, sure, you only missed two weeks of the NBA season. However, we’re talking about the most dramatic league in all of sports, so if you’re behind, you have ALREADY MISSED TWO WEEKS OF THE NBA SEASON! Allow me to express my thoughts, concerns, and summaries of my favorite storylines (in no order) that have already occurred in literally just 14 days.

Jimmy Butler Trade Talks

I am not one to necessarily buy into trade rumors, because most of the time they either don’t end up happening or take a significant amount of time for the trigger to finally be pulled. Then last year, Kyrie Irving was traded almost immediately after reports came out that he requested to move teams, and Eric Bledsoe was dealt with the Bucks less than a month after tweeting “I don't wanna be here.” It’s a new age in basketball and certainly a player’s league. Mix Butler’s trade request with the hometown Houston Rockets at the top of the mix, and you’ve got me bought into the most intriguing story of the year so far. Will, the Rockets, give up four first-round draft picks for him? Will Butler commit to signing with Houston long-term instead of coming on a rental? Is Eric Gordon part of this deal? Either way, Daryl Morey has a short leash, and if this team keeps struggling, he’s going to make this deal happen one way or the other.

Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo

Less than one week into the season, on LeBron James’ first home game, on primetime television, we received our first fight of the year. These two guards have been going at it for ten years now, and they each finally got some licks in. A few thoughts on this mini Saturday Night rumble:

- What in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

- Chris Paul has a ridiculous amount of patience. 99% of the male population is doing much more after being spit on than poking that person in the face. He should’ve swung on the spot.

- Both players landed blows. It was a decent and fun fight that was obviously broken up quickly.

- Really, what in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

Ingram was suspended for four games, Rondo for three, and Paul for two. These amounts were low in comparison to past similar altercations, and I love that. The NBA needs a little more toughness back in the league.

The Offense Explosion

We all know the game of basketball is constantly evolving, and this is the era of analytics. We are seeing more three-pointers attempted than ever, and it will continue to rise every year. The NBA League average for points scored per game so far is six points higher than last year and the highest it’s been since the 1970-71 season. If you’re a bettor, take the over until Vegas catches up. Here are some mind-blowing scores that have already happened in the first two weeks of the season:

- October 19th: New Orleans Pelicans 149, Sacramento Kings 129

- October 20th: Dallas Mavericks 140, Minnesota Timberwolves 136

- October 22nd: San Antonio Spurs 143, Los Angeles Lakers 142

- October 24th: Golden State Warriors 144, Washington Wizards 122

- October 29th: Golden State Warriors 149, Chicago Bulls 124

You can take these final scores whatever way you’d like - higher efficiency, continued use of analytics, lack of defense, etc. The bottom line is that last season, a team scored 140 points in a game a total of 13 times. This year, it’s already happened six times before the calendar hits November.

Klay Thompson’s Record-Setting Night

Speaking of offense, Klay Thompson got hot. On October 29th, the sharpshooter broke his teammates’ record with 14 threes made in a game. Yes, 14 threes off 24 attempts for 58%. He scored 52 points on the night in only 27 minutes. That’s absurd. Before this night, he was shooting 13.8% on 5-36 from beyond the arc. After this one night of 14-24, he is now shooting 31.7% on the season. It’s safe to say that he is no longer in a slump. And my favorite stat of the entire night, which is by far the number one reason why he will never choose to be the number one guy somewhere: he dribbled the ball NINE total times!

Tyronn Lue – First Coach Fired

After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, the Cavaliers finished the following season 19-63. Did Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers’ front office expect something different this time around? Yes, the Cavs are off to a 0-6 start, but why not just let him go before the season even started? I truly want to know if he failed to meet expectations in their eyes. However, hey, at least it happened only six games in. He would’ve been on his way to tarnishing his 128-83 record, Finals Championship, and appearances in the Finals each of his three years coaching. Technically, you could say he dodged a bullet.

Rockets 2015-16 Deja Vu?

Does anybody else feel this vibe so far? The Houston Rockets are off to an awful 1-5 start, which is their worst since the 2015-16 season. Houston is fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance loss to the Golden State Warriors, the same situation as in their 2015-16 season. The Golden State Warriors are off to a ridiculous start with their leader, Stephen Curry, looking as if he is trying to match his unanimous MVP year, which occurred in the 2015-16 season. The Rockets’ entire identity and the theme this year is to “Run It Back,” which clearly implies bringing back essentially the same team. However, Daryl Morey’s leash will always be short, and if the losing continues, he will do whatever it takes to get Jimmy Butler. This is pretty similar to when he fired Kevin McHale after starting the year 4-7 in, that’s right, the 2015-16 season.

However, wait, there’s more

All that so far in 14 days. That goes without mentioning the new-look Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks starting out 7-0, Blake Griffin looking like a point guard and dropping 50 points in Detroit, Kawhi Leonard looking like his old normal self up in Canada, Joel Embiid continuing to troll whoever gets in front of him, and much more. This is the most entertaining league in all of sports.

If only we didn’t already know who’s going to win the championship…

All stats via Basketball-Reference.com & NBA.com

Rockets are off to a slow start as is Melo

While the Houston Rockets are off to a slow start and seemingly so is their big free agent acquisition Carmelo Anthony.

Much has been made about how much he has left in the tank and the impact he would have on the Rockets. The slow start to the season has many believing the 10-time all-star is on the decline.

After starting 1,054 straight NBA games, one has to wonder how much coming off the bench is affecting

him mentally and in his approach to the game. Following the game, one loss to the Pelicans Melo himself called his new bench role “challenging.” Mike D’Antoni, when asked in an interview about Melo new role, said it gave them, “the best chance to win.”

Carmelo in his six games with Houston is averaging 13.2 PPG 5.5 REBS while shooting only 37% from the field and a respectable 34.3% from downtown. Stats via Basketball-Reference. Because of injuries to starting Sf James Ennis and James Harden, the Rockets decided to go with Melo in the starting lineup.

Since entering the starting lineup, Melo production has gone up over the last three games he’s averaging 18PPG 4.3 REBS shooting a much better 40% from the field and 45% from three. It’s unclear whether Melo will stay in the starting lineup when the team gets healthier, but it’s clear he’s more comfortable in a starting role.

Does he fit?

All hasn’t been bad Melo still garners a lot of attention when he’s on the floor. Well known for his scoring prowess throughout his career, he still is respected by opponents giving the Rockets the spacing they want when he’s out on the court. Melo from day one has meshed well in Houston his professionalism, veteran leadership, personality, and friendship to Star PG Chris Paul has been the perfect fit. Melo at this stage of his career seems to be at peace and accepting of his role on the Rockets.

While it’s obvious that Melo is not the prolific scorer he’s been for the better part of his career. The advanced stats suggest everything is ok, he’s just in an early-season shooting slump as the majority of his shots are coming in the flow of the Rockets offense. It’s to early to tell how much of an impact Melo will have for the Houston Rockets. One thing is for sure the Rockets need him, they are thin at the forward position and will continue to give him every opportunity to break out of his early-season slump.

SOURCE: PRO BASKETBALL REFERENCE / ESPN.COM

Reeling Rockets Can’t Find Shooting Touch

James Harden missed his second game in a row with a grade-1 plus hamstring strain, leaving Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Clint Capela to shoulder the burden for the Rockets. The defense has been a major issue with this team, leaving the Rockets “going back to the drawing board,” according to Chris Paul.

Tonight, they found themselves in Toyota Center against Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and the 4-2 Portland Trailblazers. It was the last game at the Toyota Center before a five-game road trip. The Rockets entered as a team with something to prove, coming off of a three-game losing streak. Portland was on the back-end of their back-to-back and was playing their fourth game in six days, while Houston was coming from three days’ off since their last match.

The first quarter started very sluggishly on offense, with the Rockets shooting just 5 of 27 for 19% via NBA.com and also an abysmal 1 of 10 behind the arc. Nobody could get in a rhythm, whether it was a blown layup or a brick on the wide-open 3. However, the defense came to play after having three days off; the team came together and held the Blazers to 19 points, shooting less than 38 percent.

In the second quarter, the Rockets came out more aggressively, sprinting out on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 28. Melo woke up late in the quarter with a crossover, leading to a dunk. Immediately after, he grabbed a steal and made an outlet to Eric Gordon for a three. The excitement was short-lived because when the Rockets stopped capitalizing on defensive efforts, the Blazers went on a 23 - 8 run to finish the half.

The second half produced many of the same problems: while the Rockets were struggling to score, Portland was starting to pull away. Eric Gordon received his fifth foul in the 3rd quarter, while Lillard and Nurcic had over 20 points each entering the fourth. The Rockets would add some spark in the fourth with role players like Gary Clark, getting 11 points and kicking off a 13-2 run to get the Rockets as close as 95-79 with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

Capela added to his double-double, and he finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds defensively, adding three blocks. However, the Blazers would not break as they closed out any hope for a comeback, going on a 9 –6 run to end the game. The Houston Rockets dropped their fourth game in a row: their third at home. While the defense stepped up enough to put them in a position to win, the offense couldn’t take advantage, shooting 32 percent from the field and 23 percent from three. All stats via NBA.com.

Rockets Lose to the Clippers, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Houston Rockets faced a familiar foe in the Los Angeles Clippers and did not get the result that they so badly wanted.

The Rockets came out strong in the first quarter and rode the hot hand of Carmelo Anthony as he came out striking from deep, helping the Rockets out with 11 of their 30 first quarter points. Surprisingly, Michael Carter-Williams also came out hot with his best quarter of the season with seven early points.

Chris Paul made his return from the suspension he was handed after the debacle against the Lakers. His shooting touch, however, looked like he had missed the last few games due to the suspension. In the first half, Paul was 1-for-7 from the field and a -10 overall in the first half. The thing the Rockets have to be upset about the most with themselves is that the only Rocket that was in the positive for the +/- was Gerald Green, and he was only a +2. This math is a recipe for disaster for any team when practically the entire team is not producing on the court.

Another alarming feature in this game were the fouls. It seemed inconspicuous in the preseason when the refs were trying to implement the freedom of movement that was a point of emphasis this year. Well, the Rockets have yet to adjust to this situation; the entire squad was dealing with foul trouble throughout the entire game. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni even had to address fouls after the game when he acknowledged that the Rockets need to change the way they play defense. The switching defense has not been working at all this season: just look at the point totals or the 1-4 overall record.

If it isn’t obvious by now, the Rockets need a change. I don’t know if that means finding a way to get the Jimmy Butler trade off the 2-yard line and signed, sealed, and delivered. A big problem the Rockets are also having would be the conundrum that is Michael Carter-Williams. The guy has never shot better than 27% from the 3-point line in his career, and that is way below the NBA league average. Carter-Williams has not fit in with what the Rockets wanted him to do, and it may already be time for a change. There are plenty of free agents out there that can help give this team a lift. They need to go find the next Gerald Green that can ignite this team and hopefully right this ship before it gets too bad this season. The Rockets play the Trail Blazers on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. They have time to correct some errors, but these errors need to be fixed yesterday!

Source: NBA.com/stats

Chance Cox’s Week 2 NBA Power Rankings

The NBA Power Rankings are here! See where your team ranks against the entire NBA.

Come back every Monday to see how the powers shift throughout the season. Below I list for you my rankings. Feel free to comment your thoughts on my list as I go through team of the week, player of the week, biggest jump/fall in my rankings, and who will make the biggest jump/fall leading into next week's rankings.

EAST Team of Week: Toronto Raptors (4-0)

WEST Team of Week: Denver Nuggets (3-0)

Player of the Week: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets): Averaging 26.3ppg, 10.3rpg, 7.3apg, 1.7spg, and 1.0bpg, while helping the Denver Nuggets start the season 3-0. It is their first perfect start in as many games since the 2009-2010 NBA season. He shot .632 from the field and .500 from 3-point. land this week. He became the first player EVER to record a 30 point triple double on 11 or fewer field goal attempts. Jokic joins the great Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players in NBA history to post a 30 point triple double while going perfect from the field. Wow! How could I not choose “The Joker Jokic” for Player of the Week honors? I mean, he has lead his team to a very early 1st place spot in an extremely stout Western conference.

Biggest Jump This Week: New Orleans Pelicans (+14)

Biggest Fall This Week: Oklahoma City Thunder (-11)

Team to Make Biggest Jump in Week 3: Los Angeles Lakers (@PHX, vs. DEN, @SAS)

Team to Take Biggest Fall in Week 3: Portland Trail Blazers (vs. WAS, @ORL, @MIA)

30. Sacramento Kings (Preseason 29)

Current record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 13th

Team Player of the Week: De’Aaron Fox- 20.3ppg, 7.7apg, 5.0rpg, 1.3 spg

29. Chicago Bulls (Preseason 27)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 15th

Team Player of the Week: Zach Lavine- 32.3ppg, 2.7apg, 3.7rpg, 1.3bpg

28. Atlanta Hawks (Preseason 30)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 11th

Team Player of the Week: Trae Young- 23.0ppg, 8.3apg, 3.3rpg

27. New York Knicks (Preseason 24)

Current Record: 1-3

Standing in Conference: 13th

Team Player of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr.- 27.0ppg, 2.8apg, 3.3rpg, 1.5 spg

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (Preseason 21)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 14th

Team Player of the Week: Kevin Love- 20.7ppg, 4.0apg, 14.3rpg

25. Orlando Magic (Preseason 28)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 6th

Team Player of the Week: Nikola Vucevic- 18.8ppg, 5.3apg, 10.3rpg, 1.5spg, 1.0bpg

24. Phoenix Suns (Preseason 26)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 11th

Team Player of the Week: Devin Booker- 29.3ppg, 6.7apg, 3.7rpg, 1.0spg

23. Memphis Grizzlies (Preseason 25)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 5th

Team Player of the Week: Mike Conley- 16.7ppg, 6.0apg, 4.3rpg, 1.3spg

22. Dallas Mavericks (Preseason 23)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 7th

Team Player of the Week: Luka Doncic- 18.3ppg, 4.3apg, 5.7rpg, 1.0spg

21. Brooklyn Nets (Preseason 22)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 10th

Team Player of the Week: Caris LeVert- 24.7ppg, 4.0apg, 4.7rpg, 1.0spg

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (Preseason 14)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 9th

Team Player of the Week: Jimmy Butler- 25.3ppg, 3.0apg, 5.7rpg, 3.0spg, 1.3bpg

  1. Detroit Pistons (Preseason 20)

Current Record: 2-0

Standing in Conference: 3rd

Team Player of the Week: Blake Griffin- 29.5ppg, 5.5apg, 10.0rpg,

  1. Washington Wizards (Preseason 15)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 12th

Team Player of the Week: John Wall- 22.3ppg, 8.0apg, 3.7rpg, 2.0spg, 1.7bpg

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (Preseason 6)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 15th

Team Player of the Week: Paul George- 25.3ppg, 3.7apg, 5.3rpg, 3.0spg

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (Preseason 8)

Current record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 14th

Team Player of the Week: LeBron James- 27.3ppg, 8.3apg, 8.3rpg, 1.3spg

  1. Miami Heat (Preseason 16)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 9th

Team Player of the Week: Rodney McGruder- 15.7ppg, 3.7apg, 7.0rpg, 1.0bpg

  1. Charlotte Hornets (Preseason 17)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 5th

Team Player of the Week: Kemba Walker- 33.0ppg, 5.3apg, 3.5rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (Preseason 18)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 6th

Team Player of the Week: Tobias Harris- 22.7ppg, 2.0apg, 8.0rpg, 1.3bpg

  1. San Antonio Spurs (Preseason 9)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 8th

Team Player of the Week: DeMar DeRozan- 29.3ppg, 9.0apg, 5.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Portland Trail Blazers (Preseason 12)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 4th

Team Player of the Week: Damian Lillard- 28.7ppg, 7.0apg, 5.3rpg

  1. Indiana Pacers (Preseason 13)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 7th

Team Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo- 21.5ppg, 3.0apg, 6.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Houston Rockets (Preseason 2)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 12th

Team Player of the Week: James Harden- 28.3ppg, 9.7apg, 6.7rpg, 2.3spg

  1. Utah Jazz (Preseason 7)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 10th

Team Player of the Week: Joe Ingles- 19.3ppg, 5.0apg, 4.3rpg, 2.7spg

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (Preseason 5)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 4th

Team Player of the Week: Joel Embiid- 28.3ppg, 2.7apg, 10.7rpg, 2.0bpg

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (Preseason 11)

Current Record: 3-0

Standing in Conference: 2nd

Team Player of the Week: Giannis Antetokounmpo- 27.3ppg, 5.7apg, 16.0rpg, 1.3bpg

  1. New Orleans Pelicans (Preseason 19)

Current Record: 2-0

Standing in Conference: 2nd

Team Player of the Week: Anthony Davis- 28.5ppg, 7.0apg, 13.0rpg, 2.5spg, 2.5bpg

  1. Denver Nuggets (Preseason 10)

Current Record: 3-0

Standing in Conference: 1st

Team Player of the Week: Nikola Jokic- 26.3ppg, 7.3apg, 10.3rpg, 1.7spg

  1. Boston Celtics (Preseason 3)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 8th

Team Player of the Week: Jayson Tatum- 17.5ppg, 2.3apg, 10.5rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Toronto Raptors (Preseason 4)

Current Record: 4-0

Standing in Conference: 1st

Team Player of the Week: Kyle Lowry- 21.5ppg, 10.0apg, 3.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Golden State Warriors (Preseason 1)

Current Record: 3-1

Standing in Conference: 3rd

Team Player of the Week: Stephen Curry- 30.5ppg, 7.8apg, 5.0rpg, 1.2spg

NBA Power Rankings will be released every Monday during this season. If you have a problem with the rankings, or have a question or comment for Chance Cox, please send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

Email: chancecox98@yahoo.com

@ChanceCoxHP on Twitter

*All statistics from theScore app

Houston Rockets Making Major Push For All-Star Jimmy Butler

Could the Rockets be in talks to bring another star to Houston?

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets have offered four future first-round picks in exchange for Butler in their most recent trade offer.

Yes.

Four first-round picks…

*inserts Shannon Sharpe “woah” gif*

Houston is most likely to offer their unprotected first-round picks in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025, to comply with the League’s 7-year rule which allows a team to trade up to 4 first-round draft picks, but those picks have to be given every other year. This offer could really help the Timberwolves’ future alongside their two other young stars: Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Through four games this season, Butler has averaged 24.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while going 42.9 percent from 3-point land.

Though Rocket fans would like to add Jimmy Buckets today, they may have to wait a bit longer. The Rockets would have to wait until October 31st to complete a deal so they could send Brandon Knight, who was acquired almost two months ago, to the Timberwolves for cap reasons. If the Houston Rockets somehow pull off a deal without giving up a key rotation player from their team (aka Eric Gordon or PJ Tucker) they win this trade 100%. Jimmy Butler is a Top 15 player in the NBA. High first-round draft choices aren’t guaranteed to give you anything. Butler is a proven star in this league, so you pull the trigger now.

The last four first-round picks for the Houston Rockets have been Sam Dekker, Clint Capela, Jeremy Lamb, and Royce White.

Yes, the Royce White who was planning on taking a train to every away game during his NBA career.

You would trade those picks away for Jimmy Butler in a heartbeat.

I know it seems like a ton to give up for a player who may walk in eight months. Maybe not...this team is set to win now. The only thing stopping them is that one team in the Bay. I think adding Jimmy Butler is the equivalent to the Warriors adding Boogie Cousins. So, would you trade four first-round picks for a championship? Who says no? Let’s run it back...

*All statistics from theScore app

James Harden to Miss the Next Few Games

The Houston Rockets have faced a multitude of obstacles this year as they look to get back to the Western Conference Finals.

The Rockets have lost Chris Paul to a 2-game suspension for being spat on. The Rockets then lost their starting wing in James Ennis to a right hamstring strain and now, they are dealing with the league MVP having a hamstring injury. The Rockets have been dealing with injuries from a multitude of their players as they only had nine guys that were suited up to play in last night’s game against the Jazz.

James Harden has been the heart and the soul of this franchise ever since Daryl Morey worked his magic and found a way to steal him from the Thunder. In his tenure as a Rocket, James has prided himself as being a durable player. His track record shows it as well; the most games he has ever missed in a season is 10 games (and that was his MVP season.) It is crazy to think about how durable James is as his game is really built around looking for contact and trying to get easy points.

Now having to think about how the Rockets can handle what life will be like without the league’s MVP, they will need to continue to have a next-man-up mentality and find a way to have role players step up. It is asking a lot to have guys like Michael Carter-Williams, Carmelo Anthony, and Eric Gordon replace Harden’s contributions. Michael Carter-Williams has been averaging 4.8 points per game on 35% shooting from the field. Carmelo Anthony, in his 15th year, is struggling to find his shot from the three point line, shooting 26%. Eric Gordon is shooting poorly from everywhere on the court, shooting 35% from the field and 24% from three point line. These guys have got to play better in general for our Rockets to have any chance this season.

The Rockets could really use some health right about now as they have some talent that the fans would love to see out on the court. Brandon Knight is probably the best back-up point guard that this team has had in the Chris Paul-James Harden era. Marquese Chriss was another huge trade piece for this team with his youth and his upside to be the backup to Clint Capela this year. The Rockets have the talent on this team, they just need to find a way to get healthy in order to reach the goal the team and the players have set for themselves, which is nothing less than a championship.

*Source: NBA.com/stat

Rockets Fall Late to the Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Houston Rockets by a final score of 115-112.

The Rockets were without their All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who is currently serving a two-game suspension due to his fisticuffs with Lakers’ point guard, Rajon Rondo, the night prior. The suspension could not have come at a worse time because the Rockets so desperately missed Paul’s playmaking and scoring abilities. The Rockets were looking to sweep the Los Angeles road trip and win their first back-to-back games of the season. However, the odds were not in their favor.

The Good

The reigning MVP, James Harden, looked the part last night. He had a game-high 31 points and 14 assists. Harden was focused in every aspect of the game, even making a few plays on the defensive end. Eric Gordon seemed to have found his shooting rhythm, shooting 5 of 8 from the perimeter.

The Bad

Carmelo Anthony has yet to find his rhythm in a Rockets uniform. Anthony struggled again as he shot 3-8 from the field. Glass half-full? The Rockets as a team look like they are deep-sea diving to find out who they truly are going forward as a team, so it is too early to make a final judgment on Melo. When Anthony does get the ball, the offense is already without flow, which leaves him either to force up a shot or make a split-second decision.

James Ennis’ defensive awareness has been really low to start the season. It showed against the Clippers once again, as he picked up early fouls in short spurts.

The Ugly

The Rockets took a major step back on the defensive boards this season. They allowed 12 offensive boards to the Clippers and were out-rebounded 49-35. Crashing the glass starts with Clint Capela, who grabbed a lackluster 6 rebounds.

What’s Next?

Rockets will be without their All-Star point guard, Chris Paul, yet again as they face a tough Utah Jazz team Wednesday night at Toyota Center. The good news is that Paul will join his team Friday when they seek to redeem themselves from Sunday night’s outing against the Clippers. Paul does not have to wait long for another showdown against his former team. As for Wednesday, Rockets will need to crash the boards, not allowing the Jazz to get second-chance opportunities, and they will need to come out with the same defensive intensity as last season.

*Stats from NBA.com

Restocking the Cupboard: What the Rockets Wing Additions Bring to the ‘18-‘19 Rotation

Last preseason, we saw a glimpse of what newcomers like Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker would bring to the 2017-2018 Rockets.

The versatile additions showed glimpses of what was to come in a preseason game against the OKC Thunder. In that preseason game, there were a couple of possessions in which Paul George tried taking Mbah a Moute off the dribble. It was encouraging to see Mbah a Moute hold his own and keep Paul George out of the paint. In that same game, Tucker made his defensive presence felt with toughness, hustle and physicality. His fit in this Rockets scheme was evident from the get-go.

Now that the preseason is behind us, and the Rockets have played a handful of games, we have an inkling of what the new additions to the 2018-2019 Rockets roster will bring to the table.

The “Wing” Additions

James Ennis III

Man, is James Ennis III active or what? I loved the Ennis signing when it was announced and thought that he was the ideal guy on the free agent market to replace Ariza. He’s locked down a starting spot in the rotation because of how well he fits in the Rockets system.

Here’s a microcosm of how James Ennis III is who everybody outside of Houston thought Trevor Ariza was: You can see Ennis here grab a defensive rebound and sprint all the way to the opposite corner of the floor in about five seconds. The result? Great floor spacing and a Harden three. It’s easy to tell that Ennis III already has a great understanding of his role and what he needs to bring to the team: energy, defense, hustle, and floor-spacing. He even offers an element that an older Ariza didn’t offer, which is spacing the floor by running the court. His tendency to get out on the break and run the floor hard will help the Rockets starters and second unit play faster when it becomes advantageous to do so.

Here was Ennis’ net rating in the preseason:

Ennis.PNG

Incredible. It’s also worth noting that he shot 56.3% from three on 3.2 attempts a game in the preseason. That 25.0 minutes-per-game mark should creep up to around 30 minutes in the regular season, as there are plenty of rotation minutes to replace after losing Anderson, Ariza and Moute. I envision four or five three-point attempts per game in the regular season, and if he can knock down, say, 36-37% or higher, he’ll be a great asset to this team.

Through three regular season games, here’s his net rating:

Stats 2.PNG

His numbers have normalized after three regular season games. It is worth noting that Ennis is shooting 42.9% from three on over four-and-a-half attempts a game in the regular season. Regardless, we’re looking at some pretty small sample sizes here. The main point is this: James Ennis’ athleticism, activity level and shooting make him a great fit for this Rockets team.

Michael Carter-Williams

Since the NBA Draft, I’ve had push notifications turned on for Woj’s (Adrian Wojnarowski) tweets, and I’ll admit, I was shocked when I got the notification that the Rockets signed Carter-Williams. Then, one day while I was perusing Twitter, I found myself watching a three-minute montage of Carter-Williams blowing layups and making boneheaded plays during his 2017-2018 season with the Hornets. However, and it pains me to say this, Carter-Williams has looked pretty good in the Rockets system.

In the first preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter-Williams had 19 points, missed zero layups, and was pretty active on the defensive end as well. He poked a good amount of balls loose, though he did get called for a couple of fouls on those plays. He cut to the basket at opportune times, finishing difficult layups in traffic. He also attacked off of aggressive close-outs with ease. He looked bouncy, and when he and Ennis were on the court at the same time, they really got out and ran.

I’ll say this about Michael Carter-Williams: Chris Paul and James Harden had defenses so broken down at times this preseason, that when defenders went to close out on an open Carter-Williams from the three-point line, the defenders didn’t even have time to process who they were closing out on. In a vacuum, an NBA defender is not worried about Carter-Williams from three. But when the defense gets broken down, and either Harden or Paul kicks the ball out off of a drive for an open three, the defenders didn’t process that Carter-Williams was the guy open. The defenders closed out on him as aggressively as if he was a competent shooter, and Carter-Williams just blew by them.

Though there have been instances in which this happened in the regular season. It also took less than one regular season game for an opponent to help off of Carter-Williams on defense in the half-court. That could be why Gary Clark got the first crack over Carter-Williams off the bench in the first quarter of the Clippers game (more on Gary Clark later.) And though Carter-Williams has made some great passes in the preseason and the first few regular season games, too frequently is he missing the open guy or simply not making the right pass. For these reasons, we may see Carter-Williams get phased out of the rotation.

It’s okay if the MCW experiment doesn’t work out. Carter-Williams was simply another Daryl Morey “bargain bin” acquisition: the guy has a three-minute YouTube compilation of missed layups, and Morey finds a way to make him a potential rotation piece. And to add to the Morey-ness nature of this acquisition, Carter-Williams’ contract was partially-guaranteed, with a very late guarantee date. They can waive him by 1/10/2019 and save $500K of his $1.76M contract if the situation sours.

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony will likely come off the bench for the Rockets, but he’s going to be an important contributor to the team. He also may technically be disqualified from being considered a wing, as the preseason usage indicates D’Antoni will use him more as a four and a five this year.

Rockets fans who were hopeful to see any remnants of Olympic Melo should be encouraged. Here are some key advanced stats from his year with OKC:

Stats 3.PNG

For reference, the average effective field goal percentage (EFG%, above) in the NBA last year was 52.1%. Melo didn’t have a very efficient year last year, but early signs show that he’s going to turn that around in Houston. His advanced stats in four preseason games with the Rockets looked like this:

Stats 4.PNG

These stats are encouraging. This performance is night and day from his advanced shooting and usage numbers in OKC. His usage (USG%) is down ~30% compared to OKC and his true shooting and effective field goal percentages are up. These changes are the result of taking more efficient shots, as the Rockets system is allowing him to take more open threes and less deep twos.

The Rockets also posted him up at opportune times this preseason, mainly in situations where the shot clock was running down and Melo had a smaller defender on him. This strategy is a great way to use him to maximize his skillset, as well as maximizing efficiency, so long as he buys in. If he buys in, he will be a scary ancillary offensive weapon for this team.

Let’s take a look at his net rating this preseason, compared to last year’s preseason numbers in OKC:

Stats 5.PNG

This comparison is also encouraging, as it reinforces what we’ve seen so far this preseason. Melo went on to post a 5.2 net rating last year in the regular season in OKC, so look for his net rating of 2.1 to trend up as the season goes on.

Lastly, let’s talk defense. The team defense for the Rockets has looked shoddy after three regular season games, and perhaps some of that can be attributed to Melo’s arrival. But it’s not all bad. His basketball IQ has shown itself on defense, as he has played the interior passing lanes well, and his quick hands have allowed him to strip some players who tried backing him down. As I mentioned earlier, it appears he’ll be more of a four and a five than a traditional wing defender, so perhaps this helps mask his defensive limitations.

Gary Clark

What a pleasant surprise Gary Clark has been. At 6-8 and 225 pounds, the undrafted rookie had the NBA body, the defensive ability, and defensive instincts coming out of Cincinnati. But his shot was way better than advertised in the preseason, as he hit a smoldering 55.6% from three on over three-and-a-half attempts a game.

Though that 55.6% clip is unsustainable, I think Clark’s play gives the Rockets an additional wing rotation piece that they weren’t initially anticipating. Clark is a very similar body type to Mbah a Moute, and he should be able to switch onto nearly any player and hold his own defensively. That, coupled with his athleticism and his seemingly improved outside shot, means that Clark could be a real rotation player this season. Here are some of his advanced metrics from the preseason:

Stats 6.PNG

Unreal. These numbers indicate that although he’s on a two-way contract this season, he earned a roster spot on the Rockets and he even saw first quarter action against the Clippers. Even if he’s not a contributor this year, and it looks like he will be, I’m very excited for Clark’s future. Simply put, he just makes sense in today’s NBA.

* Source: stats.nba.com

LeBron James: Worth the Price of Admission

Welcome to the West, Lebron James!

Lebron James has won multiple MVPs, won multiple titles, 13 NBA All-Star appearances, eight straight Finals appearances, and is in the conversation of who is the GOAT? He’s done it all, but one thing that keeps holding him back from being claimed The Greatest of All-time, is that he has these accomplishments in an era where the East is a far inferior Conference than the Western.

That leads skeptics to think he couldn’t possibly appear to as many Finals if he were in the West. Debates on whether or not we should have 1-16 playoff seeding regardless of conference have been a major topic due to this type of success. Lebron James is now putting himself to the test by not just going to the West, but going to a LA Lakers team who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2013.

The King moves to LA.

Lebron is now rocking the purple and gold in the old Showtime Lakers threads under the bright lights of LA. He joins a team who has been underwhelming the past few years, but full of young talent with a lot of potential, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball. He also brought in some veterans such as Lance Stephenson, Javale Mcgee, and Rajon Rondo. Rondo brings a leadership presence that can help ease the load off Lebron, but by no means he’s no Dwyane Wade. This collection of talent may not be enough to contend in most eyes, but Lebron has done the most with little to nothing, and he is now ready take this Lakers tour on the road to a city near you!

Playoff Feeling

ESPN presents Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center for the first time. It is game two of the season and already Lebron faces yet another playoff contender. A sold-out Staples Center was rocking, waiting to see Lebron go up against a legitimate title contender and reigning MVP James Harden and a fresh look Rockets team. You have to hand it to LA they really know to put on an intro and if you were watching on ESPN you had an inside look of the special presentation.

This was more than an opening-night, this night had such electricity in the air you easily can get swept into the hype. In front of 18,997 fans in the building this special night did not disappoint. If you thought this stadium was loud, throughout the game it amped up in the fourth quarter with 4:13 left to play. The Rockets were up by 109-108, when Brandon Ingram in frustration shoved James Harden after he was called for a foul. This was a light skirmish compared to what happened just 20 feet away when Rondo allegedly spit on Chris Paul’s face and the fists started flying. Stars such as Floyd Mayweather were courtside smiling ear to ear, this game truly had it all.

Showtime Is Back

Despite the 124-115 loss to the Rockets, Lebron proved that he is not afraid of the West and he has a team that can compete. Lebron will always do his own thing, leading his team with 24 points, he also ended the game with five boards and five assists. The most important thing is he brought out the potential in his teammates that really highlighted their attributes. Seven other teammates reached double digits in points, most notably Javale Mcgee who seems to take advantage of this bigger role than he had in Golden State with an efficient 7-11 FG for 16 points. Rajon Rondo finished the game with a double-double with 13 points and ten assists.

Although 0-2, this Lebron led team has provided excitement that hasn’t been there since Kobe was competing for championships. Tickets to see The Lakers does not come cheap, the average price for the Lakers debut against the Rockets was an insane $934. Second most expensive ticket is the Christmas game against Golden State which is just over $700. If you don’t make it to the game, you can only wish you had, because Lebron joining the Lakers just might be the best entertainment we didn’t know the NBA needed.

Rockets: The Standoff at Staples and the Aftermath

The Houston Rockets secured their first win of the new season on Saturday in Los Angeles defeating the Lakers 124 to 115.

James Harden proved why he is the reigning MVP, taking over down the stretch to keep Lebron James winless on the season. Harden would finish the night with 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists. On a normal day, his efforts would be the headline from a fast-paced, exciting, up-and-down game. Harden, however, would not be who everyone was talking about the morning after this game.

The headline from this game was an eventual brawl that broke out between Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. What started as a foul committed by Brandon Ingram on James Harden, turned into a massive argument by most of the players on the court over the call. While players and referees were trying to restore order, Rondo reportedly spat on Chris Paul which started a full-fledged fist fight between Rondo and Paul.

By my score card, Paul was ahead on points because he was the busier fighter, landing more power shots. Ingram would try to land a sucker punch late before all three players were ejected. Video evidence then surfaced to support Paul's claim that Rondo spit on him.

The altercation would result in suspensions of four games for Ingram, three games for Rondo, and two games for Paul. The Rockets felt the impact immediately while playing the second night of a back-to-back with the Clippers. They would lose that game 115 to 112, despite another terrific effort from James Harden. While the suspension for Paul is the shortest of the trio involved, I feel the impact is greater because of how much it seems that the Rockets need to gel as a team.

With the new additions to the roster It is clear early on that the team does not have the rotation configured to maximize its effectiveness. Going into the season most talking heads assumed the defense would suffer with the changes to the roster. In examining the first few games, it is actually the offensive efficiency that is lacking. In the Wild West, every loss is magnified; losing to a team like the Clippers shouldn’t happen, given the talent on the roster. However, this team has shown over the past few seasons that bumps in the road here or there can be overcome. One thing is certain, this season’s start is not the one Rockets fans were hoping for.

*Source: NBA.com