April 10, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Rockets vs. Thunder: Five Matchups To Watch

James Harden Russell Westbrook

I can’t remember the last time we knew the Rockets’ seeding so early. This conference has been competitive for so long that it usually comes down to the last day, but the first round matchups in the West are set and the Rockets are getting ready to host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend.

This is going to be a classic and there are plenty of games within the game to keep an eye on.

James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook

Let’s be honest: This was meant to be. It had to happen.

The league’s top two MVP candidates go head-to-head in this series. The award has all but been handed to Westbrook already with media fawning all over his every move. Of course Harden is just over here having a better and more efficient individual season and (as a result) more team success, but hey… triple-doubles.

Still, it’s fascinating to witness the hypocrisy that goes on with the media’s view of Harden. This is a guy who put up monster numbers last season and didn’t make a single All-NBA Team because his team wasn’t that impressive, finishing as the 8th seed. His numbers are even better this season, his team has destroyed all expectations by likely finishing as the third-best team in the league and here he is actually being discredited because his team is so good. When did the Rockets suddenly become the Warriors or Cavs? Harden is not playing with a single All-Star, past or present. I don’t remember anybody picking the Rockets to finish very high this year or to even finish ahead of OKC.

Meanwhile, Westbrook has OKC as the 6th seed and is being crowned at every turn. Yes, he’s having a terrific season as far as raw totals, but the double standard by the media when it comes to Harden is just comical.

The votes will already be in, but this matchup and series is Harden’s chance to show who truly is the most valuable player this season.

Andre Roberson vs. James Harden

And it won’t be easy.

Andre Roberson is a very tough individual defender — maybe the best in the league at defending Harden. He’s 6-foot-7 with a nearly 6-foot-11 wingspan and has the athleticism to stick with quick guards. In four games against the Thunder this season, Harden is averaging just 20.5 points per game (about nine points under his average) on 34.3% shooting and just 22.6% from long range. A big reason for that is Roberson.

For that reason, you worry that this series has some 2013-14 Portland-like potential, with Roberson playing the Wes Matthews role. If OKC can limit Harden’s effectiveness with just one guy, they can stay home on the shooters.

So Harden is going to have a very challenging matchup. It’s up to him make life tough on Roberson and force the defense to help, creating opportunities for outside shooters or alleyoops inside.

Patrick Beverley vs. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley

This matchup has real history

Bad blood, folks. You have to love that this is happening again. This one has a lot of history. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, feel free to watch this… and this… and this… and this.

I don’t think Beverley is going to be able to really hinder Westbrook that much on a one-on-one basis… at least not consistently. Westbrook is averaging 36.3 points a night against the Rockets this season, well above his average, so he hasn’t really been slowed by Bev.

But I do think he’s going to play him physical and try to get into his head, forcing him to try to do it by himself. Westbrook has a lot of DeMarcus Cousins in him where his pride and anger can get the best of him. We’re going to see some real friction between these two at some point — guaranteed.

Clint Capela and Nene vs. OKC’s bigs

The Thunder are the best rebounding team in the league, grabbing 46.5 caroms a night, and they rank second in offensive rebounding. They also lead the league in Points in the Paint, scoring just under 50 a night, with nearly 47% of their points coming inside. The Rockets? They give up the most Paint Points in the league at just under 49 a night. So OKC is going to be attacking the Rockets inside over and over again.

The Thunder come at you with a lot of different looks at the big spot in Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Taj Gibson. Kanter in particular has been able to take advantage of the Rockets’ defensive weakness inside. In Houston’s last matchup with the Thunder at Toyota Center, OKC scored 62 points in the paint.

My point is: Clint Capela is going to have his hands full. If he’s not able to handle the physicality, we’re going to see a lot of Nene, who shot nearly 77%, averaging 14.3 points, in four games against the Thunder this season.

Houston’s bench vs. OKC’s bench

This is where the Rockets must take advantage.

Despite the fact that in the four games head-to-head, the Thunder are matching the Rockets in three-point percentage at 37.2%, OKC is the worst three-point shooting team in the league at just 32.7%. The Rockets start several three-point shooters and can bring in a couple of sharpshooters off their bench as well.

The problem is — Eric Gordon is shooting just 32.5% from three since January 1 while Lou Williams is shooting just 32.8% from three since joining the Rockets. But there’s no doubt about it, both players must come up large in this series. The bench’s job won’t be to hold down the fort when Harden sits but rather to extend leads or trim deficits.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
April 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Rockets honor Hall of Fame inductee Tracy McGrady with this video

Houston Rockets honor Tracy McGrady

The Houston Rockets honored one of their stars Wednesday night.

It was Tracy McGrady’s turn as the organization paid tribute to T-Mac during their game against the Denver Nuggets… and the timing couldn’t be much better.

It was recently announced that McGrady will be going into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

In five and a half seasons with the Rockets, T-Mac averaged 22.7 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.31 steals as the Rockets made the playoffs in four of his first five seasons with the team.

He will be most remembered for his 13 points in 33 seconds against the Spurs and playing like an MVP leader during the team’s 22-game win streak in 2007-08. T-Mac also was a controversial figure with some Houston fans by the middle of the 2008-09 season and he was ultimately traded away in 2010, but in Clutch City, time heals wounds and McGrady is celebrated here today.

The video the Rockets put together was outstanding.

The Rockets also gave out bobbleheads to the first 3,000 fans commemorating McGrady’s 13-point explosion against San Antonio.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
April 3, 2017 at 7:12 am

Sam Dekker breaks hand, likely out a month

Sam Dekker broken hand

The Rockets got some bad news Sunday night.

Sam Dekker suffered a broken hand in the game against the Phoenix Suns and is expected to be out three to four weeks. The playoffs start in two weeks.

The play happened with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter when Dekker collided with Jared Dudley while going for a loose ball. Dekker said he knew right away as his left wrist got pinned up in the collision. The play can be seen below:

This is a blow to the Rockets for sure as their depth has been a big key to their success. Troy Williams, who had a career night in his first action as a Rocket, could see some significant time as a result.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 31, 2017 at 11:17 pm

Draymond Green delivers cheap shot to James Harden’s injured wrist

Draymond Green cheap shot to James Harden

It’s well known that Draymond Green is one of the dirtiest players in the league, but there’s often a spin to whatever he does.

It’s going to be hard to spin this one.

In the third quarter of Friday night’s game in Oakland, Green delivered a cheap shot blow to James Harden’s wrist in order to get a hand check free. This is not simply clearing a jersey grab… this is a closed fist punch to Harden’s forearm/wrist. Harden has been struggling lately through the pain of a left wrist injury.

Green admitted the punch after the game, claiming Harden “pinched” him.

“He pinched me so I punched his wrist,” said Green. “He does it often, actually, which is kind of adolescent but whatever.”

The video speaks for itself.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 24, 2017 at 12:35 am

On the debut of Lou Williams and Rockets deadline-day trades

Lou Williams Houston Rockets

Sweet Lou is fitting right in.

David Weiner, aka BimaThug, joins me on the podcast as we talk about what we just witnessed — Lou Williams popping off for 27 points in his Houston Rockets debut, a 129-99 thrashing of the Pelicans in New Orleans. We also discuss the trades the Rockets made at the deadline and how that helps the Rockets on the court and better position themselves to add more talent in the very near future.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
February 23, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Daryl Morey says Rockets will rain threes, hints at pursuit of Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut Houston Rockets buyout

Needless to say, Daryl Morey has been busy.

The Houston Rockets general manager acquired Lou Williams on Tuesday, then dealt off K.J. McDaniels to the Nets and Tyler Ennis to the Lakers in deals designed to bolster the team’s position in the coming buyout market.

Morey made the rounds after the trade deadline, speaking on both The Vertical’s live broadcast and local radio SportsTalk 790 to discuss the team’s new moves.

Morey said the Rockets weren’t looking to upgrade inside at the trade deadline, but they have something in mind in the buyout market, which was a clear hint that they have their eyes on Andrew Bogut, who is expected to be bought out by Philadelphia.

“We like our bigs rotation,” said Morey. “We really like what Clint (Capela), Nene and Montrezl (Harrell) bring. It wasn’t a big priority (but) there are some players out there in the buyout market.”

Morey said the Rockets will “have the most money of all the contenders” heading into the buyout period, and ESPN’s Marc Stein says the Rockets indeed will pursue Bogut.

As for the Williams deal, according to Morey, the Rockets are embracing who they are with this move, and that’s a three-point shooting and attacking offensive team.

“The top teams in the West, if we beat them, it’s going to be in a barrage of three-pointers,” said Morey. “We feel like we have a great window with (James) Harden and the players we have around him. We think Lou (Williams) is a big part of it. Having him next year is a big factor for us.”

Without mentioning Corey Brewer by name, Morey was pretty clear that he didn’t fit the team’s style.

“One of our big weaknesses up to this point of the season was we did have some folks that weren’t really fitting in terms of the shooting and Lou fits that in a big, big way,” said Morey. “Having shooters around (Harden) at all times, which we will have now, really upgrades his ability to operate in space. We’re really excited about how Lou will upgrade us from that perspective.”

Morey also addressed the talk that Patrick Beverley’s name was rumored to be out there.

“Pat is the heart and soul of our team. He’s got a toughness, an edge and (is) playing unbelievable,” said Morey. “Teams maybe falsely thought with Lou coming in that made Pat more available. That was wrong.”

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 23, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Rockets trade Tyler Ennis to Lakers

Tyler Ennis Houston Rockets

More activity for the Houston Rockets on NBA trade deadline day.

Daryl Morey and company continue to position themselves for the buyout market. After unloading K.J. McDaniels to the Nets, the Rockets sent Tyler Ennis to the Los Angeles Lakers for Marcelo Huertas.

The Rockets will waive Huertas… but the fans are already expressing their appreciation for Huertas.

What’s happening? The Rockets created some cap room in the McDaniels deal and they are making room on the roster to be able to pick up guys who can help them for the stretch run. They have about $3.5 million now to spend, giving them an advantage over other teams that will only have a base exception of around $2 million. The big fish right now that likely will be available is Andrew Bogut, who the Rockets had an interest in acquiring this past summer, but there will likely be other interesting free agents to consider as well.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Rockets trade K.J. McDaniels to Brooklyn

K.J. McDaniels Houston Rockets

The Rockets have made another trade on deadline day, sending K.J. McDaniels to the Brooklyn Nets, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Rockets simply send McDaniels and his $3.3 million salary to Brooklyn, getting nothing of significance back. They are unloading salary to create roster spots and position themselves to spend money in the buyout market that will begin once the deadline passes.

For example, Andrew Bogut, who was just traded from Dallas to Philly, is expected to be bought out by the Sixers. The Rockets will likely be looking for a defensive wing, but they’re not going to be picky when talented players can be scooped up relatively cheaply after the deadline.

McDaniels, who interestingly was acquired by the Rockets in a deadline-day deal in 2015, never could earn a rotation spot with the Rockets. Both Kevin McHale and Mike D’Antoni kept him nailed to the pine. D’Antoni gave him a big opportunity entering this season, looking for McDaniels to be his defensive stopper in the backcourt, but it never materialized. He will likely get a shot at some playing time with the Nets.

Posted in Houston Rockets |