April 26, 2014 at 10:42 am

No hesitation: In one play, Daniels answers the call and Lin finds redemption

In one dramatic play Friday night, a rookie found a home and a struggling guard found some redemption.

Troy Daniels saw his first playing time of the series, and on the big stage in hostile territory at the biggest moment, he knocked down the game-winner as the Rockets beat the Blazers 121-116, cutting Portland’s lead in the series to 2-1.

Daniels, who came into the postseason having played just 76 minutes in his NBA career, showed no fear whatsoever, even calling for the ball to take that shot.

“No hesitation,” said Daniels. “When you’re a shooter, you can’t hesitate. If I would have hesitated, we would have probably lost the game.”

If you’ve been listening to our podcasts, you know we love Troy Daniels. He is exactly the kind of role player (much like Patrick Beverley) that the Rockets should be stockpiling and playing because he brings an elite skill (three-point shooting) that fills a pressing need. As far as 30 feet out, you must keep a defender near Daniels because he can smoke you from that deep. We’ve been wondering when Kevin McHale would finally turn to him. The Rockets came into Game 3 shooting just 21.6% from long range — and it wasn’t like they were playing top notch defense.

But it wasn’t only Daniels that was heroic on that play. We have to set the stage to fully understand how poetic it was that Jeremy Lin made a key, game-winning play.

With 54 seconds left in regulation and the Rockets up three, Wesley Matthews missed a three that would have tied the game. Dwight Howard got the board and handed it to Jeremy Lin. With the clock now their best ally, Lin instead saw a seam and an opportunity to be aggressive, opting to try to get past four Blazers.

And he did, getting just a half step ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge. But Lin, going about 120mph, was a little too hard on the layup attempt. Nic Batum then got the board, ran it the other way and nailed a triple to even the game at 110. And just like that, the clock defriended the Rockets.

Yes, Lin could have made that shot, but this is like faking a punt while holding a lead late in the game on a 4th-and-5 play deep in your own territory, then trying to justify it by saying a guy was wide open. He made his decision from 75 feet away with several Blazers between him and the basket, and that’s the questionable part. Lin could have stood inside the half court line, completely dribbling out the shot clock, and the Rockets would have been better off, leaving 32 seconds on the game clock for the Blazers, needing a three to tie, to go up against Houston’s set defense.

So when the Rockets went to overtime, fairly or unfairly, there was pressure on Lin.

That’s what makes the final seconds of overtime so sweet. While Daniels gets (and deserves) a ton of credit for knocking down the shot, it was Lin that saved the team’s bacon.

With 18 seconds left in overtime and the game even at 116, Harden lost the ball. You could see a back-breaking turnover unfold in slow-motion, but Lin suddenly hit fast forward. In a play you would think would come from Beverley, Lin didn’t hesitate in the slightest. With lightning quickness, he pounced on the ball, trucking Mo Williams in the process (made even sweeter given some of the intentionally hard fouls that Williams was giving Dwight earlier in the game).

Lin not only got the ball, he was aware of the shot clock, which had just five seconds left by the time he got it. Lin bounced up immediately, cut into the lane at the free throw line and found Daniels for the game-winner.

While many are praising the pass, it was the ball save and recovery that were simply brilliant. The Rockets either go to double overtime or lose this game if Lin doesn’t make this play, and like Daniels’ quick trigger, Lin’s timely play is summed up in two words: No hesitation.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
April 24, 2014 at 6:12 am

Game 2 Podcast: Are you only the legend or are you the truth?

James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge

After Houston’s 112-105 home loss to the Blazers Wednesday night, the words contained in the Houston Rockets’ powerful 2014 playoffs introduction video seem more appropriate than ever:

    We believe in you.
    We have faith in you.
    Are you only the legend or are you the truth?
    Tell me… who are you?

This is no doubt being asked about James Harden and the Rockets right now after back-to-back duds from Houston’s superstar guard (a combined 14-47 from the field) were a major contributing factor to the consecutive home losses to the Blazers, leaving Houston fans to question their faith.

Furthermore, Harden didn’t quite take responsibility for his poor play in a post-game media session, opting instead to point a finger at team defense, and even got into an argument with a reporter who asked about his shooting struggles.

If you were shocked after Game 1, you should be angry after Game 2. Winning the series is not impossible, but it’s a daunting task that lays before them. How the Rockets respond from this adversity will tell us a lot about them.

MoiseKapenda Bower (“MK”) of CultureMap Houston joins me again at the Toyota Center to try to make sense of Houston’s early playoff debacle and the massive 0-2 hole they find themselves in heading to Portland.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
April 21, 2014 at 5:03 am

Podcast: Game 1 loss a wake-up call or death knell for Rockets?

James Harden in Game 1 vs. Portland

Fourth quarter collapses, defensive issues, officiating controversies, shooting woes, a critical injury and overtime.

Rockets-Blazers Game 1 had all that, but the story that dominated was how Portland’s stars completely outshined Houston’s in the series opener, wiping out their home court advantage.

MoiseKapenda Bower (“MK”) of CultureMap Houston joins me out on the Toyota Center floor to discuss what we saw in the Houston Rockets’ shocking Game 1 loss.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
April 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Podcast: Rockets-Blazers Series Preview with Adam Wexler

Patrick Beverley and Damian Lillard

Bad blood? Lillard and Beverley exchanged words through the media after their last matchup

The playoffs are here and the excitement in Clutch City is back.

Holding the home court advantage, the Rockets take on the Portland Trail Blazers at the Toyota Center in Game 1 of their first round series this Sunday.

Adam Wexler of CSNHouston joins me on the podcast as we tackle the Rockets-Blazers matchup and look at some of the burning questions going into this series.

  • Are we overlooking the Blazers, placing too much emphasis on head-to-head matchups and not enough on how these teams finished?
  • Is Patrick Beverley’s matchup with Damian Lillard the one to watch?
  • Will the Blazers adjust and put Nic Batum on James Harden to slow his dominance of Portland?
  • Dwight Howard had more success this season against the Blazers than he did against any other West playoff team — how critical is his play in this series?
  • Will we see less of Terrence Jones and a possible Twin Towers re-appearance?
  • Are Jeremy Lin and Troy Daniels potential X-factors in this series?
  • Expectations: What would exceeding them (West Finals) and falling short of them (first round loss) mean for this team?

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
April 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Rockets-Blazers: Behind the numbers

The defense of Omer Asik could be crucial against Portland

The defense of Omer Asik could be crucial against LaMarcus Aldridge and a large Portland front line.

The scenario math is over. Courtesy of Portland’s overtime win over Golden State on Sunday night, we know the Rockets (53-27) will open up the postseason next weekend against the Blazers (53-28) in the 4 vs. 5 series, with the winner likely to play No. 1 San Antonio in the next round.

What we don’t know is where each game will be played. The Rockets are still in the driver’s seat for home-court advantage, but they need one more result to seal it.

If that happens, and assuming good health, the Rockets have to feel good about their chances. The Rockets won the tiebreaker vs. Portland by virtue of taking three of four regular-season matchups, including both in Houston.

There’s also the fact that in a similar 4 vs. 5 battle five years ago, the Rockets took out LaMarcus Aldridge and his Blazers in six games, marking Houston’s only playoff series win since 1997. (Though it should be noted that not even one current Rocket was on that roster.)

As far as the current crop of Rockets goes, a quick look at the schedule and numbers between the teams shows several trends. Here’s a rundown of the relevant issues:
Read More

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
March 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Wolverine: Beverley won’t require surgery, expects to return this season

Patrick Beverley

Patrick Beverley wasn’t just pumping out sunshine.

Houston’s starting point guard will not require surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis but is expected to return to the Rockets this season.

Beverley told us on Saturday that he would be meeting with Dr. James Andrews and that he expected to return this season. The meeting with Dr. Andrews on Monday confirmed that Pat wasn’t being overly optimistic.

Those who witnessed the team’s point guard play on Saturday night against the Clippers know how important it is to get back a healthy Beverley. The Rockets had 13 turnovers in the first half and had to assign Chandler Parsons to guard Chris Paul. Jeremy Lin struggled mightily to score or complete passes (though his shot not falling was simply a sign of a bad game) and Isaiah Canaan, while showing some solid outside shooting, had some bad turnovers.

About an hour before the news broke today, Beverley put out a simple tweet.

Here is the complete audio from Beverley’s media session Saturday before the game.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Remove or repair? Medical experts mull options for Beverley’s meniscus

Patrick Beverley's torn meniscus isn't necessarily a season-ending injury.

Patrick Beverley’s torn meniscus isn’t necessarily a season-ending injury, according to a former NFL lead doctor.

With the diagnosis of a torn meniscus now confirmed and surgery seen as likely, Patrick Beverley and the Rockets have two possible outcomes.

Remove or repair?

For Beverley and the Rockets, each contains a major downside. If the torn part of the meniscus is repaired with stitches, Beverley’s long-term recovery and prognosis would be excellent, but it would end his 2013-14 season and significantly damage Houston’s shot at a championship this year.

Meanwhile, if torn part of the meniscus is simply removed or trimmed, Houston’s starting point guard could return within weeks or even days. However, his knee would be more vulnerable to future problems.

It’s often framed as a choice for the player and the team pitting short-term desires against long-term health. But in reality, it seems to be less of a “choice” and appears more conditional on the specific results of the MRI or even the exploratory surgery.

“The vast majority of meniscus tears are trimmed,” said Dr. David Chao, currently an orthopedic surgeon in California and formerly the head doctor with the San Diego Chargers. Chao has also handled numerous injured NBA players, including a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Most tears have no real option to sew.”

The trim scenario could have Beverley back to the Rockets within weeks, possibly even by the start of the playoffs in late April.

For Dr. Chao, it all comes down to the specifics of the tear, which the Rockets should know more about early next week. Beverley’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, told the Houston Chronicle that he expected clarity in the coming days and would list Beverley as “out indefinitely” until more is known.

“The periphery of the meniscus is vascular,” Dr. Chao said.  “If you have a clean tear that is in the periphery, even if it’s a larger tear, you want to sew those because it preserves your knee long-term.

“But if you have a tear that’s not clean and not in one place, then it’s not going to heal and you have to take it out. Another scenario is if it’s a smaller tear but in the inner rim, where there’s no blood supply. And only tears with blood supply can heal.”

“In the end, you end up trimming much more often than sewing.”

As far as a timetable for Beverley’s return, that would very much be up in the air. Houston head coach Kevin McHale said it would be 7-to-10 days before the team would know a possible timetable.

“[Recovery] can be very short,” said Will Carroll, lead writer for sports medicine at Bleacher Report and author of The Carroll Guide to Sports Injuries.  “A lot depends on their response to rehab and swelling. In 1984, Mary Lou Retton came back in weeks. Ten-to-14 days is an accepted standard.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a torn portion of his meniscus removed in January of this season and did not return until mid-March.

“It’s harder in basketball [to return] because of all the cutting,” said Dr. Chao. “Especially for a point guard. It’s not uncommon for football players come back in 1-to-3 weeks, but basketball is harder.

“It comes down to how big the tear is, as well as the associated damage that’s inside. Three-to-six weeks is not unreasonable, but it could also be two months.”

In the past year, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Chicago’s Derrick Rose each had their meniscus repaired — rather than removed — in procedures that would sideline each for at least four months. That outcome would undoubtedly end Beverley’s 2013-14 season with the Rockets.

Dr. Chao said those decisions had less to do with a trend toward choosing repair and more to do with the simple fact that they could be repaired, unlike many other meniscus tears.

“From a medical perspective, I don’t think there’s a trend toward repair,” said Dr. Chao. “It’s always been a focus. But because the media is getting smarter and reporting it more these days, fans are learning more about the difference. For me, I repaired about the same amount of meniscus tears 10-to-15 years ago as I do today.”

Miami’s Dwyane Wade, however, said in training camp this year that he regretted having the meniscus in his left knee trimmed in May 2002 when he was a college star at Marquette.

Wade, who has battled chronic knee injuries since then including bone bruises and tendinitis, said that if more of a long-term approach was used in 2002, he may not have had as many issues.

“My knee problems and the things I’ve dealt with started from that,” Wade told reporters at Heat training camp this year. “That was [11] years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.

“At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, ‘Dwyane’s going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,’ maybe I wouldn’t have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best.”

But even among NBA stars, there seems to be little consensus. As a freshman at Oklahoma, Blake Griffin – one of the most athletic players in the league — had his torn right meniscus trimmed and actually played just six days later.

Four years later, Griffin tore a portion of his left meniscus in July 2012 while preparing for the Olympics. Griffin’s meniscus was again trimmed rather than repaired, and he returned quickly and has shown no ill effects since.

“It’s different for every athlete, but it’s something we’re learning more and more about,” said Carroll. “Everyone has to measure the consequences and make an informed decision.”

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Patrick Beverley has a torn meniscus, likely out for the year

Patrick Beverley

Nothing good could come from the Sixers game, and nothing good did come.

Patrick Beverley left in the first half with an injury Thursday night against Philly and an MRI on Friday revealed he has a torn meniscus. The type of tear is unknown at this point, but with the playoffs just three weeks away, there’s a good chance that Beverley is done for the season. No official timetable has been released as Beverley and the team are seeking a second opinion.

There’s no spinning this — this is a huge blow to the Rockets. Beverley provides something to this team that no other player can replace — elite on-ball defense making it difficult for the league’s top point guards. When you consider the point guards the West will feature in the playoffs — Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker and Goran Dragic to name a few — it’s a scary thought for the Rockets.

Not only does it hurt the starting lineup, but it hurts the bench as well, a bench that already had been struggling. If what we saw in Philly is any indicator, then Jeremy Lin will step in to start and Isaiah Canaan will take the backup point guard role, a spot that Aaron Brooks took most of the season when Lin or Beverley dealt with injuries. Lin certainly has the potential to put up big numbers offensively, but offense has not been a problem for the starting lineup and lack of perimeter defense may again become a big story.

Will Daryl Morey add another player to help out? We shall see. As David Weiner wrote after the trade deadline, the team still has their Room Exception to use if they want to. It’s hard to tell how much faith they have in Canaan just yet (McHale kind of laughed in post-game about that, saying at least he’ll be getting good experience), but they may seek a veteran point or experienced European player with that spot considering that another injury (especially to Lin) would leave them near helpless at the position.

This has been an amazing season for the Rockets so this one really hurts. We’ll see how they respond with a playoff test tomorrow night against the Clippers.

Posted in Houston Rockets |