February 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

With Lin and Asik still in Houston, Parsons may find his payday delayed

Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin

The presence of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on the Houston payroll could impact the timing of Chandler Parsons’ eventual contract extension with the Rockets.

Five months ago, I touted the merits of giving Chandler Parsons a long-term contract in July 2014. He’s certainly made his case for it on the floor this year, with his points, field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and overall efficiency (PER) all rising relative to last season.

But with the trade deadline passing without a major move, it’s time to contradict myself and explain why that scenario no longer makes sense for the Rockets, who now seem likely to delay Parsons’ extension until July 2015.
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Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

Podcast: Troy Daniels’ Journey to the NBA

Troy DanielsAfter the trade deadline passed, the Houston Rockets didn’t waste much time making sure they had in the fold one of the NBDL’s best prospects, signing Troy Daniels to a two-year deal.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been called one of the best shooters they’ve ever seen by his coaches and general manager Daryl Morey as he shattered the NBDL record for made threes in a season and is currently averaging almost 23 points a night.

The newest Rocket joins Dave Hardisty on the podcast to discuss how he felt signing a deal with the Rockets and the path he took to get here — from his days lighting it up with Virginia Commonwealth University to his current long-range assault with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

“I’m finally going to get my chance to show the whole world that I am a great shooter,” said Daniels.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts | Tagged , , |
February 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

Rockets Playbook: Examining Jeremy Lin’s favorite set

Jeremy Lin smilesBrowsing through the ClutchFans forum, I saw Jeremy Lin reveal his favorite Rockets set in an interview with Nick Hauselman, also known as “Coach Nick” of Bballbreakdown.

His favorite offensive set? The backside pick-and-roll.

I immediately knew what set Jeremy was referring to and have several clips of the Rockets running it successfully, so let’s take a look:

As Jeremy explained, the initial high pick-and-pop is just false motion to get the defense moving and disguise the Rockets’ true intent. In reality, what they’re looking to execute is a backside pick-and-roll/dribble hand-off.

This is very hard to guard because it happens so fast. As a result, the defense frequently ends up out of position — thus limiting their ability to hedge or force the the pick-and-roll down (toward the baseline/sideline).

This, in turn, also leaves the defense vulnerable to middle penetration, which good defenses generally try to prevent. Once middle penetration occurs, it opens up all sorts of options for the offense (see 0:00-1:38 of the video compilation).

The only way for the defense to prevent middle penetration, really, is either by going under the screen — which opens things up to players pulling up from three, as James Harden is great at recognizing and taking advantage of — or denying the ball to the player coming up from the corner, which makes the defense vulnerable to back-door cuts or leaves an open jumper for the Rockets’ power forward.

Simple, yet very effective, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that both the Spurs and Thunder also make use of this set.

I was actually a bit surprised to hear that it’s Lin’s favorite set, though. Although it’s one of the most effective sets for the Rockets, Jeremy usually only gets to initiate it, rather than play the key role.

Nonetheless, rather than be overly concerned with his role, Lin still seems to be on board due to its success for the team as a whole. It’s another reason why he’s a very easy person to root for.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Rockets Playbook |
February 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Rockets Still Have “Room” For Improvement

Daryl MoreyThe NBA trade deadline came and went, and the Rockets remained fairly quiet… by Daryl Morey‘s standards.

The Rockets GM, who has made a trade deadline deal in each year of his tenure with Houston, pulled off a single, relatively minor trade, sending third-string point guard Aaron Brooks to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for young swingman Jordan Hamilton.

The good news, for those who remain “unfulfilled” by the Rockets’ trade deadline maneuvers, is that Houston still holds a key advantage over (most) other NBA teams.

The Rockets still have their Room Mid-Level Exception available.

The Room Mid-Level Exception (or Room MLE) is a salary cap exception that allows teams that opted for the use of their cap space — and waived their rights to most other salary cap exceptions to do so — to have an additional means of adding players for more than the veteran’s minimum salary.

The amount of the Room MLE this season is $2,652,000.  That amount began to prorate on January 10, reducing in value by $15,600 each day after that.

It is likely that the Rockets will be scouring the waiver wire for quality veterans who get bought out in order to save their teams some salary and to give the veteran a chance to latch on with a contender for a playoff run.  “Waiver wire season” tends to run from now until March 1, the deadline by which a player must be waived in order to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster.

The value of the Room MLE on March 1:  Nearly $1.9 million.

The value of the prorated veteran’s minimum salary on March 1:  Less than $387,000.  (And that’s for veterans with 10+ years of experience.  The prorated minimum salary for veterans with less experience could be significantly less.)

The relatively significant salary that the Rockets can provide via the Room MLE, combined with Houston’s status as a legit title contender (or at least a contender for a deep playoff run), make the Rockets an attractive destination for the best buyout candidates.  (Whether guys like Danny Granger (Philadelphia), Jason Terry (Sacramento) or Glen Davis (Orlando) actually get bought out — or whether there would be mutual interest — I will leave for others to speculate.)

Of the other NBA teams that one would consider legitimate threats for a deep playoff run, only the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder — both still armed with their full Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (at a prorated amount of about $2.2 million as of March 1) — can offer more money to free agents.

However, Miami is well over the luxury tax threshold, and any new players will come with a tax bill of an additional 150-175% of that player’s salary.

In the case of Oklahoma City, the Thunder may be able to outbid the Rockets if they were in direct competition; but they are starting to run up against the luxury tax threshold themselves.  A quality veteran’s decision would likely come down to the opportunity for playing time.

While the addition of Hamilton — and a probable call-up of Isaiah Canaan — is perhaps not enough to satisfy many Rockets fans’ thirst for “the shiny, new object” over which to pine, don’t overlook the continuing availability of that Room MLE.

It could be the key to adding one more key piece to the puzzle this season.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Rockets trade Aaron Brooks to Denver for Jordan Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton Houston Rockets

For the second time in three years, the Houston Rockets have traded point guard Aaron Brooks at the NBA trade deadline.

Houston sent Brooks to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, bringing in 23-year old wing Jordan Hamilton in exchange.

Hamilton is not exactly a home run, but the Rockets get a decent shot at finding a possible rotation player. At 6-foot-7, he’s got the size for the wing and is a solid shooter at a career 35.7% from three-point range. He’s a very good defensive rebounder and has some athleticism. He will compete with Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi for playing time.

“Jordan Hamilton is a guy we think has the potential to move into our rotation (and) we think we’re a pretty good team,” said Rockets GM Daryl Morey. “He brings some skills we think could help us — shooting and he’s a really great rebounder. One of our issues at the wing is when Dwight goes to block a shot, our rebounding behind him has been challenged so we think Jordan can come in behind him and shore that up if he gets into the rotation.”

Morey said Hamilton is a guy they have “had their eye on” and the timing of the acquisition fits the pattern of success they have had acquiring young players (likely referring to when they traded for Kyle Lowry).

“He hasn’t had a chance to emerge (and that’s) usually the kind of guy we do pretty well with — catch him a little bit before they get a chance and see him flourish with us,” said Morey.

Brooks, who is the team’s best three-point shooter this season, was pushed out of the rotation once both Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin were healthy. He provided some valuable insurance at two guard spots this season. For example, in the eight games this year where James Harden was out, Brooks averaged 12.1 points in just 22.1 minutes a game, hitting over 51% of his threes. He was part of the reason the Rockets went 6-2 in those games without their star.

Since Brooks is a one-year Bird Rights player, he had the right to approve any trade. By approving this one, he’s clearly doing it because the Nuggets provide a better playing opportunity before he becomes a free agent this summer.

The move also makes Isaiah Canaan, who has been thriving in the D-League, the team’s third point guard.

“Some of this trade is about Isaiah Canaan,” said Morey. “He’s played very well in the D-League. We feel like and the coaching staff feels like he has the ability to step into that third point guard role. If we were to take an injury potentially, we feel comfortable he could come in and give us good minutes.”

But the Rockets needed a possible boost at the wing spot, and it will be interesting to see if Hamilton finds a niche here off the bench playing in an offense that focuses heavily on the three. Here’s a highlights video from a game last week where Hamilton posted 16 points and 7 assists against the Timberwolves.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
February 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

Podcast: As win streak continues, are Rockets legit title contenders?

Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons

36-17.

That’s the robust record the Rockets have come away with entering the All-Star break — the second-best record in franchise history at this point of the season. Dwight Howard, James Harden and company are riding a seven-game winning streak, are currently third in the Western Conference and trail the San Antonio Spurs by just two games for the Southwest Division lead.

Former Houston Chronicle writer and Fox Sports Houston analyst MoiseKapenda Bower (“MK”), who writes some excellent analytical pieces on the Rockets for CultureMap, joins me on the podcast as we discuss just how good these Rockets are and can be this season.

We also discuss what has gone right during this streak, the return of Omer Asik, the development of Donatas Motiejunas, the never-ending Jeremy Lin-Patrick Beverley starter debate and the February 20th NBA Trade Deadline.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
January 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

Podcast: Talking Rockets with CSN Houston’s Adam Wexler

Adam Wexler CSN HoustonThe Houston Rockets (29-17) have been a hard team to peg. One night they’re dropping 126 against one of the best teams in the league and the next they’re in Memphis, clawing to get to the 80′s and completely unable to get a shot to fall.

Longtime Houston sports radio host and CSN Houston’s Rockets digital reporter Adam Wexler joined us on the podcast as we discuss what went wrong for the Rockets in their home-away series with the Memphis Grizzlies. We also discuss the three-point shooting woes that have plagued this team, the Omer Asik injury situation, the Patrick Beverley-Jeremy Lin fan debate and what we can expect from the Rockets at the February 20th NBA Trade Deadline.

Not only can you see Adam during the game broadcasts, but he also provides terrific coverage daily on the Rockets at CSNHouston.com. He is also a must-follow on Twitter at @awexler.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
January 25, 2014 at 11:09 am

Morey Q&A: Expect Asik to remain a Rocket throughout contract

Daryl Morey at a Houston Rockets season ticket holders Q&AIt may or may not be the team’s private view, but the Rockets are now saying publicly that backup center Omer Asik will remain with the team for the duration of his contract (ending in 2015).

In a Q&A session with Houston season-ticket holders before Friday night’s 88-87 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, general manager Daryl Morey told the audience that Asik will likely remain a Rocket throughout his entire contract.

“We pushed to trade Omer in December,” said Morey. “We felt we had to make a fair and aggressive effort to do that. Obviously, he’d prefer to be a starter.

“At this point, Omer is very likely going to be here until the end of his contract at the end of next season, not this season. The window to trade him was [in December], and teams weren’t aggressive enough to get him, so we’re excited about him being a part of our future.”

Morey’s comments were available courtesy of Twitter user @MiggysWorld35, who was present at the Q&A discussion. Here’s a rundown of some of his other responses:

  • Morey feels comfortable with the Rockets facing any Western Conference team in a seven-game playoff series except for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“We feel like we’re better than we’ve shown. It’s exciting to be 29-15 (now 29-16) and feel like there’s more there.

“We feel like when we’re healthy and get everyone clicking, that’ll get us very close to getting where we want to be. We’re not quite there. We still feel like a healthy Oklahoma City is a little better.

“But I think any other team in the West, we feel like we can beat in a seven-game series. We can beat Oklahoma City, too, but we wouldn’t be favored.”

  • Morey believes Chandler Parsons, who will become a free agent in either July 2014 or July 2015, “is going to make a lot of money”.

“With Chandler, we have an interesting decision. At the end of this year, we can turn down his option. People wonder why, because it’s so cheap, but then he’d be a restricted free agent. Or he can go through his fourth year and be an unrestricted free agent. There are advantages to each, so it’s something we’ll continue to talk about.

“He’s going to make a lot of money on his next contract. We don’t know how much. But we’re committed to keeping him.”

  • The Rockets will look into hiring Shane Battier in a management role once Battier retires from basketball.

“Of the players we’ve had, Shane Battier is a guy I felt could be a great head coach. He’s so smart though, he’s told me maybe he doesn’t want to do it because it’s too much work. He hasn’t decided what he wants to do later, but he might be interested in personnel, and that’s something we would be interested in talking to him about.”

  • Morey believes his worst moves as a GM were drafting Royce White and surrendering a first-round draft pick in the Terrence Williams trade.

“I take some sort of pride that you could argue that Royce White is the worst first-round pick ever. He’s the only one that never played a minute in the NBA that wasn’t just a foreign guy staying in Europe. It just shows we swing for the fence,” Morey quipped.

  • The Rockets are receiving “lots of calls” about Donatas Motiejunas, who asked to be traded in search of more playing time. However, the Rockets prefer to keep him.

“Teams are opportunistic. Any player that other teams like and think is good and that’s not playing, generally that’s who you get calls on. We’ve gotten a lot of calls on Donatas because he’s a mobile 7-footer with offensive skill. He’s not a perfect player, but because he wasn’t playing, teams are like ‘Maybe we can get him on the cheap’.

“We believe in him. I expect him to be here. The reality is, it’s very hard to get a 7-footer who can play as well as him on a $1 million contract.”

  • Morey “won’t be shy” about making a trade at this year’s February deadline. It could be a move that helps the team now, but he’s also open to ones that greatly help the future.

“The reality is, the more you prescribe what you’re going to do at the deadline, the worse off you are.

“If you say you’ve got to go with X, if other teams sense you’re locked into a player or a particular direction, they take advantage of that. We’re very opportunistic. We didn’t know James Harden was going to be available. We just knew we wanted to build up the right sets so that when the next star acts, we’re ready to pounce.

“We’re valuing now and this season much higher than we have in the past. We feel like, while maybe not the favorite, we have a legit chance to win the title this year. So if an opportunity presents itself to get a lot better this year, we’ll do it. We’ll give up some future for now.

“That said, we do feel like we have a long run with this group. But you never know how long. It’s a balancing act. You’re always judging future vs. now, and what we’re optimizing on is the probability of us to win the title over a 3-to-4 year window. We’re trying to maximize that.

“We’ll push down the future if it pushes up today high enough. If we can push up the future dramatically, we’d even push down today a little bit.”

“Classically, we don’t [have enough experience]. Pat Beverley is coming into his first full season, Jeremy is basically in his second as a starter.

Teams aren’t going to give away better players than the ones we have. The Celtics won the title with a first-year starting point guard [Rajon Rondo in 2007-08]. It’s definitely possible to do it.

But we lack experience everywhere. We’re by far the least-experienced team that’s thinking about winning a title.”

(In a separate question on recent Rondo-to-Houston trade speculation, Morey declined comment.)

  • Head coach Kevin McHale was quite upset by the recent thigh bruise that sidelined Terrence Jones for two games.

“The other day, when Terrence wasn’t playing, I thought Coach McHale’s dog had been shot by the look on his face. Because Terrence has really been saving us. We’re excited to have him back.”

Posted in Houston Rockets |