James Harden Is A Foundational Player

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has to be walking around with that “I told you so,” grin tonight.

The Houston Rockets opened the season on the road against the Detroit Pistons, and James Harden was ready to play. Harden had signed his monster five-year, $80 million contract extension just hours before the game.

“James Harden is a player we can build around, and continue to improve the team around his skills,” Morey said. “He’s an elite offensive player, a complete player. He can pass, shoot, attack the basket. Even though he’s a gold medalist, an Olympian and made the Finals, I still think he’s an underrated player. He’s absolutely someone who, when they see him step into the role of a star for the Houston Rockets, people are going to realize just how good he is.”

It’s a feeling many of us will never have, but it’s safe to assume $80 million on paper makes you feel really good.

So good, that Harden decided to prove all his doubters wrong in one night.

“He’s just a sixth man,” some said.

“He’s not worth $80 million!” others said.

Harden dominated the game from start to finish, showing he doesn’t need Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook casting a shadow in his path.

Harden finished with 37 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block.

According to ESPN State & Info, Harden is the first player in NBA history to have at least 30 points, and 12 assists, in his first game with a new team. Harden set career-highs tonight in minutes played, as well as assists, and field goals made.

It’s just one game, and Harden certainly will not average 37 points on a nightly basis, but if leadership was ever a doubt, he squashed that notion to a pulp.

Morey called Harden a “foundational” player, anyone dare to disagree?

Omer Asik Thrives With Rockets

The Rockets have completely revamped the roster, and while the year promises to bring excitement, the challenges this young team will face will require patience. The preseason so far has shown the ups and downs each player faces, and what they will need to address as the season progresses.

As Daryl Morey continues his quest for a franchise player, the Rockets find themselves in search for stability. The presumed starting lineup will feature a backcourt of Jeremy Lin, and Kevin Martin, while Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omer Asik round out the starting five.

Omer Asik signed a three year 25 million dollar contract with the Rockets which left many wondering if the team overpaid for the center. The term “poison pill” swept the basketball nation by storm after general manager Daryl Morey executed a savvy method earlier on Jeremy Lin. The “poison pill” would have the Rockets pay Asik 14.9 million in 2015, a contract that would be backlogged, making the investment difficult for the Chicago Bulls to swallow.

So far the preseason has proven to many Rockets fans that not only is Asik’s label as an above average defensive center true, but that his dedication after receiving a lucrative contract doesn’t need to be questioned.

In six preseason games played, Asik has racked up 69 rebounds, 25 of them being offensive. The Turkish center has shown his relentlessness on the boards each game, bringing a mixture of youth and height at the center position that the team has not had in years.

Asik’s ability to read plays on the defensive end is stellar. He moves his feet strategically, and most importantly realizes what he’s capable of doing. Asik has shown that he rarely takes risks that he knows he can’t handle. For a 255 pound center, Asik is able to cover the pick and roll, and stretch his defense out to the perimeter.

The forward heavy team is so thin at the five, that Asik’s value is irreplaceable. The Rockets do have Donatas Motiejunas the seven-foot rookie from Lithuania, but his lack of experience has shown this preseason. Greg Smith is another big man the Rockets are hoping to cultivate, but as they wait, Asik’s experience becomes all the more important.

Asik’s ceiling as an offensive player may not be high, but for the Rockets his defensive presence will help a backcourt of Lin, and Martin who aren’t traditionally known for defense. It will be interesting to see Asik transition into a starters role. He played behind the talented Joakim Noah in Chicago, but in Houston he is the man in the paint. Asik’s main challenges will be pacing himself, and staying out of foul trouble, something so many centers struggle with.

Asik is averaging 8 points, 1 steal, and 11.5 rebounds per game.

The pill on Asik was labeled “poison,” but for the Rockets it’s a prescription that they haven’t taken in years.

Rockets Sign Scott Machado

The Houston Rockets have officially signed Scott Machado to a reported three year deal.

Machado had a strong showing for the Rockets in summer league play, averaging 8.0 points and 5.6 assists in five games.

With Jeremy Lin being the obvious starter at point guard, Machado will be battling for minutes against Shaun Livingston, Toney Douglas, and Courtney Fortson who all are at different stages in their career.

Machado who led the nation with 9.9 assists per game in his senior year at Iona, surprisingly went undrafted.

“It’s another fuel to the fire, that’s exactly what it is,” Machado said. “I was very disappointed. It was so disappointing it became a trending topic.”

Machado dished out 880 assists in 132 games ranking him 17th in NCAA history.

“They know I’m a great passer,” Machado told the Houston Chronicle. “I feel like every day I progressed and got better just getting more comfortable and more used to the style of play and the pace of the game, the players around me.”

The Rockets also announced they have waived Diamon Simpson to make room for Machado, on what is already considered a jam packed roster.

Rockets Welcome Back Lin

A familiar face filled the practice court at Toyota Center today. Just seven months ago Jeremy Lin was wearing a Houston Rockets practice jersey, just trying his best to make the team. Well we all know how “Linsane” the situation turned out to be, and the rest was history.

The Rockets front office has been busy this offseason trying to transform this team into a contender. We have heard several reports involving Dwight Howard but nothing has formulated yet. The Rockets could not swing a deal on draft night for the big man, so instead they drafted three talented rookies and made offers to Lin and Bulls big man Omer Asik.

“I have so much room for improvement,” Lin said.

Phase one is now complete. Lin is officially a Rocket once again, and this time he’s here to stay.

“We made an error by letting him go, and I think we rectified it now,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told the press.

In 35 games Lin averaged 14.6 points per game, along with 6.2 assists. It’s a small sample size for a player raking in the money Lin will be receiving from the Rockets, but it comes with much more than basketball. The Rockets have strong business ties with China through the association of Yao Ming, and you can be sure this decision was not only based on basketball, but most importantly business. Whether Lin can improve is still a mystery, but whether the Rockets will benefit greatly from his popularity is not. The Rockets had one nationally televised game that was specifically picked up for playoff implications last season, with Lin that changes.

Still not buying the hype? After the Knicks declined to match the “poison pill” contract dished out by Daryl Morey, Lin + Houston Rockets mentions went through the roof! Popularity by association was the name of the game. Mentions ranged from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” to a funny one liner from late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon. When’s the last time the Rockets got any national exposure like that?

The effect is instant, and the Rockets will do everything they can to capitalize on that. Here’s to hoping the Lin effect lures in a superstar, and more national exposure. Obviously this will all depend on Lin’s improvement, and while the media rush is not as intense in Houston as it is in New York, if he continues to improve this could be a huge win for the Rockets.

It’s important to keep in mind the Rockets did not break the bank on Lin. They will still be in a good shape to acquire a superstar; it’s just a matter of finally landing one.

Dwight Howard seems to be warming up to the idea of being a Laker long term. This means it may be time for the Rockets to set sights on Andrew Bynum. Assuming they can keep guard Jeremy Lamb who had a stellar summer league showing, a backcourt of Lin and Lamb mixed with a dynamic duo of Bynum and Asik may just turn out to be a nice long term foundation.

This is step one for the Rockets in a series of moves that are still needed for this team to move into championship contention. They have cleaned out the roster and are doing everything they can to make this basketball team better.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Lin said. “I think the biggest thing that excites me is the fact that I know what this organization is about.”

Rockets Amnesty Scola

The Rockets have decided to amnesty fan favorite forward Luis Scola, according to Yahoo! Sports. Scola who had three years and $21 million left on his contract, is now a biddable piece for multiple teams in the league.

The Rockets are clearing space for Dwight Howard. The “Dwightmare” saga continues, and the Rockets are not bluffing. General manager Daryl Morey is swinging for the fences, and no matter how irresponsible it looks, Morey is trying to land the best center in the NBA. If the Rockets are able to land Howard then the adventure is just starting. The team will finally have a superstar, but one that may not be around for long. Howard will arrive in Houston without an extension, meaning the Rockets will have to roll out the red carpet, and somehow convince Dwight that Houston should be his next stop for a championship.

In order for the Rockets to make that sales pitch, they would have to do a whole lot more than just acquiring Dwight. We don’t know the specifics of any deal yet, and it’s still being reported no deal is imminent, but that seems far-fetched at this point. With the Nets out of the picture, the Rockets are the best option the Magic have.

With the amnesty of Scola the Rockets will put themselves in a position to acquire a second max deal next summer. This situation gives the team a realistic chance of pairing Dwight with a star, and having him sign with the Rockets long term.

In the midst of landing a superstar, the Rockets have lost an extremely hard working player in Luis Scola. The Argentinian was drafted 56th overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs traded Scola to the Rockets who flourished for the team. It was a sweet victory for management and fans. Not only did they acquire a hard working player, but they pried him away from a division foe. Ironically rumors now show the Dallas Mavericks being front runners for Scola, which couldn’t be more painful for Rockets fans.

Scola was known for his brilliant post moves, and quick scoring abilities. He quickly became a fan favorite and was labeled the “Ice Cream Man,” because of his finesse scoop like finishes. His defense certainly declined, but working hard was never an issue. Scola’s struggles were not because of laziness, but instead lack of athletic ability. Scola scored a career high 44 points against the Nets, solidifying how gifted he was on the offensive end. He is and always will be a fan favorite in Houston for all his memorable performances, and kindness towards “Red Nation.”

The Rockets have been relentless, stubborn, ambitious, and crazy, but you can’t question perseverance. The front office is doing everything they can to better this team, and swinging for the fences is not a bad idea when you don’t have much to lose.