Rockets Continue Winning Ways

The Houston Rockets committed 19 fouls and 16 turnovers tonight, a combination that leads most teams towards a loss. Instead James Harden decided to take the fourth quarter in the palm of his hands, and never looked back.

Harden scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, proving his capability to take the youngest team in the NBA on his back, and lead them to a huge road victory. The Rockets clawed their way to an 87-84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“When he’s playing downhill on you, he’s just a monster at that. He’s coming at you,” Houston coach Kevin McHale told the media. “It’s just so hard to defend. He’s got the side-step, Euro-step, driving into you. He’s so doggone strong. He’s really got strong hands. He mauls the ball through your armpit and finds a way to finish.”

The performance tonight by Harden serves a bigger purpose than just a regular season win. In this league it takes more than one superstar to win a championship. As Harden continues to prove himself as an individual, the superstar fraternity is watching keenly. Harden has made it clear he is working on bringing more talent to this Rockets team.

“I’ve been starting that recruiting process. One player is not going to win a championship. Nowadays you need two or maybe more, Harden said in a local radio interview. “We need more guys to come over here, so we can win. For right now we are going to stick with the players we have and try to run with that.’”

After obliterating the Chicago Bulls on Christmas night, the Rockets looked sluggish and cold in Minnesota. Harden wasn’t getting to the free throw line, and shots were not falling for the team that averages 106 points per game; tops in the NBA.

The Rockets entered tonight’s game with staggering offensive numbers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rockets tied the NBA record (with nine others) by winning three straight games, scoring 120 points, and winning each game by at least 22 points.

The Rockets have pushed the offensive pace to a new level, giving all five players on the court the opportunity to run on every possession.

A big piece to the success has been Omer Asik. The mammoth center crowding the paint has been a double-double machine. Asik pulled down 17 rebounds tonight, and 18 last night. In nearly 70 minutes of play, Asik has managed to pull down 35 rebounds.

The Rockets are now 16-12 and currently enjoying a five game winning streak.

Rockets Dominate Knicks 131-103

Jeremy Lin finally faced his former team the New York Knicks Friday night, and came out on the winning end of a high octane offensive game for the Houston Rockets.

While the “Linsanity” reunion was the headlining act, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons stole the spotlight early.

Parsons ended the night with a career-high 31 points, while adding 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on a night he won’t soon forget. Parsons surpassed his previous career-high of 25 points, by scoring 26 in the first half, while 18 of those points were scored in the first quarter.

Carmelo Anthony ended the night with 37 points, and also scored 18 in the first quarter.

The spotlight didn’t take long to shift, as Anthony and Parsons put on a show in front of 18,000 fans.

James Harden added 33 points, 9 assists, and went a perfect 16-16 at the free throw line. Harden’s career highs were 15 free throws made, and 17 free throws attempted.

Lin busted out of his slump by shooting 50% on the night, well above his 33% mark on the season. Lin chipped in 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists on a night where all eyes were on him.

The Rockets consistently kept pressure on the Knicks from the start, but broke free in the third quarter and found themselves leading by 21 points.

Omer Asik who has turned into the most consistent, and beneficial addition for the Rockets this year scored 18 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds. Expecting a double-double from Asik is now turning into the norm as fans in Houston are finally treated with a young mobile center that’s progressing well as a starter.

The Rockets put on an offensive onslaught tonight, ending the half with 72 points. This was the first time that happened since 1993.

The Rockets travel to New York Dec. 17 in what promises to be a ruckus crowd awaiting Jeremy Lin’s return.

In the Scrum With James Harden

After leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, James Harden took time to talk about his new role.

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Harden Trade Bad For NBA

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s decision to trade James Harden to the Houston Rockets has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Late last night — during the middle of a tough loss by the Oklahoma Sooners that was distracting most of the state — the Thunder traded Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick that belonged to Charlotte.

One of the draft picks is Toronto’s from the Kyle Lowry deal and the other comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Jordan Hill deal last season.

Some fans will debate whether it was worth it for Harden to fight for the extra $5.5 million he will get from Houston, but I don’t think fans would be willing to leave money on the table when they negotiate their next contract.

On top of that, Oklahoma City was unable to offer Harden the fifth-year that Houston can because of the new collective bargaining agreement. According to that document, teams can only sign one player to a five-year deal, the rest of the roster can only accept a contract for a maximum of four years.

While it may seem blasphemous to say right now, there’s a strong possibility that Martin will provide more reliable outside shooting than Harden provided and that Lamb could develop into a great compliment to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. The problem with playing that “what if” game is the fact Harden was already a great compliment to their core group of players and he was their best three-point shooter last season.

Oklahoma City might also win the “lottery” with one of the two draft picks they secured in this trade. If they can get a top-five pick in the draft next June then Sam Presti will once again look like a genius.

So while there is hope for how this deal could play out in the future, what really stings is the fact the Thunder made a business decision instead of a personnel one when they were poised to start a season where they challenged for an NBA Championship.

When Oklahoma City dealt Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins a couple seasons back it stunned the fans and the players left on their roster. However, that was clearly a move made to give a young roster more experience and to toughen up their bigs. But trading Harden to Houston? That amounts to the Oklahoma City not having the kind of money needed to pay him $five million over five seasons due to worries about luxury tax payments. That’s a scary message for a small-market team to be sending to its players and fans.

What frustrates fans of the team is that Oklahoma City could have played out this season without any real penalty. Before this trade went down they were almost guaranteed a spot in the Western Conference Finals and many pundits had them playing in the NBA Finals.

Now? They still have a chance, but the odds aren’t nearly as good.

If Oklahoma City rode out this season they could have at least matched any offer that Harden received next summer and then traded him. So, they would have still gotten some pieces back and they would have been able to play out this season competing for an NBA Championship.

Last season the NBA played 66 games so that the league would have a competitive playing field. The idea was that bigger markets like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and Miami would no longer be able to dictate where the star players went.

So much for that utopian idea.

Heading into this season, Los Angeles alone is home to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Blake Griffen.

Meanwhile, Miami boasts heir own big three and Boston has three future Hall-of-Famers in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

It’s a shame the rich continue to get richer while small-market teams will continue to struggle to compete.

Even worse, it stinks that Oklahoma City cashed in their chips before even giving this season a chance to unfold.

Rockets Acquire James Harden

The Houston Rockets have traded Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and future draft picks for James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder parted ways with Harden after he declined a reported 4 year $53-54 million dollar contract extension from the Thunder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

The draft picks headed to the Thunder from the Rockets include two 2013 first-round picks (via Dallas and Toronto) as well as one 2013 second-round pick (via Charlotte).

The Rockets will also receive Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward in the trade.

Unlike past scenarios where significant players have stretched the extension story along, the Thunder wasted no time acquiring a talented scorer in Martin, and a future scorer in Lamb. Martin will likely be a rental, while Lamb may be the perfect complement player depending on his progression.

The Rockets on the other hand were desperately looking for a potential all-star caliber player that they now receive with Harden. The backcourt dynamic now bursts with intrigue, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden team up for the Rockets.

General Manager Daryl Morey has been often praised for his savvy techniques and number conscious style, but has received his fair share of criticism as well. When will he land a star? When will he leave the little fish, and go for the big one?

James Harden is by far Morey’s big splash move, and he will relentlessly continue adding to this young Rockets team. The campaign motto this season is it’s “A New Age.” The Rockets are certainly living by that motto, and finally make a move that will likely create some stability for the future.

Wojnarowski also reports that the Rockets will sign Harden to a max extension deal by Wednesday’s deadline, that will range from four or five years, at $60 million.

It’s a bold move by the organization that’s moving forward in a big way.

Rockets Sign Carlos Delfino

The Rockets and Argentine guard Carlos Delfino have agreed to a one year deal, with a team option for a second season, according to Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Delfino who averaged 9 points and nearly 4 rebounds per game, adds a veteran presence to a young Rockets roster. Carlos has been in the league since 2004, and saw his minutes increase significantly with the Milwaukee Bucks. Delfino has also been busy showcasing his talent in London for the Argentinian national team, and I am sure the Rockets were keeping tabs. With a mix of athleticism, and spot up shooting, Delfino will give Jeremy Lin another proven option on the court.

The Rockets now have 21 players on the roster, yes I said 21. In a game of blackjack those are favorable odds, but in the world of the NBA that’s clutter. The easiest pick on the chopping block is Kevin Martin who got lost in the rotation last year under head coach Kevin McHale. Martin does have an expiring contract, but we have no indication if the Rockets will wait till the trade deadline to move him.

Jeremy Lamb, the talented rookie who shares similar basketball traits with Martin, may be ready to take control of the position sooner than later. Both players are repetitive, making the Delfino acquisition a bit more understandable until Lamb’s maturation process takes place.

After striking out on Dwight Howard, and losing out on Andrew Bynum, the Rockets are left with a roster full of confusion. Some Rocket fans are more than happy to rebuild a team that has hovered around the playoffs for three straight seasons, while others are tired of seeing the team without a superstar. When it comes to the Rockets they don’t please either side often. The quest for a star continues, and well the Rockets are kind of rebuilding…. I think?

Rockets Sign Omer Asik

After prying away Jeremy Lin from the New York Knicks, the Rockets have now managed to do the same with big man Omer Asik from the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls decided not to match the three-year, $25 million offer sheet given to Asik by the Rockets. The offer now popularly known as the “poison pill” contract is identical in structure to Lin’s deal. The third year will cash out $14.8 million which both the Knicks and Bulls thought was financially irresponsible. The Rockets on the other hand have cleared enough cap space to make these offers, and have found a loophole for acquiring restricted free-agents.

The Asik acquisition is a smart move for the Rockets after trading away Samuel Dalembert prior to the draft, and parting ways with Marcus Camby. The moves left the Rockets without a center, making this deal an essential one.

Asik who averaged just 3.1 points, is not known for his offense, but his defense is another story. Asik possesses above average defensive capabilities, and will help close down a paint that has been largely open for opposing guards over the years.

If the future holds a Jeremy Lin, and Jeremy Lamb backcourt, then Asik’s services in the frontcourt will be badly needed.

The Rockets have made moves but the quest for a superstar is still ongoing, meaning the Rockets are likely not done. Dwight Howard has not been moved yet, and Andrew Bynum is still on the radar. Asik certainly isn’t a player the team can build around, but fills a massive void in such a crucial position in basketball.

Since Yao Ming’s departure the Rockets have gone through multiple centers, specifically average old ones. Asik is just 26 years old standing seven feet tall, and a big body that can alter shots in the paint. Asik’s defense improved significantly under defensive guru and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rockets fans may remember “Thibs” as an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy.

While Morey hasn’t acquired a superstar yet, he has managed to sign two “RFA’s” that will likely be starting for the Rockets.

“I’m looking forward for the new opportunity in Houston,” Asik told the Chicago Tribune.

Rockets Trade Camby To Knicks

The Rockets have traded 38 year old veteran center Marcus Camby to the New York Knicks in a sign-and-trade, Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier.

The Rockets will receive guard Toney Douglas (contract paid by the Knicks), Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan, and second-round picks in 2014-15. Camby agreed to a three year $13.2 million deal via the sign-and-trade.

Though Camby is 38 years old, the Knicks have sent a clear “win now” message by acquiring the veteran big man. The Rockets on the other hand have completely transformed the roster in search for an identity that they have not had in years.

According to John Hollinger, “Rockets now have six non-guaranteed contracts and Livingston’s partial, totaling $7 mil in confederate money to use in trades.”

Obviously the Rockets have set themselves up for movement, and have not surrendered the rebuild flag yet. Douglas is a talented combo guard, but has been criticized heavily by Knicks fans for his inconsistencies. After losing Kyle Lowry, and Goran Dragic, the Rockets will gladly keep Douglas around.

Harrelson is a 6’10 275 pound big man who has shown signs of life. He certainly doesn’t solve the problem at center for the Rockets, but that’s easier said than done.

Jordan is a 7’0 big man that has yet to see any significant time in the NBA. He has been bounced around the D-League and overseas continuously. Jordan has lots of work to put in before he sees any serious time on this roster, but he could be a nice piece down the line.

Wojnarowski recently tweeted, “The Rockets refuse to give up on the Dwight Howard derby, gathering more assets to try and entice the Orlando Magic to engage in talks.”

The Rockets have been relentlessly involved in the “Dwight Derby,” and no matter how tired people are with the never ending “Dwight-mare,” the Rockets will continue to test the Magic’s patience.

Wojnarowski also excited Rockets fans when he tweeted, “Among Bynum’s short list of potential free agent landing spots in 2013, Houston is prominent with Dallas and Cleveland, sources tell Y!”

If the possibility of Dwight is slipping, then Bynum is not a bad consolation prize. Bynum is just 24 years old and would give the Rockets another big center to build around for years to come. Bynum’s knees have been an issue, but the Rockets are very familiar with taking a risk on a big man.  Bynum is an unrestricted free agent after 2013, but time will tell what the immature center will decide.

The bottom line for general manager Daryl Morey still remains finding a foundation player.

“When you’re close and have a foundational piece, you should be willing to give up picks and overpay players, whatever it takes while you have that precious foundation to get better,” Morey told the Houston Chronicle. “When you don’t have a foundational piece to build around, you should do every move in reverse, which is how does each move get us closer to getting a star, how does it get us more cap room, how does it get us more high picks and how does it get us more players with potential.”

The Rockets have acquired a plethora of players through trades that will likely be cut. Two specific contracts that involve Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin are still on hold until the moratoriums comes to an end. That means the team will have to clear roster spots for those two guaranteed rotational players if they are eventually acquired.

The Rockets currently sit in uncertainty. With so many players lost, and so many random ones gained, the team must sift through the cluster. One thing the front office has made clear; they aren’t finished wheeling and dealing. If a superstar deal is approachable, the Rockets will be first in line.

Rockets Finally Forced To Rebuild?

What do Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, and Kyle Lowry all have in common? None of them will be wearing a Rockets jersey next season.

The Rockets have finally blown up a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three years. The team tried to trade picks and assets multiple times for a superstar prospect, and it just never panned out. Many would say it was an unrealistic way of getting better, and that’s the truth. The Rockets unlike most teams in the league, belated the inevitable in a classy manner. The team would fight hard against better teams, and would often prevail with a feel good victory.

While those teams would head into the tunnel with a bad regular season loss, they knew they would likely be in the playoffs. For the Rockets it was a proud regular season win, with a very predictable conclusion looming.

Why did the Rockets wait this long? The track record on owner Leslie Alexander does not normally involve the word “rebuild.” Alexander has always been an ambitious owner, and at times has looked stubbornly unrealistic. While general manager Daryl Morey may have advised Alexander that this process we are using is unrealistic, Alexander is the boss, and what he says goes. Three years later the Rockets find themselves as the team that can’t get anyone interested.

The next thing to question for this team is the commitment to accept rebuilding. Is the Dwight Howard chase really finished? The Rockets may have shipped out key role players in various ways, but you can never quite accept that the journey of acquisition is over for this team.

What fans need to keep in mind is the Rockets had a core roster of role players. Not one player on the roster was untouchable, and while Morey made verbal promises on bringing them back, the climate quickly changed.

Now the Rockets are stacked with young talent, but how those players translate into the NBA level is still a mystery. One thing is certain; the Rockets are still looking for a franchise player. That is the one universal goal that will not change.

A quick rundown on how each player was moved. Chase Budinger was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 18 pick in the draft. The Rockets drafted Terrence Jones from Kentucky with that pick. Samuel Dalembert and the Rockets No. 14 pick was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the No. 12 pick, Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, and Shaun Livingston. The Rockets drafted Jeremy Lamb, and many are hoping he is a star in the making. The Rockets also added versatile forward Royce White with the No. 16 pick.

After the draft frenzy wrapped up, free agency hit, and man did it hit! The Rockets once again attempted to scour the market for a superstar. They made a significant offer to big man Omer Asik, met with restricted guard Eric Gordon, and even brought back “Linsanity,” for a visit.

Jeremy Lin is still mulling his contract offer from the Rockets, but all credible sources report that the Knicks will match any deal given to Lin. It is also rumored Jason Kidd has decided on joining the Knicks. Kidd would certainly not be a long term solution for the team, but a great tutor for Lin to improve as a point guard.  So essentially the Rockets are trying, but will likely not acquire Lin but instead make the financial lives of the Knicks a pain. (That’s something I guess.)

While the hunt for a superstar continued, the Rockets backcourt took a massive hit. It was like a blob of Wite-Out spilled, and the backcourt that once consisted of Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic was gone. Dragic signed a 34 million/4 year deal with the Suns, taking his talents back to where his predecessor once played. Only difference now is, Nash is with the Lakers, and Dragic will run the show. Lowry was also traded to the Toronto Raptors for forward Gary Forbes, and a protected future first round pick. The Rockets and Raptors had been chatting about a Lowry deal for weeks, but could not swing the deal in time for the Rockets to move up in the draft, and grad the Raptors No. 8 pick. Not only have the Rockets lost Dragic and Lowry, but you can add swingman Courtney Lee into the mix. The Rockets decided to pull the qualifying offer they gave to the restricted guard, and released him to the free agency stratosphere.

Whew, did you digest all of that?

Multiple questions now loom around this franchise. Are the Rockets finally rebuilding? Will veterans Kevin Martin and Luis Scola be next on the chopping block? Who will be the starting point guard? Who will be the starting center?

It’s not the offseason we all hoped for, but it may be a large dose of reality finally sinking in. While “Red Nation” has a mini panic attack, the Rockets will likely be focusing on cultivating the youth on this roster, instead of trying to cultivate something that never really existed.

Rockets Make Offer To Omer Asik

Multiple sources have confirmed the Rockets have offered a three-year, $25.1 million dollar deal to Chicago Bulls free agent center Omer Asik.

Free agents are unable to sign an offer sheet until July 11, but the Bulls will have three days to match the restricted free agents offer, or will face losing him to the Rockets.

The Rockets are currently without a center, and would be filling a desperate need by adding a defensive oriented big man. Asik’s stats don’t justify this expensive offer, but it’s all about the defense. His defensive awareness is above average, and his toughness will make a huge difference in the paint for the Rockets.

The Rockets clearly offered a financially friendly deal to the Asik camp, knowing that they needed to put pressure on the Bulls to match. The Rockets have been in pursuit of Asik for a couple of years, but when rumors surfaced the Bulls wanted guard Courtney Lee in the package, deals fizzled out.

The contract offered is what they call the “Gilbert Arenas” provision. A loophole that lets the back-end of a contract be inflated. In this case Asik would reportedly make $15 million in the last year of his contract. For more information on the “Gilbert Arenas” provision you can visit http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q44 and as always Larry Coon the salary cap extraordinaire will break it down for you.

While many are skeptical with the money being offered, and Asik’s ability to make a difference, the Rockets have no bigger need than a defensive center. This is Daryl Morey being as proactive as a general manager can be in sports. The Rockets aren’t bad enough to build through the draft, and aren’t good enough to win at a high level with the current structure they have. Take those two factors into consideration, and realize the Rockets do need to spend money in order to move forward. That’s the position this team is in, and unless a major change of direction occurs, the Rockets will have to pay up, and get better through trades and free agent signings.

The Bulls will have an important decision to make, and we will know by July 14 the latest, if Omer Asik is a Chicago Bull, or a Houston Rocket.

Lowry Demands A Trade If Dragic Returns

Kyle Lowry, who opened the lockout driven season as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets, is now ready to pack his bags if things are not addressed.

Lowry, who was discussed as a potential All-Star game reserve, saw everything crumble after a dangerous bacterial infection took over his body. Lowry only played 47 games this season, while backup point guard Goran Dragic wasted no time picking up the slack.

As you can imagine the situation does not favor Lowry in the slightest. While the infection was out of his control, it essentially took him out of the loop. Lowry went from the future, to the past, after unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic outplayed Lowry during his absence.

The Rockets have made it clear that Dragic will be retained even though he is expected to be approached by multiple teams who are willing to pay him a large salary. If the Rockets do stay loyal to their words, then Dragic will be paid a salary that will demand him to be the starter.

If this sounds eerily familiar, then you’re starting to make the connection. The carousel of point guards have been rotating now for a few years. Dragic is now taking Lowry’s spot, while Lowry did the same to former guard Aaron Brooks. Lowry has clearly seen the trend catch up to him, and isn’t willing to sit on his hands and watch it play out.

“We’re both capable starters,” Lowry told the Houston Chronicle. “We both want it. It’s going to have to be a situation where they make a decision on one of us.”

Lowry continued to reiterate his dilemma, making it very clear that the assurance he needs will be met, or his services may no longer be worthy to the Rockets.

“It has nothing to do with Goran,” Lowry admitted. “I’m not happy with the way (the) coaches handled things. If management wants to do something to keep Goran, I think I’ll have to be moved.”

With that quote comes act two of this story. The act in which Lowry calls out his coach, while his coach surprisingly raises his eyebrows after the comment is relayed to him.

“If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved,” Lowry said.

McHale replied with what you would expect from a head coach.

“That’s very surprising,” McHale said. “I didn’t think we had too much of a problem coexisting this year. Everybody has a little beef every once in a while. I didn’t feel like (there were problems). He apparently did.”

The beef with McHale really hit the boiling point in a game against the Denver Nuggets, when Lowry and McHale shared some words. Lowry showed his anger on the court, but later downplayed the situation as the heat of the moment, took over emotions. Now Lowry is using that scenario to further emphasize his discomfort with coach McHale.

Lowry, who clearly feels insecure with his position on the team, did leave a slight window open for adjustments. But his demands are steep, and the Rockets are not leaning towards those changes.

While McHale struggled to get this team into the playoffs as the season came to a close, he also joined the team in a shortened NBA season, with virtually no training camp. The Rockets would shock most people if they let McHale go after one incomplete season.

General manager Daryl Morey remains upbeat about the situation, and doesn’t believe it needs to end in this manner.

“I think Kyle and coach McHale are both winners and both competitive guys,” Morey said. “I don’t anticipate any issues going forward.”

Lowry and Dragic are both capable starters, and splitting time for either is really not an option. Dragic has made it clear if he signs with the Rockets, he wants starting minutes. Lowry has now made it clear that he wants the same, along with another coach in the mix.

Honestly, Lowry packing his bags seems like a very realistic scenario now.

While some of us know that these two players make a great duo on the court, or when used interchangeably, we also know that both players believe they are ready to run a basketball team. Splitting time isn’t the same as running the show. Lowry may look selfish right now, but he is speaking freely. He is looking out for his own good. He sees that his progression as a point guard is stalling. The Rockets may not be in the position to kick start that stall, when they have another point guard they will be committing a large salary to.

The Rockets have some major decision to iron out, and Kyle Lowry will be right in the heart of it all.