Next week: Real posts!
But for a lazy Friday night, you get this instead.
I would like to apologize to Houston Rockets fans everywhere. Two weeks ago, I said that coach Kevin McHale was doing a good job and how the Rockets were going to make the playoffs.
Naturally the Rockets immediately go on a six game losing streak, and yesterday they were eliminated from the playoffs. This will teach me to open my big, er, blog. If I had just kept it zipped, they might have managed to sneak in…
Last night the Rockets beat the Lakers to go 30-25. Barring an end-of-season meltdown (always a possibility), it looks like the Rockets will make the playoffs and be seeded somewhere between 6 and 8 in the stacked West. This is a mild surprise, given how shaky they looked early in the season and how two of what were their best three players going in (Kyle Lowery and Kevin Martin) have been out with health issues during the latest run.
Given the back-to-back defeat of the East-leading Bulls, and the still-tough Lakers, it’s time to consider that maybe, just maybe, Kevin McHale knows how to coach a little.
This is actually something of a surprise, since many people (myself included) were skeptical when Daryl Morey tapped McHale to be head coach after the departure of Rick Adelman (McHale’s Hall of Fame playing career notwithstanding). The fact that McHale was awful as the Timberwolves GM (drafting Kevin Garnett in 1995 was pretty much the only thing he did right as GM until the Kevin Love trade in 2008) and that he went 39-55 in two brief stints as their coach didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
But McHale has the superstar-deficient Rockets playing unselfish, team-oriented basketball. Though it’s hard to compare due to the strike-shortened season, McHale’s team is two games ahead of where Adelman’s was 11 games before the end of the season. Granted, having two legit centers in Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert (as opposed to the always-scrappy but height-challenged Chuck Hayes (whose stats in Sacramento are way down)) certainly doesn’t hurt, but no one going into this season would have thought that would remotely make up for all the time Lowery and Martin have missed.
Once again we’re faced with the possibility that Daryl Morey just might know what he’s doing.
When the three-way trade between the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets was announced yesterday, I wasn’t a big fan of the trade. The Rockets would have gotten Lakers’ center Pau Gasol, arguably the second best center in the game. The Lakers, who do not need any help in getting better, would have gotten the league’s top point guard in Chris Paul, the Hornets would have gotten Lamar Odom from the Lakers and Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic from the Houston Rockets, plus the Kinck’s 2012 first round pick.
I enthused because I think Houston gave up too much for a 31-year old center. Scola is good for 18 points and eight boards a night, while Kevin Martin scores and extremely efficient 23 points a night (though he’s definitely a defensive liability). If Gasol had been 26 rather than 31, I would be more favorably inclined to the deal. (If Rockets GM Daryl Morey had a deal for the Nuggets Nene at hand with the freed-up cap space, as many suggested, then the deal becomes a lot more palatable for Rockets fans.)
But New Orleans clearly made out like bandits, receiving three extremely solid starters and a first round pick for a guy who was going to walk in eight months anyhow. Which is why they’re the ones most screwed by NBA Commissioner nixing the deal for vague “basketball reasons.”
As many commentators pointed out, this was a solid deal with risks and rewards for all concerned. Both Paul and Kobe Bryant have experienced knee problems. If they stay healthy and the Lakers land Dwight Howard next year, yeah, that’s going to suck for everyone else in the Western Conference. But if Paul and/or Bryant go down, and they don’t land Howard, then they’re in a world of hurt from having gutted their front court.
I’m all behind screwing the Lakers, but having Stern do it in this fashion, with so little justification, screws all three teams.
I’m sure the Las Vegas odds against that are astronomical (after all, they do get to play the Nets), but it does go to show that maybe all this presumptive talk of an inevitable Heat dynasty was perhaps a wee tad premature.
(The Rockets also lost as well, but a 2-point loss to the defending World Champions on their own court the same night they raise their championship banner to the rafters is nothing to worry overmuch about.)
You might not have noticed, but the NBA Regular Season starts tonight. And what’s the use of having a blog if you can’t post
foolhardy bold predictions?
So here are three bold predictions for the coming season:
Anyone else care to chime in with their own predictions?
Leave it to Bleacher Report to ask the one question no one else dares:
As a follower of the Houston Rockets, and thus having some passing familiarity with TMac’s career, I’m happy to provide an answer:
Next up: Is Pauley Shore the salvation of American cinema?
LeBron James is joining the Miami Heat. (Perhaps you have heard this already. The media does seem to have covered the issue.) Although James will not be joining the Rockets, this is still good news for the Rockets for two reasons:
(As I was finishing up this post, I noticed that Tom Martin over at SB Nation made many of the same points.)
As far as James himself is concerned, I won’t say that the outraged vitriol is surprising (it is, after all, American professional sports in the 21st century, but I do think it’s misplaced. James made a professional business decision of where he could best win championships, and Cleveland lost out on entirely understandable and indeed totally rational criteria. Of course, if sports fans were rational, they wouldn’t develop an emotional attachment to athletically talented millionaires who just happen to be plying their trade in their city of choice in any particular year. (Cue Jerry Seinfeld’s rooting for laundry bit.) Some may think my attitude on James hypocritical given my loathing of Bud Adams, but there’s one key difference: to the best of my knowledge, James never received tens of millions of dollars in direct taxpayer subsidies before leaving town.
So the inevitable parting that so many have predicted seems to have happened, and the Rockets are seeking to trade seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady at his request. With his $23 million salary, that won’t be easy.
With his departure immanent, it’s a good time to sum up his Rockets career, and to clear away a few myths and misconceptions:
Like Ron Artest, McGrady is a solid player but a flawed individual who did the Rockets more good than harm over the tenure of his career, but ultimately had to be let go for the betterment of the team. Perhaps Rockets wunderkind GM Daryl Morey can trade McGrady for a collection of undervalued spare parts that can be used to push for a championship, but his $23 million cap number makes that a hard sell. Maybe he can sell him to a championship contender in need of another scorer. (I’m sure Morey has already offered McGrady up to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a straight-up swap for LeBron James. Oh how they laughed.)
So raise a glass to the departing shade of TMac. If you and Mao had ever both been healthy for an entire season together, Houston might have another championship banner or two…
(Don’t worry; I’ll be returning to my regular book geeking (with an incredibly long post) in a day or so.)
Having played lunch-break basketball at work a while back, I can assure you that, for a non-contact sport, basketball can have an awful lot of contact. But this is pretty extreme:
“The teams lost Dirk Nowitzki and Carl Landry early in the second quarter when Landry cut off Nowitzki on a drive, catching Nowitzki’s right elbow in the mouth, dislodging or breaking parts of five of Landry’s teeth.
“Landry was taken to the emergency room and will see an oral surgeon today to determine the extent of the damage. Nowitzki needed 30 minutes for pieces of Landry’s teeth to be removed from his elbow.”
Ouch! We know this year’s scrappy Rockets are a hard-nosed, blue collar team, but that’s taking things to a painful extreme…