Should the Houston Rockets pursue Eric Bledsoe? Part 1

There is one sole impact free agent remaining on the market and subsequently mentions of his name fill my timeline regularly with readers inquiring as to both the feasibility and advisability of an acquisition of said player.  I’m speaking of course, of Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe who has yet to reach terms with his incumbent suitor, staring a potential qualifying offer in the eye.  If the Rockets were to roll the dice, the feat would require a sign&trade with Houston jettisoning the glut of non-guaranteed contracts they’ve been hoarding over the past month.  In fact, a deal like this is specifically why Daryl Morey has moved quickly on so many unconventional agreements.

But would Bledsoe be a smart play?  This series seeks to ascertain the answer to that very question.  (I am aware the ‘summer assignment’ series has not reached its natural conclusion, but the final installment–regarding Terrence Jones–is rather lengthy, as you’d imagine).  One caveat: please do not link or tweet to this post/series in sourcing Houston interest in Bledsoe.  This post is intended as pure speculation and due diligent prior analysis in the event of a forthcoming deal; I do not have any information on this front nor have I heard anything.  So please don’t do that or I will be very irritated and will write angry tweets. Read More »

Posted in essays | 25 Comments | Sharethis | Permalink

The Red94 Podcast: Episode 53

In today’s episode, Forrest Walker and I discuss James Harden’s proclamation that he himself is the best all-around player in the NBA.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Posted in multimedia | 6 Comments | Sharethis | Permalink

On James Harden and Team USA

Surely you’ve heard by now that James Harden declared himself to be the best all-around player in the game, some days ago.  Much has been made of the comment, but I personally don’t see a problem.  Obviously, the statement isn’t factually correct, but what does it matter?  I want my best player to exude confidence.  That’s a far more preferable scenario than the one in which the early 2000′s Kings found themselves when their star player, Chris Webber, literally ran away from the ball late in games, deferring to Mike Bibby.  You could counter this shows a lack of self-awareness, but I’d offer that maybe this means higher expectations.

But anyways, of greater personal interest were Coach K’s comments about Harden’s leadership with Team USA.  Maybe they’re true?  Maybe they’re a motivating technique?  (Remember how Jeff Van Gundy would routinely praise Kelvin Cato?)  In any event, as I’ve been saying for some time now, the experience this summer can only be a good thing for James.  When Kevin Durant pulled out from the team, I’ll be honest: I secretly hoped Harden would as well.  Seeing Paul George take the spill he did left a lasting impression, and it has not been fun holding my breath afterward every time Harden has driven the lane.  But players can get hurt anywhere.  True, the basket support was directly contributory in George’s case, but you can land awkwardly on the blacktop at Rucker as well.

Durant leaving was sort of a blessing.  Remember the stories about Lebron James getting to see how hard Kobe Bryant worked day in and day out after their summer together?  That wasn’t going to happen here as Harden and Durant are already familiar.  But now, Harden is establishing himself as the go-to player on a team comprised of some of the best in the world.  And he’s learning the way to win under a coach he purportedly respects.  This overall experience, and the confidence borne from it, can be nothing but positive.

If Harden comes back focused, transformed, maybe that’s better than any transaction Morey could have made.  He looks much trimmer in these games.  And as I noted earlier in the week, Dwight Howard already seems locked in.

We’ve been focusing on the personnel game for some years now.  But player transformation has been the traditional path to success.  Hakeem finding inner peace and trust in his teammates.  Lebron reinventing his game.  Harden can be the second best player in this conference.  If he puts in work on the defensive end, he will be.

To date, I like what I’m seeing thus far.  If you asked me now, I’m expecting a big year.

Posted in essays | 19 Comments | Sharethis | Permalink

The Morey Fallacy

I would have been much better served writing this post back in July when the topic was fresh and relevant.  But I didn’t, so now will have to do.

In the days following the apex of Houston’s disastrous summer, when the team lost Chandler Parsons after striking out on every major free agent, the critics came out in waves, celebrating Morey’s plight.  Some of the assertions made were true.  Many were regurgitated, the same things that had been said before the Rockets’ coup of James Harden and Dwight Howard in subsequent summers.  One critique of Morey, in particular, has consistently been levied throughout his tenure.

It’s said often that the Rockets’ general manager does not value, or does not understand the importance of chemistry.  This charge usually is made in hand with the one that claims he is far too active on the trade front.  Not only is this premise inaccurate, it is based on an unwarranted assumption.

The thinking goes like this: because Morey makes so many deals, he must necessarily be overlooking the importance of team chemistry.  If Morey gave proper worth to chemistry, and just let his teams grow, he’d see that they’d improve on their own.  ”How can these teams ever grow if he just keeps making moves every year?”

Read More »

Posted in essays | 49 Comments | Sharethis | Permalink

Houston Rockets’ summer assignment list: Part 3, Dwight Howard

Many of you were very upset by my characterization of James Harden in my last installment of this series.  There, I said that in Harden, “I [saw] a player who is selfish and not as committed to the team and winning as he is to himself.”  I stand by those comments and by that opinion. Dwight Howard is another matter altogether. To begin, Howard put any doubts to rest last season over whether he was worth the maximum contract to which he was signed.  More than just his dominance in the playoffs, he exhibited a newfound sense of maturity that would seem to bode well for the future. But for purposes of this series, what is Dwight Howard’s summer assignment?By some measures, as was chronicled on this very blog by Richard Li, Dwight Howard post-ups were the Rockets’ most inefficient play last season.  At the same time, the stretch of games where the Rockets’ center looked closer to his mentor than not was undeniable.  Howard also basically ate Robin Lopez for lunch in the postseason.  I’m not sure what to think.

Many have said they hope Howard carries the momentum of his playoff performance into next season.  I’ve countered, asserting that predication of an overall ability assessment of Howard upon the Portland series would be flawed – they were the single best matchup for him out of the seven other playoff teams.  As a representative sample of the opposite extreme, I’d point to his play against the Thunder and Clippers.  The argument then usually goes that those teams’ success against Howard is more an indictment of Terrence Jones (in those teams’ strategy to shift full attention to Howard, off of Jones).  I’d then counter that those two teams are the only opponents who really matter, for the long haul, and for now, it doesn’t look like a power forward upgrade is on the way.

Howard is what he is, at this point.  I can’t expect him to drop 35 and 15 on those conference rivals.  But as I mentioned, the development we saw last season was staggering.  He looked like Olajuwon at times, and I mean that seriously.  The footwork rapidly improved and the touch even softened.  Can he keep molding his post-game and sustaining his dominance for longer stretches of the year?  That would be miraculous, and would lengthen the team’s window.  But it’s house money, and I’m not holding my breath.

What Howard gives us right now is more than enough and it puts us in the conversation.  Further skill development would be great, but its not really a priority or something this team needs to win.  All I hope, regarding Dwight Howard, is that he continues recovering from the back surgery and maintains a high level of health.  Without him, there’s no chance.

Posted in essays | 9 Comments | Sharethis | Permalink