What a championship would really mean

According to VegasInsider.com, Houston’s current odds to win the NBA championship are 100:1, same as Utah, Portland, and Atlanta. Their chances of winning the West, and simply making an appearance in the Finals, are 40:1. Now, obviously those odds aren’t the best, and with Kyle Lowry—the team’s most important player—out indefinitely with a freak illness, they’re somewhat appropriately marked. For all we know the fumes this courageous bunch is currently running on could evaporate tomorrow, and the Rockets could miss the playoffs altogether.

(According to John Hollinger’s most recent Power Rankings, the Rockets have the ninth highest probability of making the postseason, placing them on the outside looking in.) But doesn’t it feel like if they can just get there anything could happen? With multiple shock waves from the infamous “Veto” and lingering lockout still reverberating throughout the league, some absolutely insane, totally unpredictable outcomes could be brewing in the months ahead. Veterans are wearing down, key players who have moved are shifting tides, and some franchises appear to have already set their sights on next season.

If you make the playoffs this season, especially in the Western Conference, the NBA’s current circumstances will give you a great chance to not only make a little noise, but force your neighbors to call the cops. [read more…]

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Otis Thorpe spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets will honor their all-decade team of the 90’s, selected by fan voting, tomorrow at halftime.  Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell will not be among the players honored.

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Metta, Kobe, Parsons, Fisher

  • Ron Artest was in the lockerroom before the game last night, just shooting it with L.A. traveling media.  I guess he was sort of injured because someone asked him if he would be playing.  “Yeah I’ll probably get in for at least a minute or two,” he replied.  “So you’ll be playing?” responded the questioner.  Artest: “Yeah, if you’re in for a minute, that’s it.  You’ve played that game.  You can’t go back and take it out.”  Hilarious.
  • Yao Ming has gained quite a bit of facial edema.
  • I have ESPN Classic on in the background as I write this.  It’s Mavs-Lakers.  Then I’m going to watch Mavs-Lakers on ESPN tonight.  Seriously though, I could watch Kobe play all day.  And this is coming from a guy that just wrote a Dime Lead on Bryant losing the game for his team.  He’s not anywhere near the best.  He’s actually never been the best.  But he’s certainly the most skilled, talented, and most pleasing to watch.  I think that distinction is lost on far too many people.
  • I think losing Demeco Ryans is like losing Chuck Hayes if Hayes had fallen off.
  • I’m not sure what to say about Chandler Parsons right now.  David Thorpe wrote today that he was the best defender against Kevin Durant he had ever seen.  This after he won the game last night, locking down Kobe Bryant.  If you had a veteran producing like this, you’d feel fortunate.  This is a rookie.  And not only that, but he’s going to get much, much better because the biggest weakness in his game is his shooting and that’s the single easiest thing to fix.
  • I’m getting extremely worried right now about Goran Dragic because he is pricing himself out of our pay range.  I prefer Kyle Lowry long term.  I think he’s more in control and better at running an offense.  But you might have to trade Kyle to keep Goran because you simply cannot allow just losing Goran for nothing at this point.  Goran and Lowry’s trade return is preferable to Lowry alone.
  • I didn’t touch on this yet, but the Rockets pulled off another great stroke with Fisher’s buyout: none of the cap hit from the player option extends to next season.  It should also be mentioned that draft picks will be much more difficult to purchase under the new CBA than in years past, due to the new annual limitations on cash inclusion in all transactions.  Good work, Rockets.

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Hard as it may be to admit, the Houston Rockets are not a particularly good NBA team. Do not misunderstand; they have a fair amount of talent, skills that usually show up on both sides of the ball, and Houston has won several more games than it’s lost in this farcical slight of a season. Instead, what I mean is simply this: the Rockets can simply not overpower any team with its talent on almost any night. Never can this team take a game off in regards to either its defensive or offensive schemes and expect to not be staring at a double-digit defeat. Eh… such is the function of winning through a strategy of calculated risk.

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Our editors determined that this was the game of the night, and rightfully so, and thus, I did the Dime lead.  You can read here about what I saw as the main storyline from last night’s win:

With the Rockets trailing by just four, Kobe Bryant checked in at the 4:23 mark and proceeded to miss a 3-pointer, a jumper and a fadeaway, and had the ball stolen away from him over the course of the next two minutes, during which Houston took the lead for good. While Kobe did recover to hit three awe-inspiring jumpers to close the game, the damage had already been done. Houston had sealed a 107-104 victory at the Toyota Center. The decision to abandon Sessions, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, was baffling.

Still, while Kobe may have caused that loss, he is one hell of a spectacle – the local faithful got more than their money’s worth:

Bryant dazzled the locals with an assortment of moves early on, going behind his back on one occasion to set up a left-handed jumphook. When he spun baseline to split two Rockets, the crowd got a taste of the greatness they so desperately craved. It was a reminder of why people come to watch.

I spoke with another writer at length last night about this, but there’s just something about watching a guy like that that you simply can’t put into words. He’s not Jordan, no, but you have to remind yourself, “enjoy this.  This is this generation’s guy and it won’t be around much longer.”  And ultimately, as I wrote for the mothership, men of his ilk are why we, or at least I, watch.  I like winning teams, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s why I’ve never really been able to get into college hoops much.  I watch basketball for individual greatness.  I’m just being honest – that’s why I fell in love with this sport.  While obviously, I’m nowhere near as good as anyone on the Rockets, in your own mind, you can sort of conceive of yourself practicing enough to be able to do the things they do at your own level.  But Kobe, and guys like that, just let you marvel…you could never do that.  Hit fallaway baseline jumpers with three men draped on you.  Hit hanging double-pump 3’s.   You move to the edge of your seat when this guy has the ball. It’s just art.

That was the great irony of last night.  Kobe might have lost his team the game. But he reminded us of why we watch.

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