• We all think we’re ready for a break, every time this weekend rolls around. Then, soon as it’s here, we’re starved for content and competition, again. NBA TV was wise, this year, to fill some of the empty air time with their MJ, Bill Russell, and Barkley interview pieces; each of the pieces was intriguing. But MJ’s pre-leaked comments from his sit-down with Ahmad Rashad, and those from his extended ESPN profile by Wright Thompson, cast a huge shadow on the weekend, as his suggestion that the league is now softer, more coddled, and less challenging was the biggest discussion piece throughout much of the media—and, one can likely assume, amongst some of the players. But comparing generations of players is always a slippery endeavor, to say the least. While it’s true that Michael’s 90’s boasted far more physical basketball than is now seen anywhere (this is simply a matter of the game’s constantly evolving set of rules), it’s also changed in other ways. Defensive schemes have become more complicated, for starters—this means a higher premium on ball movement, and finding gaps in team coverage to shoot more three-pointers in. According to the rules of Michael’s game, these defenses were penalized, and so he was regularly doing the best thing for this team by dominating in isolation play. The 90’s set of rules—while, arguably, leading to a worse brand of basketball—were more friendly to individual dominance, and stardom. Who knows if MJ could have dominated like he did against a Tom Thibodeau defense? Most likely he could have, because Michael was king of the league’s hill in a way unseen since Russell; and not seen since. And this is the one undeniable advantage: his competitive fervor was miles beyond anything in the league, now, and his desire for championships was profound enough to significantly elevate the play of not only his teammates, but also of the entire NBA around him. And until LeBron imposes his will onto his competitors in a similar way, I’m not convinced we’ll be clamoring to install so many red curtains for his 50th birthday.
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The Red94 Podcast – Trade Deadline Edition

In today’s episode, I break down some of the possibilities for the Rockets at the trade deadline and the expected rationale behind those moves.

 

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in multimedia

The Daily Blast – February 19, 2013

Tradewatch – The bidding war for Josh Smith is about to get real:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/303688819402756098″]

In his PER Diem (ESPN Insider), Kevin Pelton summed up the position the Rockets are in:

Several of the seven teams noted above must be very careful to weigh the desire to reach the playoffs and make an impact this season against their long-term goals. That’s especially true of young teams like the Rockets and Blazers, which don’t want to sacrifice their future for a small upgrade now. So if they make a trade, it will have to be something that also makes sense going forward.

In other words, they’re looking at draft picks, expiring contracts or a star. Also, if you missed Rahat’s post on why the Rockets might pursue Josh Smith right now, go get caught up.

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Since the season’s start, I’ve maintained that at the trade deadline, the Rockets should stay away from Hawks forward Josh Smith.  I never thought he was worth the money he wanted long-term nor worth the cost of saving money for better opportunities.  I thought though that even if they did want him, they’d be wise to just sign him outright in the summer rather than spending assets during the year.  The thinking was, in my mind, if Houston wanted him as a free agent, he’d surely come.

With some recent developments, my thinking has changed.  As I wrote earlier this morning, there now seems to at least be a plausible chance for the Rockets to lure Dwight Howard this summer.  The Lakers are in a freefall and Howard has voiced his displeasure; meanwhile Houston continues its ascent.

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How Real is Chemisty?

The Rockets have a better record than the Lakers. If anyone had suggested, even after the James Harden trade, that the Rockets would be three and a half games above the Lakers at the All-Star break, they would have rightly been laughed at. Everyone expected the Lakers to make a championship push and the Rockets to fight for a playoff seed at all. The Lakers have as huge a collection of talent as any team in memory, while the Rockets, outside of Harden, are wanting in the star category. The explanation for these teams defying expectations could be many things (such as injury, which has plagued Los Angeles this season), but that intangible thing called chemistry must play a part.

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