Much has been made of post-Collective Bargaining Agreement days of the NBA, which, with all its new tricks to managing salary caps and free agency, have even the most casual of fans thinking more often like businessmen than as fans of the game—assessing the success with which a team handles this new landscape on a season-to-season basis has become at least as popular as complaining about defensive effort.

(Join the conversation by taking a spin with this cool new toy).

And there’s plenty of truth to the thinking: the new rules make individual players into franchises in a way quite fitting to the personal-brand-affirming Facebook Era, as more of them are journeymen than ever before, and must constantly fight for another salary. The Houston Rockets’ core trio is made of players who, one year ago, were considered untouchable by their franchises. The Dallas Mavericks start O.J. Mayo, one of many short-term salaries they’ve taken on since disassembling its championship team after Mark Cuban decided that the CBA made them too expensive to keep together—and Mayo is playing the best basketball of his career; probably because he knows he’ll have to, if he wants to sign good contracts (he is playing considerably below market value on a two-year, 4 million/year deal).

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The Daily Blast – January 22, 2013

Finally – The Rockets ended their losing streak with a win in Charlotte, despite the heroics of Kemba Walker (6-7 from three? What??). The last three times the Rockets have played in Charlotte, someone on the court has hit a career high. This year, it was Walker with 35. Last year, it was Chandler Parsons scoring 20 for the first time. The year before that it was Stephen Jackson dropping 43.

Trades, anyone? – Zach Lowe at Grantland is jumping into the Josh-Smith-trade-story bonanza with this fascinating idea:

And that’s the big issue here: Houston should have enough cap space to sign Smith outright in free agency this summer, especially if they make the playoffs and thus have to send their first-round pick to Atlanta (via the Nets). If the Rockets think they can do that despite lacking home-field/Bird rights advantage, why give up anything for Smith now?

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Anyone who has followed the Rockets this season should be aware of the consistent struggles at the power forward position which have occupied this team and has been a significant factor particularly during this losing streak, all the more painful after several years of dependable production from Mr. Scola. Tonight, however, Marcus Morris had easily his best performance in the last few weeks.  While Patterson played for only eight minutes, Morris played well on both the offensive and defensive ends as he was rewarded with the start at the beginning of the 2nd half. His 3 point shot returned and he finished off of passes to end his game with 21 points on 7-12 shooting.  In addition, he managed 8 rebounds against an athletic if unskilled Bobcats frontcourt.

Of course then when one analyzes Morris’s strong performance, a question must rear its head.  How is it that the Charlotte Bobcats, the third worst team in the league, managed to lead for the entire game until about the halfway point of the 4th quarter?  How is it that they jumped to a double digit lead in the first quarter and possessed a lead of that margin at the end of the first half?  Because while Houston may have finally broken its 7 game losing streak and managed to escape the shame of falling below .500, a narrow victory over Charlotte is hardly something to boast about, especially since Houston managed to get a strong contribution from the power forward position.

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The NBA is changing. Defenses, offenses, guards and forwards all look different than they did just a few years ago. The positional revolution has swept through the league and Rockets are quietly embracing it. Last week we examined their use of the backcourt rotation, and the unique place Toney Douglas fits into it (which has all since changed with the introduction of Patrick Beverley). This week, we turn our gaze to the forward and center positions. The Rockets are happily moving to the vanguard of a number of changes to the way big men are used.

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