You heard it here first: Chase Budinger will win the Slam Dunk competition. I have a very good feeling about this.
Many have written in to suggest that he incorporate some stunt from his volleyball background. I personally don’t think that’s a good idea. Volleyball just doesn’t have the ‘coolness’ factor needed to win over a predominantly male crowd. Now I do like the direction they were going in the Rockets.com promo teaser, with Chase appearing to jump over a cutout of Yao Ming.
How funny the NBA can be. When the 2011-12 season began, Rockets’ fans were salivating for a famous superstar to call their own; grab their hand and lead them through this nonsensical season. Two months later, after Houston’s core roster was left unchanged from a team that failed to make the playoffs last season, those same fans find themselves applauding a complimentary group of cast-offs and fringe talent who’ve come together to play inspiring, playoff-worthy basketball.
In our current unprecedented time, a few familiar terms from the NBA’s lexicon have been altered. What exactly is a “contender” right now? Is it a team with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, or Derrick Rose? Or is it simply anyone that makes the postseason? According to John Hollinger’s most recent Power Rankings, the Rockets have played the 11th most difficult schedule in the league. Despite that, if the regular season ended today they would face the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston’s expectations have increased with their unanticipated play, but to what point? Are they capable of winning a series? Two? A championship?
Here’s a deeper look at how the Rockets have sustained their success, and whether or not they’ll be able to keep it up the rest of this season. (Also, a reflective look back to dole out a few mid-season awards.) [read more…]
This was easily the most candid Kevin McHale had been all year during a postgame presser. He spoke of crying after the first game of the year; of getting one hour of sleep after the Wolves game, re-watching it five times. He said he asked himself why he had taken the job; said the group had initially been hard to coach. After last week’s loss to the Wolves, a frustrated McHale met our questions with abrupt answers, wadding a paper at the end and hurling it across the room. Tonight was McHale, raw and uncut, pouring out from the heart moments after an emotional win in an unlikely season.
Here the Rockets sit, at 20-14, heading into the break, where no one thought they could be. They will likely make the playoffs. We heard the rumors. That he was brought in as a ‘puppet’, a ‘yes-man’ to buy time for Chris Finch. But Kevin McHale has done one of the best coaching jobs in the NBA this year, given the entirety of the circumstances. He won’t win the award or even come close, but he should at least be commended. He has his faults. (One can’t too readily forgive the three or so games which were sacrificed due to ‘Scola-at-the-5.’) But who can say he’d have this team where it is right now? You can’t give him less than an A.
I spoke to another writer after the game and we both agreed that it wouldn’t be a shock if this team won a playoff series. I never thought I’d think that. But here they are, getting it done with a guy the Grizzlies tried their best to give away, a guy on [essentially] a one-year deal, a second round rookie, and two guys they already traded. Remarkable.
On this Sunday afternoon, as J.R. Smith floated his way around Madison Square Garden in his first game since returning from his self-imposed exile in the only country big enough to contain all of his persona, viewers could only grin, comforted by the fact that all was right again in our jangling, pieced-together NBA culture. While Earl chucked countless threes on his way toward fifty-plus scoring nights in a basketball land so brilliantly upside-down that Stephon Marbury both feels at home and seems to be a model citizen, the NBA wanted desperately for our screw-ups, our knuckleheads. So many eras have come and gone post-Jordan, overlapping over one another messily, that the time when tattoos and snarls dominated headlines as threats to society rather than eye-roll-worthy commonalities feels about as far away as China itself, but not too long ago, this was a league of thugs and rapscallions, let the right onlookers tell it. How did we move so far from the Time of the Ne’er Do Well, and what did we do with all of the flotsam since? [read more…]