The Playoff Push

As I write this, Hollinger has the Rockets at 79% odds to make the postseason. Myself and four others all chose Houston to get in.  The team sits in 7th, but tied in the win-loss with Dallas and Denver.  If postseason play began today, the Rockets would open up at San Antonio.

Including tonight’s showdown (on ESPN) against the Suns, there are eight games remaining.  Home for Phoenix, at Denver, home for Denver, at Dallas, at New Orleans, home for Golden State, at Miami, and home for New Orleans.

The two against New Orleans should be complete ‘gimmes.’  The Warriors have given the Rockets fits in recent years, but that was before the trade that sent Monta Ellis to Milwaukee.  At Miami is an expected loss but is winnable – in fact, any game against any team in the NBA is winnable for the Houston Rockets.

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in game coverage

Who’s the last rookie to unexpectedly grab a spot in his team’s starting rotation, play with the intelligence and aura of a 10-year veteran, and fail to show a single significant weakness in his game? Seriously, can you think of anybody? Before this season, had this player even existed?

This is barely the tip of the iceberg in describing how remarkable Chandler Parsons’ rookie year has been. He’s received public praise from Kobe Bryant (more on that later), assumed the role of Houston’s clutch shot-taker on more than one occasion (he’s shooting 40% from three-point line in the fourth quarter), and, in a strange, inconceivable way, might be the last player on Houston’s roster that Daryl Morey would be willing to part with. [read more…]

in essays


We waited longer than usual for Kevin McHale to appear from the lockerroom and take our questions.  When that happens, it’s after a bad loss and we assume hell is being raised behind closed doors.  He then is not very pleasant during the presser and in a very bad mood.  We assumed tonight would be the same.  Oddly, it wasn’t.  McHale didn’t really appear too upset.  I think the fact that the team fought back and made it a game let them escape his wrath.

This was the most disappointing loss of the year.  A win tonight would have pretty much clinched the playoffs giving the team its first appearance in three years.  Instead of looking up at the homecourt chase, after a 4-0 road trip, the Rockets are back in a dead tie with the Mavs and Nuggets for the 8th seed.  So it goes for the Rockets this season.  They are what they are.  A pretty good team that has wildly overachieved in the face of adversity but not anything close to a contender.

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in game coverage

More on decisions

Via Feigen:

The problem is with timing. The Rockets have spent years retooling the roster to have the cap space they would have this summer. It is not likely to be filled with a max-contract free agent, but could be extremely valuable in a trade for the kind of star player the Rockets have lacked.

That kind of deal does not come quickly. Free agent decisions will likely move much faster. The Rockets would have to decide whether to keep that space or fill it with Dragic and Courtney Lee.

A good case could be made for bringing back the free agent guards, especially the way the Rockets are coming together and both are playing. But the Rockets would have to decide that they can live longer without that signature star. It’s still possible to make such a huge trade with the trade pieces they have, but it’s tougher when teams might only make that move to cut costs before the heavier luxury taxes kick in.

That kind of deal is far from a sure thing – or even likely – in either circumstance, but if it is difficult with loads of cap space, it is brutally tough without it, as the Rockets have seen the past two seasons of coming close but coming up short.

All things considered, the Rockets should give themselves until the free-agent signing date to make that kind of deal. If they can’t by then, keep what they have and keep trying.

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in musings

Can Lowry guard shooting guards full-time?

Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic played 16 minutes together last night.  In that time, the Rockets shot 56% from the floor (14/25), dished out 7 assists, and were a +4.  They had an offensive rating of 112.6 and a defensive rating of 99.7 (the number of points the team would have scored and given up if extrapolated per 100 possessions.)  During that same span, the Blazers shot 38% from the floor but grabbed 7 offensive rebounds.

The Rockets looked absolutely masterful in that fourth quarter with the two point guards playing in tandem.  I’m becoming convinced that the lineups which see Dragic and Lowry sharing the backcourt are the team’s best.  They were relentless defensively and a blur on the break.

One particular play stood out, lending towards an idea: Jamal Crawford danced, spun, drove into the lane, only to have the ball stripped by Lowry, leading to a fastbreak.  While Crawford isn’t particularly large, he is regarded as one of the game’s shiftiest players.  All along, in the panic to keep Dragic, the popular sentiment among many has been to move him to the ‘2’, next season.  The idea made more sense, in theory, than the proposition of playing Lowry at the ‘2’, due to the players’ respective heights.  But is that the proper way to think about the matter?

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in musings