On the Kevin Durant scenario

I’ve heard one of my favorite local radio hosts state several times in some form or another, over the past few weeks during my evening drives home, that the Houston Rockets’ pursuit of Kevin Durant this summer is but a pipe dream.  The latest declaration, made on Friday, an insinuation that Durant wouldn’t even consider Houston, much less sign here, is what has prompted me to take to the keyboard.

I’m not sure I follow the sentiment.  Is Houston the front-runner?  Of course not.  Do they hold even decent odds to pull it off?  Of course not.  But there’s at least a slight chance of it happening, just like there always was of Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers for the Bayou City.  And the same people who are counting Houston out now were probably counting them out then.  And the same circumstances are at play: the Rockets again will be coming off a season where they will be a bottom seed, except this time, instead of featuring the promise of James Harden as a flourishing star, he’s a legitimate MVP caliber superstar, not to mention a close friend of the intended target.

I last wrote on this topic on February 6, and my stance hasn’t changed.  The advantage Houston has, aside from the friendship with Harden, is that they can present the team as a tabula rasa.  Durant can ultimately pick his own coach, a decision which would hold direct influence over the future style and scheme in which he would play.

Is the Houston situation ideal?  Of course not.  Ideal would be eliminating the uncertainty in Russell Westbrook’s future and Serge Ibaka not having regressed, and just sticking long term with the Thunder; ideal would be the hometown Wizards actually having taken the leap to respectability to serve as an obvious destination.  Does Durant care how history would remember him if he simply hopped onto maybe the greatest team in NBA history in the Warriors?

The safest bet is that Durant will stay on with the Thunder for one more year.  Another safer bet is the Warriors.  But to say the Rockets don’t even have a chance is an inaccurate appraisal of the field.  It may be a very slim chance, but they have a chance.






in musings

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The Houston Rockets are not as good as the Toronto Raptors.

Despite the victory tonight, that fact was apparent. Toronto is a team. They have a lot of guys from the pre-Harden Rockets era, and while those teams always failed to make the playoffs, they were never disappointing or boring to watch. When they went on a 15-point turnaround in the span of four minutes late in the second quarter, you could just see the Raptors run, shoot, and pass at a level which the Houston Rockets have not done all season.

So when an inferior team is playing a superior team, all you can do is hope for a bit of variance and luck. Tonight, that luck came in the form of great three-point shooting. So while Houston’s defense continues to have holes, and Clint Capela and Dwight Howard put on a free-throw missing contest for the ages, Harden scored enough points and the rest of the Rockets caught fire to put away this game down the stretch.

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in game coverage

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Daryl Morey on James Harden’s isoball

I saw some discussion recently regarding the topic of James Harden’s isoballing ways, in the context of Daryl Morey’s perceived attitude towards the issue.  On the basis of a quote from a recent Calvin Watkins post on ESPN.com, it was deduced by some that Morey was oblivious to the problem.  Here is the quote cited, from the Watkins post:

Rockets GM Daryl Morey noted recently that the competitor in Harden won’t allow him to give up the ball. It’s a trait Morey likes, and he loves Harden’s desire to win and do whatever is necessary.

Watkins presumably was summarizing a key point from the recent Daryl Morey interview with ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe.  However, there was much more to the conversation on this particular point than what was cited, most of it telling towards the opposite conclusion.

Lowe told Morey he had envisioned the Rockets playing in a relentless drive and kick fashion, with Harden driving and kicking to Lawson, mentioning the need for guys to “feel the ball.”  Lowe said he only sees this now when Jason Terry enters the game, inquiring, “why can’t every possession be like that?”

Morey answered saying, “a lot of these questions, you’re asking the right one because you know what you’re talking about,” adding, “we know the issues, we are attempting to solve them,” and later adding, “if it was like a problem A, solution A, then it would have been fixed two months ago.  So some of these are difficult problems.”

It was only after this entire preface that Morey mentioned Harden’s competitiveness and desire to win.  He even closed saying “he has to to get to the next level and he knows that,” in regards to the context of sharing the ball.

I had initially planned to write on this very topic after hearing the interview because I was rather surprised at the revealing nature of the thoughts.  We all, on the outside, assume Harden’s ball dominating ways are a problem, but we have no way of knowing what the organization is thinking on the inside.  The problem has become so pervasive that one might even assume the team was enabling it.  I would’ve thought Morey, in response to that question, would have just left it at the part about competitiveness.  So to hear a confirmation and recognition of the existence of the problem was fascinating, and I guess, sort of reassuring.  I say this all the time: some things seem so obvious, that you almost assume that there is some complex rationale you’re missing, and then upon receiving confirmation of that obvious conclusion, you find yourself completely surprised.  (see: why don’t Dwight Howard/Harden run the pick and roll?; because they just started practicing it literally this year).

As I’ve been writing all year, the key for Houston now is to bring in someone in the offseason who can get Harden to trust the system and his teammates.






in musings

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The Houston Rockets need to play defense.

Red94 has written about it.  Everyone who covers the Rockets has written about it. The underlying narrative for this season has been the collapse of the Houston Rockets’ defense, epitomized by James Harden.

It was not like that tonight. The Rockets and Harden played defense. But on the second game of a back to back, J.B. Bickerstaff decided to borrow from the Mike Brown offensive playbook and just dump the ball to James Harden over and over again down the stretch. The same James Harden who has a bum ankle and played 40 minutes last night.

It did not work. The balanced attack which the Rockets used to grab an 18-point lead over Utah in the first half faded away in favor of “Harden, do something.” And with that, the exhausted Houston Rockets and their offense came to a sputtering halt, and the Utah Jazz seized a critical win and punted the Rockets into the lottery.

14th pick, here it comes. Technically it would be the 12th pick given the better Eastern Conference, but whatever.

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in game coverage

They say the close losses hurt the most. Games you could have, should have won sting the most going into the locker room, when you have to look at your teammates, look at the standings, look at that one mistake you shouldn’t have made on tape. That’s the sort of loss the Houston Rockets felt tonight, losing a tight game to a very good Oklahoma City Thunder team. The bad news is that this one will stay with them. The good news is that this one will stay with them. This was a brutal, close loss, and we should all be thankful for it. If they’re going to lose, this is the way to do it.

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