Top o’ the World, Ma! – With Patrick Beverley out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, Isaiah Canaan got his first call up from the D-League, according to the Houston Chronicle. Lil’ Sip was happy about it:
— Isaiah Canaan (@SiP03) December 22, 2013
Hey Now – Kevin Pelton (ESPN Insider) makes his picks for the Western Conference All-Stars, with Dwight Howard coming off the bench behind Lamarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, and James Harden coming off the bench behind Steph Curry and Chris Paul. On Harden:
Whether because of the sore foot he’s been battling, the adjustment to playing alongside Dwight Howard or simply randomness, Harden hasn’t been quite as effective in the early going as he was during his first season in Houston. But Harden isn’t playing poorly — at least on offense — and is still 13th in the league in WARP.
And on Dwight:
Healthier nearly two years removed from back surgery and on a roster better suited to his skills, Howard has been more effective this season in Houston. He’s been more efficient in the post and more dominant on the glass. Plus, his return to form at the free throw line (56.2 percent, after two seasons below 50 percent) has made intentional fouls less viable.
Fortunately for Howard, fan voting is on pace to get him into the starting lineup, alongside Blake Griffin.
In ESPN’s 5-on-5 on the subject, Amin Elhassan is the only one to give a Rocket (Dwight Howard) a spot in the starting lineup:
Much to the chagrin of some Lakers fans, there is life after leaving Los Angeles, and it is spectacular. As I wrote the other day, Howard to Houston has been a perfect marriage — he’s an ideal interior presence for the Rockets’ offense and an elite anchor for the their defense. He’s not quite Orlando Dwight (and he probably never will be again), but he doesn’t have to be on a team this talented.
If you’re curious about what Elhassan write the other day, here’s the meat of it:
On an individual level, Howard has improved his rebounding at both ends of the floor, where he has been one of the most dominant performers in the league (ORB%: 13.1; DRB%: 28.9). His shooting at the rim has dipped slightly (from 68 percent to 63 percent), but he’s shooting almost 10 percentage points higher than he did last season on non-restricted-area paint shots (from 35 percent to 44 percent), the area from which many “touch” shots a big takes will originate (i.e. jump hooks, turnaround jumpers, etc.) He’s posting up more than he did last year with the Lakers, and even though his efficiency is terrible (especially when compared with pick-and-rolls, where he ranks seventh in points per possession), it doesn’t really matter, because the desired effect isn’t to score on those plays, but rather to keep him happy.
So Close – Of all the trade scenarios involving Omer Asik that never happened, this one was by far the most explosive, from ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
According to a league source, the Rockets had preliminary talks with the Nets last week about Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. Talks never gained any steam, but the source said the Rockets were doing their due diligence and Williams’ name came up. The Nets balked because one of the main reasons Pierce and Garnett agreed to a trade to Brooklyn was to play with Williams, according to the source. Williams, who signed a five-year, $98 million extension in 2012, was playing well upon returning from an ankle injury, and the Nets were looking better.
Should the Nets revisit talks with the Rockets or another contending team and consider trading a key piece like Williams, Garnett or Pierce now that Lopez is out for the season? It might be worth contemplating because this $190 million roster that was supposed to be a Rolls-Royce now is an expensive luxury car with a transmission problem.
With due respect to what Deron Williams has done throughout his career, I have mixed feelings about trading for him now. His PER is actually lower than Lin’s so far this season, and at 29 year’s old, he’s almost certainly past his prime as a point guard. My bigger concern is how his personality would mesh with Harden and Howard. If you don’t think Williams doesn’t take himself seriously, then you’re not wrong (triple negative combo bonus!). I don’t think yucking it up with Dwight or playing second-backcourt-banana to James Harden would appeal to him at all, especially when he’s already the face of a new franchise with a sweet stadium and cold uniforms in the nation’s biggest market.
Smarty Pants – Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote an illuminating piece this weekend on both the attitude in the Rockets locker room, and the extent to which the players are assimilating advanced data. Check out Patrick Beverley and Francisco Garcia:
“Only thing we’re shooting in practice are layups and 3s,” starting point guard Patrick Beverley explains. “We don’t like midrange,” Garcia and Beverley say in unison.
The two of them have a firm grasp on Houston’s mission, but I want to know just how extreme their team’s approach is. “Did you know that LaMarcus Aldridge has shot …” Beverley interrupts my question with the exact number of midrange shots Aldridge has hoisted relative to the entire Rockets team. As of Friday, the Portland power forward has attempted 98 more midrange shots than everyone on the Houston roster combined. That’s a startling statistic, but it’s not especially novel to Beverley, who “keeps up with everything,” as he puts it.
Beverley responds with, “What would you rather shoot, a 3 or a 2?” Now that he’s won locker room “Jeopardy!,” he turns the tables and quizzes me. All I can manage in return is, “I think you guys might be on the forefront of something.”
Beverley is an athletic freak, but he sure isn’t a dumb jock.
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