The Rockets Daily – March 19, 2014

Third Star – You might not believe this, but Knicks owner James Dolan is “by no means a basketball expert”.  New York is well out of the playoffs – only a collapse by the eighth-place Hawks could save them – and with the second highest payroll in the NBA, they are paying over three-million dollars per win so far this season.  New President Phil Jackson may very well cure what ails the Knicks, but until then, and until Carmelo Anthony signs an extension keeping him at the Garden, rumors like what Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is hearing will persist.

Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

New York can offer Anthony more money and more years than Chicago or Houston, and they will get every chance at keeping him.  I can’t imagine the Zen Master failing at his first big off-season task, but Stephen A. Smith is saying that Melo already has one foot out the door.

The subject of Melo to the Rockets has been covered pretty extensively in these pages and argued for days in the forums, so there isn’t much left to add.  I know fans are really excited about Terrence Jones and his development, but keep in mind that Jones is a Rockets for two more years after this season on a rookie-scale contract.  He’s not going anywhere.  And passing on a former scoring champ, a seven-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA and gold-medal winning superstar because your former 18th-pick MIGHT develop into something close to that is just foolish.  Anthony takes a lot of criticism for his style of play, but despite some of the shaky squads he has been a part of in his eleven years, Melo has never once missed the playoffs.

Phil Jackson will probably keep him in New York, but if he doesn’t succeed, you better believe Daryle Morey will be right there waiting with a check.  That should tell you all you need to know about Carmelo Anthony.

Power Rankings – I’m sure you’ve seen by now, but Houston fell back to Earth after a one-week stay at the top of Marc Stein’s rankings, this week coming in at number four.

It was the shortest of stays at No. 1, as feared, in the face of those three rough road assignments. The Rockets, though, can take a measure of solace from the fact that there are just six teams in the whole league with winning records against .500-or-better teams. And they’re one of ’em.

Looking at the week the Rockets had, a three-spot slide doesn’t seem like much.  But when you consider that out of all the playoff teams, only Brooklyn, Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio and the Clippers have better records than Houston over their last 10 games, the sky doesn’t seem quite so vertically challenged.

I said last week that if Houston didn’t win at least two out of those three tough road games, the good vibes from the last month wouldn’t mean anything.  Well, the Rockets lost all three and all of a sudden that true-contender talk has faded.  But truth be told, the schedule did Houston a favor.  If the suddenly-average Trail Blazers can hold off the Warriors for the five-seed, and San Antonio doesn’t tank its way into the two-seed to avoid a first-round bloodbath with the Grizzlies (don’t count that out), Houston will face a Portland/San Antonio duo that they are currently 6-1 against for the season in the first two rounds of the playoffs.  The Spurs are a different beast lately, but that’s about as good as can be expected in the blood-soaked battlefield of the West.

4-year All-Stars – The Point Forward had unveiled another one of their All-Star teams, this time made up of four-year college players.  Two players from the home-team made the list:

Damian Lillard, Blazers | Weber State | 2012 No. 6 pick
J.J. Redick, Clippers | Duke | 2006 No. 6 pick
Chandler Parsons, Rockets | Florida | 2011 No. 38 pick
David West, Pacers | Xavier | 2003 No. 8 pick
Tim Duncan, Spurs | Wake Forest | 1997 No. 1 pick

George Hill, Pacers | IUPUI | 2008 No. 26 pick
Jeremy Lin, Rockets | Harvard | undrafted
Wesley Matthews, Blazers | Marquette | undrafted
Draymond Green, Warriors | Michigan State | 2012 No. 35 pick
David Lee, Warriors | Florida | 2005 No. 30 pick
Nick Collison, Thunder | Kansas | 2003 No. 12 pick
Roy Hibbert, Pacers | Georgetown | 2008 No. 17 pick

Hold Me Back! – In case you missed it, there was a near-altercation following the Rockets-Jazz game on Monday, when John Lucas stole the ball in the final seconds and attempted a 40-point game-winner at the buzzer to score one more bucket as the game was ending.  He failed, but that didn’t keep Francisco Garcia from taking exception.

Someone better tell John Lucas and his tyrannosaurus rex punches that Francisco Garcia ain’t afraid.  

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