The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Archive for the tag “James Harden”

Return To Sender

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

It was the chance for a fresh start and a new city. Donatas Motiejunas, Macus Thornton and Joel Anthony were getting ready to play for their new teams (Joel Anthony was traded to the Sixers with a second round pick after he was traded to the Rockets). It was going to be interesting to see how each piece fit where they ended up. But unfortunately, all three of these players will be returning to their former teams. The trade that was going to further shape the Pistons fell through once Motiejunas was not able to pass a physical due to his continued recovery from back surgery. The 7’ power forward had back surgery this past offseason and has had multiple setbacks trying to recover. Needless to say, he has not been on the court much at all this season. And the likelihood is he will not see the court at all this year either.

Joel Anthony will be returning to a team that will have a chance to make the playoffs this year. The Pistons still made one solid trade in getting forward Tobias Harris and it will be interesting to see if they can integrate him into what they do. The result of that trade getting voided is that Anthony goes back to ninth in the Eastern Conference instead of the last place team in the NBA. But you have to wonder what he feels like going back to the Pistons. After all, he has to look in the face of the guy who tried to trade him for the rest of the season potentially. There has to be some uneasy tension there. Many will say that Anthony has to be professional about it, but privately he has to wonder why he has to stay somewhere that the coach/president of basketball operations does not want him. Whether he thinks that or not, Anthony really has survived in the NBA longer than many thought he would. And to be truthful, there were a ton of people that forgot he was in the NBA anymore. After he was no longer a member of the Miami Heat, it seemed like his career went into oblivion. But there he stands and there he is, still getting a game check from the Pistons each time he is there on the bench or in uniform. And for that, he has to be thankful.

As far as Motiejunas, he has to feel some sort of way. He is a productive player when he is healthy, but he was given up despite the potential he has. He is still very young and is a very skilled young big man. So he has to be keeping his focus on getting healthy for either the rest of the season or the offseason. After all, the cap is going up and someone will take a chance on him provided he can pass a physical the next time. But one thing he and Thornton have to go back to is something they probably dread. The feeling in that locker room has to be uncomfortable. With the firing of head coach Kevin McHale early in the season and the team’s stars reportedly both trying to get each other traded, that has to be something that feels more like a circus than a basketball team. In Detroit, at least the feeling there was that they were building something. Motiejunas and Thornton would have been very good pieces on a Pistons team that was going to look like the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic team. But alas, all that is now a dream that Thornton and Motiejunas will have to just imagine for now. They are stuck in Houston for right now. And they both probably realize that the toxic environment there could lead to an interesting offseason. An offseason that could end up with both of them gone anyway.

Anthony is probably the more relieved of the bunch. He gets to stay with a team that could be on the rise. While Motiejunas and Thornton go back to somewhere they would probably like to escape. And meanwhile, that protected 2016 1st round pick the Rockets received in this trade gets returned to its sender. The reshaping of the team in Houston fell flat on its face as the Rockets were not able to move anyone via trade at all. And the NBA’s greatest drama team will continue to go on like an episode of The Haves and Have Nots, with Howard and Harden as the leading actors.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Advertisements

Dwight Howard To The Boston Celtics Makes Sense

(photo courtesy of www.sbnation.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com)

Dwight Howard had a decision to make back in the summer of 2013. He was traded that previous year to the Los Angeles Lakers from Orlando that previous year and had one year to check it out. That one year was not very good for him out in Los Angeles. He was fighting through an injury the whole time he was there and when he played, it seemed like he was not himself. Mix that with the fact that he and Kobe’s styles did not mesh and it was not a good experiment bringing him in. But yet and still, the Lakers were one of the teams Dwight was looking at going into free agency. The Lakers gave their pitch to him along with other teams like Houston and Dallas. Between those teams, Dwight turned down additional money he would have made with the Lakers to join star shooting guard James Harden in Houston. The pairing was supposed to take Houston to another level with two star players leading the way. But unfortunately, it has not worked out the way Houston has wanted. The Rockets may have gone to the Conference Finals last season, but it was not due to Dwight Howard’s effect on the team. Howard was not as effective last season because he was injured for most of it and that allowed for other guys to step in and make Houston better. And in year three with Dwight in Houston, it seems like things have gotten worse. The Rockets are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture at this point and the chemistry and play of the team just seems to be off. And right in the middle of it is Dwight Howard still speaking on wanting to be more involved in regards to more touches offensively. Well, it seems like the Rockets have had enough of Howard at this point. Houston has reportedly put Howard on the trading block and are actively looking to move him. And being that he can opt out of the four-year, $87.5 million deal he signed in 2013, it will be interesting what they try to get for him. But nonetheless, it seems like one team’s name has been mentioned more than any in acquiring Howard: the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were a surprise team to make the playoffs last year. And this season, they have made it to the third spot in the East as they are currently constructed. But even with that, Danny Ainge has his eye on Howard and what he could bring to his team. And with the assets the Celtics have, they could certainly pull this trade off. The Celtics have a glutton of big men available on their team. One player the Celtics could dangle out there to get Howard would be forward David. The Celtics traded for the veteran big man this offseason hoping that he would be able to add to their team. But unfortunately it has not worked out and he has been sitting on the bench more than actually playing. And with the pricetag he is carrying this season ($15.49 million), they can easily move him and not miss him at all. If the Celtics throw him, a first round pick and maybe another frontcourt player. By adding Howard to the Celtics, that gives them a better defender on the backline than what they currently have. And if you pair him with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, he would not really have to worry much about the offensive end of the court. But knowing Dwight, he would want to have the basketball in his hands. Even at 30 years old, he still has not got it that he is not a go-to guy offensively. In Boston, he still would not be that guy that he envisions himself being. And if he ends up not being happy, then you essentially traded for a rental player because Howard has the option to opt out of his current deal. But the potential positives in this one outweigh the negatives in this potential trade scenario. But of course that all depends on the thinking of Dwight Howard whether it works or not.

The Celtics would be getting Howard and all that goes with him, but Houston would be getting rid of a player that was doing more harm than good for them. It seemed like the chemistry in Houston just was not ever going to work out, as Howard seemed like the odd man out a lot. The biggest piece in trading Howard is not actually David Lee, but who would be traded with him. If the Houston Rockets are lucky, they get someone that has an expired contract as well. Guys like Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko would be ideal players to add in this trade just for their expiring contracts alone. If one of these two is added like Houston would want, that would allow for them to have enough salary cap room with their current situation to go after a big-name free agent. Everyone knows that Houston has had its eyes on Kevin Durant for some time now. And even as far-fetched as it seems, the Rockets would like to make a run at pairing James Harden with Kevin Durant going into next season. But even if that does not happen, the Rockets would love to change the dynamic of this team going into next season. This all falls in line with them needing a new head coach going into next year as well. If Houston loses and does not make the playoffs while making this trade, it actually will benefit them even more. That would give them two first-round picks (if they don’t make the playoffs, they get to keep their first round pick they would have had to give to Denver because of a previous trade) provided they get one from Boston and cap space. In the NBA, that is definitely a good thing to have as the cap space expands next season. Adding a piece like Atlanta’s Al Horford potentially in free agency and putting him at power forward alongside young big man Clint Capela would be something that would also help this team as well. Horford is a better fit with Harden because he is able to space the floor with his shooting and actually has solid post game. And on the defensive end, he can rebound and actually guard power forwards. That leave Capela playing center and just worrying about blocking shots and defending, which is what he needs to be doing at this point in his career. So the trade of Howard could essentially end the Rockets’ playoff push, but it will help set them up for the future with Harden as their unquestioned leader.

The Dwight Howard experiment in Houston has proven to be a failure at this point. The chemistry never was there between he and Harden and the team never really got to where Houston brass envisioned with Howard and Harden. So to rectify this one and get first round picks and create cap space would be huge for them going forward. For Dwight Howard, he has to realize that the clock is ticking and his opportunities for success are fleeting fast. But the big question will always be around Howard and his role on any team he is on. Everyone who knows anything about basketball realizes that he will not be a viable offensive threat but him. And until he realizes that and quits derailing chemistry, then he will continue to miss out on team success. Boston is taking a chance on Howard with this trade. But the good thing for them is they probably would not be trading much to get him and they also would think that he would want to opt out of his deal should it not work out. Stay tuned folks. Howard could be donning green and white soon.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

James Harden May Want To Slow His Roll With Khloe Kardashian

James Harden has stepped into the Kardashian picture. Is that what he really wants to do? (photo courtesy of www.abcnews.com)

James Harden has stepped into the Kardashian picture. Is that what he really wants to do? (photo courtesy of http://www.abcnews.com)

The Kardashians are everywhere. Ever since singer Ray J made the infamous sex tape with Kim Kardashian, the whole family has been on the television screen. But more than them being on the television screen, they have now infiltrated the entertainment and sports world. Kim is married to performer Kanye West. Some say that he is not the same guy he once was since he started a relationship with Kim. Of course, we know that Kanye was already eccentric before dating Kim anyway, so the jury is out on how much Kanye being with her has changed him. Another relationship that has garnered attention involving a Kardashian is that of rapper Tyga and one of the younger sisters of the Kardashians, Kylie Jenner. This relationship, which neither one has really confirmed, is one that has not done great things for Tyga’s public image at all. Tyga, 25, is eight years older than Kylie and essentially is dating her illegally because he could be turned in at any time. But yet they still go on with their secretive yet out in the open relationship. It seems like it there is a spotlight, there is a Kardashian somewhere around. And now we have the supposed relationship between Houston Rockets star James Harden and Khloe Kardashian. There seems to be varying reports of these two being together. In Tyga and Kanye’s cases, it does not seem like dating a Kardashian has turned out well for the way people see them now and if James Harden knows what is best for him, he will not get too involved in dating Khloe Kardashian. The Rockets and their fans are hoping he sees the light and distances himself as well.

This isn’t the first time we have seen Khloe get involved with a professional basketball player. Of course her first husband is Lamar Odom. And even though they have been separated for a good amount of time, they are newly divorced. When Lamar first came out as dating Khloe in August 2009, many wondered where the connection came from. But little did we know the connection would lead to a marriage one month later. Khloe and Lamar were married in August 2009 to the shock of a lot of people. But on the outward, everything was perceived as going great. Lamar would go on to play two solid seasons as a member of the Lakers once he was with Khloe. But in 2011, it seemed like the walls came tumbling down for him towards the end of his last season in Los Angeles. In April 2011, that is when Khloe and Lamar’s reality show debuted on television. Odom was named the Sixth Man of the Year in the 2010-2011 season and he thought he would be staying in Los Angeles. But what happened would change his career forever. He was traded to the then New Orleans Hornets only for the trade to be vetoed. That trade, which he heard publicly, was a huge blow to his ego and he felt disrespected and demanded a trade. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and from there his career essentially died. He was not the same player he was when he was playing for the Lakers and the end seemed to be near. Of course Khloe had nothing to do with what was going on when he was on the court, but it seemed like his career tanked more the longer he was with her. Now he is trying to get himself straightened out after reportedly being on drugs. There are reports that Khloe is still interested in him, but they are mostly rumors at this point.

Khloe was definitely around when Lamar started slipping, but she pales in comparison to her sister, Kim Kardashian. She was the one that first started the Kardashian train towards athletes. But Kim actually did it twice though. The first athlete she dated was veteran running back Reggie Bush. Bush was one of the most electric running backs in college football when he came out of the University of Southern California. When he was in the NFL, he started dating Kim around 2007 reportedly and the relationship ended in 2010. During that time, Reggie Bush was trying to get himself together in the NFL. The entire time he was in New Orleans, his production declined every single year. Instead of the electric running back the Saints thought they were getting, they received a running back that was electric but could not make plays consistently to stay on the field. After the end of the 2010 season, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Also in 2010, his relationship with Kim Kardashian ended. Apparently the end of that relationship did great things for Reggie. He has had two seasons over 1,000 yards and become more of the guy many thought he would be when he came out of college. It seemed like the pairing of he and Kim served as a distraction and when she was gone, his career got better. His personal life also blossomed as he met his current wife and they now have a child together. Kim would also move on. And this relationship was with another athlete, but this time he was an NBA player. Kris Humphries and Kim started dating in 2010 and were married in August 2011. But this was no ordinary marriage between these two. Kim and Kris were married on reality television in front of the entire world. It was a Hollywood marriage that many did not believe and those thoughts were further influenced by how quickly they were divorced. Kim Kardashian filed for divorce 72 days after the couple was married. Humphries filed a petition for annulment in response to Kim’s divorce filing claiming that the marriage was a fraud. The legal fight went on for both until April 2013, when the pair ended up reaching a divorce settlement. The divorce was finalized in July of that same year. As far as Kris, his career was going well when he was dating her the first year. And after the divorce was announced, he had the best season of his career, averaging 13 point and 11 rebounds. But after that, it was all downhill as he never averaged double-figures again and also is still joked some to this day for his marriage to Kim Kardashian. He is playing a support role for the Washington Wizards now, but this was probably not where he thought he would be at this time.

Kim and Khloe may have good intentions, but the men they have relationships with ultimately end up having career problems at some point. Kanye West has not had them so far, but they may be coming down the line. So if the past of both of these two women is any indication, James Harden needs to stay as far away from Khloe Kardashian as possible. The success train does not follow for the men beside the Kardashian women. The fans of the Rockets are hoping the rumors of Khloe being interested in going back to Lamar Odom are real. Because that would free up their best player to focus on the team and not focus on the Kardashians and what is going on over there in their world. The Kiss Of The Kardashian can be a seductive one, especially with how they look. But it can also be a fatal one for your career potentially. You may want to proceed with caution James Harden. Your career could be riding on it.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

The Houston Rockets Roll The Dice By Acquiring Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson is headed from Denver to Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Ty Lawson is headed from Denver to Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Ty Lawson was once considered one of the top point guards coming up in the NBA. But after a few years of team struggles in Denver along with his own personal struggles, the stock of Lawson has gone down. And with his recent DUI arrest along with the drafting of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the writing was on the wall as to what would happen with him. The only question out there was if he would be traded or waived from his contract with the Nuggets. Well, it may have took a little time, but it looks like Lawson is headed to his next team. The Houston Rockets have apparently agreed to trade for the recently troubled point guard in exchange for point guard Pablo Prigioni, young guard Nick Johnson, forward Kostas Papanikolaou, big man Joey Dorsey and a future lotter-protected 1st round pick in 2016. And with this trade, the landscape in the West makes another shift. The Rockets wanted to make a splash this offseason and had seemingly missed their chance. With this trade, it may not have been a splash but they certainly made a ripple.

Lawson is a point guard that has always been known for his speed on the court. In fact, at one point he was considered one of the fastest point guards in the NBA. He still is a speedy guy on the court, but it seems to not have helped anything going on with the Nuggets. When the Nuggets signed him to an extension that kicked in the 2013-2014 season, Denver thought they were signing their future leader of their team to a long-term deal. For whatever reason, that did not work out for him in Denver and he was not the leader they expected. In fact, the Nuggets looked leaderless. Heading to Houston, leadership will not be something that he has to be involved with. The team is led by MVP-candidate James Harden. The only thing Lawson has to do is come in and be a playmaker for the Rockets while continuing to push the tempo. Too many times, the Rockets depended on Harden to do any and everything for them offensively. He would not only shoot the ball, but set up teammates for easy shots. The only other playmaker on the team last season was Josh Smith and that wasn’t exactly the most consistent. Lawson is quick as a hiccup and can shoot the gaps offensively. If he is able to do that in Houston, the Rockets will be getting wide-open shots a lot. And if the Rockets are hitting from deep, it could be trouble for any team. But not only can he get in the paint to kick out to shooters, but he can also make life a little better for Dwight Howard. The penetration by Lawson will allow Dwight to get lob passes at the rim. And with him getting those touches there and maybe a few more touches off the pick-and –roll, Howard will have an effect on the offensive end whereas sometimes he was just a guy out there on the offensive end last season.

Lawson will definitely be a welcomed sight for Harden, who has reportedly said he wanted another player in Houston. But the best thing that can happen for the Rockets is he can come in and start for them. Entering last season, the point guard position was anchored by Patrick Beverley. He was a feisty defender and was a good shooter from three-point range. And with him, the Rockets were playing very well. But unfortunately, he did not make it through the season, as he suffered a wrist injury that would put him down for a while. Replacing him were veteran point guards Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry. Both played valiantly and made some things happen, but there was no doubt that neither were the answer at point guard. The addition of Lawson gives Houston the best point guard they have had there the entire time that Harden has been a Rocket. And with his addition, that means that Beverly comes in off the bench now. The team thought enough of him to sign him back to a four-year, $25 million deal this offseason. And with Lawson now in the fold, Beverley has now become one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. For a team that was having so many issues at that position when Beverley went down last season, they seemingly have a solid balance at point guard. And when Beverley comes in off the bench, he can bring that energy to sustain the team that is on the court.

All seems to be great in the eyes of the Rockets because the Rockets essentially got Lawson for nothing. And in the eyes of some, it seems he is now joining a contending team. Houston should content for the West this season, but the key ingredient is definitely Lawson. He is currently serving 30 days in a rehab center after his latest DUI arrest. The Rockets are hoping that Lawson comes out of rehab focused and ready to play some basketball. If he does, he gives them the jolt they needed offensively. And on the defensive end, he is still a guy that can cause some issues when he isn’t getting posted up. But if Lawson messes up again, it could be the end of him in Denver. It would be a shame if they happened to him, but if it did he would have earned the decision. The onus is on Lawson and what he feels he can do for the Rockets. The good thing for Houston is they did not have to give up much for his services and have a great backup in Beverley. Houston is taking a chance on Lawson getting it together. The jury is still out on what he will do, but if he is the Ty Lawson of old, then the Rockets will be able to make it happen.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

The Best And Worst Fits For LaMarcus Aldridge’s Services

It's decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

It’s decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

There are many free agents out there that have some decisions to make. Some, like Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, are only taking meetings with the team he has played for in the NBA and no one else. While others have decided to open up the field and take meetings from everyone. There are some enticing names out there, but one that rings a bell for many is Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Last offseason, the Portland Trailblazers tried to lock up the talented forward to an extension. And although it was believed by many that he would stay there and sign a more lucrative extension with Portland this offseason, there was some speculation as to him potentially leaving Portland this summer. This belief came to fruition a little bit more when Aldridge opened up his recruitment this summer as of the last few weeks. There are as many as seven teams that are reportedly interested in him and want to add him to their rosters. Aldridge, although he has not really won a lot in the playoffs, is a big man that many consider dominant and that can change a team’s fortunes just with a signature. And expectedly, he is the most coveted free agent out there (subtracting LeBron James from this one because we know he isn’t leaving Cleveland again). But where would be the best fit for him?

The list of teams interested in Aldridge are the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns. Looking that list of teams, there are a couple that stand out in regards to his talents. If you have taken a look at Aldridge’s game, it is very versatile in terms of his range. The 6’11” power forward can post very well when he wants to. He can face you up and take the jump shot as well as drive the middle of the lane or the baseline to attack the rim. But what makes Aldridge even more special is his ability to stretch the defense for a man his size. He can shoot all the way out to the three-point line and he can also be a good pick-and-pop big with as well as he shoots the jumper. At times he can get too comfortable shooting the jump shot, but he is effective with it nonetheless. The team that would obviously benefit from having him the most is the San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan is not getting any younger and with Kawhi Leonard getting ready to accept a big extension from the Spurs, San Antonio needs another piece to go along with him. By adding Aldridge, that helps stabilize the team down low once Duncan decides to hang it up. In essence, you would be replacing Duncan with a player that is very similar to him but more athletic. Add him to what they have coming back next year reportedly (Duncan and Manu Ginobli are reportedly coming back on cheaper salaries to help the team) and this team could be hoisting the trophy again in 2016 with Aldridge. And the good thing about the Spurs is that they can pay Aldridge as much as they want due to the sacrifices of Duncan and Ginobli. At this point in their careers, they know they are playing more for rings than salaries. And for Duncan, that can help them potentially get one more before riding off into the sunset. For Aldridge, it would help him add a crowning achievement to his career and also help the Spurs bridge the gap successfully into the next era of San Antonio basketball. Imagine the motion offense they run with Aldridge and Kawhi being the main options. But for the here and now, Aldridge and Duncan would remind many of the original Twin Towers that San Antonio had when they won it the first time with a young Tim Duncan and a veteran David Robinson. Amazing how things can change over time as Duncan would be the veteran in this scenario.

The Spurs would be an excellent fit for Aldridge and he could very well land there. But like there is a best fit for Aldridge, there is one fit that would be the worst for him. The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are clamoring for the services of Aldridge. Both are looking at him as the missing piece to what they want to accomplish. But in reality, both teams are a tie for the worst fit for his services. In Dallas, the team there is a jump-shooting team for the most part. And even though Aldridge can shoot the jump shot, he would basically be asked to be the post presence for that team. That is fine and dandy on the offensive end of the court, but on the defensive end that would be trouble. Imagine Aldridge having to be the rim protector for the Mavericks. Even though Chandler is older, he is still far and away a better rim protector than Aldridge will ever be. The only way the addition of Aldridge could work is if the Mavericks can send Dirk to the bench and allow Aldridge to start with a guy like Chandler as the center alongside him. But the reality of that happening is slim to none and even if it did, the Mavericks still would not have enough in the West to win a title. As far as Houston, they seemed to be run by James Harden. And that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Harden is a playmaker on the offensive end of the court and a lot of the offense runs through his hands. But Harden has said that he would like for Houston to bring another playmaker in besides him next season. Looking at the Houston Rockets as they are (when healthy), there are devoid of another playmaker and need one sorely to take the load off Harden a little bit more. In the draft, they had the opportunity to add a playmaker and chose to add Sam Dekker instead. So with the addition of Aldridge, that would not address the need they had. Dwight Howard occupies the post and that would take away from the touches Aldridge would have in there. And as far as him pairing with Harden, he would become exclusively a pick-and-pop guy, and that would not be what the Rockets needed. Ironically, Josh Smith actually fits this team better than Aldridge because he has the ability to be a playmaker, although he is inconsistent at times. Aldridge going there would not make this team any more dangerous unless they got rid of Dwight Howard or he found a jumpshot, two things that are not likely to happen anytime soon.

Of course there are four other teams that fit in this scenario and the Lakers are reportedly the leading candidate for his services. The fit there would be nice, but with the fluidity of the situation there in regards to the potential trade for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, there is no telling what kind of team will be there. If they get Cousins, the team would be tough provided Kobe can stay healthy this season. If they don’t trade for Cousins, then he could potentially have to play center and that would not be a good thing defensively at all. In the end, Aldridge will get paid one way or the other. The decision is his ultimately, but if he is seriously thinking about getting a ring along with getting paid, San Antonio is the spot where he needs to go. They have the best coach, system and scenario for him to succeed immediately.

For more sports talk, follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

The Houston Rockets Will Never Win Anything With Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of http://www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

The Houston Rockets staved off elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors Monday night. Many expect them to still lose this series after going down 3-0, but of course, many did not expect the Rockets to even be in this position. Down 3-1 in their series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets became only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Plenty started to believe in the Rockets again. They were powered by star guard James Harden and the role players on the team were playing well. But as they head out of the Toyota Center for potentially the last time, the joy has turned to concern and focus. The Rockets have been leaning heavy on the services of James Harden this series. And all except for Game 3, Harden has been there and shown up. But there is the matter of the other star of this team. Dwight Howard is as good of a physical specimen as there is in the NBA. His size, speed and leaping ability are things that athletes dream of. With the physical matchup he had going into this series, there was some thought he would have a chance to dominate the series. Well, that thought has quickly turned into what most thought it would be in the end: disappointment. And that is the ultimate problem when it comes to Dwight Howard.

Before Howard came to Houston, the Rockets were a franchise trying to make it back to the level they were in the mid-1990’s with Rudy Tomjanovich as coach and Hakeem Olajuwon as the centerpiece of their team. While they did not quite make it there, the team made it back to the playoffs in 2013 while being led by Harden and a miscellaneous crew of players. When Dwight came to town, he was hailed as the missing piece to take the Rockets to the next level. Howard is a former Defensive Player of the Year, so naturally he was expected to help take their defense to the next level. But on the offensive end, he was expected to have an effect as well. Howard was to be working with Olajuwon, who still lives in the Houston area, on his post moves. And he was going to get his wish to get more opportunities on the block. Well, that happened and that proved to expose Howard more than anything. Howard may be a good athlete, but he is not the greatest when it comes to post play. Throwing it down to Dwight is always an adventure and has been so since he has been in the NBA. You would think at this point in his career he would have some sort of consistent post moves besides catching alley-oops and offensive rebound putbacks. But unfortunately he either does not have that down or is lacking in confidence in making those moves. Well, whatever the case, he is not dependable there. And when he gets in position, he can be fouled, which leads Dwight going to the free throw line, and that is not a win for Howard either.

Along with Howard’s play on the court, he also came to Houston to be a leader in the locker room. Dwight Howard mistakenly gets credit for leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-2009 season. But in all actuality, it was the versatility of point forward Hedu Tukoglu that led them to the Finals. But make no mistake that he was a presence though, averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds. But how quickly some forget that the Magic were outclassed in that NBA Finals and Dwight did not have quite the effect he was thought to the entire game. His leadership was not evident there at that point when they were down. Fast forward to now and the Dwight Howard experience has not gone as planned for the Rockets. He is there, but last year they were bounced earlier than they thought and this season he missed half the games with knee issues. But even when he was on the floor, it seemed like he was not the same athletic Dwight we are used to seeing and it also seemed like he was not in any way a part of the leadership there. It is officially Harden’s team now and also when they huddles are going on, notice that Howard does not say much at all. In fact, veteran guard Jason Terry is way more vocal than he is and he did not play for the Rockets last season. Howard is not a leader and will never be one. And if someone is following him as their leader, then they may want to understand that Howard has not shown that he can be a leader at any point and time of his career. And any leader that is seen laughing on the bench when their team is getting blown out and that does some things that are not the mark of a leader is someone you may not want to follow anyway.

The addition of Howard could have been good, but Howard did not recognize his gift and put in the work to become the big man that many thought he could. So instead of getting a guy that could help take them to the next level, the Rockets got a big man that is closing in on 30 years old and is not the dominant big man and leader they thought he would be. To best use Howard, he needs to be a rebounder, finisher and defender because his offense is not something that you can depend on to ever take you where you want to go. When Orlando went to the NBA Finals, it was almost like a needle being found in a haystack and being thrown back in, only to be missing again. That glimmer of Dwight being the man to take you to the Promiseland is something of a mystery. Dwight is going to lead the Rockets nowhere fast. And that is just the cold reality of his presence in Houston.

The Los Angeles Clippers Versus The Houston Rockets: The Battle Of The Inconsistents In Game 7

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

It was all good heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night for the Los Angeles Clippers. The team who had never been to the Conference Finals before only stood 12 minutes away from team history. All they had to do was hold to the lead they had worked so hard to build up. But unfortunately, the Clippers became the usual Clippers again. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game. The scene went from pure joy in the third to frustration in at the end of the game. The faces of the team and the fans of the team were long from the frustration of losing a game they had in the palms of their hands. And along with the fall of the team in a series-clinching game, the Clippers now have to travel to Houston to take on a Rockets team that has a ton of confidence. The play of forward Josh Smith was outstanding in the fourth quarter and what was so amazing is they did this with their best player, guard James Harden, on the bench. As a result, the Clippers and Rockets will face each other one last time. The Clippers will face yet another Game 7 but this time against the Houston Rockets. Of course the blame game has been played with this team ever since the loss. Some are blaming Doc Rivers for not calling a timeout to slow down the Rockets’ momentum while others are blaming the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, for not restoring order when the lead was quickly disappearing. But at this point, it does not matter who is to blame. The Clippers have to get ready for Game 7 on the road and there is nothing they can do about the results of Game 6 anymore. But which Clippers team will show up in Houston?

The Rockets, on the other hand, are getting it going at the right time. Ever since Rockets head coach Kevin McHale put Josh Smith in the starting lineup over Terrance Jones they have gone 2-0. Jones outperformed him coming off the bench in Game 5, but Smith was the catalyst in the Game 6 comeback, netting 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. But the Rockets have not been the most consistent team this series at all. They were outplayed in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Clippers and they would have lost Game 2 of this series if they wouldn’t have got it going late in the game. They were very fortunate to not be down by two games just that quick. Other than the last two games, it seems as if the Rockets have not been playing that well at all. Their MVP candidate, James Harden, has been putting up numbers (25 points and 8 assists per game), but has struggled from distance in the last two games (just 3/14). And along with that, he was in a funk in Game 6 and only shot 5/20 that game. But Harden has been nowhere near as inconsistent as Dwight Howard. The big man has been dominant in some games and non-existent in others. The foul shooting from him has been awful this series (38%), but that was to be expected. What some may have expected is for him to be better defensively this series. The Clippers are an excellent offensive team, but he was supposed to be the equalizer for them on the backline. Well, that has not happened as much and even though his numbers look good to the eye, those that have watched the game have been disappointed yet again in what they have seen. Dwight has been making the usual plays that make you scratch your head and he still cannot make two solid post moves in a row. But even with that, the Rockets don’t use him right anyway. They should put him in pick and roll situations that limit the post moves he has to make, but yet he camps out down low, looking to try and recreate himself at the wrong times. We shall see if Howard, Harden, Josh Smith and the rest of the Rockets show up in Game 7 or if they falter in front of their home crowd on the big stage.

Both teams are trying to go to a new level while searching for consistency during the playoffs. And they both are looking to take that next step that many said was not possible when the year began. But in order for them to do so, there needs to be someone step up and be consistent for this huge game. For Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this game would be the biggest game in their career. They would be a part of making Clippers history. And for James Harden and Dwight Howard, this would be a chance for both to get one step closer to a return trip to the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see which team rises to the occasion. Will the Clippers pay for letting Game 6 get away from them or will the Rockets wilt under the pressure of a Game 7? Only time will tell, but it will definitely be fun to watch who can be the more consistent team of the two.

It’s time for Dwight Howard to accept his sidekick role permanently

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com)

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com)

During the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard had a decision to make. Did he want to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers and pair with Kobe again or did he want to move on to play somewhere else? The relationship between Howard and Kobe in his one year with the Lakers was strained at best. Kobe was serious and about business. While Howard was jovial and never seemed to be serious about winning in Kobe’s eyes. In the meeting the Lakers had with Howard when he was making his decision where he would sign, Kobe went directly at Howard and told him that he could “teach him how to be a champion”. Howard listened to Bryant, but he was not at all interested in sticking around somewhere that he felt he could not be himself. Howard and Bryant were just not meant to be a pairing. Their personalities just went together like oil and water. And ultimately a separation was needed. Howard signed, for less money and one less year, with the Houston Rockets franchise. He was viewed as the guy that could change their franchise and help them ascend to greater heights than they did before. Well, two years later, the story of Howard in Houston has not gone the way he thought it would.

Howard had a good first season with the Rockets, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets made it back to the playoffs on the strength of Howard and Harden, yet they ran out of gas in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs, losing to the Portland Trailblazers in six games. Howard had a great series versus the Trailblazers, putting up 26 points per game and grabbing 14 rebounds per game as well. But his efforts were not enough for them to continue forward. Going into this season, many thought that Howard would pick up where he left off versus Portland. But unfortunately he did not have the regular season he thought he would. Howard had progressed in the 2014 postseason. He was actually using post moves and looked like he knew what he was doing down there. But that did not last this season as he went back to the usual Dwight. Of course it did not help that he was injured most of this season, but when he was out there, he was the big man that could do everything else but put together two post moves back to back. Over the years, what made Howard so special over his career is his athleticism as a big man that allows him to block shots and be a bulldog rebounding the ball. That incredible athleticism allowed him to get by without having any real post moves for most of his career. But as time goes on in his career, the injuries are piling up and the athleticism is not what it once was. Now the soon-to-be 30 year old center is entering a phase of his career that may take him out of the spotlight even more. He had wanted to be a leader of his team. But the time has come for him to succumb to being the sidekick.

Dwight has realized that he is not the best player on the team in Houston. That title belongs to Rockets shooting guard James Harden. The veteran big man has said that he is willing to be the sidekick to Harden and that should be what he should do. After all, Harden has pretty much carried this team to the spot it’s in now without the services of Howard for much of the year. It was an easy decision for Howard to defer to the best player on the team. And if they are to make a run, Howard must realize that he is the sidekick and stay in his role. In fact, the best thing that could have happened to this Houston team was him getting injured. It allowed for more players like Terrence Jones to develop more and it also allowed Harden to have uninterrupted time as the leader of the team. Now with Howard there as the secondary guy, he can potentially go back to the things that made him good in Orlando, being the anchor on defense and rebounding. And if Howard can zone in on doing those things, the Houston could be a bigger threat than originally thought, especially if guys like Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry and Corey Brewer are hitting threes. The penetration of Harden along with the effect of Howard on the boards would be staggering to teams. But what happens after this season if the Rockets are not successful with Howard as the sidekick?

In the 2015-2016 season, there could be some issues between Harden and Howard. Assuming that Howard could be healthy, he could go back to the guy that would be requesting touches in the post. And as is documented by his play over the years, he cannot really be consistent with his post moves. Howard requesting touches in the paint without being able to do anything with it would do two things to the Rockets offense. First, it would take away the possessions that Harden has the basketball. Harden is by far the best playmaker the Rockets have and when he has the ball in his hands, good things tend to happen for Houston. So it would be imperative that Harden have the ball to help everyone else around him, including Howard, be more effective. Secondly, Howard requesting post touches will make the flow of the offense slow down. No one really fears him in the post when he has to make post moves. Teams fear him more when he gets offensive rebounds. Putting Howard in potential pick-n-roll situations more and then surrounding he and Harden with shooters is the most efficient way they can run offense.

Dwight may be content with playing the sidekick role for this postseason, but we have all witness the times where he expresses disgust when things don’t go the way he wants them to go. And that can be a bad thing for any team. Dwight may have to come to grips that he is not the main attraction there in Houston. James Harden has taken over that title for the foreseeable future. It’s up to Dwight Howard to understand that he cannot be the main focus at this point anymore. The best thing he can do is be Robin instead of trying to be Batman.

The Dwight Howard Experience Moves To Houston

dwight howard rockets

After Chris Paul announced that he would re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers,
Dwight Howard was the biggest free agent on the market. The Golden State
Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta
Hawks were all in the bidding for his services. Slowly but surely he began to
eliminate each one until it was down to Los Angeles and Houston. In the end, after
much pondering, he picked the Houston Rockets. Immediately the stock in Houston
got a little bit better while the Lakers are left with none of the pieces from
the trade they made to get Howard from Orlando to begin with.

 With Dwight in Houston, the pressure is on. He left $30 million on the table to go and join the Rockets. And after leaving the Lakers (which is something that most players don’t ever do) the only justification in moving away would be to win a ring. At the present time, Houston is in a better position to make runs to the title than the Lakers. And that is due to the presence of an emerging star in James Harden. The smooth shooting guard has been electric for the Rockets ever since arriving in Houston via trade last season. With these two together, they make one of the best big man/guard combos in the NBA. But how they work together will be the key.

  James Harden likes to be the guy in control of the offense. And last year with the offense in his hands, the Rockets were one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The Rockets routinely ran pick-and-rolls with Harden at the controls. Adding Howard to the mix could potentially change the dynamic of their offense. While Dwight is more effective in the pick-and-roll, he has said that he would like to get the basketball more in the post. The problem with that is Howard is more efficient as a pick-and-roll player than he is when receiving the ball in the post. So going forward, do the Houston Rockets play to his demands and give him the ball in the post or do they stick with the pick-and-roll? A perfect solution would be to do a mixture of pick-and-rolls that highlight Harden and post ups that can make their new star happy. The onus will be on Dwight to get better in the post and make things happen when given the opportunity. With shooters like Chandler Parsons, Omer Casspi and yes, even James Harden, Dwight will have plenty of room to work with inside. The key in both styles of offense will be the effectiveness of Dwight. The more effective he can be in the post, the less we will see of the pick-and-roll offense. For the Rockets sake, they better hope that head coach Kevin McHale and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon can make his post game better.

   Defensively is where Howard is best for Houston. Last year the Rockets had a big, physical center in Omer Asik. He defended opposing centers well, but he did not scare opposing teams as much as Howard can. Dwight makes the Rockets better defensively because he is an excellent weak side defender and shot blocker. That strength of Howard’s will help cover up for the weakness of Harden defensively. As good of an offensive threat as Harden is, he is very ineffective on the defensive end. Dwight can deter those shots that Harden gives up because of his subpar defense. Another thing that Dwight can add defensively is rebounding out of his area. Most big men can rebound within the area that they occupy, but only a few can step outside of the area they are occupying and go get boards. Howard can cover up for teammates missing block out assignments because he is so agile and strong. That ability adds to more possessions for Houston and allows them to also get out and run more.

   The spotlight is on Houston now. With the addition of Howard, they went from an up-and-coming team to a potential contender. Ultimately, this move begins and ends with Howard and Harden. How they co-exist and how Howard handles himself will be paramount to how this team does. It should be interesting to see what we get from Houston next season.

Mike Patton aka “The Sports General” is the
Sports writer for Freesworld.com. Follow him on Twitter @General_MP and on
Facebook at www.facebook.com/MikePatton32482

Post Navigation