Posts Tagged ‘Chandler Parson’

Rockets stake claim as NBA’s best

VIDEO: Harden’s huge night rallies Rockets past Blazers in OT

HOUSTON — This is what it’s like to stand on the beach when the birds start to twitter, the winds begin to kick up and the ocean is suddenly roiling and full of foreboding.

There’s not much you can do when the tsunami rolls in and the Trail Blazers were just the latest to get washed away.

It’s past the point where the Rockets are an interesting little side trip on the road to June and thoughts of a championship.

Right now, Dwight Howard, James Harden and their dangerous buddies are in the fast lane with the top down and passing everybody else on the freeway.

Miami? Been there.

Indiana? Done that.

Portland? Please.

The Rockets spotted the Blazers a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter and still didn’t panic. Not even when it took a flick-of-the-wrist, never-a-doubt 3-point statement at the end of regulation.

That statement? We’re as good as it gets. The best team in the NBA.

“I think so,” said Chandler Parsons. “We’re playing well. We don’t think we’re done. We’re not getting arrogant or conceited or anything, but we think we can play with anybody and we’ve proved that this week. It’s fun because we know we can even get better.”

“Yes. Yes. We are,” said Harden.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. To the outside world, it probably wasn’t even thinkable this season.

So here are the Rockets with the best record in the league (23-6) since the start of 2014, with 15 wins in their last 17 games, and with the surging confidence that comes from having not only survived a grueling week that was supposed to examine their credentials, but aced the test.

It’s no longer about them just constantly trying to push the pace and beat every opponent with a crazyball attack of firing up 3-pointers.

Now they’re learning to win games like the one Sunday night, when it starts in a torpor, improves eventually to a slog and they manage to come out the other side because they just don’t stop grinding.

“I can feel guys coming together,” said coach Kevin McHale. “Their chemistry is improving. Their belief in each other is improving. They’re bonding has improved and you can feel that. And it’s nice.

“That’s what makes sports special, when you get around guys that are bonding and fighting together. It’s kind of why you’re in the business. That’s the hope for all us guys that have been doing it for many, many years, that belief that together you can get something accomplished.”

Jeremy Lin came off the bench to end his slump and with his biggest-scoring game since November with 26 points.

Harden popped in 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The unique ability of Harden to suddenly turn it on and turn around a game when the Rockets started out making just 1-for-13 on 3-pointers is part of what makes them dangerous.

But it’s also a growing sense of purpose inside the locker room that says there is no reason they have to honor a predetermined pecking order and wait their turn.

Howard is in his 10th season. He’s climbed nearly to the peak with a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009 with Orlando and knows how quickly the best-laid plans can fall apart.

This was a night when the Rockets’ big men were getting beaten on the boards by Portland through the first half. Then McHale went to a small lineup and it all turned around.

Howard knows there are nights when he can be the fearsome low-post beast that gobbles up rebounds and points in the paint. But he also feels like he can almost blend into the background, put in an honest day’s work and his team will still survive.

The Rockets are a bunch that you can practically see growing taller and stronger right before your eyes.

“We’re as good as we are right now,” said point guard Patrick Beverley. “We don’t really look for other teams. We just go out there and try to play the type of basketball we know how to play. We don’t focus on other teams. We focus on us.”

Beverley will sink his teeth in, Parsons will scratch and claw, Howard will do the heavy lifting and Harden makes magic happen.

It’s enough to make you change your notions of just which is the team to beat in the wild, wild West as the playoffs approach.

San Antonio is currently the No. 1 seed in the conference. But the Rockets are 3-0 against the Spurs.

The Thunder are the No. 2 seed. But the Rockets didn’t just lose on Sunday afternoon to the, uh, Lakers Lite.

Is it possible the best team in the NBA is gathering like a hurricane off the Gulf Coast of Texas?

The week ahead might hold the answer as a three-game road trip to OKC, Chicago and Miami looms.

“We just want to hold up that trophy come June,” Howard said. “We’ve got to stay humble. That’s the message. We cannot get cocky. We cannot lose our focus. That’s when you fail. So you got to stay humble.

“We’re getting better. We’re not satisfied. We still have a ways to go. But I like the way we’re playing. No fear. We make mistakes. We get in the huddle. We come out and try to get the job done. We’re together. That’s the sign of a good team.”

And maybe, just maybe, much more.

VIDEO: James Harden discusses his monster game against the Blazers

Asik Only Back Until He’s Gone For Good

VIDEO: Asik explains frustration with Rockets

HOUSTON — Omer Asik is back.

Back on an NBA bench, where he spent the first two years of his NBA career with the Bulls.

Back in a subservient role because the Rockets won the Dwight Howard derby over the summer.

Back in uniform after taking a couple of games off for a pout, regrouping, walkabout or whatever it is they call a hissy fit in his native Turkey.

Asik, the 7-foot center who acquitted himself quite well during his first season in Houston by averaging a double-double and giving the Rockets needed rim protection, was finally back on the court Tuesday night. But not until there was only 6:49 left in a thumping of the overmatched Celtics.

He made a layup, missed two others, sank a pair of free throws and did his usual post-game bolt from the locker room that is his quickest move on any given night.

“I just want to help my team,” was all Asik would say when tracked down in a hallway of the Toyota Center.

Most likely, the next time Asik helps his team it will be with him wearing a different uniform and the only way he’ll give the Rockets any more help is with what he brings them in return.

With Howard in the middle, Asik wants out, a sentiment he made quite clear in the immediate aftermath of Howard’s announcement that he was relocating to Houston.

On one hand, you can fault coach Kevin McHale for wanting to see what kind of monster he could construct from a “twin towers” lineup of Howard and Asik. After all, he played quite happily and won three championships along side Robert Parish in Boston.

These however are different times and no one will ever confuse Howard and Asik with McHale and “The Chief”. In their time together on the court through the first couple weeks of the season, they were horribly inefficient on offense and almost as weak on defense.

So it it was only a matter of time until McHale pulled the plug on his grand experiment, which occurred last week when Asik played less than five minutes of an overtime loss in Philly and then told the coach he wasn’t available the following night in New York against the Knicks.

Now Asik is available. Having demanded a trade, then skipping the next game at home against Denver due to “an illness,” it’s only a matter of time until the Sultan of Swap, G.M. Daryl Morey, sends him packing. Despite the fact that Asik is the top name on every list of trade candidates, it will probably not happen until at least Dec. 15, the date that most players acquired over the summer are eligible to be dealt and it could linger on until the February trade deadline.

Morey’s dilemma is getting what he considers fair value in return for a player when his market has been depressed by Asik’s actions. There’s also the matter of getting someone to swallow that nearly $15 million he’s due on his contract next season.

But it has to happen. The truth is that once Asik has shown his petulant colors and abandoned his team, there is no going back to having full faith for a club trying to be a contender. On the other side, if you’re a would-be trade partner, would the Celtics even think for an instant about giving up Rajon Rondo, the Lakers trading Pau Gasol, anybody giving up anything truly significant for a player that folded his tent in the face of a professional challenge?

Asik returned the Rockets, apologized to his teammates and gave his mea culpa to reporters at the Tuesday morning shootaround.

“I was just frustrated,” he said. “It’s behind me now. I’m just looking forward to help my team win.”

Teammates Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons said all the right things about accepting Asik back into the fold, but they’re not naive, just good soldiers. They’ve watched Terrence Jones step into Asik’s spot in the starting lineup the past several games and ring up an impressive 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting and grab nine rebounds in just 27 minutes of the thumping on Boston.

The lifeless expression on McHale’s face said everything when he was asked what Asik had to do to earn more than six-plus minutes of playing time.

“There’s another game (tonight in Dallas),” he said. “Everybody is out there playing. We’ll see where the time goes with Omer.”

Right out the door.

Howard Made His Decision With A Smile!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The smile looked genuine.

For the first time in nearly two years, Dwight Howard‘s smile looked like the real thing and not the forced teeth sucking he’s had to do with people and cameras in his face from Orlando to Los Angeles and all parts in between.

If it’s the new environment, as Howard was officially introduced as a member of the Houston Rockets earlier today, so be it. But something tells me he’d have worn that same smile anywhere, so long as it wasn’t Los Angeles.

Much has been made of his unhappiness while wearing a Lakers uniform, while playing alongside Kobe Bryant and for Mike D’Antoni. There is no need to rehash it now, not on the day that Howard finally looked relieved enough to crack that mile-wide smile of his for real.

For all of the people who have felt the need to smash Howard for the way he’s handled things, everything from the way he waffled his way out of Orlando to his unease during his season with the Lakers to his stint as the most coveted free agent since LeBron James leading up to The Decision, he deserves this moment. And I say that after having taken plenty of shots at Howard and his process myself.

But if Houston is where is the heart is and playing alongside James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, and for Kevin McHale, is what gets his juices flowing, then more power to him. NBA careers don’t last long enough for elite players to play under any extra stress.

Howard knows his championship clock is ticking after nine seasons in the league and just his one appearance in The Finals. He’s fully aware that his third stop has to produce some hardware or he’s in danger of wearing the label as a underachiever, something most of the great big men before him shed at one time or another during their playing days.

He’ll have all the resources you could ask for in Houston. General Manager Daryl Morey is an innovator and fearless. He’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Howard’s current surroundings are conducive to winning at the highest level. McHale has championship experience that should prove to be invaluable for a post player trying to refine his game and continue to hone his craft at this stage of his career. Harden is a budding star who will take on the late-game, big-shot pressure that Howard has struggled with throughout his career. And Parsons and Lin lead a supporting cast willing to do whatever is needed to make sure the Rockets’ biggest stars have a drama-free work environment.

It’s up to Howard now. He can’t blame his franchise, the front office, coach, teammates or anyone else for his shortcomings on the floor. The Rockets made a commitment to him that he must now reciprocate in the form of turning back the clock and playing the dominant force he was as recently as three years ago.

I know it seems like an eternity to some of you, but the man averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as recently as three years ago. We’re not talking about some fading star who’s seen his best days. Howard is just 27 and he’s only begun what should be the prime of his career.

He’s smiling because he knows that, because he realizes that this “fresh start” he’s getting in Houston could serve as the spark he needs to shake off the past two years and return to his rightful place as the best and most dominant big man in the league, not only in the eyes of a few, but in the eyes of everyone.

No words will convince the masses, though. Only actions will suffice.

That smile, the genuine one, is a start.

But it’s only the beginning.

The heavy lifting is on the way.

With Rockets, Howard’s Future Is Now


— The potential of youth and talk of a bright future were definitely served in the dinnertime pitch to Dwight Howard upon the opening of free agency.

But the Rockets are also delivering the message that they can be immediate championship contenders if the seven-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year makes the move to Texas.

While the Houston contingent included Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and a long-distance Skype call from Yao Ming as links to the franchise’s past, the emphasis was placed on how quickly Howard could return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2009 (when he led the Magic in a five-game series loss to the Lakers).

That’s where all of the horse-trading and maneuvering done by general manager Daryl Morey over the past several years could pay off with the biggest dividend. Even after the Rockets dealt second-year forward Thomas Robinson to Portland to clear the necessary salary cap space to make Howard a four-year, $87 million maximum contract offer, Morey has positioned the Rockets to add more than just Howard to next season’s roster.

Through salary cap exceptions and future Draft picks they hold, the Rockets can build around the core of a young lineup of Howard, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik with the kind of experienced, veteran talent that could solidify the team in the playoffs.

Chances are, none of the other contenders in the Fight for Dwight could look Howard in the eye and tell him that he’d have a real shot at squaring off against LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Heat next June.

The Hawks do not possess the second elite-level player the Rockets have in Harden. The Warriors would have to work a sign-and-trade agreement with the Lakers to offer Howard a max contract and, in doing so, would probably have to shed the kind of teammates that would attract Howard.

Even in Dallas, owner Mark Cuban is admitting that his plan to get back into championship contention would likely take two years. With the aging Lakers, well, the clock just keeps ticking and they have virtually no cap room to boost the roster significantly immediately.

The Rockets are coming off a 45-win season and a first-round playoff series when they pushed No. 1 seed Oklahoma City to six games.

“They’re building something great in Houston,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said after that series.

The key is the bricks are in place to do it right now with Howard.