Posts Tagged ‘Daryl Morey’

Fit Howard Makes For Healthy Start

VIDEO: Dwight Howard has a career night in his Houston debut


HOUSTON — Dwight Howard cleared the rebound off the defensive board, turned quickly and fired a perfect pass to a streaking James Harden that produced a layup that was prettier for its simplicity than any picture hanging in a museum.

This is how it starts.

Never mind that it took until the middle of the fourth quarter in a less-than-stellar team effort against the overmatched Bobcats.

All that mattered was that Howard was finally playing a game for the Rockets that counted in the standings, and for the first time after two tumultuous and dissatisfying seasons, things were different.

Looking dominant.

Having fun.

This was the way that Daryl Morey always hoped and wished it would be over all those months and years when he was trading players and draft picks and office furniture in an attempt to get the kind of super-nova stars in his lineup that would make the Rockets relevant again.

“I was nervous,” admitted the general manager.

It’s one thing to lie awake at night staring at a ceiling filled with fast-breaking fantasies and quite another to roll reality out onto the floor and expect it to work.

It did, if only in fits and start, and based on the overwhelming raw numbers of Howard’s work on the glass and around the basket.

He made eight of 14 shots from the field, blocked two shots and gobbled up 26 hungry rebounds, which equaled his career high.

“I really was trying to get 30,” Howard said. “I wanted to get 30 rebounds. I was upset that I didn’t do it, but I’ll try next time.”

More than numerical goals, it’s the fact that he can try without worrying about the effects of a surgically repaired back or a bad shoulder that make all the things he might do the next time and next time and next time a possibility again.

While he was often maligned a year ago in Los Angeles for an attitude that was less than healthy, beneath it all what was really ailing was Howard’s body. There were times last season with the Lakers when he would see the basketball bounce off the rim and be helpless to go and get it.

“Oh yeah, my mind was at the ball, but my body was still on the other side,” Howard said. “I couldn’t do it. I’m a lot healthier than I was last season and that comes from all the work I put in this summer to get my body back right. My teammates need me to rebound and be a dominant force on both ends. I’m healthier and I’m able and willing to do it.”

When asked to rate his health on a scale of 1-10, he called this an 8.

Maybe it would never have worked on the Lakers with Howard and Kobe Bryant constantly clashing their styles and their egos. But the fact that a quick, explosive, 6-foot-11 jumping jack was never fully fit to play certainly played into the disappointment.

“He’s the elite basket protector in the league when he’s healthy,” said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who was an assistant on the staff when Howard was in Orlando and was Mike D’Antoni’s No. 1 aide last year in L.A. “I’ve gone through stretches of two-three weeks when we were in Orlando where he just dominated the game.

“Watching him on film and talking to him, I just think he feels a lot healthier. He’s moving a lot better and he’s playing with great energy. He’s such a physical force and he’s also a very smart player that when he’s right — and right now it looks like he is — he can impact every play at both ends of the floor.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt that in the Rockets’ twin towers lineup with rim protector and rebound collector Omer Asik at center Howard is free to be as relentless and aggressive as he would like. But mostly it doesn’t hurt that Howard just doesn’t hurt.

The legend of the summertime workouts with Houston legend and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon might grow into bigger difference-making myths than Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox if the Rockets become everything they hope to be by going deep into the playoffs, maybe even all the way to June.

“He never last year moved like he’s moving now,” Clifford said. “He’s looking like a different guy. With all the frustrations that everybody had to deal with there last year…he’s got pride and he had played at a level in Orlando that he could physically never get to last year (in L.A.). I think that’s where it all started.

“People can say whatever they want about our team last year, but those guys fought hard. (Howard) could have sat out. We went 28-12 the last 40 games with our backs to the wall, playing every night to get to the playoffs. Those guys did a great job and he was right in the middle of it. He didn’t give in. Again, until Kobe got hurt, I think we were the team people were saying, ‘Man, I’m not sure I want to match up with them’ when we were seventh or eighth. Because we were playing well at that point.”

But it ended with Bryant watching from the locker room, having earlier torn his Achilles’ tendon and with Howard getting tossed out of the final game of a desultory first-round playoff sweep by the Spurs. Then after the celebrated recruiting pitch by a handful of teams, it ended with Howard choosing this new beginning in Houston, where a fan base that had suffered through nearly two decades of mediocrity was waiting.

“I was ready to go,” Howard said. “That was it. But I didn’t have any butterflies. I’ve been in the league for a while now, so to me it’s just one of 82, but it’s very important that we get off to a good start.

“I didn’t try to think that way, because I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on myself. I just want to go out there and play, have fun and get back to being who I am as a player. I think when you focus too much on…what everybody else is saying, that’s when don’t play like you want to play. To me, I just want to be free to play, rebound, block shots, score in the post and make my teammates better. And have fun doing it. These guys, they look up to me, and me and James are going to lead this team in the right direction.”

This is how it starts.

Healthy Howard Is Aiming Big


It was just one play among the dozens that were run during a week of pickup games and drills during an informal week of basketball in the mountains of Colorado.

Dwight Howard spun and broke toward the basket and Jeremy Lin heaved a pass that got away from him. Everybody in the gym thought the ball was sailed too high and was out of bounds.

But there went Howard rising up, higher and higher, like a ski lift during the winter season at Aspen. He snagged the ball out of the thin air and slammed it through the hoop.

“I was in awe,” Lin said. “I didn’t think there was any way he could get to that ball.”

Weeks later, Howard is still chuckling at the memory and nodding his head about what it could mean for the Rockets this season.

“He (Lin) was in shock that I actually caught it,” Howard said. “He hadn’t seen it. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that stuff.”

A year after back surgery forced him to practically limp into training camp for his season of darkness in Los Angeles, the 27-year-old says he’s feeling close to his old form.

“As you know, health is very important, not just to basketball players, but everyday life,” Howard said on Media Day at the Toyota Center. “For me, being healthy is gonna bring back a lot of the things I’ve been able to do in the past. I’m very excited about that. I think my health is coming back. I’m getting some of the bounce back in my legs.”

Howard chose not to look back at the season of disappointment and recrimination with the Lakers.

“There’s no need to get into that,” he said. “Every city is different. I like the people here. They’re great. They’ve treated me well, embraced me.

“The situation in L.A., it’s over with. It didn’t work out for both sides. So we have to move on. It happens in everyday life. People decide to do different things with their lives. It’s just that you’re in the NBA, at the top of your game and everybody wants to know what you’re doing. It is what it is.

“For anybody’s team to be successful, you have to have a great environment. You don’t want to work in a bad place. What happened in L.A. was just unfortunate. We were plagued by injuries last season and things that happened just happened. Like I said, it’s over. It’s done with. You can’t go back. I’m in a different place mentally, physically, and spiritually. So I’m looking forward to the season.”

Howard says he’s probably better prepared to handle the scrutiny that will come his way Houston than he was a year ago.

“Being in the NBA and being at the top, you’re gonna be scrutinized for a lot of different things,” he said. “You have to just stay away from it as much as possible. You got to take the good. You got to take the bad. You got to take the ugly and just do the same thing. You just got to go about your business. If you get caught up in the bad and ugly, it messes you up as a person and as a player. I think some of that happened last year. I allowed some of the bad stuff that happened to get in my head. I pushed myself away from people in certain situations. So you have to stay away from all that stuff, the negativity, wherever it may be and just focus on the task at hand.”

He’s heard the increased buzz about the Rockets around the basketball world during the offseason and he’s heard general manager Daryl Morey say that the team’s goal for the season is to secure one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“Seeds don’t matter,” Howard said “We want a championship. It’s the only thing that matters.”

Style Changes On Tap For Rockets

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The most intriguing question about what should be the most intriguing team in the NBA this season has already been answered by the one man who will have the most control over the situation.

Coach Kevin McHale — not Dwight Howard, James Harden or Jeremy Lin — will have the final say on how the Houston Rockets play now that Howard is in the mix. If McHale decides that the Dwight-in-the-middle approach that helped the Orlando Magic to The Finals in 2009 is the way to go, it will be. But if he has other plans, that’s his call, too.

Howard’s coach in Los Angeles last season, Mike D’Antoni, made it clear that he would not change his style fit his superstar personnel. We all know how that turned out for the Lakers.

There will be style changes for the Rockets this season and McHale is already laying the groundwork in advance of the start of training camp. He went into detail with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Q. A lot of last season’s success was based on the team’s clearly understanding how it needed to play. Can there be carryover, or do you have to change how this team needs to play?

A. I think we’re going to play basically the same style. We have to get better defensively, and with Dwight we have to have more of an emphasis on trying to get the ball in the post. Through Dwight running and Dwight doing different things, I think we can do that without really having to change our identity. We still want to get the ball up and down the floor. We still want to be aggressive and run and attack offensively. I think we have two of the top rim protectors in Dwight and Omer [Asik], so we have to use those guys. I’d like to use them together. It gives us a chance to have a defensive presence and run off our defense a little more. Our style will change a little bit because our personnel changes, but it won’t change dramatically. At least I hope it doesn’t.

Q. You put so much emphasis on spacing the floor last season with range shooting. Are you confident you can play Dwight and Omer together?

A. I’m definitely going to give it a shot. Your job is to try to put your best players on the floor. Omer is one of our best players. We have to figure out how we’re going to get him on the floor. That’s going to be a big thing where we’re able to get them on the floor together. We’ll rebound very well. They have to space each other. There’s going to be some challenges. I’m really looking forward to see. I want it to work. We’ll see if it does work.

Even better than McHale’s brutal honesty about how things will have to change for the Rockets is his no-nonsense approach for Asik (or anyone else) who isn’t ready to adapt to whatever style changes are coming:

Q. Have you had a chance to see how Omer feels about the addition of Dwight?

A. I have not.

Q. Are you concerned about how he reacts to all this? There were indications he was not happy about having another center coming in.

A. I didn’t know Omer was the general manager. That surprises me. He’s a player. His job is to come in and play. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk with him about all that, but Daryl (Morey‘s) job is to try to improve the team. Omer’s job is not to wonder how that affects him. His job is to figure out how they can play together and be effective.

If things don’t go as planned this season in Houston, it won’t be for the lack of clarity on the front end. McHale’s making it easy for everyone on the roster to stay in their lanes this season and let things evolve naturally.

Any tweaks to the way the Rockets play will handled accordingly, by the man in charge.

Summer Dreaming: Executive Of The Year


HANG TIME, Texas – Never mind that the weather map says it’ s hurricane season. This is the time of year when there are nothing but blue skies over every NBA franchise from Miami to Portland to Los Angeles to Toronto.

Draft picks have been chosen and brought into camp. Free agents have been signed and trotted out for the TV cameras. Trades have been made to fill holes in the lineups. It’s a time for championship planning among the elite class and fantasizing about moving up by the wannabes.

But the truth is that, despite so much spin doctoring that comes out of all the front offices, there are a handful of team presidents and general managers that made the most of the offseason. That’s why we don’t have to wait till next April — or even the season openers — to know who’ll be taking bows for their work. They’re our summer dreaming picks for Executive of the Year:

Daryl Morey, Rockets – Unless Dwight Howard wakes up one morning and declares it was all a mistake — that he really loved having Kobe Bryant as a playmate, that he thoroughly enjoyed Mike D’Antoni’s offense and that he never, ever meant to leave those clever recruiting banners in L.A. — this is as sure a thing as Usain Bolt outrunning a lead-boot-wearing Charles Barkley. If Howard stays healthy, he and fellow All-Star James Harden will team up to make the Rockets instant challengers for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference and could even be a dark horse contender to advance all the way to The Finals. But before they even chalk up one “W” in the standings, Morey has put a headlock on the award simply by making the Rockets franchise relevant again for the first time in years. After drifting on a sea of anonymity and mediocrity since the star-crossed Tracy McGrady-Yao Ming pairing came undone, the Rockets are back in the spotlight. A year ago, they were on national TV once. Now they have 10 appearances on ESPN, nine on TNT, one on ABC and even made it into the Christmas lineup with a date at San Antonio.

Billy King, Nets – It’s like walking into a casino with a sack full of money, walking straight to the roulette table and plopping it all down on red. Or black. Either way, it’s a 50-50 gamble and you live with the results. King certainly has the cushion and the endorsement of Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokorhov and the understanding that paying the luxury tax bill of nearly $100 million is no problem. Still, it takes considerable nerve for King to bet it all on the hope that a 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 35-year-old Paul Pierce, 35-year-old Jason Terry and a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd can take down the two-time defending champs from Miami along with the rest of what has become a strengthened Eastern Conference lineup. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were enough to make Brooklyn a postseason sports destination for the first time since the Dodgers left town, but now it’s the old Celtics who’ll be expected to show them how to win a series or more. To get Andrei Kirilenko to walk away from a guaranteed $10 million to sign a cut-rate deal was probably the second-best move of the entire NBA offseason, trailing only Dwight Howard’s move to Houston. Kirilenko adds a tough defender and a slashing finisher to a lineup that hopes to have Brook Lopez improving on his first ever All-Star season. If he’s accomplished one big thing already, King has jumped the Nets over the Knicks as the headlining team in New York, which is signficant.

Chris Grant, Cavaliers – Things have changed considerably since that first summer on the job as GM when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach and the temptation might have been to turn out the lights and simply declare the NBA party in Cleveland over. Grant has steadily reassembled the franchise one piece at time to a point where people are whispering that it’s not out of the question to think James could return next summer when he becomes a free agent. Before that, the Cavs figure to have a resurgent seasons between their splendid young point guard Kyrie Irving and all the other pieces that Grant has put around him. Anthony Bennett may have been a bit of a surprise on draft night, but should fill a need on the front line and free agent signee Jarrett Jack will be both a firecracker lift off the bench. Of course, the big bonanza would be if free agent Andrew Bynum can overcome the knee injuries that left him notable only for sitting on bench modeling outrageous hairstyles last season in Philly. A return to the form that once made him an All-Star with the Lakers makes Grant a genius and, even if Bynum falls short, the Cavs have not made a long crippling financial commitment to the gamble. And don’t forget to give Grant credit for not listening to the suggestions that he should have traded Anderson Varejao. The Cavs will likely make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference and, depending on how bright the future looks next spring, could turn the head of a familiar figure to come home.

Joe Dumars, Pistons – Let’s face it. The Hall of Fame guard-turned-GM has taken his fair share of abuse through recent seasons for allowing the once-proud franchise to drift way out of the playoff picture and even have trouble drawing crowds to The Palace. Was it a curse for making Darko Mlicic the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade? Then there was that disastrous free agent splurge on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009. But lately Dumars has been making a comeback, drafting a pair of big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who have the potential to anchor the Pistons front line for years to come. He made his biggest play in signing free agent Josh Smith, hoping that the stat-line filler can step into the role of No. 1 option and even team leader. Then Dumars traded for Brandon Jennings with hope that he can be both reined in and unleashed and brought home former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to show him how. Mo Cheeks gets his third shot as a head coach and it’s all a mix that could put the Pistons back in the playoffs.

Dell Demps, Pelicans – The easier path for Demps would have been to keep Nerlens Noel when the big man fell into his lap at the No. 6 pick and keep on selling a theme of acquiring young assets and building for the future. But with a new team name, new franchise colors and a new owner (Tom Benson) writing the checks, it was a time for a new and bolder direction. The young and oh-so-slender Noel was deemed too much duplication on the front line with 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and was trade to Philly for 23-year-old guard Jrue Holiday, who puts the only All-Star credentials in the New Orleans lineup. Demps then kept dealing to bring more firepower into the lineup with former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans. Of course, that immediately brought talk of a crowded backcourt with Eric Gordon still on hand, but Demps and coach Monty Williams are betting that a three-man rotation cannot only thrive, but put some punch into what was a thoroughly mediocre offense last season. Assuming Davis takes another big step forward in his second season, the Pelicans could contend for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

PREVIOUSLY: Comeback player | MVP | Coach of the Year | Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Buss, Lakers Need To Let Dwight Go


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sooner or later, the Los Angeles Lakers will move on from the pain and suffering associated with the brief Dwight Howard era — later being the operative word here. Because once again, the drama is being stirred by someone in the Lakers’ camp in regards to Howard and just how authentic a Laker he was in his one season in L.A.

Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss fires the latest verbal shot at Howard in an article in The Hollywood Reporter by Ric Bucher that examines the fabled franchise and their current state of affairs in the post-Dr. Jerry Buss era. Times have certainly changed:

Jim insists he’s just following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a page. Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored “Stay” on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. “He was never really a Laker,” says Jim. “He was just passing through.”

Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. “It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,” she says. “I feel like we failed him.”

Clearly, Jim, Jeanie Buss, Kobe Bryant, Magic JohnsonPhil Jackson and anyone else who has ever been associated with the franchise is being asked about Howard incessantly. A simple no comment is in order now. The continued examination and assault on Howard’s character has bordered on ridiculous for weeks now.

Bottom line: the Lakers aren’t doing themselves any favors by answering every question about Howard. He’s moved on to whatever the future holds in Houston. The Lakers need to move on as well. They need to let him go, set themselves free from this drama and concentrate all of their effort on the very real rebuilding campaign that needs to be begin with training camp.

And for the record, they knew that there was a very real possibility that Dwight was “just passing through” when they acquired him via that blockbuster trade last summer. There was always that inherent risk with a player with Howard’s track record. Their miscalculations, their choices (Mike D’Antoni over Jackson to replace coach Mike Brown) are what made the situation untenable for Howard when free agency hit. So blaming him in hindsight for not falling for the disingenuous “stick around, we love you” campaign is weak.

This talk now is just as beneath the Lakers as the whole billboard campaign was when they were trying to convince Howard to stay.

To her credit, Jeanie Buss takes a much more measured approach to this whole thing and it is her words, her tact and, ultimately, her voice that should rule the day inside the franchise on Howard. I’m sure her sensibilities were offended when Howard spurned the Lakers for the Rockets. But you can tell by her response. She insists that the Lakers somehow didn’t handle their business the way should have, the way they would have if her father was spearheading the recruiting charge.

She’s right. Things likely would have been different.

But the Lakers cannot dwell on what might have been anymore. They have to move on and get back to the grind, the same way Howard has in Houston with Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale.

The Lakers need to let Dwight go once and for all.

‘The Lockout: A Musical’ Makes Light Of NBA Business-As-Usual

Had this one been in the pile of bad plays through which Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom sifted for their surefire money-loser in “The Producers,” they might never have read down to “Springtime for Hitler.” Conceiving, writing and scoring a story based on one of the NBA’s most acrimonious and regrettable episodes, and producing it as “The Lockout: A Musical,” seems about as ill-advised as bottling and marketing Shaq’s perspiration as Eau de O’Neal at fragrance counters everywhere.

The NBA lockout that delayed the start of the 2011-12 season until Christmas wasn’t much fun for anyone. Big basketball vs. big labor, it featured seemingly endless rounds of wrangling and posturing in Manhattan hotel ballrooms, various shades of purple rhetoric, the loss of 240 regular season games and discarded pizza boxes emptied by sportswriters, courtesy of sportswriters in other cities, who found solidarity through bad takeout food.

Lord Lloyd Webber himself, had he stumbled into a grim session between David Stern, Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and the rest, wouldn’t have sniffed the inspiration for a musical comedy. So what were Ben Fort and Jason Gallagher thinking when they veered into hoops labor strife with a story they already had been writing?

“We always wanted to something sports-related,” said Gallagher, who teams with Fort in the Chicago production company Six Hours Short and also operates the NBA humor site “Originally the story was going to be based around free agency – we were observing LeBron James’ ‘decision,’ which was absurd, and some of the even more absurd contracts that went to other players that summer. Then [one year later] the lockout happened.”

That became the backdrop of what Fort and Gallagher describe as “the budding bromance of an owner and player who find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter labor dispute.” In story and song, they tell the tale of Phil Goodman, owner of the fictional NBA Wichita Water, and a zero-time All-Star player named Macon Jones. James’ name actually gets mentioned in the show, Gallagher said, but the other characters are all originals or composites based on various NBA archetypes.

There is, for instance, a Joe Johnson-like character, as in a grossly overpaid good-but-not-great star. There’s an aging, grizzled vet and players association stalwart loosely based on Fisher and a female team executive who exhibits traits of Houston GM Daryl Morey. Because the Illum character – whose tale took over from Jones’ as the primary focus as the play was crafted — is written as a “really lovable” team owner, Fort and Gallagher obviously had to concoct that guy from scratch (kidding!).

“The other 29 are talked of as Prince-of-Darkness type owners, but we wanted our lead to be this dim-witted but good-hearted guy,” Gallagher said. “We try to show the backlash when someone signs a deal that everyone hates. But we said, what if these are really good people doing it? We wanted to humanize it.”

Gallagher said that the first act, thus, is mostly about free agency. The second act plunges the characters into the lockout, giving it what the co-writer said is a “ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ flavor. The player and the team owner really like each other but they can’t even talk to each other because of the lockout.”

There is a Commissioner character who also has villainous overtones, but he deftly is not named Stern. And Gallagher said the NBA has checked in on the production, apparently signing off enough that deputy commissioner Adam Silver joked that he’s fine with it as long as he’s played “by Denzel.”

A 12-song, original cast recording already is available for download. Directed by Joe Giovanetti, “The Lockout: A Musical” will have its world premiere Aug. 23 at the American Theater Company in Chicago and run through Sept. 15. Ticket prices and more information is available at the Web site. And rest assured that HTB will have a critic in the balcony to report back on this pebble-grained production, which might find its spot among other great basketball-themed stage presentations, such as “Twelve Angry Men,” “Waiting for D.Rose” and “A Streetcar Named World Peace.”

The 10 Most Productive Teams Of The Offseason

By Jonathan Hartzell,

The 2013 NBA offseason is nearly half over and with most of the major free agents signed, the winners and losers of the offseason have emerged. It should be noted however that last year’s major moves didn’t stop until two days before the season began when the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So while a lot still can change, here are the 10 teams who’ve had the most productive offseasons so far:

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie and Nerlens Noel.

Sam Hinkie added young talent like Nerlens Noel this offseaon.

Additions: Nerlens Noel, Royce White, James Anderson, Michael Carter-Williams

Subtractions: Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Dorell Wright

Overview: The major move of the Sixers’ offseason occurred in mid-May when they announced the hire of Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager. Hinkie comes from the Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s school of basketball operations and the moves he’s made so far this offseason signal a similar approach. The Sixers have acquired young talent, added draft picks, and assured they will be one of the worst teams in the league next season before what should be one of the best draft classes in years. They’re rebuilding the right way and the benefits should be apparent in a few seasons.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Additions: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Ronny Turiaf, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad

Subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma, Luke Ridnour

Overview: The Timberwolves made their already high-power offense even more dangerous this offseason when they acquired Martin and Brewer and resigned Chase Budinger. Point guard Ricky Rubio will now have plenty of 3-point options strolling around the perimeter and the return of Kevin Love should place Minnesota back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They are still in negotiations with center Nikola Pekovic, who is a restricted free agent and his resigning will be critical to the team’s success as their defense would struggle to survive without his presence.

Indiana Pacers

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers' bench.

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers’ bench.

Additions: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, Donald Sloan, C.J. Watson, Solomon Hill

Subtractions: D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Overview: The Pacers accomplished objective number one of their offseason when they quickly resigned power forward David West. Since they locked him up, the Pacers have been busy adding depth to their bench. Watson and Sloan shore up the guard position and the recent acquisition of Scola gives them one of the best bench big men in the league. They’re stockpiling talent for hopefully another battle against the Miami Heat in next season’s conference finals and, so far, they look to be doing a pretty good job at it.

Golden State Warriors

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal

Subtractions: Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Carl Landry

Overview: The Warriors addition of Iguodala makes them an impressively deep team as emerging contributor Harrison Barnes will most likely move to the bench and provide a spark with the second unit. The loss of Jack will definitely impact the team, but Douglas should be able to lessen the blow. This team is still led by oft-hurt players and their success will be directly linked to their relative health. But if they can stay healthy, then the Warriors should be a contender in the Western Conference.

Phoenix Suns

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Caron Butler, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Subtractions: Jared Dudley, Luis Scola

Overview: The Suns were able to wrangle Bledsoe away from the Los Angeles Clippers and now they have a young, exciting point guard for the future. The unloading of Scola also brought in young talent and picks to help the Suns gain some of the best roster flexibility in the league. The Suns, who most likely will struggle this season,  will be an interesting team in a few years under new head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Additions: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev

Subtractions: Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington, Omri Casspi

Overview: The Cavaliers “won” the Bynum free agency sweepstakes and they seem determined to make a playoff push this season under new head coach Mike Brown. They made a surprise move when they drafted Bennett with the first overall pick, but his potential and play style is exactly what this roster needs. If All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and Bynum can stay healthy, then the Cavaliers should be able to work their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Brooklyn Nets

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Additions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee

Subtractions: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks

Overview: It would be an understatement to say the Nets are going for it this season. Brooklyn made the biggest splash of the offseason when they acquired Pierce and Garnett from the Boston Celtics and they now seem ready to become a contender under rookie head coach Jason Kidd. This is still an old team which could breakdown at any time and they gave up a lot of draft picks to make this roster possible. But the Nets will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference if the roster meshes quickly and point guard Deron Williams returns to the All-NBA level play he’s displayed during short stretches in Brooklyn.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

Additions: Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Dennis Schroeder, Lucas Nogueira, Mike Muscala

Subtractions: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Devin Harris

Overview: The Hawks may not be much better than they were last year, but their roster is unquestionably in a better position than a year ago. The Hawks were able to resign Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to reasonable deals, let Smith and his questionable shooting walk to Detroit, agreed to two of the best deals of the summer with Millsap and Brand, and they drafted two exciting young prospects in Schroeder and Nogueira. Atlanta quietly had one of the best offseasons in the league and fans of the Hawks should be excited about their future.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

Additions: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Reggie Bullock

Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf

Overview: The Clippers were able to negotiate one of the best non-player acquisitions of the summer when they worked out a deal with the Celtics for head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers will act as both head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers and his leadership already made an impact when Chris Paul quickly decided to resign with the team. The loss of Bledsoe was an unavoidable disappointment, but the addition of sharp-shooters Redick and Dudley will help improve the Clippers’ sometimes stagnant half-court offense . This team will be a contender in the Western Conference if not for unforeseen circumstances.

Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Additions: Dwight Howard, Omri Caspi, Marcus Camby, Isaiah Canaan, Reggie Williams

Subtractions: Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson

Overview: The free-agent prize of the summer found a new home in Houston when Howard agreed to a contract with the Rockets. The dominant-when-healthy center instantly makes the Rockets a title contender and he should be able to grow with James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik. The past year has been a master-class in rebuilding by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey as he turned young talent and picks into two superstars. Besides the loss of Robinson, the Rockets were able to get significantly better this offseason without hurting their future and that’s a rare thing to do in today’s NBA.

New Breed Of GM Ushers In New Coaches


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – At, the eight men who will make their NBA head coaching debuts next season are being profiled. Today’s feature is Boston Celtics youngblood Brad Stevens.

Eight rookie head coaches in one season is a notable development in a league known for recycling the position (depending on Philadelphia’s hire the number could reach nine).

Consider that last season’s Coach of the Year and 25-year bench boss, George Karl, is out of work, as is Lionel Hollins, who molded a 24-win team when he took over into a Western Conference finalist last season. In Denver, Brian Shaw has been awarded his first head-coaching gig and in Memphis, Hollins’ top assistant, Dave Joerger, is being given his first shot.

So why are teams suddenly investing in new blood? Is it simply cost-cutting? Is it a belief that new ideas, concepts and techniques are needed to sustain success in today’s game?

“For me, as a first-time GM, and where we are, we need to build something in Phoenix and I wanted to give a guy a chance who maybe hadn’t  been a head coach before,” said recently hired general manager Ryan McDonough, who chose Jeff Hornacek to lead the Suns. “I considered guys who had been coaches before, but the vast majority of candidates I interviewed had assistant coaching experience, but had never been NBA coaches before.”

The words to highlight: “…as a first-time GM…” This summer’s coaching evolution is due, in no small part, to a mounting front-office revolution. More franchises are handing the keys to bright, young minds to make decisions on player evaluation and acquisition.

McDonough, 33, represents the next-generation of NBA general managers — or perhaps more accurately, the now-generation. They’re salary-cap educated, savvy, motivated and highly invested in advanced metrics and new technologies sweeping the league. They don’t have on-court pedigrees like their predecessors, but they have tirelessly worked their way up through video rooms and scouting departments of NBA franchises. Evaluating a player’s skill, versatility and potential goes hand-in-hand with assessing his dollar value under today’s salary-cap, tax-heavy collective bargaining agreement.

McDonough hired assistant GM Pat Connelly, the younger brother of Tim Connelly, the recently hired 36-year-old executive vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets. Tim Connelly hired the first-timer Shaw, a tag-team that will learn the ropes together.

“I don’t think it will be a difficult transition,” said Tim Connelly, who replaced Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri, just 39 when the Nuggets promoted the former international scout to general manager in 2010. Ujiri now heads the Toronto Raptors’ front office. “There’s only 30 people with these jobs and we’re both [he and Shaw] fortunate to take over a team that’s had a lot of regular-season success.”

Of the eight rookie head coaches, three were hired by first-time general managers. In the case of Sacramento’s Mike Malone, he was hired by still-newbie owner Vivek Ranadive, who then hired first-time general manager Pete D’Allesandro, 45.

“When I was in Boston,” said McDonough, who worked under Celtics general manager Danny Ainge for a decade, “I kind of always had it in my mind that if I got a GM job I would give a first-time head coach a chance.”

In Memphis, CEO Jason Levien, 40, took control of personnel decisions last season. He parted ways with Hollins and promoted Joerger. Last summer, Orlando chose Rob Hennigan, 31, as GM to consummate a trade for Dwight Howard and reshape the team. Hennigan hired first-time coach Jacque Vaughn. Hennigan’s former boss is Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti, who was also 30 when he took charge of the then-Seattle SuperSonics. Presti hired first-time coach Scott Brooks to lead the Thunder.

In Dallas, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, the longtime Mavericks decision-makers, surprisingly hired Gerrson Rosas, 35, away from Daryl Morey‘s front office with the Houston Rockets to serve as general manager.

Major League Baseball first embraced the analytics movement so prevalent in today’s NBA, and also seems to have cracked the door for the NBA’s front-office youth movement. The Boston Red Sox made then-28-year-old Theo Epstein the youngest GM in baseball history. Epstein built a powerhouse that ended the infamous “Curse of the Bambino” with two World Series titles. The Texas Rangers soon hired Jon Daniels, who was also 28 when he took control. During his tenure, the Rangers made both of the franchise’s World Series appearances.

The old-school GM played the game and then moved “upstairs.” As precision dollar allotment continues to play a larger role in overall player evaluation, the position is trending toward sharp, young minds, students of the game who never actually played in the NBA, and were only learning how to read when Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was in his prime.

Camby A Smart Move By Rockets


HANG TIME, Texas – It’s quite possible the Rockets won’t trade Omer Asik before the season opens, meaning that newly signed Marcus Camby could join a rather crowded stable of centers.

Dwight Howard, you might have heard, has moved to Houston. Asik is coming off a season in which he put up a double-double average, and Greg Smith has come out of the NBA D-League to show his mettle in the middle.

Therefore, it’s possible that, barring a significant injury to someone else, the 39-year-old Camby could wind up seeing less time on the court next season than when he played an average of just 10 minutes in 24 games a year ago with the Knicks.

Yet it is a solid and smart move nonetheless for a Rockets team that is clearly moving into another stage. Gone are the days when general manager Daryl Morey practically scoured junior high playgrounds for young talent to fill out a roster that he was constantly turning over.

The Rockets have jumped squarely into the Western Conference playoff dogfight and the importance now is in filling up the vacant spots with tested veterans who can play and lead.

For all the hullaballoo that surrounded his arrival, there is still a big question about Howard. Not concerning his physical skills or athletic talents, but his ability to be a leader on the court and a stabilizing force in the locker room. There will remain the close scrutiny of his boyish (clownish?) behavior until Howard shows that he can be a professional in every way on every night that he pulls on his jersey.

While there was much noise about the Rockets getting Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to sign on officially with the franchise to work as a tutor with the big men, the greatest Rocket ever will still live most of the year overseas in Amman, Jordan, and have his biggest effect on Howard during offseason workouts. Olajuwon will not be on the practice floor or in the locker room every day and each night of the long season to give lessons in how a franchise player comports himself.

That’s where Camby fits in: As a veteran entering his 18th season, as a well-regarded teammate who can be there in a pinch in certain games situations, but more important to be there on a daily basis to lead by example.

That role was played for two-plus seasons in Houston by the venerable Dikembe Mutombo at the end of this career. He stepped into the brink on plenty of occasions for the often-injured Yao Ming, but his greatest contribution was simply with his presence, which commanded respect.

That’s not to suggest that Howard will follow Camby up and down the court like a young pup. But even if he rarely plays, it never hurts to have an old dog around who can teach a few tricks — and lead by example.

Cuban Hires GM And Goes Scientific?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Listening to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explain the hiring of new general manager Gerrson Rosas, it’s difficult to tell whetherCuban is restructuring his front office or opening a sports science clinic that Major League Baseball might want to investigate.

Cuban made an appearance on the team’s flagship radio station, ESPN Dallas, and confirmed Rosas’ hiring first reported Monday by Yahoo Sports.

He said the hire had little to do with the former Houston Rockets executive’s role under analytics-driven general manager Daryl Morey in enabling the franchise to trade for James Harden and to acquire free agent Dwight Howard, or with the Mavs’ failures to land a top free agent in consecutive summers.

An exuberant Cuban said Rosas, 35, will provide day-to-day organization and management to the front office as the owner seeks to “push the envelope” in new technology areas, including an expansion of traditional analytics to what Cuban termed “bio-analytics.”

Cuban said that means exploration into areas such as “genetic testing to blood analysis and performance technology,” apparently in an effort to better evaluate players.

“If you want to keep pushing the envelope in new technology areas to give us an edge, you’ve got to hire somebody who has experience in managing those kinds of things,” Cuban said. “We really needed somebody with stronger organizational and management skills.”

Rosas, 35, Cuban said, will report to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who previously also held the title of GM. Cuban said he, Nelson and Rosas could all handle potential trade talks with other general managers and discussions with agents depending on which one has the best relationship with that particular GM or agent. Cuban said it was his idea to seek a general manager “to get smarter as an organization” and said he implored Nelson to find the right person for the job.

“We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams out there in all of professional sports, not just the NBA,” Cuban said. “And to keep on pushing the envelope in the direction I wanted to go, we wanted to add not just brain power, but organizational, management and process power.”

Part of that plan, Cuban also announced, was to fire 10-year strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett. Cuban said the right candidate will be “more of an expert in performance technology science.”

Who knows where Cuban’s “bio-analytics” experiment leads, perhaps to clones of the 2011 title team. But no doubt he’s hard-charging technology efforts. He recently awarded $100,000 to biomechanics experts at SMU to research flopping.

Rosas will best serve the Mavs by keeping a sharp focus on streamlining the operation. Both Cuban and Nelson have their hands in plenty of cookie jars. Cuban is an involved investor in a gaggle of businesses, including many of his own, and he’s committed to the popular television show “Shark Tank.” Nelson is co-owner of the D-League Texas Legends and also has outside business interests, while also serving as a nightly ambassador to VIP guests at both Mavs and Legends home games.

“It gives us one more smart person to interact with and help us make smarter decisions,” Cuban said of Rosas.

Bio-analtycis aside, fans just know the team has faltered fast and the roster has been remade for a second consecutive summer around the 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. Jose CalderonMonta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert are the latest to join Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and the soon-to-be-signed Brandan Wright.

Cuban said his recent comment that drew eye rolls, calling Dallas better off without Howard, was not put in proper context. He said the Mavs wanted Howard, but “failed in that.”

The owner said, with health, his team can be competitive, and said he’s miffed at critics who dismiss Nowitzki’s ability to shoulder this latest collection of talent.

“Like I’ve been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35 and there’s no reason why he can’t be considered in the MVP conversation at 35,” Cuban said. “I can also tell you that the way people are just randomly dismissing him as just being done has been incredible motivation for him as well.”