Posts Tagged ‘Francisco Garcia’

Busy Saturday Of Free-Agent Deals


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Plenty of free-agent action swept through the Association on Saturday, headlined by power forward Josh Smith going to the Detroit Pistons and cashing in on the type of contract he’s dreamed about.

Others also reached verbal agreements with new teams, but keep in mind none of these deals become official until Wednesday when the league’s moratorium on signing new contracts and finalizing proposed trades is lifted.

Some of the other notable activity from Saturday:

  • Earl Watson agreed to a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

McHale To Parsons And A Big Bounce


HOUSTON — This is why Chandler Parsons plays basketball. It’s really why they all play the game.

To have fun.

And there are few things more fun on the court than playing without pressure, without a care, without fear of missing a shot or making a play and with a sense that it’s just your time.

“We’re fully confident that we’re gonna win tomorrow and that we’re gonna take the series,” Parsons said matter-of-factly on Thursday as he stood outside the locker room at the Toyota Center, his eyes dancing, almost bright enough to light the entire hallway.

It wasn’t a boast. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone in an Oklahoma City uniform.

It’s just the feeling that occurs when it seems that everything has suddenly turned your way. Maybe based on the last two games, it has.

History books and the oddsmakers will still tell you that Kevin Durant and the Thunder are the logical favorites to advance.

But sometimes logic doesn’t have any place in these crazy games.

It was a different team, a different time, a different Kevin McHale.

The Celtics had made one slice into what seemed like the 76ers’ insurmountable lead in the 1981 Eastern Conference finals and were going into Game 6 with a chance to tie the series.

“They better win this one, because they know damn well they’re not going to win Game 7,” said the brash 23-year-old rookie power forward.

Boston won Game 6 by two points and then finished off Philly in Game 7 by one.

So now it is 32 years later, coincidentally the uniform number that he wore on his jersey through a Hall of Fame career, and the coach McHale is approaching another Game 6 crossroad with his Rockets against the Thunder Friday night.

But in a different role.

“I was playing and had a lot more confidence back then,” McHale said. “Hey, if it was 1981 and I was still playing this series, I would say the same thing.”

Because you can’t win if you don’t believe and after the Rockets stuck a sock in the mouth of Loud City in Game 5, there is no shortage of faith.

It’s the dynamic of how a series can sometimes work. You can feel the shift, the surge of energy on one side, the planting of doubt on the other.

There were the No. 1 seed Thunder so helpless, so unable to do anything to slow down the No. 8 seed Rockets on Wednesday night that coach Scott Brooks reached into his first aid kit to find a tourniquet and the best he could do was to hack Rockets center Omer Asik and try to stop the flow.

But as happens sometimes on these occasions, the flow was like a wave that might be growing into a tsunami. Asik, a 56 percent free throw shooter, stepped up to the line to stick 8-for-11 free throws in the final six minutes and now here is OKC perhaps feeling the air getting a little thinner and the collars a bit tighter.

The last thing in the world the Thunder need is an all-or-nothing Game 7 on Sunday and all the Rockets want is a chance to walk about onto that court in OKC.

Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverley and Parsons took turns grinning and talking about having fun. That’s not likely a word that’s been tossed around in OKC much over the past few days.

“We’re growing up every game,” Parsons said. “Every day we’re going through this process together and it can only get better from here.

“We got something really special going on right now and I think the world is starting to see it, because we didn’t get as much attention as we think we deserved during the regular season. But now the lights are on and we’re playing well and we’re really shocking people.”

The Rockets aren’t jolting anybody more than the Thunder, who figured to have a much tougher road to the NBA Finals without Russell Westbrook, but not a slog just to escape the first round of the playoffs.

Now suddenly the heavily favored Thunder are walking around as if there’s a boulder on the their backs, while the Rockets are skipping around the schoolyard.

They are a reflecting of their head coach, a personality and ethic forged on the Iron Range of Minnesota, where you work hard and never take anything too seriously. That’s why a skinny kid from Hibbing could lay down the gantlet to Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and the mighty Sixers back in 1981. That’s why a 55-year-old coach can keep pushing and molding and instilling a sense of anything’s possible even in a season when he’s suffered the unspeakable anguish of losing a daughter.

“He’s been awesome,” Parsons said. “He’ll tell you all about his experiences when he was playing. Having a coach that’s been through it, that’s been in the same situation we’re in right now really helps us and gives us that comforting feeling that he knows what he’s talking about.

“I know it’s a serious time and we’re all focused, but he makes you feel comfortable and it’s fun to be around a guy like that instead of being uptight and yelling. He does that, too, but he’s such a nice dude.”

Thirty-two years later, McHale limps around the sidelines like an arthritic crab and is a bit more circumspect with his words.

“I could talk that way,” he said laughing, “when I was young and bouncy.”

That’s a big bounce in Chandler Parsons’ step, which is why the game has never been more fun for the Rockets and why the Thunder should be worried.

Series hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

Ball In Durant’s Hands, Fate In Others


Twelve seconds left in the game and the only way for Francisco Garcia to have gotten any closer to Kevin Durant’s jersey would have been to wear it with him.

This is life now, as far as it goes without Russell Westbrook, for as long as the Thunder can keep going in the playoffs.

OKC has always been a team looking for Durant as the ultimate bailout guy in the final seconds of a game. Trouble is, now the Thunder pretty much need him to be loading, pulling and driving their wagon from opening tip to the final horn.

Yes, Durant got a luxurious six minutes of rest in Game 4 on Monday night, but he still had to make 12 of 16 shots, score 38 points, grab eight rebounds and deal six assists just to give his team an opportunity to flub the final possession.

Without Westbrook on the court, there is nobody else to simply step in and step up and make the plays at both ends of the floor that can change the tide and halt momentum. He couldn’t be a game-changer on defense when the Rockets were scoring 38 points in the third quarter and he couldn’t be the difference maker when OKC was scoring only 19 points in the fourth.

There are no more “Gipper Games” left in OKC’s locker room as it tries to rally round its fallen buddy. Now the Thunder have to live with the reality of being without their unpredictable lightning bolt if they are going to follow through on those plans to get back to the NBA Finals.

“It was a different feeling, for sure,” backup forward Nick Collison said. “I think for us, we have to be able to get over that. Russ is not going to be with us in the playoffs. It can’t always be this emotional ‘Win one for Russell’ for us because it’s too much an emotional roller coaster.

“I think for us we have to focus on what we’re doing on the court, getting ready to play and take a business-like approach to these games. Still have the emotion you need for a playoff game, but really focus on what we need to do on the floor.”

Quite simply, the margin for error to make a serious reach for the Larry O’Brien Trophy is the kind usually familiar to only the bomb squad and the Wallenda Family.

The Game 4 score when the Thunder lineup was on the floor was 31-14 in favor of Houston. The rest of the combinations beat the Rockets 89-74.

A couple of questions: How many times can OKC get away with such insignificant production from the starters? Can the reserves deliver consistently enough to tip-toe through the minefield of four full playoff rounds?

As splendid as he is and as many clouds as Durant may be able to scrape with his soaring talent level, it’s going to take much more Serge Ibaka (eight points), Kendrick Perkins (zero), Thabo Sefolosha (five) and Collison (three) to keep rowing the Thunder ship through the deeper waters. The Rockets are young and athletic and play with the abandon of a shirts-and-skins game on the playground, but they are no real threat to beat the Thunder in a seven-game series. That will come when they have to body up against the bruising Grizzlies or lobbing Clippers in the next round or the much deeper Spurs in the Western Conference finals, if they make it that far.

If the Thunder are going to stay afloat, they have to do it with the unlikely combination of the second-year man Reggie Jackson and 38-year-old veteran Derek Fisher manning the point. Jackson score 18 points before seeming to run out of gas at the end, while Fisher kept advancing the AARP cause by knocking down four 3-pointers.

While playing the point-forward position may give Durant a better view of where he can create his own scoring chances, the Thunder can’t let it come at the expense of not producing enough offense of their own.

Durant is young and willing with the legs and spirit that are capable to play virtually from start to finish every time out from here to June, if that’s what it takes. Nobody doubts that he can deliver individually. But in the end, how he can take them is not in his hands.

Series hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

Rockets Answer Is Growin’ In the Win

HOUSTON — Somewhere down the line, they might look back at it like a pencil mark drawn on the garage wall.

Perhaps one day they’ll pull it out of the back of the closet and shake their heads and smile at the memory of a favorite old pair of pants that no longer covers their ankles.

If the grand and glorious night in the future eventually comes when the confetti is falling, the triumphant music is blaring and commissioner Adam Silver is presenting the gold championship trophy up on the podium to their free agent acquisition Dwight Howard, they’ll know this is where it began.


The Rockets shot up like weeds through cracks in the sidewalk, tripping the Thunder 105-103, also bringing down the nagging notion that they didn’t have the right stuff to finish.

It’s said that you have to crawl before you learn to walk and the Rockets had the scabs on their knees to prove it, having fallen into an 0-3 hole largely because they tumbled over the cliff late in each of the previous two games.

But this was a night when OKC’s splendid splinter Kevin Durant couldn’t get another four-bounce prayer to be answered because Patrick Beverley stepped in to take a charge in the clutch, because the hair shirt that was Francisco Garcia itched and wouldn’t let K.D. get off a winning 3-pointer and because Omer Asik stepped out to cut off a desperate, driving Reggie Jackson the paint.

It was not a win that will likely change the outcome of a series in which the Thunder are simply the better team. However, it was the kind of victory that blazes a trail and lays a foundation for where the Rockets franchise wants to go.

“Everyone else might say it’s just one game for us,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “But for us, it was our first playoff win with this group and you can’t get two playoff wins until you get the one. You can’t feel what we need to feel up in Oklahoma City with a team that says, ‘We don’t want to come back here for Game 6.”

There are still plenty of pieces missing from the puzzle until anyone thinks of the Rockets as championship contenders and trying to land Godzilla in the form of Howard over the summer remains the top priority.

Yet you can watch Chandler Parsons, the second-round draft choice who should embarrass every other scouting department with cable TV and a DVD player, blossom into a player that can do three things — shoot, drive and simply play like hell — and see growth.

You can see Asik, stuck on the bench for years in Chicago, make the most of an opportunity by defending the rim and pulling down rebounds simply because a team showed belief in him.

You can see little Beverley finishing off a basketball season that began in St. Petersburg, Russia by treating every possession on offense and defense as if he were still the last line of defense in the Cold War.

The entire NBA has seen James Harden explode like a Fourth of July firecracker since October, when he hit the ground running in Houston by trade from OKC four days before the start of the season and became a first-time All-Star and a player who could carry the load and carry a team. Here was a night when Harden was simply horrid, shooting just 4-for-12 from the field, scoring just 15 points and setting a franchise playoff record with a discombobulated 10 turnovers.

Yet where the Rockets of a few months ago might never have been in the game in the fourth quarter against the Thunder with Harden struggling and might simply have crumbled without him making every big basket, every big play down the stretch, there were others all around filling in the gaps.


Harden knows that it’s a process that takes nurturing and patience. Barely a month into his rookie season in OKC, the Thunder were 1-12 and coach P.J. Carlesimo was replaced by Scott Brooks. They finished 23-59 that season.

A year later, the Thunder were 50-32 and got their first playoff taste of success, winning a pair of home games in a first-round series against the Lakers. The following season they reached the Western Conference finals and last year the NBA Finals.

There are never guarantees, but it usually is a process for a young team to learn how to compete, how to survive and how to thrive in the playoffs and it starts with something that might seem as insignificant as that very first win.

“It means a lot,” Harden said. “I think the previous two games, we let both of those slip away, having the lead late in the fourth quarter and just giving it away. So just to get the first one under our belt, now we have confidence going back to Oklahoma City and anything can happen.”

Someday, somewhere, somehow, if the plan keeps on coming together for these Rockets.

They’ll look at the pencil mark on the wall. They’ll smile at the pants that no longer fit. They’ll be able to remember exactly the night that it happened.

They grew.

Series hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

Morning Shootaround — April 4

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: When a player has 90 points over his last two games, it’s a sure bet his game is the must-watch recap of the morning. That being said, what Carmelo Anthony did against the Hawks last night in Atlanta was a thing of beauty (unless, of course, you’re a Hawks fan). ‘Melo systematically picked apart the Hawks’ defense with some nice passes and since Atlanta opted to not double team one of the NBA’s best scorers (and a man on a hot streak of late), he torched them for 40 points for good measure. The Hang Time Podcast crew gets into a good debate/discussion about what all this regular-season scoring means for a player who has yet to have more than one deep playoff run. It’s a worthy discussion to listen to, but if you don’t have time, just watch the Knicks’ No. 1 option go to work on the Hawks.


News of the morning

D-Will not planning on more cortisone shots | Clips’ Hill leaning toward retirement? | Different kind of beard pact in Oakland | Garcia feels for Kings fans

Report: Williams plans to forsake more cortisone shotsDeron Williams‘ season can basically be broken into two categories: the pre-platelet-rich plasma injections portion and the post-PRP portion. The former occurred up until mid-February, which is when Williams decided to have the PRP treatment done on his bothersome ankles and since then has looked more and more like the All-Star/superstar guard he has been throughout his career. While there was a notion that Williams would need cortisone shots for his ankles just before the playoffs begin, D-Will is scrapping those plans, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

When the playoffs roll around, Deron Williams says he won’t need the high dosage pain killers that helped salvage his season.

The point guard plans to ride this out cortisone-free.

Having braced himself for continued ankle pain and a fourth round of shots just before the playoffs started, Deron Williams told the Daily News on Wednesday that his treatments in February were so successful that injections aren’t necessary prior to the postseason in late April.

It’s a welcome development for Williams, who is aware of the longterm dangers of injecting too much cortisone – a hormone steroid which, used liberally as an anti-inflammatory, can weaken cartilage in the joints, leaving it susceptible to damage or ruptured tendons.

Doctors typically recommend athletes don’t take more than four injections per year, and Williams is happy he doesn’t have to test the limits with a fourth round.

“That’s a good thing,” said Williams, who indicated in February that he “probably” will receive injections before the playoffs.

Williams originally injured his left ankle during training camp for the Olympics, just after signing a five-year, $98 million contract with the Nets. At some point he injured his other ankle, and underwent his first round of cortisone shots in October.

By the time he received his third round in February, Williams was hobbling around the court and undergoing his worst season as a professional. His last cortisone shots were preceded by PRP injections to both ankles about a week prior.

Not coincidentally, Williams’ season turned around after the All-Star break. He’s also 20 pounds lighter, quicker, averaging more points, more assists, less turnovers and shooting at a better percentage.

Williams has said his latest cortisone injections were “finally in the right spot.”

Clippers’ Hill might retire after seasonWhen the Suns decided to embark on their (somewhat puzzling) rebuilding plan, it meant bringing back Grant Hill for a sixth season in Phoenix was a long-shot-at-best proposition. Hill didn’t sit on the summer’s free-agent market for long once he and Phoenix couldn’t reach a deal, as he signed a two-year deal with the Clippers and looked like a piece that would bolster an up-and-coming squad. However, a bone bruise on his right knee kept Hill off the court until Jan. 12 and, since finally playing, he’s averaging career lows across the board. With the injury problems in mind and given Hill’s age (40), the former Rookie of the Year winner tells Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic he might hang it up after this season:

Hill expected to return to Phoenix for a sixth Suns season when he stayed in the Valley to train last summer. The Suns made a one-year, minimum-salary offer of $1.35 million and the Clippers came with a two-year, $4 million one while Oklahoma City and Chicago also pursued him.

Hill, 40, joined the Clippers, began the season on the inactive list after suffering a bone bruise to his right knee, the one which underwent two arthroscopies since 2011 in Phoenix, and did not play until Jan. 12. Hill likely will not make it to that second contract year and opt to retire this summer.

“Strong chance,” Hill said. “I’m leaning toward it. I want to get to the end of the year and off-season and think about it but I’m pretty confident that’s where my mind is right now. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Except for a brief 2008 experiment under then-Suns coach Terry Porter, Hill always had started in his career until this season, when he often is not in the 10-man rotation.

“That knee injury (bone bruise) set me back a bit in terms of staying healthy and getting in the rotation so that hasn’t been good,” Hill said. “But I wouldn’t change it one bit other than to be hurt early in the year. I like the situation. I like my teammates. We’ve had an up-and-down season. We’ve experienced every emotion you can. We’re still battling for that third spot. We haven’t played well of late but we still have a chance to correct it. We have the ability and the talent to beat anybody. I have no regrets. It’s been a great experience.”

Much like with friend Steve Nash’s summer departure from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Hill did not receive the interest he expected or wanted from Phoenix and chose Los Angeles to stay competitive and close to his kids in the Valley. Hill takes trips home on off-days and will return to the Valley when the season is over.

There have long been hopes by many in the Suns organization that Hill would return in a front-office role when he retires.

“I’ve really just focused on enjoying the last year, if this is the last year, and not focusing on the future,” Hill said. “We’ll get to the end and once the end’s over, I’ll start worrying about what I’m going to do from there.”

Warriors make their own beard pactIn case you’ve been living on another planet for a few months, you might have been oblivious to the much-reported fact the Dallas Mavericks started growing beards as a show of unity that they pledged to keep until they reached .500. The Warriors, who are well above .500 and headed for their first playoff berth since 2007, are also growing beards themselves — even if everyone isn’t on board with the plan. Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune has the details:

The Warriors have made a pact that everyone will grow beards until they clinch a playoff spot. No shaving. No trimming.

“The worse it looks, the better it is for the team,” David Lee said.

From the looks of it, though, Andris Biedrins isn’t on board. He looked cleanly shaven Wednesday. And the patch on rookie Harrison Barnes‘ chin looked well groomed.

Coach Mark Jackson is even in on it. His shadow was turning into some rough real estate at practice, highlighted by some gray strands. But he had his facial mane neatened.

There was talk about extended the beard pact through the playoffs. But Stephen Curry wasn’t a fan of that idea.

“This thing,” he said at Wednesday’s shootaround, scratching his grizzled neck. “I’ve already got lint all in it.”

Garcia has empathy for Kings’ supportersRockets swingman Francisco Garcia has played 473 games over eight seasons in the NBA, with 462 of those games played coming as a member of the Sacramento Kings. As a rookie, he was a member of the last Sacramento squad to make the postseason and spent the bulk of his younger years in the NBA in California’s capital city as the Kings trudged through losing season after losing season. He also hasn’t been oblivious to the potential sale of the Kings to a Chris Hansen and a Seattle-based group that wants to buy the team and rebrand them as the Seattle SuperSonics. Yesterday, groups from both Sacramento and Seattle presented their proposed bids to Commissioner David Stern and other league officials and although no decision on the Kings’ future is expected for a while (our own David Aldridge has the full details), Garcia is watching and feels for Kings fans, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

He could have anticipated he would return to Sacramento for the first time with another team. He never could have imagined the possibility it could be his last time as well.

“My first years were great,” Garcia said. “There was a sellout every game. There’s not a lot of cities that were like we were when I first got there.”

While Garcia and the Rockets prepared to go against the Kings on Wednesday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was in New York to present the offer of a local group to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family and prevent the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.

After spending most of the last two seasons in the heart of the battle, from the near move to Anaheim through the handshake deal to remain in Sacramento and finally the Seattle-Sacramento tug of war to be decided by the Board of Governors meeting April 18 and 19, Garcia can’t begin to handicap how the competition will end.

On Wednesday, the groups vying for the Kings — Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen are seeking to buy them and move them to Seattle; Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and Vivek Ranadive are bidding to buy them and keep them in Sacramento — made the presentation to a Board of Governors sub-committee, which later will make its recommendation.

Garcia could not help but feel empathy for the fans who supported the Kings so faithfully through much of his career.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “One guy is saying this; another guy is saying that. I don’t know. I’d be sad (if the Kings leave Sacramento). It’s such a great city. They’re great fans. They’ve been supporting the team for a long time.

“It’s great. It’s a great city. I have nothing but good things to say about Sacramento. I had a great eight years there.”

ICYMI of the night: Trevor Ariza shows the kids at home why the pivot foot is important … and that having a little luck is important, too:

Fast-And-Loose Rockets Defy Convention


DALLAS — What Mike D’Antoni must think of these young, run-and-gun, jack-’em-up Houston Rockets.

“They are an exciting team,” said Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, a staple on D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns. “And, on the floor, they are a team I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Maybe since your Suns teams, Shawn?

James Harden and Co., are turning conventional basketball on its ear, spurred by the analytics revolution that suggests mid-range jumpers in today’s game are a waste of time. The Rockets aren’t without flaws — namely a defense that allows far too many points — as was the case in Wednesday’s 112-108 loss at the Dallas Mavericks, a tough one to swallow as Houston tries to solidify its playoff position.

Their offensive approach, however, continues to defy convention at a pulsating pace. The Rockets score the majority of their points in three ways: Drives to the basket for the majority of their high-frequency points in the paint, free throws and 3-pointers. Consider in Wednesday’s game that 100 of their 108 points came from those three areas — 38 points in the paint, 26 points from the free-throw line and 36 more from beyond the arc.

“That’s Rockets basketball,” Harden said.

Houston is the youngest team in the NBA and, at 33-29, it is poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They’re tied for the league lead in scoring at 107.0 points a game with Oklahoma City. They’re second behind the Knicks in 3-pointers attempted per game (28.7) and 3s made per game (10.6), fourth in free throws made per game (18.9) and second in points in the paint per game (46.5).

“We’re doing what suits us best,” said Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who had 23 points and was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc against Dallas. “We don’t mind what other people do. That’s the way we should play. That’s the best style that we play is up and down with the personnel we have. I think that suits us best. I think it’s a perfect situation, a perfect style for the way we play, how young we are; we got shooters, we got playmakers. I think there’s no other way to play.”

Last month, the Rockets tied the NBA’s all-time 3-point record by draining 23 against the Warriors. Since the All-Star break, Houston has increased its 3-point attempts to a whopping 32.3 a game. They went 19-for-46 in a two-point loss at Washington two weeks ago. In the last seven games, the Rockets have attempted 30 or more 3s five times.

“They shoot about 25-30 3s a night, and that’s a lot of 3s,” Marion said.

Yes it is. But the exchange is worth it. In those seven games, the Rockets are 102-for-226 from beyond the arc for an astounding 45.1 percent. After Wednesday’s 12-for-32 performance (37.5 percent), they’re shooting it at 37.0 percent on the season.

“I don’t think, with our offense, you can’t put a number on it [3-point attempts],” Parsons said. “We go up and down so fast that sometimes in the flow of a game shots are there and sometimes they’re not. So, I don’t think the 3s hurt us. I think it’s just part of our game and if we have open shots we’re going to take them.”

The question, assuming the Rockets hold onto their playoff spot, is if this style can win in the grind-it-out postseason. Of course, Houston won’t be favored to beat either of their most likely postseason foes (OKC or San Antonio) so it might take another year or two of seasoning before the Rockets come of age and their style becomes dissected in the playoffs like the D’Antoni’s old Suns.

“We know the difference now between good 3s and bad 3s,” Harden said. “So, when guys are open I think everybody on the team is going to say shoot the ball.”

That’s exactly what they’re doing.

Stats Notebook: Rockets Make Two Deals

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — On the day before the trade deadline, the Houston Rockets were active, making two trades with the Pacific Division and shaking up their frontline.

Less than eight months after he was selected with the No. 5 pick in the Draft, the Kings gave up on Thomas Robinson, sending him, along with Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, to Houston for Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas.

In a separate deal, the Rockets reached an agreement to send Marcus Morris to Phoenix.

Robinson has been somewhat of a disappointment so far, but it’s hard to judge a rookie after just 51 games. It’s especially to hard to judge a rookie after 51 games with a dysfunctional franchise.

Time will only tell whether the Kings made a mistake in drafting Robinson with the No. 5 pick or if they made a mistake in trading him. Either way, they made a mistake.

Here are some notes on the players that were dealt on Wednesday, from the new…

Lowest FG%, restricted area (minimum 100 FGA)

Player FGM FGA FG%
Austin Rivers 55 131 42.0%
Kevin Love 48 107 44.9%
Roy Hibbert 115 248 46.4%
Luc Mbah a Moute 64 138 46.4%
Brandon Jennings 115 242 47.5%
Thomas Robinson 74 152 48.7%

Rockets’ Gamble on Robinson Worth Risk

HOUSTON — Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and The Sundance Kid had nothing on Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey.

The itchiest trigger finger in the NBA got things rolling in the countdown to the trade deadline by shipping out two power forward candidates who hadn’t panned out and bringing back another with plenty of talent and still something to prove.

Officially, it was Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich going to the Kings for Thomas Robinson, Tyler Honeycutt and Francisco Garcia and Marcus Morris going to the Suns for a second round draft pick.

But the essence of the deal was the Rockets taking a shot at the 6-foot-10 Robinson, who was the No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft and a bundle of raw ability that many evaluators thought was the No. 2 pick of the litter eight months ago.

In two seasons, Patterson never established himself as a low post player on offense and did not carry his weight as a rebounder. Morris, too, is a decent mid-range shooter who also does not make his presence felt on the glass.

While there were character issues that surrounded Robinson before the draft and he was labeled a problem early in Sacramento and did not bloom, it is a move that is certainly worth the gamble for the Rockets.

If Robinson gets his act together and plays up to his potential, they’ve got a 21-year-old power forward who could fit in nicely on a roster that will now give him all the minutes he needs. If not, he carries a manageable $3.5 million contract that is only guaranteed through next season and also more cap space for free agency next summer. The Rockets were a team that had room to sign a max level free agent and another significant player and now they’ve carved out more room.

It is not on the blockbuster level of Morey’s deal that landed James Harden four days before the season opener. But it’s the kind of shrewd, low-risk deal that could set the Rockets up for an even bigger bang down the line.

USA Basketball: Lights, Camera, Action!

LAS VEGAS — A normal meeting between a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team and a John Calipari-coached team includes both sides boasting a bevy of high school All-American types.

The Nov. 13 Duke-Kentucky clash will include many of college basketball’s best and brightest prospects.

But tonight’s exhibition matchup at UNLV between the U.S. Olympic team, coached by Krzyzewski, and the Calipari-coached Dominican Republic team (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be a decidedly one-sided affair in favor of Krzyzewski’s crew.

The U.S. boasts 10 gold medalists and 12 of the NBA’s biggest and brightest stars. The Dominican team has just two NBA players on the roster, Hawks All-Star center Al Horford and Kings swingman Francisco Garcia.

But Krzyzewski insists that logistics have prevented his team from getting the smooth start to the training camp process that they need to be ready for the start of the Olympic competition in London in just two weeks.

Instead of showing up here last week with the 12-man roster already set, the final team wasn’t settled upon until after the second day of practice. Injuries to superstars like Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh put several new faces in the mix for roster spots for London.

A delayed NBA season coupled with an earlier than usual start (July 27, as opposed to Aug. 8) to the Olympics and the machinations of free agency forced a staggered start to this process as well.

“It’s a disjointed start because we had to use the first couple of days for selection, free agency and then injury. So the early start of the Olympics puts us in that window of the NBA free agency,” Krzyzewski said. “In ’08 our practices started the 20th. We never had to deal with that and we didn’t have an injury at one position and free agency at the same position. So that has an impact. It’s a negative impact that we have to overcome.”


Diogu Leads Nigeria To London, final spot

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Men’s Basketball Olympic field is set. Nigeria earned the 12th and final spot in London with a huge 88-73 victory over the Dominican Republic in the third place game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela on Sunday.

Ike Diogu, the former Warrior/Pacer/Blazer/King/Clipper/Spur, was the star for Nigeria, who qualified for the Olympics for the first time ever. Diogu scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and hit 10 of 14 shots.

Nigeria led 47-39 at the half, but the game was tied with less than six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Diogu came up huge down the stretch though, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers as Nigeria scored 29 points in the final period to win going away. The Hornets’ Al-Farouq Aminu played the Scottie Pippen role, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and five blocks.

The Kings’ Francisco Garcia led the Dominican with 17 points. Al Horford dealt with foul trouble and had just 12 points in 29 minutes.

The London games begin July 29. Here is the 12-team field…

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain Eurobasket Champion
France Eurobasket 2nd place
China 2011 FIBA Asia Champion
Lithuania 2012 Qualifier
Russia 2012 Qualifier
Nigeria 2012 Qualifier

The U.S. is in Group A with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Russia and Tunisia. They’ll play their first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on Thursday in Las Vegas. You can watch that one (taped) at 12 a.m. ET on NBA TV.