Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah Canaan’

Rockets Trading On Patience This Time


VIDEO: Brent Barry breaks down the Rockets’ recent success in this version of ‘Breaking Bones’

HOUSTON — Birds fly. Fish swim.

Daryl Morey trades.

Underneath all the talk of the Rockets adding a wing shooter and perimeter defender at the deadline — they landed Jordan Hamilton from the Nuggets – was a huge, hard-wired part of Morey’s DNA that said: Do something. Something big.

Surely, Morey would have leaped at the chance to, say, reel in Rajon Rondo from his old Boston stomping grounds, if Danny Ainge had been so inclined. But the truth was the Rockets never really had the chips to the put onto the table — a premium first round draft choice or two — to even get the Celtics thinking seriously.

Daryl Morey, James Harden (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Daryl Morey, James Harden
(Bill Baptist/NBAE)

There was the one rumor that Boston would have very much been interested in Chandler Parsons. But who wouldn’t be? Parsons is young, athletic, talented and still plays on a rookie, second-round pick contract. That’s the kind of real value that is very much at a premium in today’s NBA.

Morey’s jumping-the-checkers-all-over-the-board approach has been on display for more than a half-decade now. He landed the All-Star pair of James Harden and Dwight Howard with it. So, if he couldn’t wallop another another home run this time around, it surely wasn’t because he didn’t wear out his beloved Blackberry trying. You can’t hit the pitches you don’t swing at.

Yet for the first time since he began calling the shots in the front office in 2007, the Rockets’ general manager didn’t feel the same sense of urgency.

“We feel like as a team as we are coming together at the right time,” Morey said. “We had a lot of opportunities to mix things up. But we feel like we have a core with stars in Dwight and James and we have a good group around them that we feel good about, and we feel like when you have that core you want to keep the guys around them.”

A seemingly endless of string of nagging injuries since the start of the season had prevented the Rockets from developing any cohesion or consistency. Even with Howard back close to his pre-back surgery, pre-shoulder injury level of fitness, there was also the matter of trying to blend his low post game with Harden’s one-on-one skills.

While the two of them can sometimes look like would-be dancers with no sense of rhythm, there is a feeling that the pieces are growing together. And the Rockets’ record is showing it.

As they close out a five-game road trip with a back-to-back at the Kings and Clippers that starts Tuesday night, the Rockets are now an NBA-best 17-5 since Jan. 1. They have climbed solidly into the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference and now set their sights on the No. 2 Spurs, whom they have already whipped three times this season.

It is a wholly different attitude for Morey, to let the pot he’s filled come to a slow boil rather than just keep grabbing for new ingredients. Inside he believes his team still needs that third All-Star level player to stand toe-to-toe with Miami, Indiana and Oklahoma City. But with Howard and Harden contented in their roles on the team, their place in Houston and locked into max-level contracts, patience is probably the most prudent path.

The Rockets were able to trade veteran guard Aaron Brooks, a fan favorite, to Denver because they feel they have enough talent in the pipeline. Last year’s draft pick, Isaiah Canaan, plucked in the second round, has been simmering in the NBA D-League and earned his chance to contribute significant minutes with the Rockets. Hamilton is another below-the-radar talent that the Rockets believe can flourish if give the opportunity to play. And it is that cycling through of young players that has kept the Rockets both moving forward steadily in terms of overall progress and flexible enough with their payroll to remain open and available to make that next big deal. As sure as summer follows spring, they’ll be standing on the high dive looking to make another big splash in the talent pool in July.

The Rockets would likely be a tough out in any best-of-seven playoff series in the rugged Western Conference, the Thunder included. But with an offense that relies so heavily on the 3-point shot, the question is whether they can perform consistently enough over eight weeks of the playoffs — or even two rounds — to be taken seriously yet.

We’ll find out. Sometimes, the answers do come when you sit and wait.


VIDEO: Daryl Morey discusses the Rockets’ trade for Jordan Hamilton

Sleeper Picks With Best Chance To Impact


VIDEO: Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng talks about his summer league experience

HANG TIME WEST – The rookie drafted late in the first round, 20th or lower, who will have the biggest impact? Gorgui Dieng of the Timberwolves. Twenty-five or lower? Archie Goodwin in Phoenix, ahead of Reggie Bullock, who won’t play much this season in the crowded Clippers’ rotation, but can shoot and defend, will have a solid career and become a very good return on the investment.

But among second-rounders in the league this season, the real futures market, there are several possibilities who will do more than survive cuts based on updated rosters since the draft in June and summer league in July.  With or without stops in the NBA Development League, they will actually last and contribute.

1. Jeff Withey, Pelicans: Withey will get a chance on a team lacking true centers. Four years at Kansas says he will be ready as the No. 39 pick. Anthony Davis, a power forward-center, is about to take off after battling injuries as a rookie, and Withey could become a valuable career backup who is mature and will defend and rebound.

2. Tony Mitchell, Pistons: Once considered a lottery possibility before falling to No. 37 when he played with such poor energy last season at North Texas, the original appeal remains. Mitchell is a stud athlete at power forward with a high ceiling. The Pistons can put him on the Andre Drummond Plan that worked well, bringing Mitchell along slowly behind Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith in the big-man rotation.

3. Isaiah Canaan, Rockets: Minutes will be very tough to find in Houston in 2013-14 -– probably more like impossible –- with Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley and Aaron Brooks at point guard, but it’s still easy to see Canaan having a long career as a backup after going No. 34. He is a smart and tough leader who would have been able to run an NBA offense last season while at Murray State.

4. Nate Wolters, Bucks: The 38th pick will begin the season behind Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour at point guard, a tough climb. But Wolters is a very good ball handler, has a high basketball IQ that allows him to get to the rim despite a lack of athleticism, and is 6-4. If he can keep up on defense, a real question, he will be in the league.

5. Ricky Ledo, Mavericks: Ledo will probably have a very small role, if that, and spend most of 2013-14 in the D-League. Long term, though, he is intriguing, a shooting guard with size (6-7) who can create for himself and deliver the ball to others. That’s worth the No. 43 pick.

Singing, Dancing & Bonding With Dwight


dwight1

Dwight Howard (left) has been all smiles during Houston’s trip to the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines – In the daylight hours halfway around the globe, Dwight Howard is playing the role of a wrecking ball as he keeps sending his fellow Rockets big men away limping and bruised from practice. So far, Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas, Omer Asik and Terrence Jones have all workouts wearing ice packs, bandages and grimaces.

But away from the court, the All-Star center showed his mellow, playful side for guests of the Rockets as a singer and dancer at a reception in the team hotel.

Howard recruited rookies Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington as his backup crew — Dwight & the Pips? — while he crooned his version of R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly and then showed off his footwork outside the low post as they did the Cha Cha Slide.

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“It’s all about having fun, being with my teammates and forming the kind of bonds that will help us stay together during the season,” Howard said.

Let’s face it. The Pacers could have packed up their sleeping bags and the ingredients for s’mores and found a quiet corner of Indiana to have a solid camping experience without having to travel halfway around the world. The Rockets could hidden away in the vast open spaces of Texas and Howard could sang and danced the Cotton Eyed Joe without flying across the International Dateline.

But for all logistical difficulties of getting to Southeast Asia and for all the marketing and business deals that at the root of such an event, the players do believe there can be real value of such an experience.

“I think traveling overseas on a trip like this is good for us at a time in our development,” said Rockets guard James Harden. “Here, 20 hours away, from home there’s a lot more bonding. It’s great for us. We’re so new to each other, so it’s the most important thing right now.

“Our chemistry has risen to another level as far as us hanging out outside of basketball. Whether it’s dinner, whether it’s us just going to the mall, doing small things like that, those are stepping stones to playing better on the court.”

Pacer forward Paul George nods his head with approval.

“Any team, even one that has had some success in the playoffs like we did last year, can come together more to close the gaps, to become even more of a unit,” he said. “And I think when you all travel together like this, when you are spending so much time around each other, it speeds up that process. It might be hard on our bodies, but I do think coming here to the Philippines and sharing the cultural experience is good for us as a team.”

The level of outside distractions will only increase exponentially for Jeremy Lin when the teams travel to Taiwan on the weekend, where he’ll be the center of attention.

“I think training camp is a bonding experience no matter where you have it, but the fact that we’re coming over here to play games … it’s different,” he said. “Playing games is where you have extra potential to make even stronger bonds.

“I think we’re closer. It’s natural … We have receptions and other obligations and we still hang out together after that. We spend a lot of time…getting to know each other and that’s an important thing.”

Even when there’s a 6-foot-11 center with a creaky voice singing a bit off key.

“It gives us a chance to get away from everything and just be with each other,” Howard said “The bus rides, the little things that we do.

‘We just get an opportunity to be with each other, especially with a team like this with a couple new guys, to get that opportunity to really bond, to know each other, the personalities. It think it’s really great and it’s going to help us in the season, because we already have a special bond that we developed.”

Not to mention a nightclub act.

Orlando Summer League Tips Off Sunday

HANG TIME, Texas — You’ve got rookies often trying to wildly impress, second-year players who have a better understanding of what is expected and a few veterans who are hoping to get another taste of the big time.

The Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League tips off Sunday with some familiar names from the 2013 Draft and plenty of other hopefuls trying to crack an NBA roster.

NBA Summer LeagueNine first-round picks — led by No. 2 Victor Oladipo, No. 8 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and No. 9 Trey Burke – will take part in the six days of competition that will take place on the Magic’s practice court at Orlando’s Amway Center. The games are not open to the public and will only be attended by media and league personnel. All games will be shown on NBA TV.

A new format will be added this summer with two extra teams and one extra day added to the schedule. Under the new format, each team will play five games over the six-day event, concluding with a championship day. Standings will be based on a seven-point system for each game — three points for a win and one point for winning each quarter.

Here’s a quick look at roster highlights of the 10 teams that will participate:

Boston Celtics — It’s a whole new ballgame for the Celtics’ rebuilding program and there would seem to be plenty of room for new faces to earn a ticket to Boston now that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers are all gone. New coach Brad Stevens will be on hand to observe, but leading the team will be assistant coach Jay Larranaga. First-round pick Kelly Olynyk, obtained by trade from Dallas, will be the biggest name on the roster, though last year’s draftee Fab Melo is physically bigger. Avery Bradley is being given a rest from duty and Jared Sullinger is still recovering from back surgery.

Brooklyn Nets – The remade and reloaded Nets will have first round pick Mason Plumlee suiting up for the first time along with a pair of last season’s veterans Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor. But all eyes during the week will surely on the rookie on the sidelines. After a 19-year playing career that will surely send him to the Hall of Fame, Jason Kidd is taking no time off and going right to the bench. It will be most interesting to see if Kidd is as good in this transition as he was on the court.

Detroit Pistons — Andre Drummond arrived in Orlando a year ago with something to prove to the doubters and then went back to Detroit and showed that he was not merely a summer fling. Drummond will return, but is not expected to play the full slate of five games. The Pistons will have their entire rookie class of 2013 — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva. New coach Maurice Cheeks may have his work cut out resurrecting the Pistons at the NBA level, but the summer roster is quite capable.

Houston Rockets — After all their maneuvering and salary cap gymnastics to try to land free agent Dwight Howard, the Rockets did not have a first-round pick this year, but may have gotten first-round quality in point guard Isaiah Canaan. Terrence Jones, a No. 1 from a year ago, will be on the team and continuing to show that he’s a keeper and this Houston bunch is also loaded with Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith.

Indiana Pacers – It seems like much longer than just four years ago that Jonny Flynn was the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft and maybe that’s because he’s mostly been on the outside everywhere he’s gone, trying to justify that selection and prove that he belongs. Now he’s back from playing in Australia and trying to get that third guard spot with the Pacers, who are also bringing in Donald Sloane. This year’s first round pick Solomon Hill will join holdovers Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough from last season’s roster.

Miami Heat — After winning back-to-back NBA titles, the Heat aren’t taking the summer off. In fact, they’re working overtime, the only franchise to be fielding teams at both Orlando and Las Vegas. Miami didn’t have a first-round pick — remember, it was traded for that LeBron fellow. The rosters will be led by last season holdover center Jarvis Varnado and second-round pick James Ennis, a swingman out of Long Beach State. A couple of high profile college guards, Larry Drew II of UCLA and Myck Kabongo of Texas will play for the Heat. Joining the team in Orlando only are Cedric Jackson, Ian Clark, Dewayne Dedmon and D.J. Stephens.

Oklahoma City Thunder — While three rookies Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will be on hand for their Thunder debuts, most eyes of the coaching staff and back in OKC will be on holdovers from the main roster Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones. Jackson dazzled with his play in Orlando last summer, giving the first hint that he’d be ready to step into the point guard job when Russell Westbrook went down.

Orlando Magic — When it looked like everybody was losing their minds at the top of the draft a week ago, Magic GM Rob Hennigan kept his eye on the prize and simply chose his man Victor Oladipo. Is he a point guard or a shooting guard? Or is he just ready to do anything the Magic ask in the backcourt? Forward Romero Osby, a second round pick, has a lot of folks saying he’s a sleeper. Second-year men Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson are also on the roster.

Philadelphia 76ers —
While many Sixers fans are still reeling from the draft night trade that shipped out the young All-Star and favorite Jrue Holiday, this will be everyone’s first chance to see how his successor measures up.  Michael Carter-Williams will be given the keys to the offense in Philly when the season starts in October, so consider this his going out to take the test for his driver’s license. Nerlens Noel, the prize that came in the trade for Holiday, will not play as he’s still rehabbing his knee injury.  But Justin Holiday, Jrue’s brother, will be back to see if he can stick with the Sixers again.

Utah Jazz – Top draft pick Trey Burke said on draft night that he hopes to be the Jazz’ starting point guard on opening night next season. So he’ll start to press his case by running the summer show. Rookie center Rudy Gobert hopes to get in a few runs maybe by the end of the show in Orlando. He’s currently trying to work out a buyout of his contract with his French team and will need FIBA clearance. Center Enes Kanter is still recovering from shoulder surgery and neither Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors will play, because they’re both part of the Team USA camp in August. Jazz fans will get to see a Stockton back in uniform. Hall of Famer John Stockton’s son Michael is a free agent signee.

Texas Two-Step For Dwight Starts Slow

HANG TIME, Texas — If the reports are true that the Rockets and the Mavericks are currently frontrunners in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes, the race was more tortoise than hare on draft night with neither team opening any daylight.

After a week of speculation that they were trying to deal forward Thomas Robinson to clear salary cap space to make a maximum contract offer to Howard, the Rockets spent the night taking and making phone calls from around the league, but then settled on Isaiah Canaan with the 34th pick.

The talk all along was that the Rockets could get more in return for Robinson before or during the draft. But the team may have ultimately decided there was no reason to rush and trade away a young player who was the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft until they know for sure that it is necessary. In other words, if Howard is coming aboard, Robinson can be shipped out in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile the Mavericks traded down in the first round, dropping from 13th to 18th and came away with point guard Shane Larkin after dealing with Boston and Atlanta.

By moving down in the draft and moving last year’s top pick Jared Cunningham, Dallas will save $1.09 million in rookie scale salary for cap space to pursue Howard, while also adding a young point guard whom they believe could become a valuable part of rebuilding the team down the line. Of course, if Larkin’s $1.28 million first-year salary is needed to clear space for Howard, he should be easy enough for the Mavs to move.

Draft night was just a prelim on the undercard in the heavyweight intra-Texas battle that could take place if Howard does decide to bolt from the Lakers. All we saw were jabs. The haymakers before Howard’s July 10 big decision are still to come.