Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Alexander’

Rockets Ready To Fill Howard’s Plate


HANG TIME, Texas — When the Rockets sit down for dinner tonight in Los Angeles to begin the official courtship of Dwight Howard, the menu will include an appetizer plate full of history — but also a main course of red meat that is playing for future championships.

The Rockets contingent — led by team owner Leslie Alexander, general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale – will include the Hall of Fame pairing of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler as links to the past, along with current players James Harden and Chandler Parsons.

While Olajuwon and Drexler can show off their gaudy jewelry won nearly two decades ago and make a pitch based on emotion and their love for the city of Houston, it is Harden and Parsons who should turn Howard’s head with the potential for getting his own championship ring.

That the Rockets are getting the first crack at Howard may or may not be significant in the outcome. But the truth is this should not even be a close decision for Howard if, as those around him say, it is strictly about basketball and which team holds the best chance to get him back to The Finals fastest. It is the Rockets with a 23-year-old All-Star in Harden, a dynamic 24-year-old running mate in Parsons and enough salary cap space and flexibility with contracts and trade exceptions to fill in any holes in the roster.  Toss in Omer Asik as Howard’s backup and Jeremy Lin as an open-court starter to the fast break and pick-and-roll dealer and the Rockets would clearly vault to the upper echelon of the Western Conference immediately.

The real ace in the hole, it would seem, is Howard getting a chance to work on an everyday basis with McHale, perhaps the greatest low-post player in the history of the game.  More than an occasional workout with Olajuwon — who played a completely different style — McHale could show Howard the way to take the next step up as an elite center.

Yes, the Lakers have a couple of All-Stars of their own, but 34-year-old Kobe Bryant is trying to come back from a torn Achilles’ tendon and soon-to-be-33-year-old Pau Gasol was never a comfortable fit together in the front court last season.  The rest of the Lakers roster was old and slow and simply not good enough to get any further than the first round of the playoffs, and little is going to change next season.

The Warriors will get their chance to sit down at the table with Howard and there will always be the appeal of playing before the most loyal, dedicated and rabid fans in the NBA. But to fully take advantage of the low post tools that Howard possesses would mean Golden State giving up much of the helter-skelter style and pace that Mark Jackson used to get his team into the playoffs and onto the second round.

The Mavericks will tell Howard that Dirk Nowitzki is willing to give up his position as the main cog in the offense to accommodate him.  However those two alone are not enough to make Dallas a contender, and that leaves the big man hoping that a deal could be made to bring in a talented point guard such as Rajon Rondo to run the show. Yet that is all just hope and hype to go with the promise that club owner Mark Cuban will make Howard the centerpiece of the franchise down the line and include him in all personnel decisions.

If it is strictly about basketball and winning championships, why would Howard return to a Lakers model that already failed and might take a step back Bryant’s health, a Warriors team that doesn’t play to his strengths or the Mavericks’ promise of building a team?

The basic parts are already in Houston and they’ll be sitting at with Howard tonight when menus are passed out.  The history that Olajuwon and Drexler bring will be tasty, but it’s the red meat of Harden and Parsons that should fill up his plate.

Rockets’ Playoff Return A First Step


HOUSTON — Maybe it was fitting that James Harden’s shot kicked off the rim, took a bounce and received an unintentional assist from Jermaine O’Neal that carried the Rockets into the playoffs.

It was Harden himself who practically fell out of the sky right into the laps of the Rockets just four days before the start of the season that began the return to respectability and relevance.

“I didn’t know who was on the team. I didn’t know what was going on,” Harden said. “I was still kind of shocked. Weeks went by and a month went by. We kind of gained confidence in one another that we can go out and compete with anybody in this league. It’s been that way through this whole entire season and now we’re in the playoffs.”

The Rockets are back in the postseason for the first time in four years, having spent the past three springs with their noses pressed up against the window pane, tantalizingly close and yet locked out of the fun. For three straight years — with win totals of 42, 43 and 34 (in lockout-shortened 2012) — they had been the last team to miss out on the playoffs. Or took the best record into the draft lottery. Any way that you said it, the result was simply frustrating.

While team owner Leslie Alexander has been steadfast to “dive” for a chance at the bonanza offered by the draft lottery, general manager Daryl Morey has been more frantic than a one-armed juggler of chain saws to make and remake the roster again and again and again. It was that constant turmoil that led to exasperation by former coach Rick Adelman and an eventual parting of the ways. It has been an ongoing process that still puts constant new challenges into the path of coach Kevin McHale in his second season.

Even now, the Rockets are a laboratory project still in development. Houston is the NBA’s youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years and opened the season as the most inexperienced NBA team in the shot-clock era, based on minutes played.

The Rockets are the sixth-youngest team in history to reach the playoffs. The Thunder teams of 2010 and 2011, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are the youngest ever. Next in line are the Trail Blazers of 2009, led by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Bulls of 2006 with Luol Deng and Ben Gordon and the Hawks of 2008, led by Joe Johnson and Al Horford.

Despite Harden’s rapid rise to the league’s elite level, his first appearance in the All-Star Game and rank among the league’s top five scorers along with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the Rockets are still greener than most young sprouts of spring. Harden has been to the playoffs the past three seasons and went to The Finals last year with OKC, but is still only 23. Point guard Jeremy Lin is 24. Center Omer Asik is 26, but his is only his third year in the league and the first that he’s played starter’s minutes.

Though a 13-6 record over the past six weeks has made the return to the playoffs seem inevitable, it was not made official until Utah lost to the Thunder shortly after the Rockets beat Phoenix on Tuesday night.

“I actually didn’t think I would be excited,” Lin said. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going for the six seed.’ Now that it’s really here, I’m actually really excited because no one really gave us a chance going into the season that we’d be in the playoffs.”

The Rockets have been a franchise stuck in a rut, mired in mediocrity since the glory days of their back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. While this is now their 18th winning record since the 1992-93 season — only the Spurs and Lakers have more at 19 — they have had precious little playoff success. In fact, the Rockets have won only a single playoff series — vs. Portland in 2009 — since 1997 when some of the names on the backs of the jerseys read: Olajuwon, Drexler and Barkley.

There was always hope and unfulfilled promise during the eras of Steve Francis, then Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. But never the kind of results that were expected.

So when the wheeler-dealer Morey was able to land Harden on the eve of this season, it was the first step in his long held plan to put a franchise-type player on the court to build around and then supplement with the likes of Lin, Asik and Chandler Parsons.

In the process, the Rockets have turned into a fast-paced, 3-point shooting, prolific offensive club that most often produces the most entertaining games of any given night on NBA LeaguePass.

This will all lead into a summer of trying to land another big-name free agent, another All-Star caliber player, who can vault the Rockets back onto the level of title contenders.

But first things first and that was Harden’s shot that bounced high off the rim, O’Neal’s unofficial assist by goaltending and finally the Rockets taking an initial step back into the playoff conversation.

League Mourns Loss Of Sasha McHale

The Houston Rockets and the NBA family are mourning the loss of Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, daughter of Rockets coach Kevin McHale. Sasha McHale was just 23-years-old when she passed away Saturday afternoon in Minnesota.

From the Houston Chronicle

McHale has been on a leave of absence to be with his daughter and his family in Minneapolis since Nov. 10. His daughter has long battled lupus, an auto-immune disease, and was hospitalized with a related condition.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander released a statement Sunday morning

“I extend my deepest condolences to Kevin and Lynn for the loss of their beautiful daughter, Sasha, on Saturday afternoon. Kevin and Lynn are loving and dedicated parents who will need our continued support throughout this very difficult time. Our entire organization is mourning the McHale family’s loss and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, for whom McHale worked for 15 years, issued a statement as well..

“On behalf of the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization, we are extremely saddened to learn about the passing of Sasha. While Kevin was with our organization, we all watched Sasha grow up, and become an outstanding young woman. She will be sorely missed by her family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin, Lynn and the entire McHale family.”


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Rockets’ White AWOL Again

HOUSTON – The difficult path to a successful NBA career for rookie Royce White keeps getting harder.

After it was announced that the Rockets forward was among three rookies — also Donatas Motiejunas and Scott Machado — who were being sent to the NBA Development League, White once more did not attend practice on Tuesday.

White has been inactive for most games this season, including Monday night against the Heat when he did not sit on the bench.

“That’s tenuous and it’s tough to talk about something like that, but I think we can handle it internally,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “If he doesn’t work out, well, it’s tough to lose a draft choice.

“I feel bad for Royce and I feel very bad for the team. We’ve had internal repercussions which I’m not going to talk about.”

The Rockets knew that White suffers from generalized anxiety disorder when they chose him with the No. 16 pick in the draft last June.

Problems first surfaced when White did not show up for the start of training camp, which was held at the home of the Rockets’ D League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers. During that time, White and his representatives worked out a plan with the Rockets and the NBA which would allow him to travel to many road games by bus, since a fear of flying exacerbates his anxiety disorder.

It is believed White has missed other practices, though it is not known whether Tuesday’s absence was related to anxiety.

When asked why White did not attend practice, acting coach Kelvin Sampson said: “I haven’t talked to (general manager) Daryl (Morey). I didn’t realize he (White) wasn’t here today until we got to practice. I guess after this little deal, I’m going to find out what’s wrong. I’m not sure what’s wrong right now. We talked to Scott and D-Mo last night. Royce wasn’t at the game last night as far as I know.”

White,  in a statement released by his publicist Tuesday night, said: “In hindsight, perhaps it was not a good idea to be open and honest about my anxiety disorder — due to the current situations at hand that involve the nature of actions from the Houston Rockets. As a rookie, I want to settle into a team and make progress; but since preseason, the Rockets have been inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship.”

White claimed he is not AWOL.

“Any other response is inaccurate,” he said in his statement. “This is important to me, it is a health issue. I must advocate for my rights, it is a player-commodity league – the failure to meet my requests for support will end with me being unhealthy and that is not a consequence that I am willing to accept to play any sport.”

It has been customary for all Rockets rookies to spend some time in the D League. First-round picks Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris have been there the past two seasons and made the most of the experience. In addition, point guard Jeremy Lin said he used it to resurrect his career.

“For me personally, my experience in the D League helped my career go a little longer,” said Lin. “If I didn’t go to the D League when I got cut by Golden State, I’m not sure if Houston and New York pick me up if I never played in the D League the year before. It can be used as a positive in the right way.

“I think we’re all worried for (White). But he’s a tough kid and the best part about it is he’s a really good basketball player. So if he gets on that basket and he just is himself, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

A Bad Time To Stop The Linsanity

HOUSTON – In the end Jeremy Lin got his billion dollar contract.

After all, isn’t that what coach Mike Woodson said it would take to pry the point guard phenom — and next season’s starter — out of the Knicks’ cold, dead hands?

So Linsanity now wears boots and a Stetson, y’all.

For the Rockets, it’s the continuation of a summertime gamble that looks a lot like walking across a high wire while juggling chain saws.

After re-signing a player he had and cut seven months ago for a whopping $25.1 million, Houston general manager Daryl Morey evidently plans to turn right around and close a quite similar deal with Bulls backup center Omer Asik.

At the same time the Rockets remain doggedly in the middle of the Dwight Howard soap opera, willing to take the unhappy big man off the hands of the Magic, even for a short-term rental, or play a third-party role that could land Howard on the Lakers and Andrew Bynum in Houston. In return Morey is willing to give up a large portion of his current roster and take on a bevy of bad contracts from Orlando.

If you’re the Rockets who’ve been trapped in the netherworld middle of the NBA standings for three straight seasons with no star to build around, it is a half-mad gambler’s plan that makes perfect sense, assuming you’ve got the nerve and access to team owner Leslie Alexander’s wallet.

However, if you’re the Knicks, just drop the ‘L’ and label it insanity. Not that Lin was ever going to chase the ghost of Walt Frazier out of Madison Square Garden, but because they chose a curious time to become, as the old saying goes, pennywise and pound-foolish.


Draft Night Redux: No Blockbusters?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We waited all night on that blockbuster deal, only to walk away from another Draft night without any of the rumored mega deals taking place.

(Houston, we have a problem … and it includes that red and white No. 12 Dwight Howard jersey  that won’t get worn this season)

That’s fine, we’re just hours away from the start of free agency. And the Draft class of 2012 offered up plenty of mild surprises (Dion Waiters to Cleveland with the fourth overall pick, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III lasting until near the end of the first round, etc.), as always.

Ah, the joy of the Draft night drama that was …


It’s not often the 33rd pick in any draft absolutely steals the show from the other 59 guys selected. But Florida State’s Bernard James got the loudest roar from the crowd in Newark last night.


Rockets Deal With Howard In Mind

HOUSTON — Legend has it that the famous Johnstown Flood started with a leaky faucet in Altoona.

So when the Rockets send Chase Budinger to the Timberwolves for the No. 18 pick in Thursday’s draft, it would be wise to pay attention to the drip, drip, drip that could lead to a tsunami of a deal.

The Rockets now own the 14th, 16th and 18th picks in the first round and have made no secret that they are looking to trade up. Way up.

To Dwight Howard.

Houston is trying to woo the Magic with a whopping package of draft picks and players to pry loose the All-NBA first team center. Morey will continue trying to trade up for a higher pick to make the deal more attractive to the Magic. The Rockets have been talking to Sacramento about a deal to secure the No. 5 pick, which could then be sent to Orlando.


Unmade Deal Most Unfair To Rockets


HOUSTON – Here are three things that we know for sure:

– The Hornets will eventually trade Chris Paul somewhere and move on with a rebuilding plan.

– The Lakers will continue being the Lakers, which means they’ll eventually find their way into the running for Paul or Dwight Howard or another high-profile free agent who’ll vault them back into championship contention.

– The Rockets have been kicked in the teeth.

In war, it is often called “collateral damage,” a euphemistic label that does nothing to lessen the pain.

While commissioner David Stern may have had the best interest of the Hornets (he says) in mind and may have been reacting to an outcry from a faction of owners about allowing the Lakers to reload (he denies), at this point the only party to have tangibly suffered is the Rockets, who were caught in the middle.

The Rockets do not have Pau Gasol as the centerpiece of bold makeover plan. They do not the salary cap room to make a max offer to free agent Nene. They do not have last year’s starting center, Chuck Hayes, who bolted to Sacramento during the confusion. And they go back to work in training camp with two players – Kevin Martin and Luis Scola – who know they were not part of the plan for this season.

First-year coach Kevin McHale is in a difficult situation trying to put it all together on the court. But his task is nothing compared to that of general manager Daryl Morey, who has to try to mend fences in his locker room.

Whether the moves to bolster their front line would have lifted the Rockets into the upper reaches of the Western Conference standings or fallen flat is irrelevant. All that matters is that by jumping into the mud puddle and vetoing the original three-team deal, Stern spattered the Rockets badly, tied their hands through the rest of the free-agent process and might have wrecked their season.

Morey has every reason to feel betrayed by the league and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has every right to go full-Krakatoa on Stern with an eruption that should peel the paint off the walls of the league office.

Call it collateral damage or just a bloody mess in Houston.

Last tango with Adelman?

HOUSTON — Team owner Leslie Alexander wasn’t in his familiar mid-court front row seat for the final home game of the Rockets’ season.

To hear the scuttlebutt, Alexander has already seen enough of coach Rick Adelman and after four seasons is ready to move on.

It will go down as one of the most curious divorce cases in history, where the party that files the papers has irreconcilable differences that are equally inexplicable.

For the second straight season, the Rockets have missed the playoffs. But for the second straight season the Rockets have been without their All-Star center Yao Ming, who broke a bone in his left foot and played in only five games after sitting out the entire 2009-10 schedule. Midway through last season the Rockets traded away an injured and unhappy Tracy McGrady.

“What team loses two people of that stature in basically a two-year type of period?” Adelman asked. “You just can’t lose those types of people. You can’t do it. It’s impossible. It’s like the Lakers losing Kobe and Gasol. I don’t think you’re gonna replace those guys real quick.

“It’s been a real struggle. It’s been a real disappointment for everybody including those two guys who got injured. We tried to just take it for what it is and go with the guys we have in here. There’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you get fortunate and sometimes you don’t. The job is still the same.”


Contrite Brooks Returns To Rockets

HOUSTONAaron Brooks was not back where he wants to be in the starting lineup. But he was back with the Rockets, back with his teammates, back at his locker about 75 minutes before Tuesday night’s game, trying to put the worst moment of his NBA career behind.

“Emotions got the best of me,” Brooks said. “It was an embarrassing moment for myself. I wish I hadn’t done it. That’s not the type of guy I am.”

The fourth-year point guard was the guy who literally walked out on his team when he left the court in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s home game against the Grizzlies. He had been frustrated for weeks about his own inefficient play and the fact that coach Rick Adelman was frequently sitting him on the bench late in games.

Brooks had been suspended by the Rockets for Monday night’s game in Denver.

“I just want to send apologies to everyone, to Mr. (Leslie) Alexander, to the GM to the coaches, especially to the team, because I let them down. It was just a big mistake. That’s not me. That’s not part of my character and it won’t happen again.

“I love being a Rocket. I love being here. Right now, my play hasn’t been where it needs to be to play. I need to pick it up personally. I feel if I do what I’m capable of doing, what I’m accustomed to doing, getting healthy and playing, then everything will take care of itself.”