Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Alexander’

Morning shootaround — May 21





NEWS OF THE MORNING
Love conquers all | Thibs cleans house | Kerr’s fight continues | Casey defends Lowry | D’Antoni or Silas in Houston?
No. 1: Playoffs a perfect fit for Love here — A season ago there were all the problems trying to fit into the new atmosphere and new system and new team in Cleveland. Then came the playoffs and he was quickly injured and forced to the sidelines. But a year later Kevin Love is not only comfortable alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but he’s a perfect 14-0 in the playoffs for his career and having fun riding the wave. Our own Steve Aschburner caught up with Love, who talked about the change:

“I think there’s a sense of purpose now,” Love said. “We have our identity. And we also know that because of last year [injuries to Irving and Iman Shumpert, as well as Love], things can be taken away from you at any time.”

For Love the biggest difference between playoff basketball and that regular-season variety to which he was limited in six seasons with Minnesota is the urgency.

“Every play really does matter,” said Love, who made it to three All-Star games before ever helping a team reach the playoffs.

“Plays in the first, second, third quarters that can change the ball game in the fourth. Everything counts. One bad defensive play. A technical foul [or a flagrant] where they get the ball back and hit a three. Things that, in the regular season, you might be able to brush off. Here you have to really stick with it.”

Love said he has embraced the physical nature of the postseason, too, and he’s reminded himself to attack the offensive boards, rather than floating from his spots around the perimeter.

“I’ve had a mentality where I want to hit first,” said Love, who takes enough punishment — shoulder “stingers” in particular — to unnerve some Cleveland fans. “It’s going to get chippy. Both teams want to win so bad. You definitely remember [hard fouls]. But whether it’s a success or failure, you have to handle it quickly and get on to the next play.”

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No. 2: Thibodeau cleans out Wolves front office — You really didn’t expect Tom Thibodeau to take long to put his footprint on the Timberwolves, did you? The new leader of the wolfpack came down hard on Friday, firing GM Milt Newton, president of basketball operations Rob Babcock and several others and it’s likely just the start. Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has the gory details:

“If you’ve been around sports, you know how things happen,” Newton said. “Once you bring in a new group they want to put their stamp on it. It’s part of the job. I definitely don’t have any hard feelings towards anyone. I wish those guys well. And I wish the players well.”

Said Babcock: “Nobody likes to be let go, but that’s part of this business. When someone comes in new, the likelihood is there will be changes. I’ve been through it on both ends. They’ll do an outstanding job here. I’m disappointed I don’t get to be a part of it. But I understand completely. I hold nothing against them at all.”

These could be the first of many moves made by Thibodeau, who is clearly intent on building the organization in his image.

He spent a lot of time preparing for this. During his season away from the NBA, Thibodeau visited 13 franchises looking for ideas on how to run a front office, assemble and coach a team.

The moves were made shortly after the NBA’s scouting combine finished, as the team is ramping up preparations for June’s draft.

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No. 3: Being back with Warriors helps Kerr with recovery — What should have been one of the best, most fun-filled seasons of Steve Kerr’s career in the NBA has instead been a constant battle with pain as he continues to recover from offseason surgery. Though he’s far from mended, Kerr told our Scott Howard-Cooper that there’s no way he’s walking away from the job and the group of players that are the best medicine:

“I wouldn’t equate my health with anything that’s happened basketball-wise,” Kerr said. “I’ll put it this way. Under normal circumstances if I hadn’t had this health issue this would have been one of the great years of my life. But instead it was, honestly, one of the worst. Probably the worst.”
But quit, now that he’s made it back this far?

No. Not a chance. Not even if he could have slid into some advisory role with the team and whispered to assistant coach Luke Walton not to take the Los Angeles Lakers job because the big chair was opening on the Golden State bench. Not even if the Warriors follow their 73-9 finish, the best record in league history, with a second consecutive title in June and Kerr can go out on top like few others.

He loves the gig too much. Returning to broadcasting isn’t appealing, as good as he was as an analyst, and the idea of becoming head of basketball operations somewhere again, a role he had for three years with the Phoenix Suns, practically makes him cringe. GMs are separated from the team a lot, and the daily interaction is exactly what Kerr enjoys most. Nothing at age 50, far removed from a playing career of five championships with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, compares to the competitive energy, the trash talking, the camaraderie, the adrenaline rush of being on the sideline and under pressure, especially in the playoffs.

That is why Kerr fought his way back to the Warriors. It’s not that he wanted to get healthy to return to the job. He wanted to return to the job to get healthy.

Kerr required the frenzy of the 2015-16 Warriors.
“I needed the job to distract me and engage me,” he said.

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No. 4: Casey says Lowry didn’t quit — With his team already getting hammered before halftime of Game 2 on Thursday night, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry headed to the locker room early and opened the door for a ton of criticism. But Toronto coach Dwane Casey came to Lowry’s defense and said there’s no way the quarterback gave up on his team, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com:

“Kyle did not walk out on his team,” Casey said. “He and Cory Joseph use the bathroom more than any two human beings I know during the game. … I don’t think he quit on his team.”

Lowry faced criticism after he left the bench with 2½ minutes remaining in the second quarter “just to kind of decompress.” At the time, he was 0-for-4 from 3-point range and had committed five turnovers. Cleveland closed the first half on a 16-2 run to take a 14-point halftime lead.

“It’s whatever. I think it’s an overreaction, personally. I’ve done it countless times,” Lowry reiterated. “Maybe I went to go to the bathroom. I’ve done it before, going to the bathroom. It’s just the magnitude of the situation, which makes it a lot bigger than what it really it is.

“So next time I’ll clarify, ‘Hey, I’m going to the bathroom,’ or ‘Hey, I’m doing this.’ I’ll make sure I’m clear on it so everyone knows.”

Through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, Lowry is averaging 9.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.5 turnovers while shooting 28.6 percent from the field and 1-for-15 from 3-point territory.

The Raptors lost Games 1 and 2 by a combined 50 points. Game 3 is Saturday in Toronto.

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No. 5: Rockets search down to D’Antoni vs. Silas — It could be down to a matter of years in Houston. The final two in the Rockets’ search for a new head coach is evidently down to 65-year-old veteran Mike D’Antoni or 42-year-old up-and-coming Stephen Silas. The deciding factor could even be the choice of lead assistant. Jeff Bzdelik with D’Antoni or Lionel Hollins with Silas. So says the always tapped in Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Though very traditional in his approach, Hollins has long been favored by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who hoped to add Hollins to Kevin McHale’s coaching staff after the 2013-14 season before Hollins landed the head coaching position with the Brooklyn Nets.

Much of the conversations with D’Antoni since his meeting with Morey and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander have also been about the staff he would put together with Grizzlies assistant Jeff Bzdelik emerging as D’Antoni’s likely choice as a defensive specialist. Bzdelik, a former Nuggets head coach, met with Morey and Alexander about the Rockets head coaching position on Thursday.

Just as D’Antoni, 65, has had many head coaching stops — with the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers in addition to a celebrated career in Italy — Silas has been with five teams as an assistant. Silas, 42, coached with the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers before returning to Charlotte for his current position under former Rockets assistant Steve Clifford.

Silas, the son of longtime NBA head coach Paul Silas, who was a candidate to be the Rockets head coach in 2003, became the youngest assistant coach in NBA history when he was hired by the Charlotte Bobcats at age 27 in 2000.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Steph Curry says his elbow is fine and because of that the Warriors are feeling better heading into Game 3…Is America ready for Vice President Mark Cuban?…The buddy-love between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade doesn’t sit right with NBA old-timers…Pat Riley says he’s expecting a lot more from Goran Dragic next season….It seems that Draymond Green has a very long memory…New head coach Frank Vogel says the Magic are ready to take the next step…Steven Adams is getting bruised and battered in the playoffs, but will keep plugging away…The Coyote is retiring in San Antonio.

Reports: Van Gundy out of Rockets’ coaching search; D’Antoni now favorite

Strike one name from the list of potential Rockets head coaching candidates. Jeff Van Gundy is no longer a candidate for the job, according Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

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There was reported to be mutual interest between Van Gundy and Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey. But team owner Leslie Alexander is said to have been less less convinced that a reunion with the man who coached the Rockets from 2003-2007.

Van Gundy told Barry Warner of ESPN 97.5 in Houston: “I have not spoken to the Rockets so speculation about me has been off base.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle says that Mike D’Antoni has now become the favorite to land the job.

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Howard ejected again; Rockets rip refs


VIDEO: Wall, Wizards send Rockets to third straight loss

After missing half of last season due to injuries, Dwight Howard seems back to being a part-time player.

The Rockets center was ejected for the second time in two nights as the Rockets lost back-to-back games, this time to the the Wizards 123-122 at the Toyota Center on Saturday. Howard was also not around for the finish Friday night in Oklahoma City. He is now tied for the league lead in technical fouls with 11 on the second after picking up four in the space of just over 24 hours.

Following the game, Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff tore into the way this game was officiated and for what he says is a consistent pattern.

“It’s not fair the way referees officiate Dwight,” Bickerstaff said. “You go back and look at the clip; they initiate contact with him. They grab him. They hold him. Dwight gets punished more than anybody in the league. The referees have to be held accountable. They want to keep the game clean, the referees have to do their job. They can’t over and over again have the same situation.

“At some point in time if you want to protect the league’s players on a night in, night out basis, this crew is no exception. They allow people to hit him, they allow people to grab his neck. They allow people to grab his arms, hold his shoulders. He’s going to get hurt. The reason why he has the back problems, the knee problems, is because people jump on his back, people hold on his shoulders. These referees need to be held accountable for letting people attack Dwight and [be] dirty.

“They [Wizards] are not clean with the way they play. Cheap is one thing. Grabbing somebody’s arms. Grabbing somebody’s shoulders, that’s not clean basketball and it’s not just tonight. If the referees did their job in the first place, it would not have escalated to these situations. And we lose Dwight twice in a row now in crucial situations.”

Howard picked up his first technical with 6:16 left in the second quarter after he had been fouled from behind by Washington’s Jared Dudley as he tried to score. While Dudley was eventually hit with a flagrant foul following a video review, Howard reacted immediately by placing his hands on Dudley’s shoulders and neck area to demonstrate what had been done to him.

Howard’s second technical and ejection came with 8:08 left in the game, when he and Nene tangled under the basket.

“The rulings on Nene and Howard were Nene was initially issued his first technical for wrapping Howard in the upper torso area,” said lead official John Goble. “Howard was then issued a technical for pushing Nene. Nene was then issued a second technical for continuing to taunt Howard after that.”

Nene was also ejected from the game.

“Some of the stuff was uncalled for and it wasn’t basketball,” Howard said. “I can see it being physical. Wrestling in the paint, that’s one thing. But doing arm bars … this is basketball, not UFC. Stuff like that could cause players to get injured. I don’t want that. Just play basketball.

“I would never intentionally try to hurt anybody. So I wouldn’t want people to intentionally try to hurt me.

“Tonight I hurt my shoulder. It popped a couple of times from getting it yanked on in different ways and stuff like that. But I’m not gonna sit up here and complain about it. There’s nothing I can do but just continue to play.

“I wasn’t frustrated at what was going on. But I think some of that stuff that’s going on needs to be made aware of. Guys going around your shoulders and your neck. That’s supposed to be a certain call. It’s called for other people. But when it happens to me it’s like a regular foul. I won’t complain about it, but I don’t think it’s cool. Because a lot of injuries that I’ve had have come from getting fouled.

“I want to play in this league as long as possible. But getting injured because people are blatantly trying to hurt you is not cool.

“I don’t purposely go into games trying to find ways to get out of them. So that’s never in my thought process. I’m just upset tonight that I got kicked out for a reaction. But I don’t know how else to react when you’re getting put in multiple arm bars. Forgive me for being human.”

Bickerstaff said the Rockets have communicated their concerns with the league office.

“Tons,” he said. “Our owner [Leslie Alexander] and Daryl [Morey, the Rockets general manager] have done a great job of supporting Dwight and having communication with the league about he is refereed. It didn’t stop there tonight.”

“We don’t like to blame referees. Tonight, there were too many calls that were critical missed and they went the other way,” Bickerstaff said. “There was a phantom Pat Beverley foul. There were our plays getting to the rim. Tonight, the referees had a lot to do with the outcome and it shouldn’t be that way. Referees should be invisible. These weren’t.”

Morning Shootaround — May 6



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Game belongs to CP3 | LeBron focused on title, not MVP | Wall and Beal lead young Wizards past Pacers | Spurs look to their bench for boost | Hibbert’s teammates fed up, need more from All-Star big man

No. 1: CP3 answers the bell, silences his critics in opener —  Silence. That’s what Chris Paul did to his critics in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ conference semifinal in Oklahoma City Monday night. Folks who questioned whether or not he was ready to play through whatever pain he’s experienced with a sore hamstring and aching thumb found out early, and often, that he was not going to be denied. And a determined Paul, with all that he has been through recently,  is still a force to be reckoned with in these playoffs. Bill Plaschke of the The Los Angeles Times explains:

Chris Paul entered this postseason famous for a ring he doesn’t have, a city he doesn’t own, and a television commercial featuring a twin brother who doesn’t exist.

Maybe that’s why, on a wind-stopping Monday night in Oklahoma City, he spent three hours shouting, “Enough.”

Enough of the talk that he’s too injured and weary to lead the Clippers to NBA greatness, as the smallest starter ducked his head and shouldered them to a stunning 122-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener of their second-round series.

Enough of the idea that his sore hamstring and thumb limit him offensively, as he missed just two of 14 shots and just one of nine three-point attempts, scoring 32 points in the best pure shooting postseason game of his career.

Enough of the talk that he’s too slow defensively, as he led a swarming Clippers defense that deadened the dazzling Thunder offense into 18 turnovers, resulting in 23 points.

Enough, enough, enough of the idea that Donald Sterling has anything to do with this anymore.

Paul’s role as president of the players’ union meant he was especially stressed during the Sterling-stained opening series. He led the players in their jersey protest while wearing black socks and sleeves. Until the final quarter of Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, he struggled throughout the series with his strength and focus, and even admitted that he was one of several Clippers who fell asleep during Sunday night’s film session here.

A day later, biting through the Thunder and its roaring college-type crowd as if they were his dangling mouthpiece, Paul made it clear that everything was different.

“Maybe with all that stuff that happened, winning that series allowed him to breathe a little bit,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers afterward.

Paul showed up in a white sleeve and white socks. He took his first shot midway through the first quarter. It was a three-point attempt. He swished. He missed his next shot moments later. He didn’t miss again until there were barely five minutes left in the third quarter. During that time, he hit jumpers against seven different Thunder defenders, and ended any last Thunder gasp early in the third quarter with a tumbling three-pointer from the corner with Russell Westbrook in his face.

“That’s what I do. That’s what I do. [Pause] That’s a lie,” said Paul with a laugh when asked about his treys. “This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2, I’ll tell you that.”

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Morning Shootaround — April 29



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pacers, Vogel ponder lineup changes | Heat soak in another sweep | Report: Ex-Warriors assistant taped conversations | Rockets’ Alexander offers solution for Sterling issue

No. 1: Pacers, Vogel ponder changes after Game 5 shocker —  As our own Steve Aschburner pointed out last night, the Pacers find themselves and their Finals-hopeful season on the brink after a Game 5 loss at home to the Hawks. A telling second quarter — in which Atlanta outscored Indiana 41-19, mostly on the heroics of reserve Mike Scott — has the Pacers thinking some lineup changes will be necessary for Game 6, although even that notion is a bit mixed. Mike Moneith at Pacers.com has more on the team’s state after the loss:

This qualifies as a desperate time, and therefore calls for a desperate measure.

Then again, is it really desperate to change the starting lineup when you’re down 3-2 and in danger of becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed? The bold thing would be to go with the status quo.

“I consider everything at this point,” Frank Vogel said in the wake of his team’s 107-97 loss to the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday.

Changes to the starting lineup, or even playing rotation, aren’t as simple they’re often made out to be, given the lack of time for preparation between games in a playoff series, but a team trailing 3-2 doesn’t have the luxury of getting virtually nothing from its starting center. None of the voices heard in the Pacers’ somber postgame locker room could be heard calling for a drastic change. David West even went so far as to say “we can’t change our starting group.”

When they were down 30 midway through the third quarter, the Pacers’ lineup consisted of Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Paul George, David West and George Hill. That group got Atlanta’s lead down to 20 by the end of the period. Lance Stephenson and Ian Mahinmi started the fourth quarter but Mahinmi was subbed out less than three minutes later and Stephenson was back on the bench with 5:23 left. The group that started the comeback from 30 down finished the game from there, and got within nine points twice before it was too late. Their last reasonable hope came after Paul Millsap missed twice and the Pacers got the ball back, but George missed a three-pointer with 1:10 left that could have made it a six-point game.

Still, the lineup worked.

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Rockets Ready To Fill Howard’s Plate

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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.”

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. 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.

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