Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Beverly’

Rockets Getting Some New ‘Lincertainty’


VIDEO: Jeremy Lin has 18 points and four assists off the bench as the Rockets beat the Bucks

MILWAUKEE – Before Linsanity – those heady few months in the winter of 2012 that turned Jeremy Lin into a near-household name and helped the NBA heal from the rancorous lockout that delayed its season – there was uncertainty.

And after it, too.

About a week before his basketball world blew up (mostly) in a good way, Lin was praying just to keep his job. At a pregame chapel session in Miami on Jan. 27 that season attended by some players from both teams, Lin asked: “If you could say a prayer for me that I don’t get cut.” Fellows such as Landry Fields and Jerome Jordan, Lin’s Knicks teammates, and Heat forward Udonis Haslem heard a fringe guy sweating out the deadline date that year for contracts to be guaranteed.

Then Lin scored 25, 28, 23 and 38 points from Feb. 4 right through the Feb. 10 deadline, then kept going. In 11 games, the undrafted Harvard guy averaged 23.9 points and 9.2 assists while shooting 50 percent and helping New York win seven in a row and nine of 11.

Life hasn’t been the same since: a frenzied “15 minutes” of fame as a pop culture icon, massive All-Star vote totals inspired at least in part by Lin’s Asian-American heritage and a three-year, $25 million contract from Houston in free agency.

But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been uncertainty.

In a season and a half with the Rockets, Lin has established himself as a solid NBA rotation player but not that meteor streaking across the middle of 2011-12. He started 82 games last season but dipped in production (13.4 ppg, 6.1 apg, 44.1 FG), then got pancaked in Houston’s playoff series against Oklahoma City (4.0 ppg, 6-of-24 shooting, as many turnovers as assists).

This season, Lin has been in and out of the starting lineup, due partly to injuries (10 games missed with a knee sprain or back spasms) and partly to other injuries and combinations in the Rockets’ deep backcourt (James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Aaron Brooks). Mixed results and dissatisfaction among fans even fueled some Lin trade rumors, though his $15 million “balloon” salary in 2013-14 likely doesn’t have clubs beating down GM Daryl Morey‘s door.

But a light of sorts went on for Lin on Jan. 28 against San Antonio when he subbed as a starter for Harden, and it stayed on since he moved back to the bench. Beginning that night, Houston has won five straight and Lin has been in attack mode, averaging 16.0 points, 6.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 33.3 minutes, while shooting 50 percent (38.9 from the arc). His numbers prior to that were down across the board, in reserve or starting.

“Just trying to be aggressive, just trying to play free and trying to be myself out there,” Lin said after the Rockets’ 101-95 victory over Milwaukee Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. “That’s the biggest thing, just embrace whatever role they give me, big or small.”

Lin scored his 18 points in the first 19 minutes he logged against the Bucks, shooting 8-of-15 with four assists and a pair of steals. He played the entire fourth quarter and posted one particular roundabout highlight feed to Dwight Howard. He ran the offense up to a point, but kept his offense as a priority too.

“I still am responsible for getting other people going,” Lin said, “but I just think for me, whether I’m at the one or the two, I want to try to be very aggressive and attack a lot. Some nights it’s getting other people involved and some nights it’s getting myself involved.”

Houston coach Kevin McHale wants nothing less. “He needs to be aggressive,” McHale said recently. “Jeremy plays his best when he’s attacking, and when we have some pace in the game it really helps him.”

Lin has 19 appearances in reserve so far and 24 as a starter, so he needs to stick with the bench if he wants to get into the discussion for Sixth Man balloting. Harden is somebody who knows a little about that role, filling it to hardware- and conference-winning effect for the Thunder before his trade to Houston.

“He’s doing a great job,” Harden said of Lin. “He’s getting a feel for the game before he checks in, and once he checks in, he’s being aggressive and making the right plays. The more games he can get used to coming off the bench, the better off he’ll be.”

Playing the game mentally before actually playing in the game is the key, Harden said. “It’s the first six or seven minutes of the game,” said the Rockets’ leading scorer. “Knowing how the game is played, knowing who’s hot on the other team, knowing who has it going and who doesn’t have it going, and then just going out there and having an impact.”

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sixers unlikely to play Noel this season | Westbrook participates in parts of practice | Wade done addressing Durant comments | Rockets PG race still up for grabs

No. 1: Sixers plan to rest Noel all seasonRookie big man Nerlens Noel was acquired by the Sixers in a post-Draft trade and is thought to be the centerpiece of the rebuild going on in Philadelphia. There was hope that Noel might play this season — perhaps as soon as Christmastime — but Sixers fans may want to forget about that. According to Sam Amico of FoxSportsOhio.com and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, coach Brett Brown (who was excellently profiled by our own David Aldridge yesterday) isn’t planning on using Noel at all in 2013-14.

First, from Amico:

Brett Brown cleared up the situation regarding highly touted rookie Nerlens Noel, and fans of the Philadelphia 76ers probably aren’t going to like it.

Brown, in his first season as Sixers coach, said Noel is likely to miss his entire first NBA season as the result of a torn ACL suffered while Noel was a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

Brown dropped the news prior to the Sixers’ preseason game Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the campus of Ohio State University.

“We don’t want to waste this year,” Brown said of the Sixers’ strategy with Noel. “I think, from all perspectives, it’s an opportunity to break down his shot, really work on his free throws, and start a bit from ground zero. He’s bought in and been great.”

Now, Brown said, Noel is likely to be held out for the sake of learning in the film room and from the bench.

“He needs to be nurtured this year.” Brown said. “I think we’ve grabbed the thing and put him on a road map that’s good for him, and good for the program.”

And from Windhorst:

The Philadelphia 76ers are now expecting to hold first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel out for the entire upcoming season as he recovers from knee surgery, coach Brett Brown said Monday.

“I doubt, everybody doubts that he’s going to play this year,” Brown said before the Sixers played the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. “We don’t want to waste this year. I think from a skill perspective, it’s an opportunity for us to break down his shot, really work on his free throws and start a little bit from ground zero.”

It was not originally the Sixers’ plan to sit Noel — the No. 7 overall pick, who had surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee in March — for the entire season. He suffered the injury Feb. 12 while playing for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The timetable for Noel’s recovery was initially set for six to eight months, which was expected to allow him to return sometime in the middle of his rookie season.

Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, told ESPN in June that Noel was ahead of schedule.

“We’re really happy with his progress,” Andrews said at the time. “He’s several weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab. He’s improving on a weekly basis. He has a completely stable knee.”

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No. 2: Westbrook briefly participates in practice — Earlier this month, the Thunder’s All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The projection at the time was that Westbrook would need 4-6 weeks to recover, meaning his return to OKC’s lineup wouldn’t be until sometime in December. But Westbrook might be healing up faster than most thought as he participated in parts of Monday’s practice with the team, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

For the first time since training camp started, the Thunder had its full complement of players for at least a portion of Monday’s practice.

Kendrick Perkins, returning from a dislocated left ring finger, was back and is expected to play Tuesday against Phoenix. But the headliner was All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who participated in on-court drills with the team for the first time since he had arthroscopic surgery earlier this month.

“There were bits and pieces where Russell participated in practice, so that was good,” coach Scott Brooks said. “It was good to get everybody out there, working together.”

And even in that brief setting, Reggie Jackson, the man who is replacing Westbrook in the starting lineup, seemed to be impressed.

“Oh, man. Russell today…” Jackson said when asked how Westbrook looked, cracking a sly smile. “It’s actually funny. My brother and his brother talk a little before games. His brother told mine that Russell’s probably bouncing better than ever. I had to see it to believe it. One of the dunks (today), he went up and looked like the old Russell, plus some, head at the rim. We’ll be happy when he gets back fully healthy, but it’s good to see him with a smile on his face, being about the team, bouncing back and happy to be back on the court.”

***

No. 3: D-Wade done talking about Durant — One of the storylines of training camp and the preseason has been the through-the-media tiff between Heat star Dwyane Wade and Thunder star Kevin Durant over whether or not Wade deserves to be listed among the top 10 players in the NBA. The latest wrinkle in the argument came from Durant, who recently told EuroHoops.net that it’s time for Wade to “pass the torch” about being a top 10 player. Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says Wade is done addressing the topic:

Guard Dwyane Wade is done responding to anything Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has to say about him.

Durant recently said it was time for Wade to “pass the torch” to younger players. When asked about it, Wade declined comment.

“I’m not talking about that,” Wade said.

It was the second issue between the players. Last month Durant said Wade didn’t belong on the list of the NBA’s top 10 players. LeBron James also declined to comment on Durant’s statements.

***

No. 4: Lin, Beverly still in thick of race for starting gig – The Rockets know who their starting center(Dwight Howard), starting shooting guard (James Harden) and starting small forward (Chandler Parsons) will be, but the rest of their starting lineup may be in flux. In the preseason, Houston has started Terrance Jones and Donatas Motiejunas at power forward at times and at point guard, Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverly have gotten starting gigs as well. Coach Kevin McHale tells the Houston Chronicle‘s Jenny Dial Creech that the Beverly-Lin race is still up in the air:

As questions continue to swirl about who the Rockets’ starting point guard is this season, Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley played several minutes together Monday night.

Lin started at point guard and played 33 minutes. Beverley came off the bench and played 26.

“I thought (Lin) did a lot of nice things,” coach Kevin McHale said. “He broke people down; he had eight assists. Between he and (Beverley), they had 13 assists and four turnovers. I liked when they were both in the game.”

Lin finished with six points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Beverley had 10 points, five assists and two rebounds. McHale praised both for their defense.

“I thought they were both really solid,” he said. “Any mistakes that they do make are mistakes because they’re trying really hard and getting after it. They stay in place. They use their hands. They’re both diligent guys.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Player-turned-broadcaster Luke Walton, who will help on out Lakers games this season, wants to play again in the NBA … Nuggets point guard Nate Robinson, who played defensive back at Washington in college, believes he could have been an elite NFL defensive back … Magic forward Glen Davis says he’s making progress with his foot rehab … Charlotte has proven to be one of the better defensive teams of the preseason

ICYMI Of The Night: It is always fun to watch when Kyrie Irving busts out his Uncle Drew game on NBA types …

Howard: ‘No Regrets’ … But Steamed Harris Is Wearing No. 12 In Orlando



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Dwight Howard is really trying to put his checkered recent past behind him, he has a strange way of making it happen.

The Houston Rockets’ All-Star center has jilted fan bases in Orlando and Los Angeles (Lakers) in each of the past two seasons, bolting for what he believed to be a better situation in each instance. But he still wants to feel the love in both places. After staying silent for weeks while he was orchestrating exists from both places, Howard is finally opening up about how things went down.

The break-up in Orlando was about him not trusting the folks in charge to have his back after he and Stan Van Gundy‘s routine head-butting on certain things went public during that infamous post-shootaround scene where Van Gundy told reporters that he knew Howard had asked that the Magic fire him.

When the Magic fired Van Gundy in May 2012, Howard’s mind was already made up. He was gone. The trade to the Lakers ended in disaster as well, with Howard being unable to co-exist with Kobe Bryant and his misgivings after the franchise hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown instead of Howard’s preferred choice, Phil Jackson.

Howard explained his thought process to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“There were some things that I missed about Orlando,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of situations that nobody really knows that I kept on the inside, but there’s some things about Orlando that I missed. I’d say that getting out in the community and doing a lot of stuff that I did, I miss doing that stuff in Orlando and the relationships that I built with a lot of people over there in Orlando. I miss that.

“But I have no regrets. I’m happy everything happened the way it happened. Even though I got hurt in the process and I had to go through a tough time, it made me a better person. I’m more mature now. I know how to handle situations different than I did back then.”

Howard views the Rockets as a championship contender.

He thinks Houston has similar talent to the 2008-09 Magic squad he led to the NBA Finals.

On Tuesday, Howard compared Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons to Hedo Turkoglu and Rockets shooting guard James Harden to Courtney Lee but also added that Harden has more scoring ability. He compared Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley to Rafer Alston and Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin to Anthony Johnson.

Howard said he was disappointed that, last February, after the Magic acquired Tobias Harris in a trade, the team granted Harris’ request to wear No. 12, Howard’s old number.

“I just think that despite whatever happened, there was a lot of things that I did and that we did as a team, and that number was special down there,” Howard said. “And I was a little bit upset about that.”

What Howard may not realize is that Harris is wearing No. 12 to pay tribute to a close friend who had died of leukemia at 17 years old.

Simply put, Howard can’t have it both ways. He can’t depart the way he did and expect anyone in Orlando to hold him in the same regard they did before the bottom fell out.

The Magic might change their tune some day, years from now when the sting of the divorce wears off a bit more. And Harris will rock that No. 12 jersey well. He was one of the biggest and most promising surprises for a Magic team that struggled mightily last season in their post-Howard existence.

Clearly, this drama is not going away, no matter how many times everyone involved tries to make it so. Howard will have to relive and rehash these things every time he sets foot in Orlando and Los Angeles. And maybe that’s the ultimate burden he’ll have to bear, the eternal venom from fan bases scorned (Magic fans will at least admit they were torn to shreds when he left).

Howard says he has no regrets … time will tell!

Westbrook Will Miss 4-6 Weeks At Season’s Start After Another Surgery

From NBA.com staff reports

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Whatever plans the Oklahoma City Thunder had for Russell Westbrook will have to be put on hold. Their All-Star point guard will miss 4-6 weeks at the start of the season after another surgery Tuesday on his ailing right knee.

Westbrook injured his knee after a collision with Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverly on April 24 and had surgery to fix a torn meniscus on April 27 in Vail, Colo. He was progressing well, until recently.

Persistent swelling in the knee as Westbrook began limited activity during the Thunder’s training camp caused alarm and spurred a trip to California to consult with a medical team.

“Russell has been incredible in his work and rehabilitation. He has been pain-free and has performed at a high level during practice, but has experienced recent swelling that had not subsided,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement released by the team. “After careful consideration and recommendations from the medical team, we elected to do the procedure [Tuesday] based on our consulting physician’s belief that the swelling would be alleviated, and in turn give Russell the best chance for sustained performance throughout the season and beyond. During the procedure it was determined that the source of swelling was due to a loose stitch, and fortunately we were also able to confirm that the meniscus has healed properly.”

Both the initial surgery and the arthroscopic surgery performed Tuesday were done by surgeons chosen by Westbrook’s representation, according to Presti. The Thunder’s doctors were present in both cases, but only as observers.

Presti said he does not regret allowing an outside medical group to perform the operations.

“The way that it has been described to me is that it [a loose stitch] is a little bit of an outlier. It does happen,” Presti said. “When those things happen the best course of action is to obviously remove it because there’s something that’s aggravating the knee.”

During the Thunder’s Media Day on Friday, Westbrook was in high spirits, though he was unsure if he would be ready to start the regular season on Oct. 30. Now, with his initial recovery ongoing and combined with Tuesday’s procedure, it is possible he won’t play until Christmas nears.

The good news? The extra look into Westbrook’s knee confirmed that it has healed properly from the original surgery, Presti said. That knowledge should supply the explosive guard with some peace of mind.

Meanwhile, Westbrook, the NBA’s reigning iron man, will miss the first regular-season game of his career. His streak will end at 394.

“He is a very, very smart guy. He understands that although there is some loss of time here, a small amount from what was initially forecasted, what was gained was a tremendous amount of confidence in the healing of the knee,” Presti said. “Combining that information with the way he has looked in practice and the way he was moving in practice, I think he understands this bodes very well for him, not only this season, but also for the foreseeable future with the Thunder.”

It doesn’t necessarily bode well for teammate Kevin Durant and the Thunder, who went 4-5 in the playoffs sans Westbrook — losing in the semifinals to Memphis. The Thunder also lost sixth man Kevin Martin in free agency without signing a replacement.

Reggie Jackson will be Westbrook’s likely replacement in the starting lineup (as he was during the playoffs) with veteran Derek Fisher first off the bench. The shuffling will also accelerate second-year shooting guard Jeremy Lamb’s role as he’s introduced into the Thunder’s rotation.

“I think that we’ll be more prepared knowing a lot more about our team, some of the players that were able to perform at the time that we were dealing with this particular situation in the past,” Presti said. “And I think over time as we work through this period, when Russell does come back and joins us, A) he’ll be as good as ever, and B) I believe the team will be better than the one he last played with based on the fact that they’ll have to play through some situations that are not necessarily the way that we expected them.”

NBA.com’s Sekou Smith and Jeff Caplan contributed to this report

West Is Wide Open Without Westbrook






HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Forget about The Finals, for now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have to worry about getting out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, now that we know they’ll have to finish the Houston Rockets without one half of their superstar dynamic duo. Russell Westbrook needs surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee and could be out anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on how quickly he recovers.

The news hits the Thunder hard. They entered the playoffs as the Western Conference No. 1 seed and now, just two games in, they lead the Rockets 2-0 heading into Saturday night’s crucial Game 3 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the Toyota Center., they are forced to ponder the possibility of playing for the remainder of the postseason without one of the 10 best players in basketball.

“We hope [he comes back in the playoffs],” Kevin Durant said. “Our firs thing is to make sure he gets healthy and gets that knee back right. We’re not trying to rush him or bring him back ahead of schedule. We want to make sure he’s healthy and his knee is right. That’s our only concern right now.”

There is a time frame that would allow Westbrook to return later in the playoffs, perhaps late in the conference finals or the start of The Finals.

But again, the Thunder will have to make it that far without the league’s resident iron man. Love him or hate him, no one can question Westbrook’s durability, before now. He hadn’t missed a game during his five-year career, having played in 394 consecutive regular season games and all 45 playoff games the Thunder have played during that same span.

But he won’t be on the floor for Saturday night, joining a long list of game changers who are watching this NBA postseason from the bench of or beyond due to injury. Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire, David Lee and Danny Granger are all watching their teams toil without them in this postseason. They all serve as human reminders for their peers that your next false step could be your last, of this season.

But none of those aforementioned stars plays on a team that had the supposed inside tack to get back to the conference finals and then The Finals, for that rematch with the Miami Heat. Westbrook’s injury opens the door in the Western Conference for the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets or Golden State Warriors to start eyeballing the calendar in early June for a possible trip to The Finals of their own. Shoot, even the Los Angeles Lakers, down 2-0 to the Spurs in their first round series, can start dreaming about doing the unthinkable.

Simply put, the West is wide open now.

“Kevin Durant needs to take the Carmelo Anthony approach,” said ESPN analyst Jalen Rose. “Take around 25-30 shots per game, his team already has a 2-0 lead. The one thing about professional sports, and life for that matter, when opportunity knocks, you have to seize it. So trust me, all of the teams in the Western Conference, their ears perked up today. They feel like they have chance to advance.”

The Thunder earned the No. 1 seed in the West this season but entered the postseason with plenty of worthy challengers who did not plan on the fragile nature of things to swing in their favor with Westbrook’s injury. No offense to Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher or anyone else in a Thunder uniform, but it’s Durant and Russell Westbrook who do the headlining. In fact, the Thunder have never had to work for an extended period of time without both of their stars in the lineup.

Trying to navigate these rough playoff waters with only one half of that devastating combination sounds more like mission impossible for a Thunder team that, truth be told, spent much of this season learning how to operate without the former third member of their superstar crew, Rockets All-Star guard James Harden.

Thunder GM Sam Presti, coach Scott Brooks and Durant all did their part to rally the troops today after the news spread of the severity of Westbrook’s injury.

“Our team as a whole, we’ve got a resilient group of guys, a lot of character within that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they’ve been together.” Presti said. “We’d expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively. Once we were able to gather all of the necessary information and everything was accumulated, it was an easy decision for our medical team.”

The decision on how to play in Westbrook’s absence won’t be nearly as easy. The Rockets’ defensive strategy shifts now from worrying about picking between two lethal performers to focusing solely on Durant and daring that Thunder supporting cast to beat them. Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists through those first two games while also serving, as always, as the Thunder’s primary facilitator.

Jackson’s been solid in spurts of relief this season. Doing it daily, however, could be more than he’s capable of handling. And even if does acquit himself well in the first round, either Chris Paul or Mike Conley and their teams, will be waiting on the Thunder’s replacement for Westbrook in the next round.

Durant insists that the Thunder’s “Next Man Step Up” mantra applies in this case, just as it does any other.

“We have good depth on our team,” Durant said. “Reggie Jackson is ready for the moment. He has been working his tail off ever since he got here. So he’s ready for this. We just have to rally behind him and know that we have to give him confidence, because he’s going to make mistakes like everybody else. But we just have to keep encouraging him.”

All the courage and encouragement in the world won’t make Jackson into Westbrook. Their is certainly survival after losing a superstar. The Lakers (Kobe) and Celtics (Rondo) are proof of that much.

But we’re talking about a team focused on competing for championships, not just surviving.

“It doesn’t matter who we throw out there. We’re a 15-man team and we still are, even with Russell being hurt,” Brooks said. “We’re a 15-man team and everybody believes in each other and that’s what you have to do. You don’t win in this league with one player. You don’t win with five or six players, you win it with your team. We talk about that and we believe in the things that we talk about. We don’t jus throw it out because it looks cool on a t-shirt or a billboard. We believe in each other, we believe in what we do and we take pride in it and we’re proud about what we do.”

We’re all going to find out exactly what the Thunder do when they are forced to play a man down.

Forget about The Finals … for now!

Rockets Roll Out Red Carpet For Lakers

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HANG TIME, Texas — If the Lakers require a boost to become a playoff team rather than mere wannabes, the trade deadline deals by the Rockets could be just the leg up they need.

Currently sitting in the No. 8 spot in the West with a 3 1/2 game lead on Team Dysfunctional, Houston is virtually sending a stretch limo and holding open the door for the Lakers.

In trading starting power forward Patrick Patterson for Thomas Robinson, the Rockets did nothing at all to solidify their lineup for the stretch run of the season. By also swapping out Marcus Morris, the final 26 games of the season are being turned over to rookie Donatas Motiejunas, NBA D-Leaguer hustler Greg Smith and whatever Robinson might chip in at the four spot.

“Our goal is to get to the championship,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. “That’s goal No. 1. Goal No. 2 is to make the playoffs this year. The good thing is I don’t think those goals are in conflict with this move.

“We feel like Thomas Robinson has a lot of upside for the bigger goal of getting back to being a contender. And we think we can just just as solid. If we made it harder (to make the playoffs this season), it’s just a little bit harder.”

There is virtually nothing to criticize with what the Rockets did. Patterson and Morris, while solid in their jobs, do not come close to holding the potential of the 21-year-old Robinson, who was the No. 5 pick in the draft just eight months ago and, in the eyes of many, possessed the talent to be taken even higher. The Rockets believe he can be a high-energy, rebounding monster that can run the floor and mesh perfectly with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, while helping Omer Asik far more on the boards and Patterson or Morris ever would. In addition, they picked up a high, second-round draft pick that could be valuable. Plus, the aggregate salaries of the four players the Rockets traded could give them between $15 million and $20 million to spend on free agents next summer.

Already the youngest team in the league, the Rockets are playing the long game and the future suddenly looks very bright. So while hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the playoffs would be a nice bauble, the right to get slapped around by the Spurs or Thunder in the first round isn’t an end.

But it is not exaggerating to say that it could provide the Lakers with the opening they need to save this season and their future. Let’s face it: the chances of getting Dwight Howard to sign a new contract that would keep him around as the foundation of the next generation in purple and gold would be helped by the Lakers making the playoffs. If they finish on the outside, whatever criticism of Howard’s shortcomings that currently exist will only be ratcheted up.

In addition, if the Lakers do manage to claw their way into the postseason, it would mean that they have somehow pulled things together and played better over the final third of the schedule. Unlike the youthful Rockets, who might wander into the playoffs with their jaws agape, a Lakers team with momentum along with Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and a recovered Pau Gasol in the lineup would be least have the veteran puncher’s chance to pulling off the upset and advancing.

Especially over the next few weeks as they move two rookies — Motiejunas and point guard Patrick Beverly — into the rotation, the Rockets have practically eliminated their margin for error and given the Lakers a chance to wipe out all of their wrongs of the past four months.

It’s quite fitting that it’s Oscar Week. The Rockets have just rolled out the red carpet for the Lakers.

How Many 3s Does It Take To Insult You?


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HOUSTON — Now, if the question ever comes up and you have a chance to win a bar bet, you’ll know.

How many 3-pointers in a single NBA game does it take to make an insult?

The answer, evidently, is 23.

That’s the NBA record-tying number poured in by the Rockets on Tuesday night that finally got under the Warriors’ skin.

Not 17, 18 or 19. Not 20, 21 or 22.

23.

It wasn’t until there were just under four minutes left in a 140-109 thumping and 7-footer Donatas Motiejunas slung one in from the right corner that it seemed to occur to anyone wearing a Golden State jersey that this was just a bit embarrassing.

So with the Toyota Center crowd on its feet and chanting: “One more three! One more three!” the Warriors decided it was time to play with whatever pride — if any — they had left.

Which then resulted in the final three minutes more closely resembling recess at an elementary school. The Rockets kept running their offense and shooting 3s. Houston reserve Patrick Beverley hammered home a dunk, then taunted the Warrior bench and drew a technical foul.

Golden State’s Draymond Green was flagged for a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected when Beverley tried to let fly with a corner jumper in front of the Warriors’ bench. Houston’s Marcus Morris was hit with a technical and tossed out on the same play.

In the final two minutes, the Warriors would not let the Rockets even attempt a 3 in order to break the record. Warriors coach Mark Jackson ordered his players to foul the Rockets intentionally on each possession.

“We’re not going to lay down,” said Jackson, ignoring the fact that his team already had. “I’m an old-school basketball player and an old-school coach. If you can’t appreciate that, that’s on you.

“We’re not going to lay down. If you’re going to get the record, we’re going to stop it. There is a way to do it, that’s all. Understand it, appreciate it and I would expect nothing less if I was on the other side.”

Rockets coach Kevin McHale just happens to be an old-school guy himself. You can tell from his limp. And also from searching on YouTube for a clip of him clotheslining the Lakers’ Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

“We just had to keep playing,” McHale said. “I really didn’t even know we had a chance to break the record until late in the game. We shoot a lot of 3s, that’s just what we do. If we were to get them in the flow, we get going to get them. Mark didn’t want it to happen and fouled and I didn’t have no problem with how they played. Mark’s got to coach his team. I have no problem with that.”

For 44 minutes, the Warriors didn’t seem to have a problem with anything the Rockets did either. Otherwise you’d think they might have played just a little bit of defense.

“At the end of the day, we just continued to play,” Morris said. “… And we were just taking the shots the defense was giving.”

Until the Warriors decided they’d had enough.

How many 3-pointers does it take to make an insult?

If you’re asked, remember to shout: “23!”

Then duck.

Old School Rules or New Age Touchy Feely?

Round Two is Tuesday night in Oakland.