Archive for the ‘Houston Rockets’ Category

Shea Serrano took his twin 5-year-old sons to Monday night’s Spurs-Rockets game. This is what transpired.

6:30 p.m.: Big night. Tonight, the boys (my twin 5-year-old sons) and I are going to watch the Spurs/Rockets game at the Toyota Center in Houston. It’ll be their first in-person Spurs game ever, and only the second pro basketball game of their lives (I took them to go watch the Clippers back when Blake Griffin first started dunking on everyone’s heads during his second rookie season, but they were barely past baby then so all they wanted to do was be shitty at skeeball in the Kid Zone in the stadium).

I’m excited. I don’t anticipate the boys’ll make it past the second quarter, but whatevs. My dad started taking me to Spurs games around the same age too; the actual games were always incidental. I suspect just about all of the people that read this site (or any site about sports, really) have similar memories of similar time spent with their fathers.

I also suspect just about all of the people that read this site (or any site about sports, really, but definitely specifically this one) are really, really good at things like foosball and navigating Microsoft Excel, but that’s a different thing.

6:34: Conversation:

Boy B: Who’s playing, Daddy?
Me: The Spurs and the Rockets.
Boy B: The Rockets are from where?
Me: From Houston, where you were born. They’re like the Texans, but basketball.
Boy B: Oh. And the Spurs are from San Antonio, because that’s where you were born?
Me: Correct.
Boy B: Who else was born in San Antonio?
Me: … Umm, oh, well grandma lives in San Antonio.
Boy B: IS GRANDMA GOING TO PLAY?!?!?!
Me: Dude.
Boy B: MAMA! GRANDMA PLAYS FOR THE SPURS!
Me: Jesus Christ. 

6:53: At the stadium. The boys have noticed the sign at the top and, with the intensity of 1,000 suns, are doing their best to sound it out. “Toy-oh-ta. Toy-yota? TOY YODA?! YODA! DADDY, DOES YODA PLAY FOR THE ROCKETS?!” What the fuck is happening right now? We haven’t even made it inside yet.

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James Harden used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Thunder Broington, the kind of guy who would wander around a party with Kevin Durant. But now he’s a Houston Rocket, starting and leading the team in scoring while hopefully trying to set up his own buddy clique down in Clutch City. You know all this.

But the reason I bring it up is because tonight is the first time James Harden returns to Oklahoma City in a new uniform. As such, everybody’s trying to play it cool like Beardo wasn’t a key member of a team that lost the NBA Finals like 10 minutes ago and they wouldn’t miss him, no way, even if he were. But Thunder coach Scott Brooks admits tonight’s game means just a little bit more than the usual late November matchup. From Royce Young:

“No, it’s not just another game. I want to beat the Rockets. They traded me in the second championship year.”

Oh. That’s why tonight’s game isn’t just another game? Because Scott Brooks got traded 20 years ago? Neat.

Personally, I thought it’d be something juicier. Something like, “No, it’s not just another game. I want to beat the Rockets. We want to prove we don’t need James Harden, which is why I had these shirts made up for everyone to wear during warmups.”

Turns out that’s just a random shirt for sale in some store in Oklahoma City, not something from Scott Brooks’ personal collection. Oh well. Just a normal game tonight, unless you’re still upset about that huge trade — you know, the one involving the backup point guard on the 1994-95 Houston Rockets. Other than that, nothing to see here.

The sad part is, with this basket Omer Asik tied or outscored one-third of the Raptors who played last night.

Another eight of these and the Raptors have a chance to blow another overtime game.

Well, at least someone can score in the paint for the Raptors.

I’ve got more Raptors jokes, if you want. Just let me know.

Shea Serrano is one of our new contributors for this season. He’s a writer and he wants you to take him seriously. He wears glasses and owns a tweed jacket with leather elbows. He’s written for Grantland, SLAM, Village Voice, LA Weekly and more. He’s great.

Every Friday, I come home from work and inspect the contents of a red folder and a blue folder. The folders belong to my twin sons, Boy A and Boy B, both of whom are in kindergarten. I suspect their teachers send them home to serve as indirect proof that they’re in class learning handwriting and math and not black magic or racist terms for Mexicans, but that’s just a guess.

Anyway, generally, the folders are full of worksheets and whatnot, of which I pretend to peruse for four or five seconds before spouting out some form of dad rhetoric (“Great job, champ!” or whatthefuckever) and then patting one or both on the back of the head. A couple of weeks ago though, there was something new.

To celebrate Columbus Day, Boy B’s class made these little paper bag Christopher Columbus puppets. And I was offended. Not that they were basically high-fiving one of the most dastardly historical figures of all-time, but because OH MY GOD THE PUPPET BOY B MADE WAS BASICALLY THE SHITTIEST PUPPET YOU’VE EVER SEEN.

It was so shitty that I’m forced to try to explain to you how awful it was rather than just show you a picture of it because as soon as he wandered away from me I immediately destroyed it because OH MY GOD THE PUPPET WAS BASICALLY THE SHITTIEST PUPPET YOU’VE EVER SEEN. So that’s why we have these guys below.

These are some WAY MORE WAVY paper bag puppets for you. There’s Paper Garnett, Paper Harden and Paper Pop. The instructions are on each page, though I’m certain you’d have been able to figure it out anyway. So have it. Thanks. Great job, champs.

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Irrespective of whether we believe he is truly worthy of it or not, it has surely always been known that it will take a maximum contract to lock up James Harden. If Eric Gordon can get the max on the open market, Harden certainly can. And it seems he now will. But not from the Thunder.

Reportedly, Oklahoma City went as high as $54 million in their offer to Harden. With a maximum salary of as-near-as-$60 million, the Thunder’s final offer left them a comparatively meager $6 million short of the maximum, $1.5 million per annum less to spend elsewhere on the roster should they yield and tender the maximum. That’s one less Lazar Hayward or Hasheem Thabeet type per season. That’s nothing, no hardship at all. And it’s therefore easy to find fault with Oklahoma City’s budgetary constraints, which had thus far allowed for spending as much as it took.

Similarly, though, Harden could be faulted for letting what is a trivial amount of money (in extremely, extremely relative terms) become an immovable obstacle that has broken up the league’s best young trio. Especially since he had previously spoken of the need for sacrifice. You can go either way on that one. Ultimately then, perhaps apportioning any blame is needless. It’s all too easy and helps nothing going forward. Both teams gave the others their instructions, and it seem the gap wasn’t bridgeable. Probably should have been, but it wasn’t.

Typically ballsy, Oklahoma City decided not to let the chips fall where they may. They dictated their terms, didn’t get what they wanted and acted fast. Whether they acted correctly or not, however, is a separate matter. Having not done much to upgrade the roster over the summer, save for the drafting of Perry Jones, the Thunder unequivocally and emphatically downgraded their roster with this deal. Even if Kevin Martin were to experience a career resurgence, he hasn’t the effect Harden does, and even if Jeremy Lamb realizes the best possible prognosis for his career, he’s not the half court weapon Harden already is.

They chose between Westbrook and Harden and chose Westbrook; they chose between Ibaka and Harden, and chose Ibaka. In a super teams era where it is demonstrably proven that teams need multiple consistent half court scoring options to succeed, Oklahoma City just lost a high quality one without gaining the means to replace him. They won’t have cap space, won’t pick from the top of the draft again, and now rely a great deal on the development of Lamb and the knees of Jones and Eric Maynor. They’re still good, very good, but they took a backwards step when they needed a final forward one. If an expiring contract doesn’t equal cap space, it doesn’t really matter how large it is. Not unless you’re going to use it in trade, as Houston just did.

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My immediate response and description of Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti’s trade of James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round draft picks and a second round pick is that it was ninja-like — they killed Harden’s OKC career quietly and sneakily, and nobody really saw it coming.

Oh, sure, people were talking about a potential Harden trade for about a year, but surely nobody expected this to happen right now. After Harden reportedly turned down a four-year offer in the range of $53-54 million from Presti — an offer that was clearly of the “take it or leave it” variety — Presti must have called Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who apparently had an offer on the table and has been lusting after a max-level player ever since his Yao-McGrady duo failed to bear fruit.

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Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

30. Orlando Magic
If you’re a Magic fan, you should not be upset by my forecast that your team will finish with the worst record in the NBA next season. When your best player is Arron Afflalo and your second-best player is a toss-up between Al Harrington and Gustavo Ayon, you have to know you’re going to be terrible. So why not go completely in the tank and root for your team to put itself in the best possible position to win the 2013 draft lottery?

Typically, a team this bad is populated with young players still trying to find their way in the pros, but the Magic roster consists mostly of veterans who would be useful pieces on a good team if they were required to play roughly half as many minutes as they’ll be expected to play this season. As for Hedo Turkoglu, this is the last fully guaranteed year on his contract so I expect he’ll head back to Turkey after this season to play out his remaining basketball days smoking Marlboro Reds as a player/coach for Anadolu Efes S.K.

29. Charlotte Bobcats
Why do I think the Bobcats will finish ahead of the Magic in the standings? Because it’s a potential contract year for Ben Gordon (next season is a player option), that’s why. It’s going to be fun to try to figure out which GM is going to witness Gordon scoring 18 points per game off the bench this season and subsequently talk himself into signing Gordon to a four-year, $40 million deal.

I expect Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be a boxscore slut and I assume Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo will make noticeable improvements in their sophomore seasons. Underrated Bobcats storyline: Will DeSagana Diop’s 12th NBA season be his last? With the expiration of his contract, he will have earned $47 million while averaging around two points per game over his career. Size matters, y’all.

28. Houston Rockets
After years of stagnation, Rockets GM Daryl Morey has finally put this team in a position to “bottom out” this season and try to land a future superstar in the draft. That certainly seems to be where this team is headed after shedding four of its five best 2011-12 players in Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Samuel Dalembert. After finishing 42-40, 43-39 and 34-32 over the last three seasons, the Rockets need to break out of their cycle of mediocrity and start trying to build a real contender.

It remains to be seen how the Jeremy Lin signing will turn out, but I’m convinced that Morey’s signing of Omer Asik will pay huge dividends for this team in the future. He’s one of the best defensive and rebounding centers in the league, and if he can raise his offensive game to something approaching decent, the Rockets will be paying just over $8 million per season for a top 10 center. I expect his emergence to be a rare highlight for this team as they settle into the Western Conference basement.

Next in the countdown: 27-25