Tag archive

James Harden

How Parsons Helped Houston Hook Howard

in NBA by
parsons

Even if Chandler Parsons sat out every game of this upcoming season, he’d still be a strong contender for the MVP on the Houston Rockets. That’s because no contribution that Parsons can make on the court, outside of morphing into a LeBron James clone, will surpass what he did for the Rockets off the floor: recruiting Dwight Howard.

Parsons was amongst the group of players, former players and executives that the Rockets sent out to Los Angeles to meet with Howard when free agency began and played a critical part in convincing Dwight to leave the Lakers. Parsons’ recruiting of Dwight didn’t start that night, though, as the two had been friends since Parsons was in college at the University of Florida and have shared an agent since May.

“I think I had a big impact,” Parsons told Yahoo! Sports about his role in getting Dwight to Houston. “The first thing he said at the press conference was that, ‘You guys should thank Chandler Parsons because he is a big reason why I am here.’ I think I just gave him that comfort that you got one of your boys here who is also a key part to the team.”

Dwight being someone that has other interests outside of basketball and clearly enjoys joking around in the lockerroom, surrounding him with people he likes to be around may be just as important as surrounding him with players that fit with his game. And Parsons just so happens to fit with Dwight on and off the floor.

“We got a lot of guys that are just friends. We enjoy playing with each other. We hang out off the court,” Parsons told me. “I think we are going to do something really special. ”

We thought the same thing of the Lakers last season when they landed Dwight Howard around this time, but the one  thing that team never had, and never really had a shot at having, was camaraderie. Kobe is the kind of leader that demands excellence out of his teammates and isn’t afraid to berate them openly if they don’t live up to expectations. Howard has the exact opposite personality and was never going to completely dedicate himself under those circumstances, especially when he also didn’t see eye-to-eye with the coach.

Howard will be the class clown of any lockerroom he steps into, and his act didn’t sit well with the veteran laden Lakers. The Rockets offer him a lockerroom with a much more relatable and hospitable crowd.

“We’re the youngest team in the league,” Parsons said. “We love playing basketball, we have fun doing it. We’re gonna smile, we’re gonna laugh, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t’ going to work hard. We’re going to really get after it.”

Houston offers Howard a much more open, friendly and jovial environment, one that much better suits his personality. The players are younger and more animated than the veteran Lakers and Kevin McHale should also fit extremely well with Howard, as he’s a player’s coach that loves to rib his guys in good fun. Of course, Mike D’Antoni is also a pretty playful coach, but his dislike of post-up offense doomed his relationship with Howard from the start.

Now that he’s in a situation tailor made for his particular charisma and playing for an organization that fell head over heels for him, assuming he’s healthy, Howard should be back to being one of the five best players in the league this season.

The Rockets also offer Howard a tremendous supporting cast basketball wise, and Parsons is a big part of that as well. Houston’s roster has continued rounding out since Howard signed with the team and things look even better than they did then. The Rockets have brought back Fransisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks, added a pair of solid wing players in Omri Casspi and Reggie Williams, signed big man Marcus Camby and they drafted Isaiah Canaan back in June, all of which will cost the team about $5.5 million this season. When you have over $33 million committed to your two max players, in addition to the $16 million Houston has committed to their two big pick-ups from last summer (Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin), it’s vital for the general manager to unearth good players that will play for minimum contracts, and there’s nobody better at that than Daryl Morey.

In that sense, Howard and Parsons represent the completion of Morey’s rise to elite status as an NBA executive.

Parsons was not a highly regarded NBA prospect when he graduated from Florida, but Morey saw something in Parsons when he was a Gator and landed him with a second round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Since then Parsons has developed into the NBA’s best bargain, offering up a multitude of services at the small forward spot for less than a million dollars a year (and his recruiting services are just a bonus). It’s a similar story for Patrick Beverley, the best point guard on the roster, who Morey plucked from Russia and signed to a deal that won’t pay him over $1 million a year for another two seasons.

Once Morey landed James Harden last season, a trade that came about because of his asset compiling, of course, the only thing left for him to do was to attract a max free agent to Houston. And thanks to the players, and the people, that he put in place heading into this off-season, he can now cross that off his bucket list, too.

“He’s brilliant,” Parsons said of Morey. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He made some moves last year that people questioned, but it was all apart of his plan. And it is starting to work out for us.”

Howard, Harden, Houston

in NBA by
howardharden

A year ago today, Daryl Morey sat in his office after a long couple of weeks of negotiating, his roster still without the superstar he desperately craved. He had hoarded draft picks and potential laden youngsters for months in an attempt to pry Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, but as the draft passed and Howard remained in Orlando, Morey found himself without a face for his franchise. Morey would make one more push for Dwight in August, but ultimately it would the Lakers that landed Howard, and Morey’s boom-or-bust roster building philosophy was questioned more than ever.

But then something happened. Just days before the 2012-13 season was set to tip off, the Oklahoma City Thunder, after failing to workout an extension with him, decided to make James Harden available rather than playing out the year and letting him take a max offer in free agency. And for some reason unbeknownst to me, GM wunderkind Sam Presti accepted an offer of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and and two first round picks (one of which turned out to be “meh” big man Steven Adams), and all of the sudden the Rockets had their superstar.

Fast forward to today, when a confounded Dwight Howard sat at some resort in Aspen, Colorado, and started crossing suitors off his list. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks were first to go, and then the Golden State Warriors seemed out of the mix, leaving just the Rockets and Lakers standing. Of course, no Dwight Howard sweepstakes would be complete without drama, and today’s plot twist came when the Warriors completed a salary dump trade and agreed to a deal with free agent forward Andre Iguodala, whom Howard is reportedly a fan of. With Iguodala in the fold, Golden State was prepared to offer some combination of Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal for Dwight.

While playing with Stephen Curry is a very intriguing proposition, Howard ultimately decided that Harden was the better right hand man, and USA Today’s Sam Amick is reporting that Superman is headed to Houston.

Houston seemed to be the favorite throughout this entire process, but the Warriors made a very compelling case when they added Iguodala. At that point – about three hours ago – whichever team Howard decided to join between Houston and Golden State would immediately be considered a title contender, and we now know that team will be the Rockets. While the Lakers could have offered Howard a longer and richer deal, the lack of state taxes in Texas will actually make the monetary sacrifice much smaller, and Houston is the team that offers Howard the best shot at a championship.

Howard had a down year in 2013 and has turned some people off because of how he’s handled himself off-the-court over the past two years, but there’s no denying that he’s the best big man in basketball when he’s healthy. If he’s able to get back to even 90% of his former self, the Harden-Howard duo will be the best in basketball, surpassing the Westbrook-Durant combo. Houston’s dynamic duo is a better fit, too, as Harden and Howard should mesh extremely well together. Howard is the prototypical pick-and-roll big man with unparalleled athleticism and agility and good hands while Harden was the league’s most efficient pick-and-roll ball handler last season. I’m sure Kevin McHale will do his best to make Howard into a supreme post-player, but the Rockets will still use the pick-and-roll as their primary process for point scoring, and they are going to be very, very good at it.

Howard will also help sure up Houston’s shaky defense. Omer Asik is one of the better defensive big men in the game and was tremendous last season in his first year as a starter, but he can’t affect the game as dramatically or for as long as Howard can. Howard won’t be able to make Harden any better on defense – that’s all about Harden’s effort level – but Dwight consistently made a Magic team with several poor individual defenders into an elite defensive unit when he was in Orlando. With the right scheme, Houston can become a top 10 defensive team, and with an elite offense, that is good enough to make them a title contender.

As if pairing up an offensive savant like Harden with a defensive building block by Howard wasn’t enough, the off-season isn’t over for the Rockets just yet. There’s a chance that the Rockets may be able to acquire a third star player to add to their already solid core. The most logical option is free agent power forward Josh Smith, a close friend of Howard’s and a former AAU teammate. It appears as if Smith is interested in joining Howard in Houston and the Rockets can kill two birds with one stone in a potential sign-and-trade deal by getting either Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik’s contracts off the books. Putting Smith with Howard and Harden, along with Chandler Parsons at the three and Patrick Beverley at point, would give the Rockets four above average (and two elite) defensive players in their starting line-up, which is a scary thought given how much that team would score.

Another domino that may fall involves free agent point guard Jose Calderon. It has been reported that Calderon was waiting to see where Dwight would go so that he could follow him (what an odd connection, by the way), and the Rockets could really use a veteran like Calderon that can play in crunchtime and give them elite shooting from the perimeter. If the Rockets can get rid of Lin, they may have some money left over to nab Calderon, and the two-man point guard rotation between Beverley and Calderon would offer Kevin McHale tremendous versatility with his backcourt.

Regardless of who the Rockets are able to add from this point on – and it’s worth noting that no GM has proven better at finding dirt cheap rotation players from the bargain bin than Morey – the core they have now already has championship potential. Harden and Howard will combine for some of the best looking basketball that the NBA has to offer, and with role players like Parsons and Beverley complimenting them perfectly, Houston has become one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

After years of searching for the right stars, Morey has finally secured two of the brightest superstars in the league to be the cornerstones of his franchise. So get ready, NBA, because Houston is going to be a problem.

A Chat With Phillip Barnett

in NBA/Podcasts by
lakers

Phillip Barnett, the NFL editor at SportsCity and a writer for ForumBlue&Gold, joined me to talk about the NBA season. Here is a list of things Phillip and I discussed:

– The Lakers’ whirlwind of a season, their playoff hopes and the relationship between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

– The Houston Rockets’ emergence this season, the play of James Harden and what will take to get them to the next level.

– The Oklahoma City Thunder and whether or not Harden’s absence will have a major impact on their post-season.

– The San Antonio Spurs and whether or not this is the season that they get back to the Finals since becoming Tony Parker’s team.

– Which Western Conference teams he wants to make the playoffs, the Miami Heat as title favorites, the multiple historical arguments associated with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and more!

Next Step For OKC: Abolishing Incorrect And Unnecessary Position Tags

in Archives by
russ

The idea of positions in basketball has been called into question a few times this year. The subject has been deemed “positionality” and most people are starting to believe that the traditional PG/SG/SF/PF/C lineups are becoming outdated due to the advancement of NBA athletes and the way coaches use those athletes.

One of the biggest storylines of the 2011 NBA playoffs is the play of Russell Westbrook. Because Westbrook is the Thunder’s “point guard,” having him take more shots than Kevin Durant in some of the Western Conference Finals games bothered a lot of people who thought Durant should be taking 25+ shots a game. Even though it was Durant’s fault for not getting enough attempts because he was not working hard enough off the ball, all of the blame fell on Westbrook for being a “point guard” who supposedly wasn’t doing his job well enough to get Durant those shots.

It is no secret that Westbrook is not a “true” point guard in the sense that he doesn’t think or play the game like Chris Paul. One could argue Westbrook is a shooting guard trapped in a tall point guard’s body. Westbrook played two guard at UCLA and the truth is that if he was just two inches taller, he’d be Dwyane Wade-lite, devoid of any criticism when it comes to distributing the ball. Instead, he is OKC’s point guard, and because his running mate is NBA Golden Boy Kevin Durant, everyone who watches the Thunder searches for a scapegoat to blame Durant’s shortcomings on.

Although Westbrook certainly wasn’t perfect in the Western Conference Finals, we saw the solution to the Thunder’s problems in Game 5 and it had nothing to do with Westbrook looking to pass more. With his back to the wall in a do-or-die, Thunder coach Scott Brooks played James Harden extended minutes with his starting unit. A lineup of Eric Maynor, Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Nick Collison was used often and though the lack of size with that lineup did cost the Thunder big time in the fourth quarter because the Mavericks were able to outwork them on the glass for key offensive rebounds, we saw how well that lineup worked offensively because Westbrook wasn’t forced to handle the ball.

Within a few minutes it was painfully obvious that Harden was the Thunder’s best option at “point guard” but since I am advocating the removal of that term from our collective basketball vocabulary, instead I’ll say that it was painfully obvious that Harden was the Thunder’s best creator with a knack for finding the open man or a cutter. Harden was a creator in college as well and even though he didn’t have the tag of point guard attached to him at Arizona State or as an NBA draftee there’s no doubt that having Harden run the offense is Oklahoma City’s best option not only because Harden is their best passer but also because of what it allows Westbrook to do off the ball.

Because I prefer giving players descriptive tags rather than position tags (like creator/distributor for Harden), the most obvious tag for Westbrook is “attacker/slasher.” I used Wade as a comparison for Westbrook earlier and though there are some differences between the two, there are certainly a lot of similarities as well. Westbrook is either an extremely savvy player when it comes to attacking the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or a youngster with fresh legs and no regard for his own health when he goes to the rim. Westbrook is made up of some combination of those two things and that’s what makes him so dangerous off the ball.

When Westbrook was playing off the ball he was able to make viscous cuts toward the basket and Harden was on-point with several passes when Westbrook was in motion. Westbrook has a tendency to lose the ball on the dribble when he attacks the cup simply because he can be too aggressive sometimes but catching the ball on the cut allowed for Westbrook to go up immediately without having to put the ball on the floor. With Westbrook cutting to the basket, Durant and Maynor spotting up and Collison providing some interior spacing and offensive rebounding, the Thunder offense looked as good as it had all season with Harden running things.

Looking forward, it is hard to envision a scenario in which Brooks continues to have Harden coming off the bench. The defense/offense substitution has worked for some teams before, but they can’t have their best creator on the bench to start games, particularly in the playoffs. Getting into big holes was a problem for the Thunder at the start of games this season and a lot of blame goes on Brooks for refusing to alter his starting lineup. Westbrook and Durant is a deadly combo, but when there is no one on the floor beside them that can create shots or post-up, it’s hard for the team to score at an efficient rate – especially when the other three players on the floor are Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Not only is Harden just a creator for others but, as he showed against the Mavericks, he is also capable of getting to the rim and finishing over bigs. Harden scored 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting in Game 5 in addition to his six assists and five rebounds. Harden has had himself the occasional one-of-10 shooting night in his first two seasons but becoming a consistent player is part of the rookie learning curve and the poise he showed against the Mavs leads me to believe he is more than ready for a starting job. Harden can distribute, get to the rim (and the line) and rebound. Sefolosha is a superior defender, but it is clear at this point that Sefolosha’s defensive skills don’t make up for what he lacks on the other end.

Embracing the idea that positions in basketball are no more is something the media has done over the past year or so. In order for Brooks to keep his job and in order for the Thunder to take the next step towards a title, they will also have to embrace the idea that there is no such thing as a point guard in the league anymore. Just because Westbrook is 6-3 and James Harden is 6-5 doesn’t mean Westbrook has to be the point guard and Harden is the shooting guard. It’s not a slight to Westbrook to say that Harden is the better creator – some players are born with passing instincts like Harden while others are born with a relentless desire to attack the rim like Westbrook.

If the Thunder want to make it further than the Western Conference Finals next season, they don’t need to make any major roster changes by trading one of their core players, Scott Brooks simply has to reassess the way he uses his players. If Brooks can adapt to a world without positions and put a lineup of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka and Perkins on the floor to start games and a lineup of Maynor, Westbrook, Harden, Durant and one big man (unless they’re playing the Lakers) on the floor during crunchtime, I think the Thunder will be set next season.

But if Brooks doesn’t make that adjustment and continues to rely on Westbrook to create for others, it may cost the Thunder another season of basketball and Brooks his head coaching job.

Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Go to Top