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Tag: Clint Capela

Salman Ali: Rockets Enjoying “Perfect Synergy” Throughout Organization

Now with a singular focus on basketball, James Harden is recording an MVP-caliber season, leading the Houston Rockets to the third-best record in the NBA (Keith Allison/Flickr).

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The Rockets embody one of the best storylines of the 2016-17 season. After badly underwhelming a year ago, the front office adeptly moved around pieces, Mike D’Antoni was brought in to lead the team and James Harden has taken his game to unparalleled heights. As a result, Houston enjoys the league’s third-best record. Salman Ali, Managing Editor for Red Nation Hoops and host of the podcast with the same name, visits to discuss all those topics and more including how various role players are thriving and what Houston’s chances are against the rest of the Western Conference’s elite teams. Before the episode blasts off and we journey through the cosmos, you may prepare by scanning some of the highlights below:

0:50-1:26: From Salman’s perspective, just in time for the postseason, Harden is looking more like himself as he recovers from his wrist injury:

“I think the Rockets did a good job at sandwiching that rest day to where he’d get a full five days of rest. And let’s be real, that was a rest day. It was listed as a flu, but we kind of know it was because he didn’t want to sit and the Rockets had to say it was a flu day, so I think they did a good job of finding ways to sit him. His shooting stroke looks good. He’s getting to the rim, and he’s not tentative when he gets there, which is a problem that he had last week. And he’s not grimacing after shots, which was a big issue. Through the TV, you could just see that that wrist was bothering him, and now it looks a lot better.”

7:08-8:17: Even before the season, our guest began to notice that Harden was training his focus on the Houston Rockets to an extent he never had before. The adjustment has benefitted the team immensely:

“He seems really invested. Obviously, the bigger, high profile thing that Harden did this year is he signed that big extension to stay with the Rockets. To me, that showed a huge commitment to the franchise that may not have been there last season. Let’s be frank. He did not try as hard as he could have last year, and I think that reflected in how poor the Rockets played…he’s treating basketball as his job as opposed to something he’s doing on the side. That’s a really, really important distinction to make. Calvin Watkins of ESPN sat down with Travis Scott. He’s actually a local Houston rapper. He was talking about his opinion of James Harden, and he basically says, ‘James Harden doesn’t even want to go out with me anymore. All he does is he wants to stay inside and play basketball.'”
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Randy Harvey: Rockets Haven’t “Played With (Consistent) Sense of Urgency”

According to Randy Harvey, James Harden's poor defensive effort has been a primary reason for Houston's defensive decline this season (GameFace-Photos/Creative Commons).

According to Randy Harvey, James Harden’s poor defensive effort has been a primary reason for Houston’s defensive decline this season (GameFace-Photos/Creative Commons).

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As the Houston Rockets battle for a postseason berth, it’s the perfect time to bring on Houston Chronicle sports editor Randy Harvey. Of course, the Rockets have wildly underperformed, just a season after their thrilling Western Conference finals appearance. Much uncertainty surrounds the team, including Dwight Howard’s future in the Space City and a likely vacancy at head coach. Choice highlights can be found below:

3:27-4:19 on James Harden’s role in the team’s defensive regression:

“You’ve got to start with Harden. One thing that a lot of people forget is that before last season, he was coming in off a World Championship team, so he worked all summer and came in in shape and played really well defensively, played very well at both ends of the court. This year, there was no national team endeavors in the offseason, and he came in really out of shape, and he’s never really caught up. So you start with that defensively.”

8:15-9:18 on the importance (or lack thereof) of Houston making the playoffs: 

“I think it would be better for them not to make the playoffs, get the lottery pick, than it would be for them to play San Antonio or Golden State in the first round, and you’re basically four games and done. And what’s the point of that? I really don’t see any real advantage for the franchise. I will say this though: Les Alexander has always, even when they weren’t very good going back two and three years ago, never was a tank guy.They were never gonna tank for a draft pick or for a lottery pick…He’s gonna be demanding that they make the playoffs.” Continue reading

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