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Tag: Dwight Howard

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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KL Chouinard: Hawks “Have a Shot Against Cleveland”

KL Chouinard (right) interviewing Hawks SF Thabo Sefolosha.

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The Hawks’ season thus far can reasonably be separated into three segments: (1) a hot start, (2) a brutal 11-game stretch, and, finally, (3) the successful period Atlanta is currently enjoying. Kevin “KL” Chouinard, digital writer for the Atlanta Hawks  and host of the new ATL and 29 podcast, graces the show with his presence, discussing how Atlanta bounced back from its miserable late-November, early-December slump, the process of integrating free-agent addition Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder’s excellent first season as a starting NBA point guard and how Paul Millsap serves as the glue that keeps the team together. Of course, many other opinions are rendered, including why this season’s Hawks actually stand a chance against the defending champion Cavaliers who swept them one postseason ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals (not to mention the sweep in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals). Below, sample some exhilarating episode excerpts:

5:15-6:06Kevin details the keys to Atlanta’s strong recent defense:

“What’s changed recently, compared to the 1-10 stretch, is they put Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup, and he’s really one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA…Millsap (is) playing more minutes with the starters and so that’s a much better defensive unit they’re using to start games. And it’s not perfect, because in opting for more defense, they’ve got less offense.”
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Dan Feldman: Pistons’ Andre Drummond Is a “Work in Progress”

Feldman calls Drummond the best Piston since Chauncey Billups but recognizes that there are still improvements to be made (Keith Allison/Flickr).

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Last time Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk joined the podcast, he detailed the Pistons’ inconsistency. Again, a season later, Feldman breaks down the team’s streakiness and many other salient issues, including Stan Van Gundy’s unique brand of leadership, Reggie Jackson’s improving play, and why star center Andre Drummond can, at times, be so frustrating to watch. Here are some excerpts to get your engine revving:

1:50-1:58: During the recent 3-9 skid: “The entire difference almost was defensively. They went from defending like, give or take, the best team in the league to defending like the worst team in the league.”

7:55-8:27: “One thing that is helping [Tobias Harris] is that when you start the game, the Pistons want to get touches for Reggie Jackson. They want to get Marcus Morris involved. They’re running more plays for KCP. They’re running more plays for Andre Drummond. They’ve got to get all these guys involved… When [Tobias Harris] comes off the bench, it’s his turn to get involved. There’s no ambiguity of, ‘Hey is it my turn or is it somebody else’s turn?’ When he comes in, it’s his turn; he can get going and get into a rhythm. He’s a talented player and a good scorer and when he’s the focal point, that’s something that works for him.”

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The Clippers’ Suffocating Defense Earns Top Spot (Power Rankings: Nov. 11, 2016 Edition)

In the debut of On the NBA Beat’s biweekly (the every-other-week kind) NBA power rankings feature, Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers lead the field, four Eastern Conference teams rank in the top seven spots, Los Angeles’ other team cracks the top half, the “no-longer-tanking” 76ers occupy the last spot, and so much more.

Our three panelists, Loren Lee Chen, Aaron Fischman and Joshua Fischman, independently ranked the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom. Their averaged rankings produced this 1-30 list and took into account all NBA regular-season games up until and including Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Therefore, the results of Thursday’s four games will not be reflected in these rankings, but the blurbs and team records will be completely up-to-date. Future editions will also include each team’s net change from the previous rankings.

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Previewing the 2016-17 NBA Season With James Herbert

James Herbert

James Herbert picked the rise of the Utah Jazz as his most compelling storyline of the NBA season (sixersphotos/Flickr).

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On this episode, James Herbert, NBA writer at CBSSports.com, joins the show to run through the most compelling storylines for the fast approaching 2016-17 NBA season. After an offseason filled with ample player movement and coaching changes, James helps us navigate the new landscape of the NBA, including which teams he thinks improved their chances and which he believes regressed. He also opines on possible breakout players, gives his season award predictions and offers his thoughts on the increasing social activism among NBA players and in professional sports in general.

1:40-4:38 Herbert is very high on the Utah Jazz’s prospects for the season. Here’s a taste:

“I just think they’re gonna be a monster this year. I think a lot of people really expected them to be that breakout team last year — some thought it would even happen the year before, they’d make it to the playoffs — but I think this is really the year that it’s going to happen. They should have been a playoff team last year. They just barely missed out, and that was when they didn’t really have a point guard for the whole season…so I’m a bit more bullish on them than I think even most NBA hipsters are…I think they’re seen as this big team, this enormous team that plays power basketball because of [Derrick] Favors and [Rudy] Gobert, but they can put Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw there as their frontcourt with their bench unit, and they can match up with small teams too. I think it’s really about versatility in the modern NBA, not just going small, and the Jazz have the pieces to play pretty much any way.”

11:03-11:50 Like many analysts, Herbert sees a significant drop-off after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Here’s what he had to say concerning the near-inevitability of another Cavs-Warriors Finals: Continue reading

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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