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Tag: Eric Gordon

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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Wizards Cast Spell, Climb 10 Spots (Power Rankings: Dec. 23, 2016 Edition)

23-year-old shooting guard Bradley Beal has nearly equaled his age in points per game, as the Wizards continue their stellar play (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

While nine teams held the same ranking from our previous edition, six squads rose or dropped at least six spots. Leading the way among most improved from last edition, the Washington Wizards jumped from 22nd to 12th. Thanks to lethal 3-point shooting, the Rockets continued their ascent to fourth even as starting center Clint Capela will be sidelined for the next month at the very least. The Nuggets also impressed the panel, playing extremely well in their first stretch as a completely healthy unit. The returns of Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris have Denver fans feeling as high as their city’s altitude. The Lakers, however, continue their slide and can no longer use injury as the lone excuse for dropping 11 of their last 12 games. Since our second edition, which was published four weeks ago, the Lakers have dropped from 13th to 27th or seven spots every two weeks.

Biggest Jumps: Washington Wizards (+10), Denver Nuggets (+7), Dallas Mavericks (+6)

Biggest Falls: Los Angeles Lakers (-7), Portland Trail Blazers (-7), Detroit Pistons (-7) Continue reading

Hawks Grounded, While Giannis and the Bucks Soar (Power Rankings: Dec. 9, 2016 Edition)

The Hawks earned a 13-spot demotion by struggling mightily after storming out of the gates with a 9-2 start (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

Due to stellar play from the Rockets, Jazz, Thunder and Celtics, the red-hot Grizzlies actually dropped a couple slots. The panel was indeed impressed by Memphis’ ability to win five of its last six games without Mike Conley Jr. on the court; it’s just those other teams were deemed to be even better. On the other side of the coin, the Hawks have been dreadful for nearly three weeks now and are paying for it by falling precipitously in this edition. Their 13-place drop on our list may be awfully difficult for teams to “beat” in future rankings.

Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+8), Orlando Magic (+7), Oklahoma City Thunder (+6)

Biggest Drops: Atlanta Hawks (-13), Chicago Bulls (-10), Denver Nuggets (-9), New Orleans Pelicans (-7), Los Angeles Lakers (-7)

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Mason Ginsberg: Pelicans “Really Need That Secondary High-Usage Player” Alongside Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is off to a great start this season, but can the Pelicans' supporting cast help him translate that into wins? (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Anthony Davis is off to a great start this season, but can the Pelicans’ supporting cast help him translate that into wins (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)?

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As expected, three games into the 2016-17 season, Anthony Davis is putting up monster averages of 37.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.7 steals per game, including an almost unfathomable performance in the season opener where he racked up 50 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and five steals against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, for all his effort, the Pelicans still have no wins to show for it. Mason Ginsberg of ESPN Truehoop’s Bourbon Street Shots details what the Pelicans need to do over the course of this season to turn that around. Additionally, he expounds on the disappointment of last year’s injury-filled season, the many roster moves made in the offseason and need for a sense of urgency around the team.

5:12-5:26 On how Quincy Pondexter’s injury last year affected the team and his uncertain timetable to return this season:

“Quincy [Pondexter] was their only plus defender who could really stretch the floor and [needed to be] defended from the 3-point line and missing him was just huge. Again, it’d be really helpful to get him back, but no real certainty on when that’s going to happen.”

10:13-11:05 On Anthony Davis’ still developing game and the myriad of injuries he has suffered over his career:

“He’s only 23 years old still. He’s developing into more of a stronger figure. That’s going to help him play more minutes at the 5, which he vocally did not want to do at the start of his career… I think now he’s realizing that’s where the NBA game is going; he’s been playing more and more 5 every year. I’m optimistic about AD from an injury perspective. There’s been nothing that really sticks out as a major red flag… All things considered, I’d rather have him have a bunch of random injuries than keep injuring the same thing over and over again”

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