NBA AM: Changing The Culture In Houston
The Houston Rockets haven’t reached the postseason since the 2008-09 campaign, which was essentially the final stage of the Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady era with the franchise. Over the past two seasons the club has been seeking the next franchise player to serve as the centerpiece and help guide the team back into the upper half of the Western Conference hierarchy.
Before the start of this season the Rockets surprised most by acquiring 2012 Sixth Man of the Year James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder to fill the opening. The team’s starting small forward, Chandler Parsons, believed Harden was the right man for the job from the start but readily admitted to being caught off guard initially by the deal as it happened.
“It was crazy,” Parsons told HOOPSWORLD regarding the Harden trade. “I had no idea [the trade] was going down. I knew we always had interest in James and I think it was definitely a good trade for us.”
“I’m sure management will make other moves but our core group is now here for a long time,” Parsons added. “We have a lot of talent.”
Despite never serving as the go-to-guy at the pro level for a full season, Harden has roared out the gate and is averaging 35.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game during the early going and the Rockets are 2-1.
As part of the deal, Houston traded two first-round picks, veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin, 2012 lottery pick Jeremy Lamb and second round pick to Oklahoma City.
While Chandler respects the contributions of Martin during his time with the team, he says Harden is the more dynamic player right now even though he still has yet to reach his prime.
“I loved playing with K-Mart but James is special,” Parsons said. “He brings so many different things to our team; with our personalities, he’s great with our offense and being able to run in transition and putting him in pick-and-roll. I think he will really thrive in this system.”
At varying times throughout the past two years, the Rockets reportedly made numerous attempts to land Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay amongst others to no avail. Even with the addition of Harden to the lineup, most still expect the Rockets to be on the outside looking in at the postseason.
Parsons hears the negative talk but refuses to accept that the team is in a full-fledged rebuilding mode, calling the process more of being in the early stages of gaining familiarity with each other.
“I don’t think we’re rebuilding at all,” Parsons said. “We’re just new. We’re young. It’s just easy for people to say we’re rebuilding because we have a whole new team. But we have so much talent in here. We have a chance to be really good. The more we play with each other and the more we get comfortable, the better we’re going to get.”
While Harden has been lighting up opponents with his play on the court, Parsons believes an even bigger impact from his arrival can be seen in the team’s fan base and their attitude toward the franchise.
“The fan base has been crazy,” Parsons said. “We had the Rookie Dance Off the other day and there was just so much energy in the building. Our practices are even more competitive. There is definitely more excitement.”
Parsons is struggling with his shot early this season, but the forward is averaging 8 rebounds per game and his goal entering the season was to establish himself as a defensive presence.
“First and foremost my defense,” Parsons said on what he is looking to prove this season. “I want to make sure I’m guarding the best player every single night and rebounding the basketball. I think I’m capable of doing a lot of different things. I’m 6’9 / 6’10, can put the ball on the floor and make plays for others. I can knock down open shots and get to the free throw line. So basically on any given night whatever coach asks me to do, I’m just kind of that guy who can go in there and do whatever is needed.”
The Rockets will be tested over the next week with three games versus playoff teams from a season ago. The team hosts Denver and Miami and will travel to Memphis.
HOOPSWORLD TV: Cole Aldrich
Houston Rockets center Cole Aldrich talks about the expectations for this season, the emergence of James Harden, his impending free agency and the role he’ll play on his new team in this exclusive interview.
Clippers Concerned With Latest Blake Griffin Injury
The health of All-Star forward Blake Griffin is always a concern for Los Angeles Clippers fans, but the news over the past few months hasn’t exactly put everyone at ease. While training for the Olympics, Griffin suffered a knee injury and had to be scratched from the games. Now the forward is battling burst bursa sac in his right elbow and a neck strain.
Griffin is expected to play through the latest set of ailments and not miss any court action but head coach Vinny Del Negro is concerned.
“His elbow is a concern,” Del Negro told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “His neck is a concern. But Blake is a tough kid. He’ll play through it and give us what he can give us.”
The biggest problem for Griffin’s game appears to be with the elbow. Griffin is shooting just 45 percent from the floor this season after knocking down 55 percent of his attempts last season. Griffin has also had problems with the elbow in the past.
“It’s a little bit worse,” Del Negro said. “It’s a little more swelling. He’s had that for a long time. But this time it seems to be a little bit more than normal.”
“It would affect everyone when you’ve got a bunch of fluid in your elbow,” Del Negro added. “Like I said, he’ll fight through it and give us what he can.”
Over the next two weeks the Clippers will play San Antonio (twice), Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City. The only non-playoff team (from last season) on the slate during this time period is on the road versus Portland.
Adam Morrison Not Retiring, D-League An Option
Former lottery pick Adam Morrison made waves before the start of the season by declaring he’d likely retire if he couldn’t make the opening night roster of a NBA team.
Morrison was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers toward the end of training camp but it appears the veteran forward will be open to the ideal of playing overseas or possibly a D-League assignment to further his career according to his agent Brad Ames of Priority Sports.
“We are looking for a good Euroleague or Eurocup situation for (Adam),” Ames said according to Sportando. “(At this point), Adam is open to whatever is the best move for his career, but he belongs in the NBA and that’s his goal. If we don’t have anything (from Europe) over the next few weeks, Adam will consider the D-League for call-up opportunities.”
Morrison has a career average of 7.5 points per game in 161 regular season appearances, but has not averaged more than 5 points in any campaign since his rookie season in 2007.
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