Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Houston Rockets: Jeff Van Gundy Talks All-Star Ballot


Space City Scoop’s Bill Simpson recently spoke ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy about his thoughts on the NBA All-Star voting, and the chances of 3 Rockets’ players making it to New Orleans this year.
As covered here, five Houston Rockets made the All-Star ballot.
Jeff Van Gundy on the NBA All-Star Ballot
When asked about the NBA All-Star voting format, as always, Van Gundy gave his honest opinion. The Rockets have five players on the all-star ballot, but the most intriguing name was Omer Asik.

“They start balloting so early, it’s not even by what [the players] are doing. It’s so stupid. Why is he(Asik) even on it? Can we make a rule? If you don’t start for your own team, you can’t be on the All-Star ballot. If you’re not All-Team, how can you be All-Star? Something that’s so important to the players, why don’t we just poll all second graders in America? And have them make random changes?”

It’s the fans. We just don’t know what we’re doing.
While James Harden and Dwight Howard have the best chances to make it of the five, Van Gundy didn’t rule out the possibility of a third Rocket make the cut.

“To get the third guy besides Howard and Harden, they’d have to be leading the conference, but if someone gets hurt there’s always a chance. People shouldn’t look at raw stats, they should look at per minute stats.”

Life As A Broadcaster
Van Gundy is currently a broadcaster for ESPN. He’s probably most famous for coaching Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks, but now fans love him for his personality. Vun Gundy, Mike Breen, and before he started coaching the Golden State WarriorsMark Jackson, were ESPN’s best broadcasting trio. Jackson and Van Gundy would get into intellectual, yet hilarious arguments.

“I miss him. He’s a good man.”


Van Gundy was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Sports Event Analyst in 2011. He is not afraid to voice his opinion – one that is usually well thought out and constructive.
Like when fans get to vote, for example.

Toros Head Coach Ken McDonald Talks Spurs Organization


Ken McDonald is currently the head coach of the Austin Toros.
He has a win-loss record of 62-36 entering the 2013-14 season, good enough for a .633 winning percentage.
McDonald played collegiately for two years at Providence, from where he also graduated. The Rhode Island native then went on to play for the St. Paul Revelles in Killarney, Ireland. He worked his way up the coaching ranks, with assistant gigs at Clemson, Western Kentucky, Georgia and Texas. An assistant for over 10 years, he then went back to Western Kentucky as a head coach from 2008 to 2011 before becoming an assistant with the Austin Toros.
Last season as an assistant under head coach Taylor Jenkins, McDonald helped the Toros to a 27-23 overall record and to the semifinals of the 2013 NBA D-League Playoffs.
Jenkins was hired to be an assistant by the Atlanta Hawks.
I sat down with Coach McDonald to discuss the constant movement of coaches in San Antonio, especially the latest offseason. The number of assistants leaving the Spurs organization for head coaching positions with other franchises seems to grow each year.
“Part of the whole philosophy with San Antonio is to develop players and coaches. The management team, obviously headed by R.C. [Buford], GM Brian Paleka, and last year was Sean Marks; they understand when you’re doing good stuff and you’re doing it at a high level professionally that you’re going to have that movement.,” McDonald said.
After five successful seasons with the Toros, four as an assistant, the NBA world saw the talent in Jenkins like they do with so many within the Spurs organization.
“So they really forecast it and they get ready for the next wave, whether it’s from the front office side or the coaching side, that’s part of the process. They kind of know it’s going to happen and they have to deal with it.”
San Antonio saw two top assistants leave – Mike Budenholzer to Atlanta and Brett Brown to Philadelphia.
“They are kind of fortunate, to be honest, that they had Coach Bud and Coach Brown for so long a stretch of time, without them getting picked. Not that they didn’t have opportunities, but that’s uncommon.”
Budenholzer, who may have been the reason Jenkins left the Toros, faces a situation in Atlanta filled with cap room and a quality building block in Al Horford. They also recently resigned Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to long term contracts.
Oppositely, it was reported that some within the Spurs organization were worried Brown was going to be a lame duck coach.
“They just want it to be the right set up and the right situation, and sometimes you have to work out the certain goals that you’re going for as an organization. So I think once Coach Brown was comfortable with that, then he saw a great opportunity,” McDonald said.
With so many Spurs alumni on opposing benches throughout the league, the Spurs have a leg up.
“There’s going to be similarities. We have our tweaks from year to year and I’m sure that coaches that move on, as I watch them on TV they’re running a lot of the same stuff, but they have their stuff over time that they want to exercise,” McDonald said. “Everybody has a skill set that they’re familiar with; like Coach Brown has a lot of international experience. I’m sure he brings some of that together with the Sixers team. And Coach Bud knows every playbook in the league so I’m sure he picks from different teams too. But we know each other’s system’s pretty much.”
Coach McDonald is a talented, young coach and should rise up the coaching ranks quickly. He’ll keep moving up as long as he continues to grab the Toros by the horns.
The Toros are currently 1-3. Look for them to grab their second win at home against the Reno Bighorns December 8th.
- See more at: http://www.torosnation.com/2013/12/toros-head-coach-ken-mcdonald-talks-spurs-organization/#sthash.Xxdv31MH.dpuf

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Game Recap: Toros at Warriors




The Austin Toros yet again could not keep up with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

The score was 117-103 and the Warriors increased their record to an undefeated 2-0, while the Toros remain winless at 0-2.

After a competitive first quarter, the Warriors outscored the Toros by 16 points through the next two. Austin made a push in the fourth, outscoring Santa Cruz 29-25, but it wasn’t good enough.

Eric Dawson led the Toros in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He pulled down 11 rebounds to make for his second consecutive double-double.


 Josh Howard scored just 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting. He played only 18 minutes due to foul trouble.

Five Toros scored in double figures but Nemanja Nedovic and Dewayne Dedmon combined for 19-of-29 from the field to lead Santa Cruz to victory. Dedmon was one of three Warriors to record a double-double, grabbing 14 boards. Seth Curry, who dropped 36 last game, scored 10 points with 11 assists; and Hilton Armstrong scored 11 with 12 rebounds.

The Toros could not find the bottom of the net, shooting 43.2% from the field and a putrid 13.3% from deep – on 2-of-15 shooting.

The Warriors, on the other hand, were scorching hot from beyond the arc. They went 11-for-22 on 50% shooting. Nedovic went a perfect 4-of-4 to add to his 9-12 field goal shooting.

Simply put, the Toros could not stop the Warriors from raining it down from deep.


They square off December 1st at home against the Deleware 87ers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NBA All-Star Ballot: Houston Rockets

Original post: Space City Scoop

Last week the NBA unveiled the ballot for the 2014 All-Star Game.

Five players from the Houston Rockets made the cut.

Fans can vote for Jeremy LinJames HardenChandler ParsonsDwight Howard and Omer Asik to represent the Rockets in New Orleans.

Just like last year, fans vote for two back court players and three front court players. Voting can be done through mobile apps, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, text message  or through NBA.com. 

Fans vote for the starting five of each respective conference, while the coaches’ vote then fills out the bench.
James Harden and Dwight Howard are locks to make the roster but will the fans vote them to the starting lineup?
Like it did with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, will the Chinese vote make the difference for Houston’s candidates?

Will Kobe Bryant take himself out of the race because of his injury?

What about Howard’s rocky relationship with the fans?

Let’s start with that last one.

It was not too long ago that Howard set the record for most votes to an All-Star game with 3,150,181.  He beat Yao’s 2005 record of 2,532,958 votes.

But after the Dwightmare and In-Decision, which even affects James Harden, Howard doesn’t have as many fans.
Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin are virtual locks for the first two front court spots.

That leaves one spot for fans to vote Howard or his main competitors: Tim DuncanDirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love.

Duncan is fresh off a Finals loss that went seven games. Nowitzki is playing like his old self this season, and Love is a budding superstar quickly increasing his mainstream recognition.

Anthony Davis is the host city’s best player, the Gasol brothers are well known internationally, and a random name like DeMarcus Cousins or Kawhi Leonard could catch fire.

But China has over four times the population of the U.S., so even a small following over there could make the difference.

Jeremy Lin’s jersey ranks second in jersey sales in China in 2012-13 among Western Conference players. Bryant, Durant, Griffin and Chris Paul also rank in the top 10, essentially making them all locks to be starters.
Lin and Harden have to battle it out with Bryant, Paul, Stephen CurryTony ParkerRussell Westbrook and Ricky Rubio.
Rubio is in the race because he was also in the top 10 in Chinese jersey sales, and he has a global presence, as well as Parker.

Paul, whose Clippers are in the second largest media market in the country, should get one of the back court spots partly because of his national commercials.

The only way Harden (or Lin) makes the second back court spot is if Bryant voluntarily pulls himself out of the race. Even though he’s been injured, the fans will still vote him in. That mean’s it’s up to #24 to drop out (and it’s Kobe so he probably won’t.)

Howard has Houston’s only shot of being voted to the starting lineup outright, but his relationship with fans is a real concern.

Now that Los Angeles doesn’t like him, as well as half of basketball fans out there, it may depend on that Chinese vote for Howard to make the starting lineup.

There are seven bench spots.

When it comes to the coaches’ vote, the Rockets haven’t been off to a good enough start so far for Chandler Parsons to make it.

Omer Asik obviously was a ballot-filler, but Parsons could make it if Houston marches up the conference standings. He’s already a coach’s favorite and plays hard, but a winning record is more important.
Duncan, Love, Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge are legitimate candidates for a bench spot. Zach RandolphMarc Gasol and David Lee are potential contenders who have made it in recent years. 
And Andrew BogutAndre Iguodola and Kawhi Leonard certainly have a chance.

Parsons (or Asik) probably won’t be listed ahead of any of those players on a coach’s list, but Howard is 
undoubtedly up there if the fans vote him out.

After Paul and Kobe, there are numerous talented guards in the Western Conference: Parker, Curry, Westbrook, Rubio, Damian LillardMonta EllisMike ConleyKlay Thompson and Eric Bledsoe.
Based on talent, Parker, Curry, and Westbrook should make it. Based on record (so far), Lillard should make it too. Harden is in the same stratosphere as these players, but is Lin?

It all goes back to the importance of the Chinese vote.

The Pelicans pretty much have to have a player on the All-Star roster because they are the hosting team. It should be Anthony Davis – he’s clearly better and more popular than Eric GordonJrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans.

If we assume the starting lineup is Paul, Bryant, Durant, Griffin and Howard, then the bench should be Parker, Westbrook, Harden, Aldridge, Love, Curry and Davis.

Even if a player or two gets injured, there’s no way Lin, Parsons or Asik will be chosen as a replacement over Randolph, Duncan, Leonard, Thompson, Rubio or Lillard.

Two players making the All-Star team from one city is rare, but three even more so. The Rockets candidates, particularly Lin, will need a lot of international votes if they want to have a chance to make the roster.

Regardless, Houston should be sending two players to New Orleans; and if the Rockets improve their record they will also improve their chances of having more players make the All-Star team.

Voting ends January 13th.

NBA Recap: Warriors at Lakers

Original Post: West Coast Bias Sports


The Los Angeles Lakers brought the energy tonight against the Golden State Warriors.

The game went back and fourth throughout most of the first half, but then the Lakers bench ignited a run.

Los Angeles went on an 8-2 run to end the first half, trying to put the game away early. The score was 55-46, and L.A. shot 55% from the field while holding the Warriors to 41%.

Playing their second consecutive game without Stephen Curry, the Warriors offense suffered. It was harder for them to create without their starting point guard to spread the floor and create off double teams.


The Warriors' back up point guard, Toney Douglas, also didn't play tonight due to injury.

Pau Gasol put the team on his back and went 8-12 in the first two quarters. He also partnered with UNICEF and pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he scored in tonight's game. Gasol has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2003 and the money is for the relief effort in the Philippines.

The Warriors came out of the locker room to start the second half with intensity. They tied it up 63-63 with five minutes to go in the third. Then another key Warrior went down.

Andre Iguodola strained his hamstring and did not return for the rest of the game.

For L.A., Nick Young has been impressive off the bench, averaging over 13 points per game. He can create his own shot, something L.A. desperately needs while Kobe is injured. Young was born and raised in West L.A. and is happy at home - and it's certainly showing in his play.

Tonight was no different.

Young poured in 21 points and went 3-for-7 from deep. He also played good defense tonight and ignited two fast break scores off of his two steals.

Young and Jordan Farmar led the Laker bench with a combined 35 points, including this impressive fast break alley-oop. L.A.'s bench outscored Golden State’s 44-17.


Farmer put up 14 points and 8 assists and has been a perfectly fine back up for Steve Blake, who also put up impressive numbers - 14 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.

Midway through the fourth, Golden State was still hanging around, trailing by 11. They went into a zone to bring more help on Gasol, but the Lakers took advantage of the open space at three point line.

L.A. shot an impressive 11-for-24 from deep. Blake and Sean Williams were particularly hot, combining for 5-of-10. Both teams shot well from three point range at 45.8% and 40.9% for L.A. and Golden State, respectively.

Jordan Hill also played well, pouring in 10 points and 9 rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting.

But Pau Gasol was the star tonight.

He played efficiently and aggressively, finding cutters from the high post just like his brother does in Memphis. He ended up with 24 points and 10 rebounds – good enough for $24,000 for relief in the Philippines. He went 11-for-19 from the field with two steals and a block.

The Lakers defense did a good job of keeping Klay Thompson from raining it down from deep. He went 4-for-10 from three and just 6-for-20 from the field.

That's 30% shooting from a shooting guard known for his shooting.

The score was 96-84 with two minutes left and LA was able to maintain their distance.

Harrison Barnes three brought G.S. to within nine with a minute left, but it was too late.

Finishing at 102-95, the Lakers pulled away with the win. The Warriors are only 3-36 in their last 39 games against the Lakers in the Staples Center.

The Lakers brought the energy tonight and controlled the pace. Golden State learned how hard it is to play without their starting point guard and they looked out of sync. 

Thompson and David Lee were unable to get their offense flowing without Curry. Lee shot 7-for-17 and missed plenty of easy buckets.

The Lakers improved their record to 6-7 and are currently on a two game winning streak.

For their next game, they square off against Sacramento at home on Sunday.

Friday, November 22, 2013

NBA Recap: Clippers at Thunder


Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both extended their double-double streaks, but a win would have been better.

Griffin scored 27 points on 12-for-23 shooting; his 10 rebounds puts him at six straight double-doubles. He's also notched a 20-10 stat line in 10 of the last 12 games.

But Los Angles sputtered out of the gates.

The Clippers missed their first seven shots, allowing the Thunder to pull ahead early. Griffin recorded only six points in the first half due to Oklahoma City's suffocating interior defense. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were blocked a combined five times tonight - three coming from Serge Ibaka. Ibaka and Steven Adams tallied three rebounds each and shot a combined 10-for-15 from the field.

Adams also made for a nice GIF after Byron Mullens ignored his high five:


The Thunder were up the entire game.

The closest LA came was within six points and couldn't match OKC's overall energy.

58 of Oklahoma City's 105 points were in the paint, versus 32 for Los Angeles. 

The new big three of Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook and Ibaka went 23-for-42 from the field. The Clippers defense has to improve if they want to be in the same conversation as contenders like the Thunder.

Los Angeles shot 41.3% and 28.6% from the field and three-point line, respectively.

Griffin and Paul played well, both shooting over 50% from the field. Paul led a rally at the start of the fourth quarter but OKC quickly responded. They scored seven straight points, marking their largest lead of the game at the point.

It was smooth sailing from there.

OKC avenged their 111-103 loss in Los Angeles on November 13.
The Clippers are now 8-5, good enough for the sixth best record in the Western Conference. They host the Utah Jazz on Sunday November 24 for their next game.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NBA Preview: Clippers at Thunder

Picture+11 NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Tonight two powerhouse teams in the Western Conference square off and it should be a good one.
In the first game of TNT’s double-header, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder both go into tonight’s game winning seven of their last 10 games.
Chris Paul is leading the league in assists at 12.5 per game. He recently surpassed Magic Johnson’s record of 11 consecutive double-doubles to start the 1990-91 season. He also currently leads all point guards in rebounds per game at 5.3. That’s impressive considering he’s only six feet tall.
Blake Griffin too has his own double-double streak going, netting his fifth in a row against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He and DeAndre Jordan average a combined 34.1 rebounds per game and both rank in the top ten in field-goal percentage thus far.
The Thunder has some superstars of their own, too.
Back from injury, Russell Westbrook brings more excitement, leadership and muscle to this young Thunder team. In eight games he’s averaging over 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
Then, of course, there’s Kevin Durant.
 NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Always hovering around the 50-40-90 club, Durant’s averaging 29.6 points per game. He’s a perennial MVP candidate and this season is no different.
But tonight’s interesting matchup is between the point guards.
Paul and Westbrook both have all-around games, but completely different styles.
Paul is a pass-first, playmaking point guard while Westbrook is a scoring, thrashing, big guard. He’s like a freight train when he drives in the lane and is one of the most athletic players in the NBA. He’s a spark plug who brings intensity to the court. Paul also brings intensity but in a different way. He’s a vocal leader who likes to get his teammates going. He’s an extension of his coach on the court and makes sure everyone is doing their job on both ends of the floor.
Don’t be surprised if the Thunder start this game posting Westbrook up down low on Paul. Westbrook has three inches on him and much more strength. He can back down smaller guards deep in the paint to get easy buckets and a rhythm going. If the Clippers start double-teaming early, Westbrook has the court vision to find the open man. Paul isn’t used to banging down low for 48 minutes and Westbrook should take advantage of his bigger size.
Jared Dudley will also have his hands full tonight, having to guard Kevin Durant.
When defending a player like Durant, you know you’re not going to completely stop him so it’s all about slowing him down, constantly pressuring him to try to keep the ball out of his hand and sending help when he’s inside the three point line; that forces his teammates to make the play instead.
Durant and Westbrook don’t have the best supporting cast around them and having those two take the least amount of shots as possible is the best way to beat Oklahoma City. The Clippers have good perimeter defenders in Paul and Dudley, but players like J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford are going to struggle to stay in front of Durant and Westbrook.
With one of the best crowds behind them, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the advantage of playing at home tonight. These two teams are so evenly matched that it could make the difference.
These teams last played on November 11 and the Clippers won in LA 111-103 after a couple ejections.
barnes1 NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
 Original Post: West Coast Bias Sports

The Hack-A-Howard Effect

Last week, the Houston Rockets were slowly pulling away from the New York Knicks with 3:40 left in the game when Hack-A-Howard began.
Hack-a-Howard, originally known as Hack-a-Shaq, is a coaching strategy used on players who are liabilities at the free-throw line. It is primarily used on big men andDwight Howard is no exception, averaging 48 percent from the charity stripe this season and 58 percent over his career.
Howard badly missed his first two Hack-a-Howard related free-throw attempts then was replaced with Patrick Beverley.
The Hack-a-Howard effect goes beyond the missed free throws in two big ways:
Opens Up The Paint:
The lineup without Howard featured Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones, both 6-9, as the big men. Jones is a more than capable rebounder but struggles with post defense. Parsons is primarily a swingman who guards perimeter players instead of bangers down low, but has stated his commitment to improve on defense.


The Knicks responded by posting up Carmelo Anthony every chance they could.
With Howard playing, Anthony was catching the ball at the elbow and settling for jumpers; but with Howard on the bench, he was able to post up much closer to the basket. He didn’t have to worry about Howard coming over from the weak side to block his shot. Anthony took advantage of the opportunity by sealing off his man much deeper in the paint and finding the open teammate when the double team came.
Harder To Create:
Offensively, Hack-a-Howard lingers beyond the two minute mark rule.
Howard can’t have the ball in his hands because teams will foul him. The Rockets tend to play more isolation ball without Howard, which leads to a lack of ball movement and players standing around – Houston made a couple of late game turnovers because of shot clock violations.
Houston ran Jeremy Lin-James Harden pick-and-rolls in crunch time because they didn’t want Howard getting the ball. Howard finding the open man after a double team would never happen in a late game situation because the defender would immediately foul him. Howard’s post up play is a big part of Houston’s offense but they cannot rely on it in late game situations.
Teams can foul Howard at any time if he has the ball in his hands and not have to worry about a free throw and giving up the next possession.
That’s why he is such a liability in late game situations: he cannot have the ball in his hands, no matter what.
Plain and simple, Howard has to be able to knock down free throws if the Rockets want to contend for a championship.
Original post: Space City Scoop

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Omer Asik Trade Request Finally Granted

Space City Scoop

Omer Asik finally got what he wanted.


It's been reported that the Houston Rockets will finally trade Asik after weekly trade requests from his camp. In the last eleven games, Asik has seen himself go from starter's minutes to DNP's. 

Coach Kevin McHale tried to start both Dwight Howard and Asik together, who gelled well on the defensive end, but Asik couldn't find his offensive role.


Asik's effort was then questioned by his teammates as well as his approach to the game. It was easy to tell he was unwilling to come off the bench and his last DNP explanation said "ill."


There won't be any shortage of suitors for Asik and there's already a handful of teams interested. Washington tried to steal him earlier this season, recently settling for Marcin Gortat, but there are still plenty of teams with cap space who need a big man.


New Orleans Hornets


This one's an obvious one. Anthony Davis is a power forward who has to play against bigger centers night-in and night-out because his front court partner is Ryan Anderson, a stretch four. Anderson is shooting 60.0% from the three point line this season and averages 42.7% over his career. Imagine him playing with Dwight Howard, who will have more room in the paint to operate with Anderson on the three point line, instead of Asik clogging the lane. An Asik for Anderson swap, and their salaries make it work, would be beneficial for both teams. Davis gets to play in his natural position, Asik gets to start on an up-and-coming team, and an Anderson-Howard duo would give any defense hell.


Atlanta Hawks


Similar to Anthony Davis, Al Horford has been playing out of position since he's been drafted. Playing next to Asik will give Horford a break on defense and allow him to focus on dominating a smaller power forward. An Asik for Paul Millsap trade gives the Hawks the center they need and the Rockets an athletic power forward to play alongside Howard. Millsap was signed by the Hawks over the summer and can't be traded until December 15, but the Rockets will probably wait until then anyway to have the option of trading for players signed over the offseason.


Oklahoma City Thunder


This one's a stretch. With the emergence of big teams in the Western Conference like Houston, Minnesota and Portland, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to get bigger too. They have no trade assets to acquire Asik except their picks in this loaded upcoming draft. If they offer a good enough package maybe they can dump Kendrick Perkins' albatross contract, but a Perkins-Howard front line could be even worse than the Asik-Howard one turned out to be.


Unless a surprisingly good offer is made, expect the Rockets to wait until December 15th to trade Asik so they have the most options. Will Asik play in anymore games until then? Or even show up? It's doubtful that he does and it could potentially hurt his trade value, but Houston has finally made one thing sure: Asik will be traded.