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Houston: We Have a Problem

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James Harden Houston Rockets We Have Problem NBA

Two years ago, the Rockets were a young team that had yet learned how to win. They shocked the basketball world when they finished the regular season with a 56-26 record, which was good enough for second place in the Western Conference. Houston looked like a team that would play a prominent role into who gets out of the Western Conference playoffs, but they arrived to the party a bit early, and could not handle success.

So, naturally, they got in their own way, and a year ago they prematurely fired their head coach Kevin McHale, 11 games into the season. Houston had an inglorious 4-7 record at the time. To make matters worse, they opened the campaign with three consecutive 20-point losses, and Houston’s four wins were a result of four outstanding offensive performances from Harden.

The gifted scorer had outbursts of 37 versus Oklahoma City, 28 against Orlando, 43 at Sacramento, and 46 at the Los Angeles Clippers, and they barely escaped each of those games.

This was a team whom many experts and pundits picked to win the west, and some even, picked to win it all, and yet they could not buy themselves a win. The Rockets were sinking before their high expectations, and the front office needed a scapegoat, so McHale was fired.

McHale spoke honestly in an interview with TNT’s Inside the NBA, and his comments were tweeted out by Adam Wexler of KPRC-TV Sports.

Offense

The Rockets were in a scoring slump early in the season, but as the season progressed they got back to what they do best. In 2014-15, Houston had one of the most prolific offenses in the NBA. According to basketball-reference.com, Houston average 103.9 points per game, which ranked sixth in the NBA. They also had a Pace average of 96.5, which ranks second in the NBA.

Pace is basically the average of possessions per 48 minutes.

Houston’s offensive rating of 107.0 ranked 12th in the NBA in 2014-15.

Houston could score as a team, and when needed James Harden could go on a breathtaking solo act that simply had people in aw of his scoring prowess. Simply put, H-town was as lethal as anybody offensively, in 2014-15.

In 2015-16, Houston’s offense picked off right where it left off. They were scoring an average of 106.5 points per game, which ranked 4th in the NBA. Their Pace increased to 97.6, but it ranked only seventh in the league. And, their offensive rating went up to 108.3, seventh in the league.

And that was with Kevin McHale calling plays; can you imagine what Houston’s offense will be like with Mike D’Antoni on the bench? Look out below because here comes Houston. The Rockets should challenge Golden State for the title of best offense.

Houston will once again be amongst the most prolific offenses in pro basketball, but will their defense be able to keep up the pace? Which brings us to the big problem in H-town: defense.

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Defense

Although most fans see Houston as an offensive juggernaut, in 2014-15 they had one of the best defenses in the NBA. Once again, according to basketball-reference.com, Houston’s defensive rating was 103.4, which ranked eighth in the NBA as oppose to the below average rating of 108.1, in 2015-16, which ranked 21st in the league.

In a span of one year, Houston’s defensive rating went down 13th spot, while some of the blame falls on the shoulders of Kevin McHale, the players themselves can’t go blameless here.

The biggest problem here is that James Harden, Houston’s best player, simply does not play defense. In team sports, players look to the best player to galvanize the troops, and commit to the ‘dirty work’ in order for them to push themselves beyond their own limitations. Since Harden emphatically takes days off while Houston is on defense, opponents attack him directly or his side since they know he won’t be a factor in help defense.

In 2014-15, Harden’s play on defense was mediocre at best, but that was good enough to help Houston win 56 games. A year ago, his play decreased dramatically, and Houston finished with 41 wins.

In 2014-15, opponents averaged 100.5 points per game, which ranked 17th in the NBA, while in 2015-16, they averaged 106.4, which ranked 25th in the league. Houston could simply not keep anyone from scoring, cope that with a superstar who simply did not care about half of the game, and either you are on fire, or you will lose.

The results are pretty clear, Houston won 15 fewer games, and lucked into the playoffs because Utah lost a lot of games down the stretch otherwise Utah would have been in the playoffs.

To add to Houston’s obvious defensive problems, they traded their best rim protector (Dwight Howard) to the Atlanta Hawks, and simply did not find a way to replace his presence. At the moment, Houston does not have an average player playing the center position, and outside of Patrick Beverley, they don’t have an NBA-level defender on the roster.

To make matters worse, they hired Mike D’Antoni, a coach who fittingly does not care about defense. While coaching the Lakers, D’Antoni was asked if the Lakers had practiced defense, and he said, “Hell, yeah, we worked for a half-hour on it,” per USA Today.

This hire will either be great and Houston will be near invincible a la mid-2000s Phoenix Suns who were always in the top three to five in offensive rating. Houston will be up there this year, Harden’s numbers will be astronomical hence he should be in the MVP race.

Or, they will sink and by the start of the New Year, Houston will be fighting Los Angeles and Philadelphia for the first overall pick.

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Gary Vee & Nik Stauskas: The Truth About Success, Grinding & “Eating Dirt”

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Gary Vee & Nik Stauskas: The Truth About Success, Grinding & “Eating Dirt”

There is no doubt Nik Stauskas knows a thing or two about “eating dirt” and grinding your way to reaching your dream. An accomplished Canadian NBA Basketball player Stauskas, currently in his fourth season sits down for a great one-on-one chat with Gary Vaynerchuk aka GaryVee to discuss his craft and the rare opportunity to pick the brain of one of the fastest rising internet media personalities and business minds in the industry. Like Stauskas, Vaynerchuk grinded is way to where is at today focusing on outworking the competition and staying patience.

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La La Lakerland Played Host To A City Of All-Stars At The Weekend

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Verizon Slam Dunk Contest 2018
Like Father, Like Slam,

Los Angeles, it doesn’t get much more Hollywood than this. Even if Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Chris Tucker and even the other Michael (B) Jordan were taking in all the lights, camera action court-side.

After the 2017 Mardi Gras in New Orleans last year and two calendar’s after our native Toronto held the All Star Weekend in Canada, the sixth A.S.G. in the Clipper and Lakerland of the downtown STAPLES of L.A. was the first of it’s kind. As two of the best players in the association and reigning finalists decided to draft their own pool of players against the wall for the ultimate black and white pick-up game between ‘Team Stephen’ and ‘Team LeBron’, for all the marbles of which of the last two champions would be King.

Well it certainly helps if James picks his rivals reigning MVP teammate Kevin Durant and his own former partner in pine championship crime Kyrie Irving for the big shots first.

But before all that it was down to regular festivities to begin the weekend of All-Star. Basketball’s equivalent of music’s Grammy’s or movies Oscars in Superbowl February. Opening these ceremonials Team World beat down Team USA 155-124 in the Rising Stars game that should really tell you something. Despite home court advantage rookie steal, Kyle Kuzma notching 20, fellow Californian franchise face Buddy Hield was king as the Sacramento star hit 29 as the two sides wore Clipper and Laker interloped Buffalo and MPLS throwbacks for the Hollywood script. And after Quavo of hit duo Migos took home the Celebrity Game MVP as Team Clippers beat Team Lakers 79-66, Spencer Dinwiddie paid the bills in a superior skills comp. Before scorching Sun in California Devin Booker showed his career high 70 was no one-hit wonder as he burnt down all the nets and the money-ball rack. Winning the three-point contest showdown from reigning winner and sixth man Eric Gordon. Grounding the Rocket as this Phoenix rose. Book it!

But after the most therapeutic competition of All-Star weekend it was time for the most exciting one just as compelling. And in honoring his father Larry Nance, the 1984 winner of the inaugural Slam-Dunk contest, Larry Nance Jr. rocked the baby cradle, like father, like dunk. As he even rocked the old-school Phoenix Suns jersey, short shorts and high-socks for an inspired imitation. But under the magicians cloak, those Los Angeles natives in attendance draped in gold wish he had turned into someone turning back the clock and wearing a Lakers jersey (those Lonzo assists with the ball would have helped). As what would have been a long awaited, eagerly anticipated home-team representation turned into an Akron homecoming for the Ohio hometown hero like LeBron in the Kings land once the trade deadline passed.

Pops Nance loved it though after he himself played the lions share of his career in Cleveland as a Cavalier. Even assisting his boy on his second slam, before he blew the house down with a windmill that even rocked Chris Rock and then double tapped an Instagram worthy picture perfect dunk that if your phone blinked, you’d have had to instant replay it to not miss it and believe it. But all this court creativity wasn’t enough like Maverick rookie Dennis Smith Jr.’s 360 reverse, through the legs 50. Or All-Star Victor Oladipo getting an assist off King T’Challa himself Chadwick Boseman, suiting up in the Black Panther mask and clawing a tomahawk. And if you think that was special, if only you were a fly on the wall for the moment entertainment megastar Jamie Foxx told Vic he loved his album and started singing ‘A Song For You’ with him in the parking lot (as told by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins). As Utah’s jazz man Donovan Mitchell won by jumping over Kevin Hart and his family (Come on! How hard is that? The comedian was even crouched down. Seriously?! He could have even been sat on his shoulders and Mitch would have been good), and then breaking out the classic Vince Carter Raptor jersey and doing you know what.

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The whole weekend turned out to be a testament to a throwback tribute despite Nike’s brand new Team LeBron and Steph duds. Last years All-Star representative, Pelican Anthony Davis paying tribute to his injury fallen teammate brother Cousins by wearing what would have been his numero zero jersey. Free agent suitors beware, DeMarcus is going nowhere now this summer after this. You see he saw on I.G. but look at the shot. How s### was his seat for a would be player?

But after Black Eyed Pea Fergie caught flack for her soulful and sultry rendition of the Star Spangled Banner national anthem (hey, you didn’t complain when Marvin did it) the game hit all the high-flying, dunking high-notes. So much so fans needed throat lozenges like Pink! Even if there wasn’t a single Clipper or Laker representative in the game itself. Despite the lobbying for 6 Man, Lou Will and new Laker Isaiah Thomas only recently being LeBron’s actual teammate.

The King took the MVP crown himself as his 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists helped turn a 15 point hole into a 148-145 victory. And from the look on his face as he leapt into Kevin Durant’s arms of all people, it looked like he just won the NBA Championship back. And from the look on Steph’s face on the receiving end reply it was hard to disagree.

You may be the champion, but I’m the best in the world those eyes said.

Well it’s up to you to decide when round 2 of the All Star draft is televised next year for all to see in M.J.’s land of the greatest.

Charlotte’s going to be good!

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Is Isaiah Thomas IT For The Lakers?

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Usa Today 10601289.0
IT Came On A Hollywood Night

It’s All-Star break this weekend in Los Angeles, but the Lakers already have a new one since the trade deadline to lead their young core in the heart of the city. Even if Team LeBron didn’t pick him for Sundays pick up.

But how long will IT last?

Right now in the NBA the amount of movers is really putting the shakers on teams. So much so that in regards to loyalty in this league it’s even colder than the Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea right now. But then again it is the Winter after all. Recently Cleveland cleaned house and LeBron’s land for some Cavalier moves. Jettisoning several All-Star points for their changing of the guard. Including former MVP Derrick Rose, ‘Bron brodie Dwyane Wade back to the Heat of Miami, South Beach and even the guy they traded Kyrie for.

Yep that’s right after summer swapping Irving for Isaiah, the Cavs sent Thomas along with versatile big-man vet Channing Frye to Lakerland. In return they got the buckets of ‘Sixth Man’ sure thing Jordan Clarkson and another Akron hometown hero in the form of Larry Nance Jr.

And although the Lakers picked-up a certified All-Star with Iverson kill at will, little man syndrome scoring a lot of fans where left tweeting negative emojis and gifs following the deadline deal. And not because their new number seven seal was a former Boston Celtic great only a season ago. Or that the former tooth chipper is now a befallen superstar by way of injury. More that the Lake Show loved the young Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Randle and Zubac core that has lost it’s first big time players of the future since the de-loading trade of D’Angelo Russell last summer.

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Clarkson was a class act and there from the luck of the late round steal start. Whereas when Nance Jr. ran the floor like his pops all the bleachers snapped shut, tilted up. Lakerland finally thought they would see their own slamming son represent them in the Slam Dunk Contest he should surely win now like father, like dunk today. But now he’ll be doing it all for one and one for all.

But with the fast tracked pace of the Lakers new speedy dynamite dynamo it could still be Showtime again for Magic’s men like when Earvin Johnson was kissing another Isiah Thomas hello in the golden era 80’s. But this Isaiah Thomas-so long as he can ball in the same backcourt as Ball once injury time gives way to the Lavar…excuse me the Lonzo Angeles Lakers-could attract even more free agents like the expected homecoming of Paul George from the Thunder to the purple reign this offseason. Even if rumour has a Black Panther/Killmonger like relationship between this point prince and the King of the Ohio land.

But if it’s between LeBron as a Laker or another one of James’ sidekicks than who do you think will hold the headlines for tomorrows Los Angeles Times? Especially as Isaiah could aim higher than coming off the bench this summer as a free agent without restriction himself. His big contract coming off the books with Channing’s (Frye not Hollywood’s Tatum), another big three big in Brook Lopez and another former All-Star in Luol Deng (yep…he’s still here).

All these multiples of millions would surely make for a kings ransom.

This could be it, so lets enjoy I.T. whilst he lasts.

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