30 teams in 30 days: Rockets get James Harden another star


30 teams in 30 days: Rockets get James Harden another star

James Harden’s status as a star in the NBA took yet another leap forward last season with the 28-year-old finishing second to Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook for the league’s MVP award.
Despite finishing with the third-best record in the NBA last season, the Rockets were bounced in the second round by San Antonio which was a clear signal that as good as Harden was, he would need help in the form of another superstar to truly establish a perch among the game’s elite.
In comes future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, who needs a team like the Rockets as badly as they need him.
Despite a war chest full of individual accolades as well as being a well-respected leader, the 32-year-old Paul has never led a team past the second round of the playoffs.
There’s no questioning the talent assembled in the Houston backcourt with Harden and Paul, but there are legitimate concerns as to how they will mesh together, especially with both being ball-dominant playmakers who have thrived in those roles.
You have to believe at some point head coach Mike D’Antoni will figure out how to mesh their games, and from there things could get real scary for opponents.
Because in addition to having what looks to be one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, the Rockets also added some legit toughness and versatility with P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. Both players provide some much-needed toughness for a Houston team that shot the hell out of the ball last season in setting an NBA record in made 3-pointers with 1,181.
Scoring is not an issue for the Rockets. Houston averaged 115.3 points per game which was second only to Golden State (115.9) in the NBA last season.
Now defense? That’s another story.
The Rockets defensive rating (106.4) ranked 18th in the NBA and allowed 109.6 points per game, which ranked 26th in the league.
In addition to Tucker and Mbah a Moute, the Rockets also have Trevor Ariza to help form a strong 1-2-3 defensive punch on the wing.
Houston’s interior defense is an area of concern, but if they hold their own defensively while still creating problems for opposing defenses because of the Paul-Harden backcourt as well as Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon who can both shoot the ball well, the Rockets have a legit shot at doing what no Paul-led team has done which is get to the Conference finals.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); P.J. Tucker (Toronto); Luc Mbah a Moute (Los Angeles Clippers).
Key losses: Patrick Beverley (Los Angeles Clippers); Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers); Sam Dekker (Los Angeles Clippers); Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers);
Rookies of note: Zhou Qi.
Expectations: 57-35 (1st in the Southwest Division, 2nd in the West).

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

AP Photo

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
“That was a good one,” he said.
That’s one way to describe it.


But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:

DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.

DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.

FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 


 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
A heck of a shot?
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?


Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett was paying close attention to Tuesday night's thriller between the Celtics and Thunder.

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On KG's Area 21, the former Celtics great watched as Boston rallied in the game's final minute to make a stunning comeback. Right before Marcus Morris drilled the game-winner, Garnett called it by saying, "The Morris twin will end up shooting this or something because he like 'yeah I'm about the moment'"

Not a bad call. Morris certainly was "about the moment" Tuesday night as he has been multiple times this season.