Capitals

Rockets land 'foundational' player in James Harden

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Rockets land 'foundational' player in James Harden

HOUSTON (AP) Now that they've landed James Harden, the Houston Rockets have grander aspirations in mind.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey officially introduced Harden on Monday, calling him a ``foundational'' player for the team's ultimate goal of returning to title contention. Harden, last season's Sixth Man of the Year, joined Houston in a stunning trade with Oklahoma City on Saturday night.

``James Harden is a player we can build around, and continue to improve the team around his skills,'' Morey said. ``He's an elite offensive player, a complete player. He can pass, shoot, attack the basket. Even though he's a gold medalist, an Olympian and made the Finals, I still think he's an underrated player. He's absolutely someone who, when they see him step into the role of a star for the Houston Rockets, people are going to realize just how good he is.''

The Rockets traded shooting guard Kevin Martin and first-round draft pick Jeremy Lamb to Oklahoma City, along with future draft picks.

Coupled with Jeremy Lin, Morey is hoping that Houston's new high-profile backcourt and the salary cap space created by the deal will attract another star to Houston in the near future.

The Rockets have overhauled their roster since finishing 34-32 last season and missing the playoffs for the third straight year. Houston added Lin and center Omer Asik to join Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson in the projected starting lineup.

``Now our job is to add another significant player or have one of our young guys develop into an All-Star-caliber player,'' Morey said. ``You probably need two to really be a championship contender. We're not there yet, but we've got multiple young players who can take that step forward.''

Harden was finalizing a long-term contract with Houston on Monday. He says he'll be ready to play when the Rockets open the regular season in Detroit on Wednesday.

``I'm excited to be here,'' Harden said. ``The organization has done a great job, they've made me feel welcome. I think we have something special here. We're young, but those guys want to work and get better, so we want things days at a time.''

Not long after news of the trade leaked out, Harden heard from Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who were also his teammates on the Olympic team. The Rockets visit Oklahoma City on Nov. 28.

``I actually talked to Kevin (Sunday) night. He's still in shock,'' Harden said. ``It's a business, it happens that way. We had something special there. It didn't work out. In a business, you've got to move on. We're still going to be brothers.''

Morey acknowledged he was ``shocked'' that Harden was available, and said the deal came together within a few days last week. The Rockets have been trying to land a first-tier star for years, failing in an aggressive bid to sign Dwight Howard over the summer.

The Rockets were close to getting Pau Gasol before last season in a proposed deal that also would have sent All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. But NBA Commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, vetoed the deal that would have brought Lamar Odom to the Hornets, along with Luis Scola, Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick.

``A GM in 1950 would say to win the title, you've got to have an All-Star player,'' Morey said. ``We feel like we have one now, and frankly, we want more than one. But you've got to get one first, and we're going to move forward from there.''

Harden says he'll wear the same No. 13 in Houston that he wore in Oklahoma City.

``It's a new journey for me,'' Harden said. ``It's a new growth for me, to do something special, being one of the focal points of this offense. It's a great opportunity.''

Morey expects Harden to start Houston's regular-season opener, a decision ultimately up to coach Kevin McHale. Harden said he's ready to play, even though he was practicing with his new team for the first time on Monday afternoon.

``I mesh with anyone,'' Harden said. ``It shouldn't take that much time, especially with our offense and our strategies aren't too difficult. I'm a very fast learner, so it shouldn't take too long.''

Later Monday, the Rockets waived forwards Jon Brockman and JaJuan Johnson, guards Gary Forbes and Shaun Livingston and guard/forward Lazar Hayward, who was acquired along with Harden from Oklahoma City.

McHale and Morey said before training camp began that the objective this season was making the playoffs. That remains the same, although with Harden on board, it seems much more reachable.

``We're going to be much better this year, and we've upped our playoff odds,'' Morey said. ``Our goal isn't to stop there. We're looking to be a championship contender, and that's going to require focusing on the future, at least a little bit longer.''

Harden started only seven games in three seasons in Oklahoma City, as he developed into an indispensable reserve. Morey, like McHale, expects Harden to make a seamless transition into a featured role with the Rockets.

``He's had plenty of minutes and we've studied him, believe me,'' Morey said. ``I don't see it as an issue at all.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

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NBC Sports Washington

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 25, 62 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins' dead cap—This post does a good job of outlining where the Redskins’ dead cap came from. It should be noted that dead cap is a part of the cost of doing business in the NFL and the Redskins have done fairly well managing it this year. Only about a dozen teams have less dead cap on the books than the Redskins $5.2 million. 

Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins—I received some comments saying that my worst-case scenario, a 6-10 finish, is not low enough. Since we’re talking about events that won’t begin to happen for about three and a half months, I can’t really argue with them. But it’s just hard for me to see them dropping more than a game from last year when they were hit harder with injuries than any other team in the NFL. 

Pre-OTAs Redskins player one-liners, defense—An extension for Matt Ioannidis seemed preposterous a year ago, now it seems like a good idea. How many sacks for Lanier? When will Ryan Anderson get his first sack? Plus offensive player one-liners here

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp—You can’t tell everything from OTAs, but you can tell some things. Taking another look at this post, I gave a good, detailed look at the session, but I didn’t really mention the overall feel, which was fun and energetic. 

Tweet of the week

Certainly, Derrius Guice is the fan favorite of the rookie class. But the great reaction to this tweet shows that there is plenty of love for Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, last year’s top pick. 

In 2016, the starting defensive line consisted of Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker, and  Ziggy Hood. The top reserve was Cullen Jenkins. They all had their good qualities and made some plays. But Baker was the youngster of the group and he turned 30 during the season. It clearly was a group on the decline. 

Two years later, the picture is quite different. Payne and Allen lead a younger group that will get better over the next few years. Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle, and Stacy McGee should round out the group. McGee is by far the senior member of the group at age 28. None of the others have celebrated his 25thbirthday yet. 

Fans should perhaps temper their optimism with the knowledge that potential doesn’t always develop into performance. But unlike years past there is something to look forward to. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 18
—Training camp starts (7/26) 62
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 76

The Redskins last played a game 145 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 107 days. 

In case you missed it

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