The Lakers are currently 17-3 and on a 10-game win streak. They also have had the vast majority of their early-season games at home. These things are related.
The Celtics are 18-4 and on a 9-game win streak. They also have had one of the weakest schedules thus far. These things are also related.
The Rockets are 13-9, and were it not for a lucky bounce on a Brandon Roy layup, they would be on a 5-game win streak. They also have had the single toughest schedule in the NBA. Similarly, the OKC Durants are 11-9 after facing the 2nd-toughest schedule. As a result, BBR ranks the Rockets as the 7th team in the NBA (OKC is 10th).
The Rockets face the 17th-ranked Toronto Raptors tomorrow night. After that, they play games against the (very strong) Nuggets and Mavericks, but it's clear that the worst part of the Rockets' schedule is over. When looking at the Rockets' schedule when it came out in the summer, my immediate reaction was that the first two months were going to be very, very difficult. That Houston has not only survived but has ended up four games over .500 is a testament to just how strong this team really is.
You know, Aaron Brooks has handled this transition to "face of the Rockets" pretty well. Here's his interview with the NBAtv crew after last night's victory.
Here's Tracy McGrady's response to the early ASG voting results:
I just wanted to extend a huge thank you to the best fans a player could ask for. When I saw the first results for All-Star voting this morning, I was blown away. I know it’s early on in the voting, and there’s a long way to go, but it was an awesome feeling when I heard. I’m honored and humbled that you all have shown me so much love and you continue to support me through everything. From the messages left here on T-Mac.com and on my Facebook page, to all the votes that you have cast for the All-Star game, it’s truly amazing how dedicated and supportive you all are, and I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and the encouragement you send me each day. It makes me that much more determined to be the best player I can be when I get back out there.
Misplaced outrage may be directed at the comments section.
This was written about baseball, but it, of course, has applications to everything we do here.
To summarize: The sporting journalist should attempt to make his work interesting. He should view his work as an attempt to start a conversation. He should respect the intelligence of his readers. He should realize that, in many cases, certain of his readers will have knowledge that he does not. He should prepare himself to be corrected once in a while.
I would submit that I have never once been wrong, and that anyone who thinks I am wrong is, in fact, wrong, themselves.
There is a (frustrating) misunderstanding possessed by many Rockets fans about Houston's cap space this summer. Contrary to popular belief, the Rockets will not have the money to extend a max-contract offer to anybody this offseason, and they'll almost certainly have to make some tough decisions about players like Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry. NBARoundtable has more.
(As an aside, please stop talking about Joe Johnson. He is in no way a max-contract player)
The guys at Free Darko review Bill Simmons' "Book of Basketball" in New York Magazine (ooh, fancy!), and I think they highlight a lot of the problems I had with the book (as well as many of the good bits):
This inconsistency drives me crazy, and it crops up throughout The Book of Basketball. Simmons’s favorite players who never win a championship are heroic martyrs struck down by fate. His least-favorite players who never win a championship are whiny baby losers who never won because of some flaw deep in their soul. He unfairly rags on people like Ewing and Malone, then somehow manages to adore Allen Iverson beyond all reason. The book’s entry on Iverson is a real piece of work: Four solid pages of gushing and excuses, with all of his many obvious faults (ballhog, gunner, turnover machine) actually stuck into a footnote. "And yeah," Simmons writes at one point, "his field goal percentage wasn’t that good and he took too many shots. Whatever." No, not whatever! His field-goal percentage wasn’t that good and he took too many shots! Those things tend to matter in basketball.
Now, for the record, I enjoyed both Simmons' book and Iverson's game, I just realize that neither is as good as most people probably think they are (or ever were; though they were both revolutionary... how weird).
Shoals gets it absolutely right later:
The Book of Basketball has undeniably brilliant moments, and no one can accuse Simmons of not having done his homework or loving the NBA. But it’s a work that mistakes going too far, and wallowing in excess, for taking risks.
Simmons’s best writing has always been about the NBA—it’s smarter and more deeply felt than his usual "voice of the fan" stuff. His trade-value column has always been an annual event, and his Boston homer-ism is most affecting when it revolves around him, his dad, and the Celtics. I’d long held that The BoB would bring out the best in the Sports Guy, even after his nods to the distant past started popping up as columns that read like book reports.
Instead, we get Bill Walton as Tupac, an analogy almost as predictable as it is bizarre (beating out Kurt Cobain because Walton is so white, it’s funnier that way). It’s truly outrageous, and the man wants it that way! And it’s a microcosm of exactly why—no matter how lyrically he describes Dr. J’s free-throw-line dunk, or casts Moses Malone’s game in terms as elemental as his grunts—The Book of Basketball is so maddening. By default, Simmons may have written the definitive history of the NBA; there’s certainly a shit-ton of information in here. But it’s also bogged down by self-referential brinkmanship.
This has been sitting around on my to-do list for a while, and I've never really gotten around to it: one of our (relatively) regular posters here (oliverezq1) started his own Rockets blog a few weeks ago. Go check it out. I particularly liked his response to Dickie J's ridiculous LeBron-to-Houston column.
Last, to get you in that holiday spirit, here's the Rockets singing that
classic commercial jingle beloved children's carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.