There has been so much news around the Rockets lately -- actual news, not just minor bleeps and blorps on the injury radar -- that it's been a week since I've hit you with a Rocket Fuel.
The three biggest stories in Rockets world.
Corey Brewer is the newest Rocket
The talk around a potential Josh Smith signing kind of took the shine away from Brewer's debut last night. That ended about 19 seconds later, when he stole the ball and led a fast break, and the Rockets' momentum completely shifted on their way to demolishing the Blazers last night. Brewer was absolutely brilliant and a joy to watch.
Corey Brewer loved his time in Minnesota, but Kevin McHale drafted him, and he's bringing a ring to the Rockets. Some of his best quotes:
"To get traded to a team where the guy who's coaching you is the guy who drafted you with the seventh pick, that's my guy, I love Mac," Brewer said.
"A great situation, it's going to be great," Brewer said. "Playing with guys like Dwight Howard and James Harden, they're in a playoff race. They have a good team. I think I can come in and help that. That they wanted to trade for me and think I can help, that means a lot."
"I've got lots of room for more rings," he said. "Last time I went to Texas, it worked out. Make it 2-for-2 in Texas, the Texas Two-Step."
Three things we haven't talked about enough: one, is the fact that Brewer knows and loves Kevin McHale. The Rockets' coach drafted Brewer out of Florida and helped shaped him into the pro he is today. Two, Brewer won a championship with the Mavericks. He played sparingly, but any championship experience helps, and he and JET know each other from that team.
Three: the dude is a great athlete. He can't quite get up like this anymore:
But he can still fly. He's leading the league in steals at 2.4 per game, he's a wizard on the fast break and he's 6-9. This is not just depth for depth's sake. Brewer is a legit improvement and someone good enough to play 15-20 minutes on an NBA championship team.
Josh Smith could be an even newer Rocket
I laid many of the arguments for and against Smith in Houston yesterday, but it essentially boils down this: Daryl Morey has earned our unmitigated trust. If he evaluates the deal thoroughly and think Smith will help the team, he should pull the trigger.
There is quite a legitimate argument to be made for the "It's just $2.077 million and if he sucks don't play him" justification. I won't dispute its legitimacy. But that discounts the reality that he may make the team worse.
This might be more than a "no harm, no foul," situation. It might be a chemistry, timing and philosophy disruption with the chance to divide the locker room (potential pitfall of having two notoriously moody best friends on the same team). I'm not saying it will be, but that argument should at least be acknowledged.
Look at the Pacers last year: they signed Evan Turner for the minimum, he barely played after a brief tryout but the team inexplicably fell off a cliff, saved only by the fact that they were playing in the Eastern Conference. The NBA is a weird, fickle place and in the Western Conference, the Rockets can't afford any dips in the road. Here's more:
James Harden is unquestionably on top of the MVP race
You can look at the MVP voting kind of like the playoff race: is it dumb to predict 27 games into the season? Yes. But do the first 27 games count the same as the last 27 games? Basically, yes.
No one has been more valuable to his team through the first 27 games than James Harden. Klay Thompson helped the Beard's case in this fascinating Q&A with ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss. Here's what he said about the Warriors and Stephen Curry: "in my mind, we'd probably be a top-10 team without him." Thompson went on to say he thinks Curry should be the MVP.
Curry and the Warriors are 3.5 games up on the Rockets, and the Rockets have had significantly more injury trouble. Beard is the MVP right now, but there's still lots of season to go.
I tweeted out some Harden stats, but they're ridiculous enough to share again: he leads the league in scoring, win shares, defensive win shares, free throws made and attempted. He's top 10 in cumulative +/-, assists, steals and PER. He's ahead of Steph Curry and Anthony Davis for now.
The rest of Rocket Fuel:
Zach Lowe has the Rockets sixth(!) behind the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Blazers and Grizzlies. Seems crazy, but he says this when ranking the Clippers seventh: "Please listen carefully: Los Angeles could absolutely win the West. You could order the next seven teams any way you’d like, and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s impossible." Great stuff on the Rockets here, too.
Could it be time to cool the brakes on Dragic trade talk, or is this simply cagey work done by the Suns well-reputed front office?
Steve McPherson, one of my favorite writers, talked to Mitchell Wiggins, mostly about Andrew. But we get a solid handful of paragraphs on playing with Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson and Jim Peterson on the Twin Towers Rockets team. #BillFitchforHOF
After a handful of games, it's become clear that the spacing concerns some had over a Dwight-Donuts pair didn't hold much water.