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Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs game preview

The Rockets take on the San Antonio Spurs in a home-and-home. But first, let's take a look at the mailbag!

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: This idea is 100% stolen from Bill Simmons, except none of the "questions" I answer are from real people. So in lieu of a preview, you get a mailbag from the Preview Guy!

As always, these are real (read: fake) questions from real (read: fake) readers.

Will the media just admit they were wrong about the Rockets? We were sure they would win 55 or 56 wins this season, but every media outlet thought the Rockets would barely sneak in as a 7 or 8 seed.

-Mike K., Houston, TX

What? That's not true! No one thought Houston would be worse this season!

(Looks up offseason predictions)

Oh shit.

Two of CBS Sports' experts picked the Rockets to finish 8th in the West.

ESPN's panel of "experts" predicted them to be the 7 seed.

ProBasketballTalk had them finishing 6th (technically still possible), 7th, or 8th.

The venerable Zach Lowe came right out and said it: "Houston enters this season a bit worse than it finished 2013-14."

We should have seen the Rockets as a prime "NO ONE BELIEVES IN US!" candidate. Everyone took the offseason to dump on Harden's defense and bring up the Damian Lillard shot every time someone talked Houston. There were (incorrect) stories about how Dwight Howard and James Harden didn't eat with their teammates. We scoffed at Harden's comments claiming that he was the best player alive, even though no one read the entire transcript.

And we haven't even talked about the dumpster fire that was the Rockets' offseason!

Daryl Morey had the most spectacular swing and miss on Chris Bosh, topped only by the last time he swung and missed on Chris Bosh. In the process, he gave up a first round pick, the only primary ball handler the team had besides Harden (Jeremy Lin), and the best backup center in the NBA (Omer Asik). He had already driven a wedge between the team and Lin and his fans when the Rockets put up a banner or Carmelo Anthony wearing Lin's number. Then he lost All-NBA glue guy Chandler Parsons for nothing.

And Morey countered with...Trevor Ariza? Well sure he was cheaper than Parsons, but he wasn't the cutter that Parsons is. He couldn't handle the ball in emergency situations or make the big plays that Parsons contributed so often. Wizards fans were elated to get Paul Pierce (obviously the third greatest Celtic of all-time and greatest NBA player of his generation). Heck, we made fun of Daryl Morey whenever we could this summer.

Still, Morey had some cash left over so he was sure to use on solid mid-tier free agents that could fit into the rotation, right? Wrong.

Houston signed Joey Dorsey, who hadn't been relevant since Morey last traded him. Soon after came Jeff Adrien and Kostas Papanikolaou (WHO???) and a trade for 57-year-old runway fodder Jason Terry.

So picking Houston to be worse was totally realistic. It's not like we could have predicted that Daryl Morey would make some incredible moves to help Houston. He doesn't have a history of great moves to make his team more competitive.




So basically, um, we screwed up. No one believed in Houston, and no believed in Morey. And for that we're stupid.

Sure Dwight Howard is a goofy guy and wears some ridiculous suits. But is he popular with the Looney Tunes writers like Manu Ginobili?

-Blaine P., Tilden, TX

He most certainly is not. But this reminds me of something.

Remember when we actually called him Emanuel Ginobili? Like, every announcer actually said "Emanuel" for a season or two and it was hilarious. And they couldn't get his last name right either. Listening to old white men trying to pronounce a Spanish name was absolutely fantastic. But none of their poor attempts comes close to the original.

But if they make a Spanish version of Space Jam, it has to star Ginobili as the retired, bald, washed-up superstar who can't move laterally anymore. And the game-winning shot will involve Manu Euro-stepping from one sideline all the way to the other. Then when he makes the "layup" from the corner, it still will only be two points even though his feet were clearly behind the three point line.

Follow-up to the last question because I know we'll inevitably go in this direction. What's the bigger crime in Space Jam: the allowance of basically any form of physical violence including guns, bombs, and using a roadrunner as a golf club, or was it the MJ dunk being ruled a 2?

-Blaine P., Tilden, TX

Seriously, how was MJ's dunk from midcourt only worth two points? IT WAS FROM MIDCOURT! By definition that's a 3. You realize there are tons of Vegas gamblers that took Tune Squad (-1.5) and are devastated to this day by that decision?

Now I understand that Marvin the Martian lost control of this one early. The brutality from both sides was quite incredible and truly a shame to the game of basketball. And don't give me any of this "The Tune Squad had to retaliate because the ref wasn't calling anything" bullshit. This isn't a Mighty Ducks 2 situation because the refs actually kicked Portman and Julie Gaffney out of the first matchup between Iceland and Team USA.

Back to basketball and playing through injuries. In the 90s, every player was stabbed repeatedly while on the court and had 17 simultaneous concussions and still played through it. At least that's what they all say. Frankly, most of them say they can't remember much of that time. That's the concussions part talking. So basically, the brutality of the game is awful, but it's a distant second to the possible match fixing employed by the Martian.

How hard would it have been for Marvin to go check on where MJ took off from? There's video evidence to support the shot being a 3, and it's 2015. I hope one day we'll get some closure on a truly dark era of basketball.

Wait, they're making a Coach sequel/reboot? Did anyone actually watch that show besides me and my boys?

-Ali K., Houston, TX

Yes, Dad. Other people watched it, apparently. Although in my lifetime I've only met one other person around my age who watched the show. Other shows like Full House and X-Files are also getting reboots. Girl Meets World is going strong on the Disney Channel. And don't forget Magic School Bus!

But that brings me to an even better question. What are the top 3 shows that need to be relaunched/rebooted? I thought about this for a long time, and there are some rules we have to put in place.

1. Everyone from the show must still be alive. As much as I would love to see The Andy Griffith Show or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back on the air, it's just not going to happen.

2. Shows that had a definitive ending can't be brought back. What would we do with a Breaking Bad reboot? "Oh, um...Jesse is still selling drugs, bitch!" So we're looking for open endings.

3. Shows that had movies can't be brought back because once you do a movie, you can only keep going with movies. Bringing back Firefly at this point, while amazing, would be odd because new fans would have to watch season 1, then Serenity, then pick up the new show. It would be awkward.

4. The show had to be 3 or fewer seasons long during its original run. Look, we all want to see the Cheers gang back together, but Cheers got 270 episodes. There's no need to reboot something like that when there is fresher material around.

5. The show must have been cancelled 5 or more years ago. Bringing a show back earlier isn't a reboot; it's a renewal.

So let's take a look at the top 5, plus a few shows that are on the outside looking in.

Honorable mention:

Arrested Development

I'm not sure what to make of AD's fourth season on Netflix. It had its moments, but it didn't live up to the hilarity of the first 3 seasons. It was probably the fact that outside of Jason Bateman, the rest of the cast was only signed on for an episode here or there. The dimension of having each episode occurring concurrently was a clever ploy that hit and missed. I'd love to see more of this show, but after season 4 I'm not so sure. And we might just have a surprise for you on that front coming up soon.

Update: my doppelganger had Brian Grazer on his podcast and announced that there were will be 17 more episodes!

3. Early Edition

"Wait, AK!" you exclaim breathlessly. "Didn't Early Edition get 4 seasons?"

It did. I'm cheating. I made up the rules so I can break them whenever I want.

The story about a man who gets tomorrow's newspaper is pretty timeless, even with the printed word being phased out. Kyle Chandler's career has exploded since he did this CBS show in the late 90s. Friday Night Lights won the man an Emmy and Netflix's Bloodline has received rave reviews so far. Both Shanesia Davis-Williams and Fisher Stevens aren't busy.

2. Mr. Bean

Didn't expect that one, did you?

There were only 15 episodes about the zaniest man to have ever lived.

True story: during the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics when Mr. Bean made an appearance, my mother came into the living room and asked "Who's giggling so much?"

Spoiler alert: It was me. Because Mr. Bean is hilarious.

(Yes, Mr. Bean got a movie. But the less said about that, the better.)

1. Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared

Judd Apatow got two shows on television. Both were brilliant. Both were cancelled after one season. Because FOX.

Bringing back Freaks and Geeks would be difficult. Seth Rogen and James Franco are A-listers. Ditto for Jason Segel to a lesser extent. And Martin Starr is doing Silicon Valley.

But the rest of the cast is fairly available. Linda Cardellini might have a future on the aforementioned Bloodline. Busy Phillips is no longer (ugh) busy with Cougar Town. John Francis Daley was killed off on Bones. Samm Levine isn't doing anything.

You could set the show/movie in the future at a high school reunion. Lindsey ended up being a square who still yearns to be bad. Daniel transitioned to a productive member of society as was hinted at in the finale. Seth Rogen can play the normal Seth Rogen role where he just smokes pot the whole time. Really, this script writes itself.

As for Undeclared, it doesn't have the cult following that Freaks and Geeks has but could still be made into a pretty decent film on the cheap. Again, it would require bringing back Rogen and possibly Segel. Charlie Hunnam would be a tough get with his burgeoning acting career. But Jay Baruchel's career isn't where it used to be and he could be stolen from filming Man Seeking Woman.

The movie could also go the reunion route with Steven as a professor at UNEC. Lloyd could be a famous actor and Ron could be his agent. Lizzie could be unhappily married to Eric and looking to move on to Steven. Or they could do something where the movie just revolved around Steven as a struggling film writer/producer trying to get Lloyd to be in his new film.

Kevin McHale: Best coach or the Greatest coach?

-Brandon D., Washington D.C.

Well, we were sure that Kevin McHale would be fired. All but one of Sports Illustrated's writers picked Kevin McHale to be the first coach fired this season. Even though he wasn't, we can all agree that he's heading out the door if Houston doesn't get past the first rou-oh they extended him because he's done a fantastic job managing this team through injuries?

More importantly, McHale is the perfect coach for this team. Every organizations wishes they had a Gregg Popovich but so few great coaches exist in the NBA. And in today's league, convincing free agents to pick your team has a lot to do with the coach. McHale is a player's coach that is more likely to draw in top name guys than an unknown like Melvin Hunt.

Additionally, Coach Mac plays to Daryl Morey's philosophy. He's perfected an offensive system that runs Moreyball and his rotations have mostly been solid in the face of the injuries that have decimated the Rockets this year.

Also, be on the lookout for McHale trying to win Kevin Love to Houston this offseason. McHale drafted him and Love has said many times that he owes his jump to stardom to McHale's tutelage. These guys like each other, and as we're seeing that means a lot.

Why does the media have such a hard-on for Stephen Curry? Meanwhile, they shit on Harden at every opportunity. James Harden should be the MVP!

-Every Rockets fan this season

Okay, now THIS is a ridiculous sentiment. No one in the media has an unnatural love for Curry.

It's not like there are posts comparing him to John F. Kennedy.

No one is writing about how the MVP has been decided before the season is even over.

And the notion that the media doesn't like Harden or the Rockets is equally preposterous. Rockets fans get so butthurt about no one respecting them that they come across as salty all the time.

Maybe we've called the Rockets the villains of the NBA.

Maybe we've called James Harden and the rest of the Rockets "fuckbois" on Grantland.

But no, we're going to continue to pretend that we aren't disrespecting the Rockets in any way even though we absolutely hope they lose in the first round. Because fuck Houston, that's why!

HAHAHA you ignored the Spurs and now they've come on like a freight train! You guys do this every year and look what always happens! Keep forgetting about us at your own peril. The Spurs are a dynasty!


The stupidest midseason subplot this year was "The Spurs are done!" followed closely by "Don't forget about LeBron for MVP!"

No one forgot about the Spurs, even when they were struggling through injuries and a miserable December schedule. No one wrote off the Spurs when they lost to the Knicks.


So please spare us this narrative. The Spurs are the defending champions, and everyone knew they would be there when the season ended. If there is someone who was truly surprised by this development, their opinions should no longer be taken into consideration. For anything.

Also, can we please stop calling anyone beating anyone an "upset" in the West? When the Rockets were third, every analyst got super excited saying that Houston was "prime for an upset." Why? Because they were slated to face the sixth seed Spurs. Losing to the Spurs is not an upset. Ever. So please stop this nonsense.

Why doesn't James Harden have a shoe deal? Ever since Curry got one I've had to hear Jamie Foxx destroy William Shakespeare's legacy during every NBA game.

-Rod K., Georgetown, TX

Ahh! Let's talk conspiracy!

James Harden wears the Nike Zoom Run the One. He's worn it all year, but he can't get a shoe deal while other young stars Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and John Wall got shoe deals from Under Armour, Nike, and Adidas, respectively. So why can't Harden get a Nike shoe deal even though he's fully deserving of one?

Because no one wanted him to get the exposure with a tight MVP race going on.

Think about it. Who else wears Nike? LeBron James has a signature shoe and he believes he should be MVP. Giving Harden a shoe means more commercials like we've seen with Curry. He had no problems letting his boy Kyrie get shoes because Bron knows he's still the alpha male in Cleveland.

Russell Westbrook is Team Jordan through Nike. He certainly doesn't want another guy getting MVP consideration.

Kevin Durant has a Nike shoe and is tight with Harden. However, being cool with Harden with Nike could rustle Russell's feathers (sorry that pun just happened). And KD knows that he needs Russ moving forward.

Heck, Kobe Bryant probably still thinks he's the best shooting guard in the league and wouldn't want Harden to get more attention.

So all-in-all, Harden won't get a shoe deal until this summer at the earliest because those guys won't be happy to see him getting more exposure and getting the acclaim and praise that comes with having your own shoe deal. Nike isn't stupid; they'll happily let him wear their shoes and give him pairs of generic basketball kicks, but they won't be James Hardens for at least a few months. And if LeBron truly hates Harden for beating him in Houston, he'll try to prevent that deal from happening. Nike can't piss off these powerful players and their brand teams because they have a firm hold on the shoe industry, but everything is precarious when it comes to millionaires in their 20s and 30s.

Who is current Spurs player most likely to not be a Spur next year? Gotta be Kawhi right?

-Every fan of teams hoping to land Kawhi this offseason

Sorry to burst some bubbles, but Kawhi isn't going anywhere.

If you haven't seen the salary sheet for the Spurs, there's some things you need to know. Basically, every Spur is going to be a free agent this offseason, with the exceptions of Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Kyle Anderson. So let's go through this one-by-one.

Tim Duncan: Please. He's a "free agent" in name only. He's still got fuel for his time machine so he'll be back with the Spurs.

Manu Ginobili: Same as Duncan. I don't see him retiring, nor can I see him playing for anyone else.

Kawhi Leonard (Restricted): The Spurs are going to keep Leonard, no matter the cost. They're just doing what the Rockets did with Parsons and letting him test the market. The difference is that Leonard is worth a max contract for his ability to play on both ends of the court. The Spurs are going to chase big names like Marc Gasol and by not extending Leonard last summer they gave themselves the opportunity to sign another max player. We might actually see the Spurs spending huge money over the tax next season. But that's unlikely since Duncan and Manu will probably sign on the cheap.

Marco Belinelli: Unlikely to go anywhere. He fits in San Antonio perfectly, but if someone offers him big money and he feels like he's accomplished his team goals for his career, he could be gone.

Cory Joseph (restricted): CoJo is up in the air. He's played well this year but Mills got the big deal last year so he's the heir-apparent to the backup point guard role. The Spurs probably would love to keep both of them but there's a possibility that Joseph chases a bigger deal elsewhere.

Aron Baynes, Matt Bonner, Jeff Ayers: Baynes has been a serviceable backup big for the Spurs. Plus, the "Air Baynes" nickname is catching on. Bonner doesn't really fit elsewhere so he'll stay if he can. Ayers is probably the odd man out.

Danny Green: Easily the most likely Spur to be gone after this season. Spurs fans have been hoping that no one notices that Green is going to be a free agent. They're really glad that HoopsHype has Green as the 10th best shooting guard free agent. Seriously, who is going to chase Gerald Green or J.R. Smith over Danny Chronic? Honestly, that list should be Jimmy Butler first, Dwyane Wade second (who's definitely not going anywhere), and Danny Green third. No one else on that list can contribute on both ends besides Butler and Wesley Matthews.

There are plenty of teams that should throw money at Chronic in the offseason. In the West alone, Dallas could give him money if they let Monta Ellis walk; the Nuggets and Jazz could use his skills; the Blazers could take a look depending on what Afflalo does and how long Matthews is out; the Clippers will try their darndest to get him so they can finally have the wing 3-and-D they've needed; and both Phoenix and the Lakers will have the funds to give it a go if they're interested.

All told, I could see Green getting offers in the $8-10 million/year range and totally be deserving. If Trevor Ariza can get 4 years at $32 million, why can't the younger and better shooting Green get more?

You do realize that if the Rockets lose both games to the Spurs on this home-and-home, they would drop all the way to the sixth seed?

Neik K., Georgetown, TX

Yep. The Rockets sit 1 game ahead of the Grizzlies and Clippers and 1.5 games ahead of the Spurs heading into this pivotal back-to-back. Two losses would almost certainly drop the Rockets all the way to the sixth spot and set them up with either the Spurs or Clippers in the first round. And the homecourt advantage for rounds 1 and 2 would be out the window.

The Rockets are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are currently on a 3-game winning streak, but because the West is so good, the Clippers and Spurs haven't gone anywhere. Both are 9-1 in their last 10 games and the Spurs are on an 8-game winning streak. Plus, they're coming off two of their most impressive wins of the season: a 107-92 thrashing of the Warriors and a 113-88 win in OKC over the Thunder last night.

Again, no one is surprised that the Spurs are still in it. Mainly we were just hoping that they would start peaking at this exact moment. But in our hearts, we knew it was coming.

You can't tell me that you aren't going to mention "Premier Love" in this mailbag, right?

-Armin K., Amarillo, TX

If you thought I was going to ignore the greatest French rap/hip-hop song and music video of all time, you're crazy. I mean, come on. I even wrote the question!

First, let's look at the magisterial video in question.

I've gone into detail about this video, even giving a a full breakdown of it. It's glorious. It's wonderful. It's everything you would want from a Tony Parker music video, and then it drops 8,000 more things that you never knew you wanted but always did.

But it's come to my attention that another video trend has started sweeping the basketball globe.

It's called "Come on and Slam," and it involves mashups of Quad City DJs "Space Jam theme" with other popular songs. The results are amazing. So while "Premier Love" is still the runaway #1 basketball song of our generation, it's got some company. It even has its own subreddit!

I mean, how can you not love this?

Or this???

Charles Barkley has become the face of the movement due to his video game from the 90s called "Barkley, Shut Up and Jam!" And while I know Barkley isn't famous around these parts on account of being a stupid jackass, you have to put up with his face on almost every iteration of these videos. It's the one downside.

Are you going to actually make a prediction about these games or are you just going to keep posting stuff that you like?

-Everyone reading this

Fair enough. I've babbled on enough. Time to get serious.

The Spurs are on a back-to-back, but they blew out the Thunder so no one played more than 26 minutes. The Spurs will be missing Tiago Splitter for both games most likely, and Tony Parker missed the second half with Achilles tightness. It's possible that Parker had a knock and Pop decided to keep him out with such a big lead.

So with all of that, don't expect Pop to rest anyone for either game. He knows the division title is there for the taking. Kawhi Leonard is playing like a monster and is a prime candidate to shut down James Harden. Parker has turned on the playoff switch and will be in the lane more than Dwight Howard. And the Spurs will never miss a bullshit 3 at the end of the shot clock. All of those add up to a big loss for the Rockets in San Antonio.

On the other side, that will put much more pressure on the Rockets to win the reverse game in Houston. Seriously, could you imagine the Rockets, currently sitting in second place, dropping two games to the Spurs in a 3-game span and dropping all the way to the sixth spot in the West? It would be devastating and would destroy confidence in and around the team. Suddenly, everyone would be talking about how the supposedly fun West playoffs would now have no fun first round matchups with OKC, Dallas, Houston, and Portland looking like fodder for the West elite.

Yeah, these games are huge. Houston has to win one of them, but San Antonio is going to gun for both so the Rockets will have to respond in kind.

Finally, as an homage to our brethren at Pounding The Rock, I'd like to say:

As always, Tony must dominate Fisher.

Because fuck fisher forever