Posts Tagged ‘Houston Rockets’

NBA franchise valuations are rising into rarefied air, something evidenced by Tilman Fertitta’s record $2.2-billion purchase of the Houston Rockets in 2017.

Fertitta expects that value to keep on growing.

“I sure didn’t underpay,” the billionaire businessman and reality TV star told USA TODAY’s Sam Amick. “But you know what, if we look in five-to-10 years, and the team is worth $3 billion, which I think it will be, it would have been a great deal.”

In its annual list of NBA franchise valuations this month, Forbes estimated that all 30 of the league’s teams are now worth over $1 billion. Houston ranks as the fourth-largest city and eighth-largest TV market in the United States.

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If you haven’t noticed yet, James Harden is cooking.

At 31.5 points per game, the barbate Houston Rockets guard is far and away the league’s leading scorer, sitting 3.3 points clear of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.2) and 4.1 points ahead of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (27.4).

His team also currently owns the second-best winning percentage in the NBA at 72.7 percent, trailing only the Warriors (78.7). That deficit looked notably meager on Saturday, however, when Houston defeated Golden State 116-108, a win Rockets center Clint Capela believes sent the defending champs a sizable message.

Harden, meanwhile, not only shared Capela’s optimism but also revealed the new-look Rockets – with Chris Paul complementing him in the backcourt – have him playing at a level he’s never reached before.

“We’re for real, for real. We are for real as it can get,” Harden told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. “I have never been this confident playing in my entire career. Not only by adding Chris, but the rest of our team.

“We have a team with depth that at any moment can impact the game. We just got to stay locked in the rest of the season.”

With Saturday’s win over the Warriors, the Rockets succeeded in winning the season series 2-1 over Golden State. Should the two teams finish with identical records, Houston would own the tiebreaker for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

“It was a big statement, because we definitely wanted to win the tiebreaker,” shooting guard Eric Gordon said. “We know we are only a couple games behind them and we’re going to start making a big run here.

“We can try to see if we can get that No. 1 seed. That’s what we really want.”

 

Chris Paul lost a game Wednesday night for the first time this season, and even then, it came with the caveat that he couldn’t finish the contest due to an adductor injury.

Paul is thriving in his first season in Houston, and the Rockets are thriving along with him, racking up a 14-1 record in games he’s suited up for. And, after spending 12 campaigns as the chief offensive orchestrator in New Orleans and Los Angeles, the eight-time All-NBA point guard doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that he’s had to adapt his style, move off the ball, become a secondary playmaker, and take a backseat to James Harden in the Rockets’ offense. On the contrary, Paul says he’s thrilled with the developments.

He expressed as much to Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni after D’Antoni apologized for taxing Paul with 34 minutes of playing time in Monday’s win over the Utah Jazz.

“Thirty-four here is like 25 in L.A.,” Paul told D’Antoni, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. “Not having to dribble the ball up every time – this is a breeze.”

It’s not a novel concept for Paul. As he pondered leaving the Clippers as a free agent this past offseason, he said he was tired of needing to handle the ball so frequently. Choosing the Rockets appeared to signal his desire for change.

“It’s neither here nor there at this point, but I was asking for a while to get the ball out of my hands,” he told Lowe.

The Rockets’ offense is fast, free-flowing, and improvisational, and Paul insists he doesn’t miss the more methodical set plays he used to quarterback with the Clippers.

“How many times have we run floppy this season?” he asked reporters rhetorically after the Jazz game, according to Lowe. “Ze-ro. Zero. We don’t even have floppy in the playbook.”

In all, Paul’s touches per game have come down from 86.2 per game to 69.1, his average number of dribbles per touch from 4.92 to 4.68, and his average time of possession per game from 7.6 minutes to 6.1.

The upshot? He’s scoring 1.61 points per possession on spot-ups (good for the 99.4th percentile in the league), and the Rockets have posted a 119.3 offensive rating with him on the floor. It probably won’t always be this easy, but for now it seems like a breeze, indeed.

 
 

Daryl Morey knows all too well that the road to the NBA championship runs through the Golden State Warriors.

The Houston Rockets general manager reconstructed his club with that in mind, and thinks about the Western Conference rival often.

“It’s the only thing we think about,” he said on ESPN’s “The Ryen Russillo Show”on Thursday. “I think I’m not supposed to say that, but we’re basically obsessed with ‘how do we beat the Warriors?'”

He noted he’s also worried about the San Antonio Spurs, who eliminated the Rockets last season in the West semis, but he’s much more concerned about the defending champs, who sent Houston packing in the 2015 and 2016 playoffs.

“We calculated it – it’s like 90 percent if we’re gonna win a title, we’ve gotta obviously beat the Warriors at some point,” he explained. “So we’re extremely focused on that. A lot of our signings and what we do during the year is based on that. … I don’t know why you’d do anything else. Like, what is the point of this league except winning a title?”

Morey said after Golden State won the title in June – its second in three years – that he had something up his sleeve to counter the Dubs’ domination. The executive, who’s been at the forefront of the NBA’s advanced-analytics movement, ended up pairing James Harden with a fellow star backcourt mate in Chris Paul over the offseason, and surrounded them with 3-point shooters.

The number-crunching and bold dealings are paying off, with the club boasting the top record in the NBA (25-5) this year. The Rockets hoist 43.2 3-point attempts per game (nine more than the next closest team) and have the best offensive rating – 113.6 points per 100 possessions. Houston’s been no slouch at the other end, either, ranking seventh with a defensive rating of 103.

It’s all coming together for the Rockets, who look like they can give the Warriors a run for their money.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is believed to have recently met with Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta to discuss the viability of a team in that city, according to Katie Strang of The Athletic.

The meeting reportedly took place within the past few weeks, although Bettman would not confirm when contacted by The Athletic.

He did say the league is not looking to relocate any teams at the moment, but added a caveat in regards to Houston.

“If Houston were to express an interest in having an NHL franchise, under the right circumstances, it’s something we might want to consider,” he said.

Fertitta purchased the NBA team back in September for a reported $2.2 billion, and has expressed a strong interest in bringing an NHL club to Houston.

The Rockets play at the Toyota Center, which opened in 2003 and can hold 17,800 when fitted for a rink.

When the Los Angeles Clippers traded for Chris Paul in 2011, the expectation was that they’d be competing for championships with Blake Griffin as his sidekick.

After six seasons together, however, the team couldn’t get past the second round of the playoffs, and with Paul now plying his trade in Houston, at least one Clippers mainstay has acknowledged the awkward leadership hierarchy that existed in L.A.

“The dynamic with Blake and Chris was weird,” Austin Rivers told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “I don’t know why. It was just strange. No one knew who the leader was, and if you had something to say, it would turn into an argument. I think people were sometimes scared to say something to Blake, because you didn’t know how he’d react.”

Griffin’s new five-year, $173-million contract, and Paul’s departure, now leaves no room for debate in terms of who Clippers players can turn to.

“He’s a whole different person, more approachable, and I think it’s because we’ve embraced him,” Rivers told Jenkins. “We know who our leader is. We’re all-in with Blake Griffin.”

Without Paul to control the offense, Griffin has kept the Clippers afloat through the first month of the season, playing arguably the most efficient basketball of his eight-year career.

Griffin has increased his range, taking five 3-pointers per game at 42 percent, while limiting the percentage of long twos he’s taking per game. He continues to finish relatively well around the basket and coming up big when needed, such as the game-winning three he hit against Portland a couple weeks ago.

 
 

ESPN aired the first part of a Chris Paul docu-series Thursday night, covering the superstar point guard’s offseason and the soul-searching conversations that led up to his decision to leave the Los Angeles Clippers and join the Houston Rockets.

One of those conversations took place between Paul and Jay-Z, with Paul weighing his desire to remain settled in Los Angeles against his desire to find a better basketball situation.

“I obviously like where my kids go to school, my brother’s kids go to school, and all that stuff,” Paul said. “We love it out here. Life is great.

“But basketball … boy. Like, the whole thing with our team – a lot of people see the wins and losses and all that stuff – but it’s the culture of our team.”

Paul specified his frustration in a separate conversation with Disney CEO Bob Iger, who he calls a mentor and close friend.

“I guess because I knew different before I got out here,” Paul said. “When I was in New Orleans, we did stuff together. And that stuff means something. As a team, we did stuff together. So when I brought that up (to the Clippers), guys was like, ‘Do we gotta go?’ And I’m looking, like, ‘Do you gotta go?'”

In pure basketball terms, Paul placed the Clippers fourth out of the four teams he was considering in free agency, after the Rockets, Spurs, and Celtics.

“The only thing that could keep me here,” he surmised, “is life.”

Paul also suggested to Jay-Z that the Clippers didn’t seem particularly interested in taking down the Golden State Warriors (though he didn’t specify whether he was referring to the front office or his teammates).

“If you ain’t trying to contend with the Warriors then what are we doing?” he said. “The Warriors haven’t lost in the playoffs. If you’re not trying to contend with them then what are we doing?”

As Paul started to give stronger and stronger consideration to the Rockets, he explained why playing alongside another elite playmaker like James Harden appealed to him more than remaining the primary facilitator with the Clippers.

“I have the ball in my hands way too much,” he told Jay-Z. “Like, I’m so tired of dribbling, having to do so much. I would love to be able to get on the wing and shoot the ball and stuff like that.”

Ultimately, the pull of a new and improved basketball culture proved stronger than that of comfort and familiarity, and now Paul is free to play off the ball – and maybe even mount a challenge to the Warriors – in Houston.