Welcome to another edition of Fonz’s Sunday Summary. A weekly blog talking about all things basketball and going over my top plays of the week.
1. What is going on in Houston?
To think, last season this team was one of the top teams in the league. James Harden was having an MVP-caliber year while the Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals. This year it looks like they are taking a step back. While they are at an even .500 record at 14-14, things do not seem right in Houston.
It started in the offseason. They made a trade for Ty Lawson thinking he could make an immediate impact on the floor. Sadly that has not been the case. Lawson is currently averaging career lows in both points (5.9) and field goal percentage (32.9%). He is also suspended by the NBA for a DUI arrest that happened in 2014. After starting the first 11 games under Kevin McHale, he was sent to the bench after new coach J.B. Bickerstaff inserted Patrick Beverley in the lineup. Beverley has the advantage on defense, as well as the chemistry with the likes of James Harden and Dwight Howard, so it made sense why Bickerstaff made this move.
To make matters worse, he now is losing backup playing time to Jason Terry. Yes, you heard it correctly. 38-year-old Jason Terry is taking playing time away from someone thought of as the best offseason pickup just a few months ago in Lawson. Now, he is not the only problem in Houston right now. It was reported recently that Dwight Howard is “unhappy” playing behind James Harden and is looking for a trade or possibly opting out of his contract if no trade happens.
Really? Dwight Howard unhappy? I am shocked. Look, I am not bashing Dwight Howard, because I am a fan, but this is not the first time we have seen this. Say if the rumors are not true, Howard is still not really being used as much as he normally was this year. The ship is sinking in Houston and if nothing is done we will probably see them rebuilding soon.
2. Is there a market for Howard or Lawson?
As far as this season I do not think there is trade value for either player. Ty Lawson is currently suspended by the NBA for pleading guilty to a drunk driving arrest and there is the possibility that he will serve jail time. Not to mention that he might get suspended for another drunk driving incident that happened this past July.
We’ve seen this type of conversation with Dwight Howard before during his prime days with the Orlando Magic. Remembering the whole “Dwightmare” scenario that ultimately traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. That turned out well right? Played one season and ran out of the door faster than you can imagine. What does the LA situation have in common with Houston? Dwight is second fiddle in both cases (unless you count him 3rd with Pau Gasol in Los Angeles, but that is for you to decide). Howard had a decent year with the Lakers but did not like playing behind Kobe Bryant, and the same can be said now for James Harden and the Rockets.
3. Interesting post-game interviews
This week has had some funny, serious and bashing post game interviews. Let’s start of with with the funny ones. Earlier this week after beating the Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers guards Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick probably set world records for the quickest post game interview ever.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 15, 2015
The reasoning for both players fast interviews was that the team has started a tradition where the last player that enters the locker room after a game has to dance. Kind of random but whatever increases the team chemistry is fine by me, just hope that this will not end up in fines by the league.
Now for the serious interview. After losing to the Knicks last night Jimmy Butler had a few things to say about head coach Fred Hoiberg:
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,”
“But I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times. I’m sorry, I know Fred’s a laid-back guy, and I really respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you got to get on guys, myself included. You got to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.”
Ouch. That is not a good sign if your star player is criticizing the new head coach this early in the season. After being in the top of the East for five seasons under Tom Thibodeau, Chicago is currently 15-10 and is in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. I know it is early but if players don’t adjust or even if Hoiberg changes his coaching strategies the Bulls could be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
All the time in every sport you hear coaches or players saying how they feel about the referees (most of the time it is negative) and that was the case when Paul George was asked about the officiating after beating the Brooklyn Nets.
“The stripes (were) terrible, We (had to) go out and just play. The way this game was going and how they (were) calling it, we had to play. … It’s frustrating, but hopefully the league does a better job of looking at s— like this.”
After listening to those comments I knew it would result in a fine, and sure enough 24 hours later he was fined $35,000 for said comments. This is not the first time we heard of PG’s frustration. He was fined earlier this season for criticizing the refs and tweeted at Adam Silver basically saying get rid of all the referees and hire new ones. I know officiating has been under a microscope in all levels of sports recently and maybe it is time for the league to look more into it.
4. Upset city in college basketball
Now onto some college basketball news. Everyone loves it when the underdogs win in any sport. This week we saw two big name programs get upset by unranked teams. 7th-ranked Duke lost to Utah 77-75 in OT and 4th-ranked Kentucky lost to Ohio State 74-67. What was more interesting to me was Kentucky head Coach John Calipari’s recent comments saying that his team isn’t as good as a year ago.
UH, DUH — when you have one-and-done players on your squad you have to start over every year as far as team chemistry. Last June you had eight players leave for the NBA Draft. EIGHT! Some schools never even had eight players total in school history go to the NBA. Team chemistry is hard to build. It’s even harder if you have your starting lineup leaving every season. This can go into another debate altogether about the age you should be to declare for the draft.
Is this the end for Duke and Kentucky as the basketball powerhouses? No. Could I be overreacting to this? Probably. But it is always fun to see both schools of that caliber get upset by two unranked schools in the same week.
5. The Monmouth bench
For the past few weeks, Monmouth has been talked about all over social media. It has not been about their great 7-3 start or their star player Justin Robinson being a scoring machine. It’s not about this Monmouth team beating the likes of UCLA, Notre Dame or Georgetown. It actually is their bench, specifically four players who have a combined six total minutes of court time. With their crazy antics so far they have become the hit of college basketball. But people are questioning if they should calm it down a bit. There were rumors that the NCAA was thinking of re-writing bench rules. While some people may not like the team’s excessive celebrations, I for one am a fan of it and at times I think it’s hilarious. My favorite one is definitely the recreation of the Sistine Chapel.
But seriously, does anyone have a sense of humor anymore? It’s not like they are cursing at players, fans or refs. They are not taunting opposing players. They are just four college guys on a Division-1 basketball team having a good time. The guys playing on the court are loving what they do and it is the reason for the team’s success. So keep doing what you’re doing Monmouth Bench Quartet. Wonder what they’ll do later on in the season or even during March Madness.
Top plays of the week
There was alot of exciting NBA action this week. Here are my top five plays of this week (December 13th-19th)
5. Zach LaVine’s putback dunk
WHERE IS THE BOX OUT?
4. Kristaps PorzinGOD’s block party
First guest. Fellow rookie Karl-Anthony Towns
3. Steven Adams pick-and-roll dunk
The wild New Zealand with great flow and a A+ mustache puts LeBron James on a poster.
2. Kobe Bryant turns back the clock
Kobe thinking it was 2003 for a second with that dunk. Nick Young and Anthony Brown’s reactions are priceless.
1. Kevin Durant goes Dr. J on us
The former MVP is out here making a statement.