steph


james_harden_rockets_display_imageThe Houston Rockets had a complete overhaul this season. With only Chandler Parsons returning from their 2011-2012 roster, the team has 14 new players. The most notable in the Rockets’ latest additions are former New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin and defending Six Man of the Year James Harden. Houston’s signing of Lin via free agency made headlines due to New York’s breaking of their promise to extend the young point guard’s stay in the Big Apple. Harden also had the same media attention when he was traded earlier in the season for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. It may have been a crazy scramble to assemble this year’s roster, but I got to say, the team has a bright future ahead of them. Especially with the acquisition of Thomas Robinson before the trade deadline, the Rockets already have three positions covered for their next championship run. A lot of people are going to hate me for saying this but I believe that Houston will reach OKC’s level in a couple of years.

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Projected to finish in the bottom half of the Western Conference, coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets silenced their critics by going to the playoffs in just the first year of their rebuilding stage. While early season contenders Portland and Dallas are already going fishing or playing online games like Cheekybingo for their premature off season, the Houston players are already prepping up for the team’s first post season game since the “Yao Ming” era. Fans are already ecstatic and are in full support for their hometown basketball team who might upset some power house squads. Although they are not expected to win the championship this year, the playoffs can serve as a barometer for the Rockets’ performance in the upcoming seasons.

Jeremy and James will also be in the spotlight once again as they are pressured to deliver a couple of postseason victories for Houston. Can these two All-Stars play together in basketball’s biggest stage? We’ll have just to wait and see.

I am certain that by now, if you are even remotely interested in sports, you have heard about all the hullabaloo in the world of basketball. With the trade deadline last week, everyone was scrambling to empty and then re-fill their rosters. The Rockets weren’t any different, sending 2009 Grizzlies draft picks Hasheem Thabeet, and guard Jonny Flynn to the Portland Trail Blazers, while we acquired center Marcus Camby in exchange (follow Marcus on twitter: @MarcusCamby23).

Another big trade? Center/Forward, sweat-band sportin’ Jordan Hill switched out his signature Rockets Red for Lakers Purple (gag) in exchange for Derek Fisher, whose contract the Rox bought out later that week, and then released (crisis averted). OKC Thunder picked him up a day later.

With Kyle Lowry’s absence instilling the fear of impending doom into the hearts of Clutch City fans, the Rockets made a bold move, acquiring point guard Courtney Fortson (that’s right, two hotties named Courtney on ONE team….sweet!), who had been waived by the Los Angeles Clippers after only 4 games earlier this season. Although undrafted in 2010, he has since been preparing for NBA stardom in the D-League, playing for the Reno Bighorns and the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Courtney stands about 5’10” (gasp) and weighs all of about 180 lbs; but I will tell you this: no one is as enthusiastic and scrappy-do about playing for the Rockets as Court is! I have seen more hustle from him in the past three or four games than I have from Kyle all season! Don’t get me wrong, I need KLow back to good health ASAP, but I am really loving how Courtney just gives his entire heart and body to this game. It’s inspiring to see someone working so hard.

Last night at the Golden State game (aka, #blowout), I watched Fortson play 19 minutes for a total of 1 steal, 2 rebounds, and 12 points. That is just 7 minutes away from a point PER minute. Think you can kick a man while he’s down? Not Courtney, whose cat-like reflexes and positive attitude keep him from losing sight of his dreams. I forsee Court getting ample playing time in the next few games before KLow’s return. It is definitely comforting to have a hustle-driven back-up point guard while Kyle is resting, out, or injured. Oh, and lest we forget he fills the “badass coif” position left vacant by JChill.

Now down to business: is Fortson single? Ladies, I hear he’s a player (pun intended); but, chances are, with the recent move, that the handsome Courtney is unattached and has a #badboy rep. Want to get in on the action? Follow him on twitter: @coatF4. Tell him #DreamShakeBarbie sent you.

#peaceloveandbasketball

photo credits: yahoosports.com, greenwichtime.com, hoopsaddict.com

“NBA rivalries are dying”. I have heard this so often lately, that sometimes I am almost brainwashed into thinking the phenomenon, made most popular by Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, is on its way out. But then I thought again. These are men, and at that, competitive men with nothing to do but train hard and play ball. This leads me back to my original conclusion that NBA rivalries aren’t going anywhere, I don’t care which one of the homies you’re following on Twitter. Everyone RELAX.

In the NBA, there have always been two types of rivalries: one that is built out of respect and stiff competition, and the other “Kobe vs. Shaq” type. You all know what I’m talking about: the “I am not playing if he’s playing!” diva-driven ‘tudes that several players (cough-KOBE-cough) are so well known for, and that give pro athletes a bad rap for being “hostile” or “high-maintenance”. The majority of pro-ball players are simply playing a game they love, and trying to keep their noses clean.

Admittedly, I don’t know quite as much about other NBA teams as I do my very own Rockets; however, I’ve been around long enough to notice a good one-on-one rivalry when I see one. Thoughts of my sister and I jumping on the couch in our 1994 XXXXL Rockets World Champions shirts and undies incite memories of some of the best of the best rivalries that ever were in the world of basketball. With that said, let’s take a peek at some of the NBA’s greatest matchups.

Round 1: Bill Russell [Celtics] vs. Wilt Chamberlain [Warriors, Sixers, Lakers]:

Arguably the most famous rivalry in NBA history. Story goes Russell had been doin’ his thing for many years before Wilt’s arrival. There was a lot of speculation at the time that Wilt would end Russell’s reign over the league; but au contraire, Wilt actually pushed Russell to his greatest potential.  It has even been said that Chamberlain and Russell are the greatest centers of all time (now y’all know my money’s on Hakeem, though). These two played 142 games against each other over a span of 10 years. Stats show that Chamberlain outplayed Russell the majority of the time; however, in the 10-year span, Russell won nine championships, compared to Wilt’s one. I would call this particular match-up a respectful one, which will go down in history as for sure one of the best rivalries of our time.

 Round 2: Ben Wallace [Pistons] vs. “The Ball Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest” [Pacers]

This needed to go into the pot simply because it created one of the best brawls of all time. It even had a nickname, “Malice at the Palace”. Wallace pretty much started the whole thing, pushing Ron-Ron in the chest in response to a foul committed by Artest. Cut to a Diet Coke to the face, the fans started rushing the court, prompting a huge fight, and a slew of suspensions and fines ensued. Even legal charges were brought against a few players and fans alike. Nothing beats a good fight, which is why this matchup made the cut.

 Round 3: Isiah Thomas [Pistons] vs Larry Bird [Celtics]:

Friendly sportsmanship would not be the term to describe these two lovebirds. This rivalry was mainly due to the 5 playoff series between the two basketball starts in the late 80s. The “Bad Boys” were out to teach the Celtics a lesson, and to add insult to injury, Thomas insinuated that if Bird had been black, he would not have won nearly as many accolades. Them’s fightin’ words, wouldn’t you agree? In the end, it looks like Larry’s got the last laugh; Bird, Pacers President in 2003, fired Thomas from the head coaching job at Indiana. Boom.

Round 4: Isiah Thomas [Pistons] vs Michael Jordan [Bulls]:

Isiah decided to make enemies all around the league during his stint as a Piston, even going up against the king himself, MJ. Year after year, the Bulls and Pistons were pitted against each other during playoffs in very physical, heated series. And so, the rivalry between these two giants was born. It was rumored that during the Eastern Conference All-Star game, Thomas had persuaded his teammates not to pass the ball to Jordan, who at the time was making his very first All-Star appearance. Fun idea, but I seriously doubt this could have been followed through with, since among his teammates were the likes of Bird, Malone, and Dr. J. But alas, the rumor spread and this matchup was definitely on for the long-haul.  Jordan shot back, saying that he wouldn’t play on the Dream Team if Thomas were among his teammates.  #HOP!

Round 5: Magic Johnson [Lakers] vs Larry Bird [Celtics]:

This rivalry has got to go up there with the Russell and Chamberlain matchup. Magic and Larry first battled during their college careers, when Johnson’s Spartans beat Bird’s Sycamores in the 1979 National Championship.  Don’t fret; Magic and Larry are friendly rivals. They have respect for one another, as the both of them are credited with bringing popularity and fame back to the NBA after it had dwindled for some time.  So even though Magic most likely still chuckles about Larry’s amazing Indiana team pic [seen here] the two remain friends.

Round 6: Shaquille O’Neal [Magic, Lakers] vs Kobe Bryant [Lakers]:

This is where it gets ugly….no pun intended (see what I did there?) Here’s how it went down: golden boy pairs with golden boy, they take a few spins joy riding together, and then one golden boy gets pissed off that the other golden boy is grabbing his spotlight. Kobe pulled yet another #HOP moment, giving the Lakers his best Naomi Campbell impression: “Either he goes or I go!”  [Sighs…] Diva got his way, and Kobe spent the next several years unsuccessfully trying to prove that he could win the championship without Shaq until very recently. You think Shaq just rolled over? Think again. Shaq famously took to the mic at an NYC nightclub and rapped about his favorite former counterpart:  “Kobe, tell me how my – – – -tastes.” Sheer poetry, I tell you.

Round 7: Hakeem Olajuwon [Rockets] vs David Robinson [Spurs]:

Think back to Clutch City days and you’ll remember this matchup for sure. Our Rockets defeated the Spurs in the 1995 conference finals, and this, of course, included MVP David Robinson. With his signature, “Dream Shake”, Hakeem outplayed Robinson and ended the series in 6 games, going on to clutch the 1995 World Championship, their second in a row. Robinson was later interviewed by LIFE Magazine. The question was posed as to how a team is supposed to solve a player like Olajuwon. To which Robinson admitted, “Hakeem? You don’t solve Hakeem.” Ain’t it the truth.

Photos via warriorsworld.net 4sportboston.com sportige.com

“Patrick Patterson is absolutely the best defender on this team.” Quite a big statement, coming from Mr. Bill Worrell. Bill happens to have some clout when it comes to basketball: the play-by-play voice of our Houston Rockets since the 1986-87 season sure knows talent when he sees it.

 At 22, PF Patterson stands 6’9” and weighs in at 235 lbs. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, he was selected as #14 overall in the 2010 NBA draft by the Rockets, despite a serious injury to his left ankle. Patterson’s 2010-11 season with the Rockets was a vitally developmental time in his career. This season is his time to shine, and he is doing just that.

In an interview with Jason Friedman in June of 2010, Patterson said, “I have so much to work on. I want to be a better defender. My defense on the perimeter (needs to improve), guarding smaller players, being stronger in the post and also play better defense there.” (via Rockets.com). So how is PPatt playing now, a year and a half later, you ask?

On Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers, Patterson scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, and one block in just 24 minutes of game play. As of Thursday, February 9, PPatt is averaging nearly 11 points, 6 boards, and a block in 25 minutes over his last five games. How’s that for improvement?

Despite his self-confessed sweet tooth, you can tell that PPatt’s been putting in time at the gym – he is the epitome of solid, slightly reminiscent of a Greek statue, perhaps……anyway, before my brain gets off track, let me say this: Patterson is proving himself to be an exceptional athlete, and a definite asset to the Houston Rockets.

Needless to say, with rookies like Chandler Parsons and vets like Kyle Lowry to play alongside this powerhouse PF, #RedNation is, without a doubt, back in business.

(Stats via Rockets.com, Rotoworld.com)

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