After a 4-7 start and it is mid-November, Kevin McHale is let go by the Houston Rockets front office and is replaced by interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff. After McHale was fired, the Rockets won their first game for Bickerstaff and James Harden erupted for 45 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals. Things could have been better for the Rockets if they hadn’t gotten rid of McHale. Time will tell if Houston will get better with J.B. Bickerstaff as the head coach for the rest of the season.
The Atlanta Hawks have knocked off the Brooklyn Nets in six games, behind NBA Coach of the Year winner Mike Budenholzer who has effortlessly led these Hawks, who has heard of DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott and Dennis Schroder, to a winning record. The Chicago Bulls have outlasted these feisty and long-armed Milwaukee Bucks with their size and half court offense with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. The Bulls have gotten under the Bucks’ skin late in Game 6, and I would expect a rematch between these two teams in the future. The Golden State Warriors dispatch of the New Orleans Pelicans was no contest. The Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies who got rid of the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. The Clippers outlasted the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 as they win 111-109 and will face the Houston Rockets in the second round, Kevin McHale’s squad playing outstanding with the play of James Harden and Dwight Howard were too much for the older, aging Dirk Nowitzki and these Dallas Mavericks.
Behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, the Rockets have advanced. Harden’s sharp play making skills and perimeter shooting and Howard’s defense and rebounding has helped the Rockets play smart despite losing Patrick Beverly and Donatas Motiejunas to injuries. Expect a stronger opponent in the second round and the Rockets will be tested still without Beverly and Motiejunas. The play of Josh Smith has helped Houston and they will surely need Smith’s intangibles.
The Eastern Conference reserve stars consists of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Paul Millsap, and Jeff Teague. This is Butler’s first time being here and also Teague’s. Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and LaMarcus Aldridge headline the Western Conference reserves. This is Klay Thompson’s and DeMarcus Cousin’s first All-Star game. I expect this all-star game to be full of dunks and thrills.
Jameer Nelson has been traded from Dallas to Boston where he will play for a rebuilding team there. Josh Smith’s arrival in Houston suggests that he will have a role there alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard. Smith will help the Rockets with rebounding and defense, although Houston will grow to expect him to hoist three pointers every now and then.
The Pacers take Game 2 from the Atlanta Hawks 101-85. They rumbled from the start, and didn’t let up. The Wizards win Game 2 and they have the Chicago Bulls reeling. This is Washington coach Randy Wittman’s first 2-0 series lead and these inexperienced Wizards have gotten Chicago’s number by playing better basketball. Toronto wins Game 2 against Brooklyn and the series is tied 1-1. The Miami Heat turned up the works against the Bobcats to win Game 2 in Miami 101-97 and a reason to add to Miami’s success, they won’t win the NBA Finals. San Antonio or Oklahoma City will win it. I see San Antonio or Oklahoma City winning it, because they don’t lack scoring options and also because the Heat rely on Lebron James and Dwyane Wade bailing them out. The Trail Blazers win Game 2 against Houston and that’s no fact: the Trail Blazers are more talented with Damien Lilliard and LaMarcus Aldridge on paper than with James Harden and Dwight Howard. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts manages a very good ball club, because he knows what to expect out of them. Rockets coach Kevin McHale doesn’t really know what to get out of his two good players in Harden and Howard, because both are young about leading a team. Harden was a role player when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Howard developed slowly about being a team captain with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers. Dallas wins Game 2 against San Antonio because they played harder than the Spurs did. It was a surprise, considering they limited Tim Duncan and contested the San Antonio sharpshooters.
This is the start of the NBA season and I have yet to witness, but read about it, Paul George’s basketball brilliance. He continues to expand his perimeter game and he is on the cusp of greatness, the same as Lebron James, and both George and James are continuing to put the hurt on opposing perimeter defenders with their long-range shooting and slashing to the hoop. Houston is 4-1, because of James Harden and new Rocket Dwight Howard’s post interior defense, scoring, and rebounding. It will all depend on Howard’s ability to finish games, because he was unable to help Kobe Bryant finish late in the closing seconds of basketball games when he was with the Lakers. Cleveland is 2-2 and I am keenly interested in how Jarrett Jack mentors the young Cavs in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Teams to watch out for as November games continue: the Brooklyn Nets with their starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Brook Lopez, and the Chicago Bulls and their star point guard Derrick Rose plays since his injury, and Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe, who got off to a fast start having 18 points and 6 assists against Utah on November 1, 26 points and 14 assists against OKC on November 3, and 25 points and 5 assists against New Orleans on November 5.