Four Reasons the Houston Rockets may no longer be Contenders

Houston Rockets Star Players

It only took 11 games for the Houston Rockets to go from championship contenders to Western Conference also-rans. After a 4-7 start, head coach Kevin McHale was fired. Never mind the four-year contract extension he received last season, or the fact that he had the highest winning percentage in franchise history. The Houston Rockets lost their first three games by an average of 20 points.

The day before McHale was sent packing, the team held a players-only meeting.

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Did Rockets do the Right Thing in Hiring Kevin McHale?

The Houston Rockets search for a new head coach has reached a surprising end as Kevin McHale agreed to take over the team on Friday, ending a month long process of looking for Rick Adelman’s successor.

Team officials and the front office were very impressed with McHale, leading to his filling the vacancy, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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Minnesota Timberwolves Season Review Part 1: What Went Wrong?

The 2010-11 Minnesota Timberwolves season was a struggle. But what went wrong?

In a word, everything, but that would be too easy.

Kevin Love’s 53 game double-double streak overshadowed what was a season full of over blown expectations and vast under achievement.

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Ricky Rubio Trade Options

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by: David Kay

The Timberwolves got their man on draft night.  When they traded Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards for the number five pick, Minnesota was targeting Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, even trying to move up to the number two spot to assure that they landed him.  As it played out Rubio fell right into their laps at five and the T-Wolves couldn’t have been any happier.  But the wedding may be annulled quicker than Britney Spears’ brief matrimony to Jason Alexander (no, not THAT Jason Alexander.)  Rubio is apparently pulling an Eli Manning/Steve Francis/Eric Lindros and is cold to the idea of living in ‘Sota, reportedly threatening to head back to Spain to play for a couple more years rather than suit up for the Wolves.

So what is new Minnesota general manager David Kahn to do besides try to convince T-Wolves’ fans that he is not the second coming of Kevin McHale?  Kahn recently sent an e-mail to season ticket holders saying that he was willing to wait a couple years if necessary while Rubio played out his current contract in Spain.  The two parties reportedly met face-to-face over the weekend, but that has yet to be confirmed.

The way I see it, Kahn has two options.  He can play hard ball, call Rubio’s bluff, and insist that they are not going to trade him, eventually hoping the flashy point guard agrees to play with the T-Wolves whether it’s this season or three years from now.  Or he can coward up, give in to Rubio’s demands, and deal the Spaniard for a couple valuable pieces (or six point guards.)  Here are some possible deals that would land Rubio in a desirable location while adding to the T-Wolves youth movement.

Trade One: Minnesota deals Ricky Rubio ($3.3 million) and Brian Cardinal ($6.75 million) to Dallas for Josh Howard ($10.9 million), a 2010 second round pick, and 2011 first round pick.

With Jason Kidd a free agent and getting up there in age, acquiring Rubio would give the Mavs a point guard of the future at a much cheaper rate.  Minnesota lands an all-star caliber in talent in Howard who would provide a major boost on the wing.  Dallas doesn’t own the rights to their 2010 first round pick which is why they give up their 2011 selection.

Minnesota
C: Jefferson/Thomas
PF: Love/Songaila/Pecherov/Madsen/Smith
SF: Gomes/Brewer
SG: Howard/Ellington
PG: Flynn/Telfair

Dallas
C: Dampier
PF: Nowitzki/Nivins/Cardinal
SF: Wright/Stackhouse/Williams
SG: Terry/Carroll
PG: Rubio/Barea

Trade Two: Minnesota deals Ricky Rubio ($3.3) and Brian Cardinal ($6.75) to Clippers for Eric Gordon ($2.8), Marcus Camby (7.65), and 2010 first round pick (top 4 protected)

rubio-twolves1Clipper fans would finally have something to look forward to; a possible long-term combo of Rubio to Griffin that could eventually become the Stockton-Malone of the next decade.  The biggest wrench for the Clips would be moving Davis off the ball which may cause even more sulking than there already is, which seems impossible.  This would instantly make the Clips a real playoff contender.  Dealing Camby opens up more playing time for Griffin without weakening their frontcourt.

Minnesota gets the starting shooting guard they currently don’t have.  Marcus Camby provides a defensive presence and is a free agent after this season so that would open up some more money for free agency.  The 2010 first rounder would likely fall in the late lottery/mid-teen’s.

Minnesota
C: Jefferson/Camby/Thomas
PF: Love/Songaila/Pecherov/Madsen/Smith
SF: Gomes/Brewer
SG: Gordon/Ellington
PG: Flynn/Telfair

Clippers
C: Kaman/Jordan/Skinner
PF: Griffin/Randolph/Cardinal
SF: Thornton/Ricky Davis
SG: Baron Davis/Collins
PG: Rubio/Taylor

Trade Three: Minnesota deals Ricky Rubio ($3.3), Sebastian Telfair ($2.5), and Mark Madsen ($2.8) to New York for Chris Duhon ($6.0), Wilson Chandler ($1.2), Toney Douglas ($1.0), and 2010 first round pick (top 4 protected)

The Knicks have been the most likely destination for Rubio since word came out that he didn’t want to go to Minnesota.  This would be a huge get for New York and yet another way to entice LeBron, D-Wade, or one of the top free agents next summer to come to the Big Apple to play with a pure point guard with an unbelievable ability to distribute the basketball.

Minnesota adds a veteran point guard who is a free agent next summer in Duhon, a combo guard in Douglas who plays well on both ends of the floor, and an improving Chandler.  The key to this trade is the 2010 first round pick which would almost certainly be in the lottery.  Jordan Hill could be another name to possibly throw in this trade but the T-Wolves would be better off improving other areas since they already have the Jefferson-Love duo up front.

Minnesota
C: Jefferson/Thomas
PF: Love/Songaila/Smith/Pecherov/Cardinal
SF: Gomes/Chandler
SG: Brewer/Ellington
PG: Flynn/Duhon/Douglas

New York
C: Lee/Curry/Milicic
PF: Hill/Jefferies/Madsen
SF: Harrington/Gallinari
SG: Hughes/Joe Crawford
PG: Rubio/Robinson/Telfair

Trade Four: Minnesota deals Ricky Rubio ($3.3) to Portland for Rudy Fernandez ($1.1), Jerryd Bayless ($2.1), and 2010 first round pick

The Blazers need to find a point guard of the future and Rubio would the perfect young point guard to lead one of the up-and-coming teams in the NBA.  Portland would still have about nine million dollar to spend in free agency and could land a veteran small forward to help them creep a little closer to the top of the Western Conference.

Minnesota would acquire a shooting guard in Fernandez would they could immediately insert into the starting line-up.  They also get a young combo guard in Bayless who is far from reaching his potential and could be a great bench player if given the chance.  The 2010 first round pick is not a huge addition since it would likely be in the mid-twenties.

Minnesota
C: Jefferson/Thomas
PF: Love/Songaila/Smith/Pecherov/Cardinal/Madsen
SF: Gomes/Brewer
SG: Fernandez/Ellington
PG: Flynn/Bayless/Telfair

Portland
C: Pryzbilla/Oden
PF: Aldridge/Frye/Pendergraph
SF: Batum/Outlaw/Cunningham
SG: Roy/Webster
PG: Rubio/Blake/Mills

Trade Five: Minnesota deals Ricky Rubio ($3.3) and Craig Smith ($2.5) to Miami for Michael Beasley ($4.6), Daequan Cook ($1.4), and Mario Chalmers ($0.8)

dwyane-wade-layup1The thought of Rubio playing alongside my favorite player, Dwyane Wade, literally turns me on.  While Chalmers had a solid rookie season, he does not have near the long-term potential of a player like Rubio.  Acquiring Rubio might also be a great selling point as to the direction of the Heat franchise and help keep D-Wade in South Beach.

Minnesota gets three players to help their youth movement.  Beasley showed flashes of being worthy of the number two pick in last year’s draft, but also struggled to find his niche at times.  Chalmers would serve as a nice point guard option alongside Flynn.  Cook has great range on his shot, the type of player the T-Wolves lack.

Minnesota
C: Jefferson/Thomas
PF: Love/Songaila/Pecherov/Cardinal/Madsen
SF: Gomes/Beasley
SG: Brewer/Cook/Ellington
PG: Flynn/Chalmers/Telfair

Miami
C: O’Neal/Anthony/Blount
PF: Haslem/Smith/Dozier
SF: Jones/Moon/Wright/Diawara
SG: Wade/Beverly
PG: Rubio/Quinn

Kevin McHale not returning as Timberwolves Coach

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by Peter Christian

It appears Kevin McHale’s days with the Minnesota Timberwolves are over. McHale, who has spent the last 15 years with the team, is reportedly not returning to the team according to team sources. Also confirming the report is the recent Twitter update by Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. McHale’s role with the team changed in December of 2008 as he stepped down from his VP of Basketball Operations post to take the coaching reigns of the team. The Timberwolves finished with season record of 24-58 (20-42 under McHale).

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Less than a month ago, the team hired David Kahn to take over as GM and VP of Basketball Operations. As recent as Monday, Kahn was still undecided as to whether McHale would remain as coach. As to whether the McHale-Timberwolves divorce was a team decision or one made by McHale is still unknown.

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Minnesota Minutes

By Andy Weise

-Good ole Peter King is stirring the pot once again in Minnesota after his recent interview on PTI suggesting that if Brett Favre were to return another season in the NFL, he’d want to play for the Minnesota Vikings. Cue up the endless amounts of speculation and most likely another set of tampering suspicions that the Vikings organization will endure if Favre actually does end up here in Minnesota. I’ve always said from day one, he can play for Minnesota for a year – that will be fine with me as I just want to see the expression on the face of Packers fans when their hero runs out wearing white, purple and gold.

-The Minnesota Twins are pushing the debut of more commercials this year focusing on the marketing of Target Field, the new home of the Twins that will open a year from now. I’m curious if the money that no longer goes to the payroll of the players is going to this product rollout. After trading Johan Santana and letting Torii Hunter walk a year ago, the Twins have given raises to Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. Jason Kubel got a recent bump, but the team is still well below the 2007 payroll. I’m rooting for the Twins to actually step up and make an offer to free agent third basemen Joe Crede, come on Billy Smith.

-When the Gophers ended that terrible streak against Illinois, I had a couple of text messages waiting in my outgoing box for the last; let’s just say it’s been awhile since Minnesota beat those guys. I’m heading to a classic match-up of high school b-ball on Tuesday when Robbinsdale Cooper faces off with Hopkins. It’s a match-up featuring Rodney Williams (4-star Gophers’ recruit from Cooper) against his best friend Royce White (5-star Gophers’ recruit out of Hopkins). Hopkins features a team with at least five future division 1 players and could probably beat a lot of D1 college teams right now. Hopefully White and Williams do not disappoint.

-Kevin McHale got a standing ovation as he entered the floor of the new Boston Garden when the Timberwolves faced the Celtics on Sunday. Now as I saw the replay of the standing ovation I thought: Are they cheering for him because of his playing days in Boston? Surely he was a great player, but then I reminded myself – “Well he did give Boston another title last year.” Not only did he trade Kevin Garnett to Boston but he also traded them Wally Sczerbiak a year and a half prior. Wally ended up landing them Ray Allen. The Wolves have done well as of late, but they still need to add better defensive players at the point guard and center position. With multiple picks coming this offseason, they could land Hasheem Thabeet and one of many point guards available.

-One rumor that won’t go away? Flip Saunders will return to coach the Timberwolves in 2009 when Fred Hoiberg takes over the Vice President of Basketball Operations position. Flip is still sitting at home collecting money from the Detroit Pistons and will definitely be a candidate for multiple openings next year. While McHale has certainly improved the team over his second run as coach, McHale dislikes the travel from his many years as a player and in the end, and that will be enough for McHale to decide he’s had enough. I hope he does go out on a positive note though. He was tremendous during his playing career at the University of Minnesota and he did have some success during the Kevin Garnett era. But most would agree that his stay has been extended too long.