Regional Sports News
Throughout Daryl Morey’s tenure as general manager of the Houston Rockets, he’s abided by a clear, simple game plan: collect talent, and figure out the rest.
The Rockets have plenty of figuring out to do.
There’s little doubt the trade Morey pulled off Wednesday – moving guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, forwards Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, a protected 2018 first-round pick and some still-being-collected non-guaranteed salaries, to the Los Angeles Clippers for superstar point guard Chris Paul as sources confirmed to The Washington Post – is a coup for Morey and the Rockets. The move will pair Paul with James Harden to form one of the most lethal partnerships in the NBA.
But in making the move, Morey is pushing his game plan to the limit, as the fit between Paul and Harden, between Paul and Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni, will be fascinating to watch. It also means something else: the Rockets aren’t done chasing talent this summer.
On the surface, Paul and Harden are an awkward fit. Both pound the ball into the ground – Harden ranked first in time of possession and Paul seventh, per SportVU tracking data – and are used to having complete control of their teams. But that ignores the fact both Paul and Harden have clearly chosen this as the best path forward for each of them.
Harden, who finished as a runner-up for the NBA’s MVP award for the second time in three seasons, campaigned for Paul to join him in Houston. In turn, Paul could have entered the free agent market and talk to multiple teams when he became a free agent on July 1, perhaps joining the San Antonio Spurs, who could use a point guard. By opting into his deal for next season and facilitating this trade, Paul made it clear he wanted to play for the Rockets – and, specifically, wanted to play with Harden.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains. This feels much more like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James teaming up with the Miami Heat in 2010 than Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors last summer. Durant felt like he was created to play alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green; Wade and James, despite their close friendship, had to learn how to share the ball in order to make their partnership work.
And Paul, famously one of the most hard-driving players in the league when it comes to getting on his teammates, will no doubt be the first one to bark at Harden if he doesn’t play at a much higher level defensively than in the past.
Then there is Paul’s fit within D’Antoni’s pace-and-space system. Paul loves to work out of the midrange – a shot D’Antoni loathes – and prefers to play at a slower tempo and work the shot clock much more than D’Antoni teams typically do. But that, too, could prove to be a benefit for the Rockets. Anyone who saw how Houston’s offense ground to a halt as its second-round series against the Spurs progressed, who saw how Harden completely ran out of gas, could see that having one eminently predictable way to play – no matter how effective it is – can be figured out over the course of a seven-game series against an elite team.
By adding Paul, Houston has created about as effective of a Plan B as it possibly could, allowing the Rockets to shift to a very different style of play when Harden is off the floor, and keeping an elite ball-handler on the floor for all 48 minutes each night.
But anyone who thinks Morey is satisfied with his team immediately following this trade is fooling themselves. No one is more active, or tries to make more moves, than Morey, who has remarkably gone from the hot seat a year ago to resuming his spot as one of the most secure general managers in the league.
Given how insane this NBA offseason has already been (with the start of free agency still a few days away, no less), Morey has plenty of time, and plenty of reasons, to remain active. The biggest trade piece out there is Paul George, the Indiana Pacers star who has made it clear to management he will not be re-signing with them when he can enter free agency next summer. A Houston package frontlined by Eric Gordon, the newly minted Sixth Man of the Year on a fantastic contract (roughly $13 million over the next three years) – and who played collegiately at Indiana University, to boot – could be enticing to the Pacers.
Plus, if anyone is willing to sacrifice assets for a chance at a star like George without any commitment for the future – believing he can convince said player to stick around – it is Morey. Remember his ethos: collect talent, and then figure out the rest.
Morey did that Wednesday, and now has a backcourt featuring Chris Paul and James Harden.
Finding a way to make that work is a problem 29 other NBA teams would happily be thrilled to have.
Grading the Rockets-Clippers trade
Washington Post national NBA writer Tim Bontemps hands out his grades for some of the bigger signings and trades that are happening during NBA free agency. Here they are, with the most recent first:
Houston Rockets get: Chris Paul
Los Angeles Clippers get: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, several non-guaranteed contracts and a protected 2018 first round pick.
— Houston: A
— Los Angeles: A
This is a rare win-win for both teams. The Rockets obviously are the headliners here, as General Manager Daryl Morey gets one of the NBA’s best players in Chris Paul, but also maintains enough flexibility to acquire another star – maybe Paul George? – in a subsequent trade. There will be some questions about fit in Houston alongside James Harden, and playing in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. But Paul also could be devastatingly effective with all the spacing D’Antoni’s system provides, and he gives Houston a much-needed Plan B, as a ballhandler alongside Harden and for another offensive option when Harden goes to the bench.
The Clippers, on the other hand, maximized every ounce of value they could get out of Paul once he informed them he wanted to play for the Rockets. Beverley and Williams are on excellent contracts, Dekker and Harrell are cheap young players (ironically the kinds Doc Rivers, the Clippers’ coach and team president, could never find to put around Paul) and they get a first-round pick out of the deal, as well. Whether the Clippers keep Blake Griffin, they will have ample cap room in 2018 and intriguing pieces to potentially offer to teams in other trades now – for someone like George, should Indiana choose to move him.
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants have placed closer Mark Melancon on the 10-day disabled list for a second time this season with a sore forearm.
Melancon, who signed a $62 million, four-year contract with the Giants during the offseason, was on the disabled list with the same injury in May. Manager Bruce Bochy says he will see doctors on Wednesday and likely have an MRI.
Melancon is 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 15 chances. Bochy says he doesn’t know how long the 32-year-old right-hander will be out.
San Francisco also promoted right-hander Dan Slania from Double-A Richmond. The 25-year-old Slania was 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts with Richmond after a disastrous stint at Triple-A Sacramento earlier this year in which he was 0-8 with a 7.82 ERA in 12 starts.
KAZAN, Russia — Claudio Bravo made three penalty saves as Chile defeated Portugal 3-0 in a penalty shootout to reach the Confederations Cup final on Wednesday.
Bravo, who missed the first two games because of injury, stopped penalties by Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani, sending Chile to its third straight international final after winning consecutive Copa America titles.
Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez all scored for Chile in the shootout.
The teams had drawn 0-0 after normal and extra time.
The result was justice for Chile, which had a strong penalty appeal turned down in extra time and then saw the ball hit the woodwork twice in a few seconds a few minutes later.
Chile and Portugal both came close in the first 10 minutes but there were few chances after that. Ronaldo was off-form for Portugal and Chile gradually took control.
Chile will play Germany or Mexico in Sunday’s final in St. Petersburg.
CHICAGO — The New York Yankees have placed designated hitter Matt Holliday on the 10-day disabled list with a viral infection.
The 37-year-old Holliday is batting .262 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs in 68 games in his first season in New York. The move was made retroactive to Sunday.
The Yankees also recalled infielder Miguel Andújar from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before Wednesday night’s game at the Chicago White Sox. The 22-year-old Andujar began the season with Double-A Trenton, but was promoted after a strong start.
New York also announced that first baseman Chris Carter was outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and had accepted his assignment. Carter was designated for assignment after Friday night’s 2-1 victory over Texas.
— #VoteNolan Right Now (@Rockies) June 28, 2017
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado made an amazing defensive play.
At this point, it’s just Nolan being Nolan.
In the bottom of the third inning against San Francisco Wednesday, Giants pitcher Ty Blach — a Regis Jesuit High School alum — hit a grounder toward the Rockies’ all-star third baseman. Arenado stopped the ball with his bare hand, grabbed it, spun around and threw Blach out at first for the second out in the inning.
The Rockies were leading 2-0.
Everywhere you look this week, there’s John McEnroe, talking about how Serena Williams would be “like 700 in the world” if she played on the men’s tennis circuit. You could call McEnroe’s round of interviews an apology tour, except for one little thing.
He’s still Johnny Mac. He isn’t apologizing. He explained as much repeatedly in a series of appearances ever since his comment sparked a silly debate and even in the face of criticism within his own family.
“It didn’t go over big with my daughters, either, okay?” he said when “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” crowd booed a recap of his controversial NPR interview.
There are plenty of McWomen to object, too. There’s Emily, his 26-year-old with ex-wife Tatum O’Neal, and daughters Anna, 21, and Ava, 18, and stepdaughter Ruby Myers with his wife, Patty Smyth. “You remember ‘The Honeymooners’ — Ralph Kramden — me and my big mouth! It’s a little bit like that,” McEnroe said. “Do they say that about girl basketball players, that they’re as good as Michael Jordan?”
“They might say ‘women’s basketball players,’ ” Colbert offered, to cheers.
And, no, he was offering no apology for the Serena comment, just as he had declined to do on “CBS This Morning.”
“People always ask me, ‘Can you beat Serena Williams?’ ” continued McEnroe, who in one of life’s happy coincidences just happens to have that new book (“But Seriously”) coming out. “My girls don’t think I can beat her now. I thought I could beat her. She’s pregnant, so maybe I should play her now. I’d have a better chance. But either way, I wish her the absolute best. She’s the best thing that’s happened to American tennis in the last 10, 15 years.”
McEnroe triggered this angle of his a tour to promote his new book with his comment, which came in an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro. She took issue with McEnroe’s qualifier in describing Williams as the best female player in the world.
“Well, because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe said. ” … That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”
Serena fired back on Twitter, asking for privacy during her pregnancy as Vanity Fair, with her nude photo on the cover, hit the stands.
“Dear John I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” she tweeted. “I’ve never played anyone ranked ‘there’ nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”
Let it be noted that McEnroe called Williams “arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years” when she won Wimbledon in 2015 and also that he didn’t qualify that based on gender. On “CBS This Morning,” he was pressed to say where, at 58, he would rank. “About 1,200 in the world.”
McEnroe wasn’t really saying anything Williams herself hasn’t said. “For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports,” Williams said four years ago on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”
That should quiet things around the McEnroe household.
CLEVELAND — Ice Cube is chilling as he waits for Chauncey Billups to make a move.
The rapper-turned-basketball mogul said Wednesday that he doesn’t know if Billups will join Cleveland’s front office and lead the Cavaliers’ basketball operations. Last week, Cube, who co-founded Big3, a new 3-on-3 league featuring former NBA players, said he was certain Billups was taking a job with the Cavs and wished him well in his new endeavor.
However, Billups, a five-time All-Star guard, remains undecided about leaving his TV analyst job and uprooting his family in Denver to start anew in Cleveland.
“We’ll find out I guess pretty soon here,” Cube said Wednesday in New York. “We hope he’d play in the Big 3 of course, but we wish him well if he decides to take the job in Cleveland. Our league is player friendly in every way you could think about. So we want him to be happy and successful in whatever he do.”
Billups met twice last week with Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert about a future with the club. They’ve known each other for a decade and Gilbert is looking for someone to oversee the Cavaliers’ front office after general manager David Griffin parted ways with the team following three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
The 40-year-old Billups lacks front-office experience, but he’s well connected in the league and has an excellent reputation.
Gilbert was at the White House on Wednesday. He posed for photos with President Donald Trump and the Chicago Cubs, who were in Washington playing the Nationals and visited the White House to celebrate winning their first World Series title in 108 years last season.
Gilbert and Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner were at the White House to speak with Trump about the turnaround they’ve helped in Detroit.
Cube’s 3-on-3 venture tipped off last weekend and he’s hoping that if Billups doesn’t join the Cavaliers, he will play for one of the league’s eight teams.
“He’s one of the first guys to sign with us, so we really would love to see him in that Killer 3 Mr. Big Shot jersey with the No. 1 on it,” Cube said.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.
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Hard work pays off.
Former New England cornerback Logan Ryan learned that when he signed a lucrative three-year, $30 million deal with the Tennessee Titans after four great seasons with the Patriots, who drafted him in the third round in 2013. Now, he’s using his new riches to pay off some hard studying done by his older brother.
On Tuesday, the 26-year-old surprised his 29-year-old brother by paying off his brother’s $82,000 student loans. Ryan posted about the gift on Instagram.
“My man got accepted to college, graduated with honors, and now works as an engineer,” Ryan captioned the photo of him presenting the oversized check to his brother. “He did everything the right way and still lives with a ridiculous amount of student loan debt.”
Ryan added: “The system is broke and makes no sense!! I’m Fortunate and blessed to be able to take care of that for him.. Love you big bro you deserve it!! #Family #FinallyFree”
Ryan, who played college ball at Rutgers, isn’t shy about promoting issues he believes in. He’s been most vocal about animal rights, using his Instagram to promote the adoption of dogs from shelters. Last year, when the NFL allowed players to wear cleats to support a charity or cause for one game, Ryan chose to promote animal welfare.
Ryan’s interest in helping dogs made more headlines last week when he reportedly asked his wedding guests to donate to a local shelter in St. Lucia, where he wed former Rutgers softball player Ashley Bragg, instead of giving them gifts.
“When we got to St. Lucia we noticed on our drive all the stray dogs and cats on the street. It was very strange to us,” Bragg, whose last name is now Bragg Ryan, told ABC News.
In fact, one of those stray dogs ended up in their wedding photos when the animal sauntered up to them on the street.
“We were just having fun, having just gotten married,” Ryan said. “We’re walking the streets, doing this photo shoot and this dog kind of chose us.”
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A talented dog caught the attention of fans at an Indiana minor league baseball game this week.
“Jake the Diamond Dog” was at the Fort Wayne TinCaps game Monday night. He carried a basket filled with bottles of water to the umpires on the field in exchange for head pats. The Indianapolis Star reports that Jake doesn’t stay at just one baseball park. He travels around the Midwest.
Jake’s official website says he also delivers the game ball to pitchers, snags foul balls, takes the umpires towels, plays batboys and catches Frisbees.