Such physical exertion leads to a mental fatigue as well. The Rockets tend to get into trouble when the shots aren't falling early or a few sloppy turnovers trigger a natural impulse to be conservative in the face of adversity. McHale, though, encourages his guys to break old habits and build new instincts.
"This is their system; it's not my system," McHale says. "They've got to buy in. It's truly not a team until it's their system."
Houston is an exciting team to watch, but one of the reasons hard-core statistical analysis is not the norm in the NBA is because it's not the most inspiring way to look at the game. No motivational speech ever includes "points per 100 possessions." No impassioned fans will ever slap five in the stands and scream into each other's face "Expected shot value, baby!"
But the Rockets players articulate an iron faith in their process, a by-product of that alignment between Morey, McHale and the players. And for the guys on the court, Harden makes it easy to believe that this odd mix of talents and philosophies makes perfect sense.
"In order for us to have a chance in any game, we can't slow the ball up and try to play half court," says Harden, who's averaging 25.9 points, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game and boasts the league's 10th-best player efficiency rating, 23.38. "We have to impose our will and do what we do."
What Harden does is blow past defenders with a low, sweeping crossover and pick out shooters with pinpoint passes. And not only does he shoot a high volume of high-value shots -- 3-pointers, free throws and layups -- Harden helps his teammates do the same.
"He's a much better passer than people think, much better," says Rockets assistant GM Sam Hinkie. "That ball hits you in the chest with no opponent around you at just the right moment."
The Rockets share the ball and find the open guy, the guy with feet set to shoot. The trick is creating opportunities for someone to be standing still and wide open -- no easy task in the NBA.
But as Delfino says with a smile, "Having a guy like James, it's easy."
Morey, McHale and Harden have taken an unorthodox approach and achieved something interesting and fun. But what they have thus far is hardly threatening to the best in the West.
The dramatic changes still needed to join the NBA's elite will stress and strain the current arrangement. Comfort with extremes has allowed Houston to get this far, but can that ethos survive as the Rockets look to not only improve but to preserve what they have now?
The Rockets have built a solid young core, but more is needed.
The pieces are, mostly, in place. Harden is signed through 2017-18, and Morey recently agreed to a new contract that will take him through 2016-17. But McHale has just one guaranteed year left on his contract. Is he the right man to guide the Rockets through a new, more delicate process?
And what will this Rockets team look like if it reaches such heights? Morey knows it takes multiple stars to win big in the NBA.
"The great players understand that you need to play with other great players to win the title," he says.
Now that he has landed one young stud, Morey hopes Harden will be a useful recruiting chip in bringing in a second.
But don't expect Houston to sign just any big name. A review of previous transactions indicates it will seek out players who already exhibit qualities the Rockets value. Omer Asik, for instance, has almost never taken a bad shot in his career because all he does is shoot the shots he can make -- those right at the rim. Jeremy Lin, their other major free-agent acquisition of the 2012 offseason, is an open-court and pick-and-roll specialist. They replaced hyperefficient scoring guard Kevin Martin with the younger, more dynamic and even more efficient Harden.
The Rockets aren't in the business of fixing players, a reality that may limit their activity this summer. The two major free agents who are most likely to change locations in the coming offseason, Andrew Bynum and Josh Smith, don't quite fit the Rockets ideals of playing fast (Bynum) and at a high efficiency (Smith).
Two years of upheaval finally yielded alignment. Now that they've found some success, Morey and his front office really have something of value to risk. The next task is a complex one: The Rockets must foster stability to nurture what they have while taking the chances necessary to improve.
In a 2012 chat on Reddit, the risk-taking Morey sounded up to the challenge:
"As only one team out of 30 gets to win, you cannot play it safe."
I'd love to see the Thunder draw the Lakers in the first round. Nothing would make me happier than to bounce see their "dream team" bounced out of the playoffs in 4 or 5 games by OKC.....again.
The Lakers have had some unbelievably bad luck.
Word out of L.A. is that Kobe tore his achilles tonight. Forget this season because they weren't going anywhere anyway, but Kobe is an older guy now. How good is a soon to be 35 year old going to be coming back from this injury? And these things usually take a full year to recover from.
This is probably the beginning of a very rough patch of Lakers basketball that's likely to last multiple seasons.
Time to rebuild.
Originally Posted by Texas Ace
I was watching the game and saw the injury. i thought it was just a sprained ankle because he ran into a Warriors player when he was trying to drive past him. He landed hard and awkwardly hurting his left knee earlier in the night.
DO you even watch Kobe play? Kobe is not a normal 34 year old. As a Laker fan I'd gladly take 2 more years of Kobe (once he returns) over Dwight for the rest of his career. Kobe is due 30.5 million next year (last year of contract), not bad money to rehab from an injury. But remember this is Kobe, I'd be surprised if he misses all of next year.
Originally Posted by Texas Ace
A winning temperament
Source: Doug Collins to resign
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins will resign at the end of the season, a league source confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard on Sunday night.
The Sixers picked up the option on Collins' contract for the 2013-14 season in training camp and he said then he wanted to remain with the organization in some capacity when his coaching career was finished.
ESPN.com reported Friday that Collins staying with the organization in a front-office or advisory role was an option if he decides to step down, according to sources close to the situation.
Yahoo! Sports reported Collins' decision to resign earlier Sunday night.
Team president Rod Thorn was already set to step aside after this season, leaving open the possibility Collins assumes greater front-office control.
With the franchise in decline after the Andrew Bynum trade was a massive flop, Collins decided he wanted no part of what could be a long rebuilding effort.
The Sixers are 33-47 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference a year after they won 35 games and a round in the playoffs in last year's lockout-shortened season. The Sixers finish out the season Monday in Detroit and Wednesday in Indiana.
Team owner Joshua Harris, who did not immediately respond to emails Sunday night, was scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday.
Collins, a four-time All-Star with the Sixers, returned to the franchise in 2010 and led them to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.
After falling one win shy of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Sixers shook up the roster and made the bold move to acquire Bynum.
Bynum never played for the Sixers because of bone bruises in both knees. He insisted from training camp he would play this season, only to shut it down for good on March 18 and undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees. Bynum earned $16.5 million this season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
His decision came out only hours after his agent told reporters Collins would return next season.
"He's here for another year, at least," agent John Langel said. "He's the coach and we'll see what happens."
There was no immediate word on when he notified his players. No Sixer indicated in the postgame locker room that Collins was leaving.
Hall of Famer Julius Erving, a former Sixers great and team adviser, said before Sunday's win over Cleveland that the Sixers needed to keep Collins.
"The organization can ill-afford to have Doug walk away," Erving said. "You're not going to get a better coach or a better teacher."
Collins refused to discuss his job status on Sunday.
Collins guided a young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls from 1986-89, and the Detroit Pistons from 1995-98. He coached Jordan again with the Washington Wizards from 2001-03.
His two seasons with the Wizards had been his only two full seasons in which he did not lead his team to the playoffs. He was fired shortly after Jordan was denied a return to the front office.
Collins worked for TNT after leaving the Wizards and received the Curt Gowdy Media Award at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his work as a broadcaster.
He was a four-time All-Star with the Sixers, and he averaged 17.9 points in a career marred by injuries. A knee injury forced him to retire in 1981, two years before the 76ers beat the Lakers for the 1983 NBA title.
His son, Chris Collins, was hired as head coach at Northwestern earlier this month.
Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.
I wish I had a clue who the next coach will be, but I don't. Do they get a guy that Bynum likes in the hopes he comes back? Or do they go with a up and comer? Rooting for Brian Shaw, preparing for Aaron McKie.
Durant will not play tonight. Conceding the scoring title to Melo.
I understand the decision but a small part of me wanted to see Durant make a run at 70 tonight. Play him the first half and make a decision from there. If he had 30 - 40 at the half....play him the second half. If not sit him the entire 2nd half.
That's how I was hoping to see it play out.
Dwight Howard is proving why he's not considered an elite player in many circles. Although this games isn't a must win to make the playoffs, it's still big for the Lakers because they match up better against the Spurs than they do against the Thunder. And what is Howard doing.....he's being neutralized by an average, inferior player, Omer Asik.
OKC and Houston in the first round. I'm kicking around the idea of going to Game 3 in Houston.
I've got OKC in 5. Although I could see it going 6 if Houston got hot from 3 point range.