ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The first time I visited Houston, Texas, was just after Christmas in 2002. I was there for SLAM magazine to write a profile on Yao Ming and Steve Francis, and I spent about a week hanging around the Rockets. I also saw one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen while driving.
The Toyota Center, their current home, was not yet built; back then they played in the Compaq Center, previously known as The Summit. On a Sunday morning while I was there, the Rockets held a shootaround at their arena. It was relatively early, and because it was a weekend morning, I remember how quiet things were on my drive to the arena. I was in no hurry, so I cruised along, looking out the windows and trying to get a feel for Houston.
And then I came upon a railroad crossing. As I pulled up to it, the light above it turned red and the crossing flags began to lower, blocking the road and signaling that a train was coming. I slipped my rental car into park and settled in to sip my coffee and wait for the train to pass.
In my rear view mirror, I noticed a late-model sedan coming toward me. This car was in the lane next to me, so it wasn’t in danger of hitting me, but it was coming fast, much too fast to stop in time for the train crossing, and it seemed to be accelerating. I looked ahead and saw the train nearing the intersection. I turned my head just in time to follow the car as it hit the wooden crossing flags at full speed, shattering the wood and sending shards flying. The car shot across the train tracks, bouncing as it hit the other side of the road. Maybe two seconds later the train barreled through the intersection, as I sat there, my heart pounding, wondering if I was being Punk’d.
(Initially I wondered if the car was being pursued by authorities, but no other cars ever came along. I just sat there, totally alone, at the intersection until the train passed. I combed the local papers the next few days but never saw any mention of what I’d witnessed.)
I bring all that up because we have another NBA-related driving story out of Houston. Last night on his way to the Toyota Center, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a minor car accident. How do we know it really happened? The other driver asked Parsons for an autograph after hitting his car…
A driver outside Toyota Center ran a red light and hit Parsons’ SUV near the entrance to the loading dock. Parsons said he and driver were not hurt, though it made him a few minutes late for treatment before shooting to see if he would be cleared to play.
“She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons said. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.”
I think we can say Parsons was fine — he played 40 minutes and scored 21 points.
As you’d expect, such great matchups weren’t lost on many of the NBA’s best players, some of whom took to Instagram to reveal who they were rooting for … or to show you which game they were attending.
The Florida-UConn game saw Houston Rockets stars Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons (an ex-Gator himself) in the crowd.
Former Georgetown star Allen Iverson surprisingly had some nice words for the UConn Huskies after the win … mostly because Iverson’s former Sixers teammate (and an ex-Husky himself) Kevin Ollie coaches the squad. Here’s what AI had to say:
Congratulations K.O. this couldn’t happen to a better person. I’m very excited about you being in the National Championship game. I never thought I could pull for UConn, but I will this year because you’re there. Good luck and God bless you … #TheAnswer
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last weekend in New Orleans, John Wall performed what was called the “Dunk of the Night” en route to walking away as the evening’s big winner. Even though it was only six years ago, the last time the dunk contest was in New Orleans was in 2008, and the winner of that dunk contest was Dwight Howard. These days Dwight’s dunks are more of the power variety, but yesterday at Rockets practice, Dwight showed that he can still get creative. James Hardengot in on it as well, but Dwight threw down a couple of nasty dunks, including this first one which left teammate Chandler Parsons speechless…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Houston Rockets are on the upswing, and as they make a run at being a championship contender, they’ve become more and more popular. And with increased popularity comes increased attention, which means the Rockets players get to have more and more interaction with their fans. Even if that interaction can be…non-traditional.
To begin, here’s an image a Rockets fan posted of taking a selfie in a bathroom, when he got photobombed by none other than Chandler Parsons.
Meanwhile, Parsons’ teammate James Harden posted a picture and captioned it, “With all the homies!! #WhichOneisMe?? #Footlocker #BeardGang”
I guess the lesson here is you never know where you’ll run into one of the Houston Rockets…or even if you’re running into one of the actual Rockets.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here’s the latest spot for NBAStore.com, where you can order all kinds of gear and, if this commercial is correct, team up with your favorite players — such as Brandon Jennings, Chandler Parsons, Carlos Boozer and Andre Iguodala — to create huge mythological figures that apparently make scoring impossible.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The last few years have been a bit rough for Dwight Howard, at least in terms of public perception. Does he want to be traded or doesn’t he? Will he sign an extension or won’t he? Which team will he sign with in free agency? But what is it like playing alongside Dwight? Well, it seems pretty nice, at least on Christmas.
Several members of the Houston Rockets took to the internet yesterday to display their holiday gifts from Dwight, who seems to be a very conscientious gift-giver. According to James Harden, Howard got him the exact Audemars-Piguet watch that he wanted…
Dwight also went out and got Rolex’s for Chandler Parsons (here) and Greg Smith (here). And according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Dwight presumably went to the secondary market to find a pair of Air Mags for Aaron Brooks. “So generous,” Brooks told Stein. “Most people on the outside look at him wrong. I know ’cause I did, too, before [becoming Howard's teammate]. He’s a great guy. Huge heart.”
You’d think after all that, Dwight’s teammates might be a bit more willing to share a little love with Dwight. But even after Jeremy Lin poked fun at Dwight with his Instagram post the other day…
…if what we saw yesterday was any indication, you’d be wrong…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We are deep into training camp and media days, which can mean only one thing: MUSCLEWATCH 2013 is fully upon us. And even as I am knee-deep in MUSCLEWATCH reports, coming in from around the NBA, imagine my surprise last week when I flipped on NBA TV and found MUSCLEWATCH reaching its largest audience yet:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER – After the Houston Rockets hung on to win a 105-103 nail-biter over the Thunder last night in Houston, the crowd at the Toyota Center was pretty fired up. One fan, in particular — with great seats — was so excited that he couldn’t wait to dap up Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who went for 27 and 10 in 41 minutes.
Parsons, however, left my man hanging. Over and over and over and over again.
Stemming from his days as the No. 1 scorer on the Golden State Warriors, Monta Ellis has a bit of a reputation as a chucker — particularly from 3-point range. That belief (in the Warriors-era Ellis, at least) is not unfounded, especially when you review his advanced stats from those seasons. For the record, Ellis spent his first 6 1/2 seasons in Oakland. In those seasons, here’s what percentage of his points came from 3-point attempts during his Warriors years: 2005-06 (25.8 percent), 2006-07 (14.2), 2007-08 (4.2), 2008-09 (6.0), 2009-10 (16.2), 2010-11 (23.5) and 2011-12 (19.3).
This season, his first full one in Milwaukee, Ellis’ percentage of points from 3-point attempts is at 20.1 and when Ellis gets on the road this season, that percentage bumps up to 23.4. So, overall, not much of a big change in his game, even with a change of scenery.
Good thing that Ellis is so 3-happy, though, because they needed his long-range touch last night to pull off a stunner at the Toyota Center over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets seemed in control of this one early, but by halftime everything was tied up and a second half of lead changes and ties ensued. James Harden knotted the score at 107 with 34.7 seconds left and the Bucks actually had a couple of non-dramatic chances to win this, but couldn’t come through until Ellis saved their bacon.
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Ellis’ game-winning shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s dive in …
Do Jennings and Ellis have a running competition to see who can sink a game winner with the least amount of time left on the clock? When Jennings made his shot against the Cavs on Nov. 4, he did so with :00.7 remaining in the game. Last night, when Ellis made his shot, there was about :00.8 on the clock when the ball left his hands. That’s just the sort of thing that Milwaukee’s explosive-if-unpredictable backcourt can do from game to game.
Back to Ellis’ shot, though: could it have been tougher? First, he’s camped out left of the 3-point line waiting for a pass from Jennings that seemingly isn’t going to come. As Jennings tries to drive on Jeremy Lin (and is subsequently cut off), Jennings pitches it to Ellis with about a second left with Ellis facing the sideline as he catches it. In one quick motion, Ellis turns to the basket, fades on the 6-foot-9 Chandler Parsons and chucks it toward the rim. Keep in mind that Ellis is listed at 6-foot-3, but that might be stretching things.
Much like the baseline floater that J.R. Smith nailed to do in the Suns earlier this season, a scorer like Ellis always knows where the rim is, knows how much space he needs and knows the shot clock/game clock situation. Unlike Smith, Ellis wasn’t faced with a designed play for him to get the ball.
In terms of difficulty, it’s hard to find a tougher shot (that the Bucks chose to take) in this situation.
Score tied at 107 with, Bucks have the ball at midcourt. Had Ellis missed, this one is headed to OT and a chance for the Bucks and Rockets — the current No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences — to bolster their playoff bids with a victory.
If we are going by eras in Milwaukee, the Bucks were 26-27 in the first full season of the Jennings-Ellis pairing and were 1-1 in the two games since they acquired J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic in a trade deadline-day deal. What’s more important than eras in Milwaukee (or Houston, for that matter) is staying in the playoff race. The Bucks have less to worry on that front as the Sixers, Raptors and Pistons have a far-off-at-best shot at the postseason. In the West, the Rockets have a much tougher bid for No. 8 with the disappointing Lakers trying to get back to .500 and climb into Houston’s spot.
Overall, in terms of the playoff chase, this one likely meant more to Houston’s cause than Milwaukee’s (although a first-round date with the Heat isn’t exactly something the Bucks are savoring).
Gotta love the mad dash for the locker room that Ellis makes after his shot. And as a confident-if-streaky shooter, Ellis told The Associated Press what we’d expect to hear from him after sinking that shot: “I just threw it up. The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. Wasn’t any need for me to come back out [to see the review].” Basically, there’s no celebration here for the Bucks because Ellis just wants to get to the Houston airport and back to Milwaukee as soon as possible.
4 1/2 Horrys. Smith’s buzzer-beater against the Suns came off a clearly set play in a different situation. But to us, something about this Ellis shot has a lot in common with Smith’s in Arizona a few months ago. Call Ellis a 3-point chucker if you like (and as his shot charts show, he likes the 3-ball), but also call him Horry-like for coming through with a pretty tough shot.