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2014-15 San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

After a quiet offseason, the time when the Spurs make their noise is finally here.

Yannis Koutroupis

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For the fifth time since 1999, the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Championship. They’ve somehow found a way to keep their championship window open despite the masses anticipating it closing for years now. Tim Duncan has proven to be ageless, Gregg Popovich remains at the top of his game as a coach and R.C. Buford continues to put the right pieces around them to keep them in a position to contend.

As the rest of the league raced to try to catch up to the Spurs this offseason, they stood pat, as they should, because they were far and away the best team in the league last season. They’ve set the bar that everyone else is trying to reach, and as the season gets set to start, there appears to be very few teams equipped with what it would take to dethrone them, but only in their best-case scenario.

Basketball Insiders previews the 2014-15 San Antonio Spurs.

Five Guys Think

One of the most underrated stories of the summer, lost in the shuffle of LeBron James’ homecoming and Carmelo Anthony’s big decision, was the fact that San Antonio brought back all the major players that just won a championship together and shamed the two-time defending champion Miami HEAT into disbandment. Assuming those key players can remain healthy, they’re a good bet to finish atop the Western Conference and enjoy yet another deep run in the playoffs. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are apparently ageless, Tony Parker is still among the league’s most underrated players, Kawhi Leonard is on the cusp of stardom and Gregg Popovich is unequivocally the best head coach in the NBA. Who in the world bets against a setup like that?

1st Place – Southwest Division

-Joel Brigham

Every year around this time, the same question is often asked. When will Father Time pay a visit to the San Antonio Spurs? Every year around this time, naturally, predictions are released anticipating a bit of slippage for the Spurs’ aging core. However, every year the group manages to silence skeptics and defy expectations. After adding another Larry O’Brien trophy into the collection last season, maybe it’s time to just go with the flow and enjoy the greatness that’s on full display. Another year, another year of title contention in San Antonio. Bank on it.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Lang Greene

As Kawhi Leonard emerges as the face of the San Antonio Spurs and Tim Duncan begins to think more and more seriously about the prospect of retiring, the immediate future is far from a guarantee for the Spurs. Around them, the Southwest Division seems to have gotten tougher with the upgrades that the Dallas Mavericks have made. This also could be the year that we begin to see the New Orleans Pelicans take flight. At some point, age and attrition has to catch up to the Spurs, especially without adding anyone this past offseason who is certain to crack their rotation. If the Spurs are able to remain healthy, though, another season with the same cast playing the same system should yield some beautiful basketball. As perhaps the best two-way team in the league, even with their health concerns, betting against the Spurs just doesn’t seem wise. At this point, the smart money still has them being one of the final four teams in the conference, at least. And finally, going back-to-back? It certainly isn’t out of the question.

1st place – Southwest Division

–    Moke Hamilton

The Spurs aren’t going anywhere. This is one of the best organizations in sports because they’re a perennial contender and they are a model franchise when it comes to finding and developing talent. The latest example is Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who should only continue to improve this year. San Antonio did a good job bringing back Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw this summer, while adding Kyle Anderson – one of the most intriguing rookies in this class due to his versatility. This year (and, it seems, every year for all of eternity) the Spurs will be in the mix to win it all. We’ve all learned to never bet against San Antonio, and Leonard could be poised for a monster season to follow up his amazing Finals series.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Alex Kennedy

After making just minor changes two summers ago when they lost in the NBA Finals, you knew the Spurs were going to be quiet this offseason while everyone else tried to put together a team that could compete against them. The Western Conference is going to be tough as always, but every team still appears to be a notch below the Spurs. It’s the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls out East that look like they could be troublesome for them, but that’s a long ways down the line. For years, I’ve been guilty of writing their obituary prematurely and thinking that they’re done as contenders. However, it’s impossible to make that mistake this year. I’m hard pressed to think of a team that is as well-rounded and complete as this year’s Spurs team. Outside of injuries, it’s hard to see anything getting in their way of another championship.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Yannis Koutroupis

Top Of The List

Top Offensive Player: Tony Parker. Parker’s scoring average dipped nearly four points from 20.3 in ’12-13 to 16.7 in ’13-14, but that was due more to the health of his surrounding cast and the improvement of guys like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Boris Diaw than any drop off in Parker’s game. Parker remains one of the league’s most difficult covers, and he had an efficient true shooting percentage of .555 with a 25.7 usage percentage and a PER of 19. The improvements he’s made as a jump shooter have made him virtually unguardable. He still prefers the drive over the jump shot, but the 25 threes he hit at a 37 percent clip last year were among the best marks of his career. For someone who used to drive Coach Pop nuts and get benched for his decision making, Pop now has the utmost trust in him and gives him as much freedom as he’s ever given any player.

Top Defensive Player: Kawhi Leonard. When the San Antonio Spurs traded George Hill for Leonard in the 2011 NBA Draft, a big part of their reasoning was his defensive potential. They felt like he had the tools to be an elite-level perimeter defender, something the franchise had been sorely lacking since the retirement of Bruce Bowen. Fast forward three years ahead and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich now has the confidence in Leonard to call on him to defend any position one through four. In an era that will largely be remembered by LeBron James’ dominance, no player has proven to be more effective in defending him than Leonard. He was tapped as the Spurs’ next great player after his rookie year by Coach Pop, and that’s the more accurate way to describe him now.

Top Playmaker: Tony Parker. One of the things that makes the Spurs such an efficient and difficult team to defend is that they have several quality playmakers and no matter what combination is on the floor, everyone is a willing passer. In terms of pure court vision and the ability to find make plays for others that the average player doesn’t even think to attempt, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw and rookie Kyle Anderson may be the best on the team. However, as the point guard and facilitator of the offense, the top playmaker is Parker. His assists dropped from 7.6 in ’12-13 to 5.7 in ’13-14, but he still led the team in dimes and by virtue of his offensive responsibilities, blazing speed and the ability to break down defenses with regularity, he should lead the team in assists once again in ’14-15.

Top Clutch Player: Tony Parker. This is another one that could go to a number of players. Manu Ginobili has often found himself with the ball in his hands because of his unpredictability and craftiness, while Tim Duncan gets a lot of touches with the game on the line as well, whether it be inside the paint or even beyond the arc in a pinch. However, Parker has become the captain of the offense and is the guy who has earned the right to have things flow through him with the game on the line. At this point in his career, with four championship rings to his credit, Parker has seen it all and done it all. There’s no position he hasn’t been in and while he’s surrounded by other quality options in the clutch, he’s become option number one when it matters most. Just by virtue of Popovich’s approach, though, he will give other guys opportunities in the clutch, especially in the regular season, just for growth and development purposes. When it truly matters, though, a play call designed for Parker to make a play, whether it be pass or shoot, is likely coming.

The Unheralded Player: Tiago Splitter/Boris Diaw. It’s too difficult to gives this honor to either Diaw or Splitter, so we’ll split it among the two of them and call them the co-unheralded players. There were a lot of people calling for the Spurs to let Splitter walk in free agency two summers ago and the Portland Trail Blazers were ready to sign him away if they would have let him, but they matched the Trail Blazers’ offer and were rewarded for their faith in him as he played a critical role in their run to a championship. The same can be said about Diaw, who was basically run off by the Charlotte Hornets. It took him a year to really come into his own and get into shape the way that Pop wanted him to, but Diaw was stellar in the playoffs and in the discussion for Finals MVP. With both being very skilled, unselfish and locked up with new contracts for the next few years, the Spurs have perfect complements to play alongside Tim Duncan and make sure that his work load stays manageable throughout the regular season.

Best New Addition: Kyle Anderson. The uniquely versatile UCLA product takes this honor by default as the San Antonio Spurs had a very quiet offseason. Anderson is the only new, fully-guaranteed contract on the books from last year, as the team opted to just re-sign Patty Mills and Boris Diaw while adding a couple of non-guaranteed camp invites during free agency. Anderson is likely to see far more time in the D-League with the Austin Toros than with the Spurs, not so much because the 30th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft couldn’t contribute, but because there’s simply not room in the rotation. Once Diaw was re-signed, Anderson’s chances at having anything that resembles a significant role went out the window. If Aron Baynes ends up staying with the team, that’s another spot down the depth chart that Anderson falls. This year is going to be about watching and learning for Anderson, unless an unfortunate string of injuries leads to him being called on out of necessity, or he surprisingly outplays those in front of him.

– Yannis Koutroupis

Who We Like

Kawhi Leonard: There’s something about the bright lights, NBA Finals stage and LeBron James that brings out the best in Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Finals MVP. His rapid development into one of the best small forwards in the game has perfectly coincided with the end of his rookie contract, which can be extended before October 31. The Spurs have a history of taking care of their own and considering how irreplaceable Leonard is, they’d likely prefer to get something done prior to the deadline and avoid going through restricted free agency with him next summer. Leonard would likely fetch a max offer sheet in that scenario and is justified in asking for it now. Traditionally the Spurs have been able to keep their stars at a discount and have only handed out a couple of max contracts. There will probably be some back and forth in negotiations, but because both sides want to work out a deal, it’s safe to say they’ll find a middle ground – and Leonard will walk away with the handsome pay day that he has more than earned.

Gregg Popovich: Even though Phil Jackson still has him more than doubled in total championships, it’s starting to get really hard not to call Popovich the greatest coach of all-time. Two years ago he came within a game of winning the championship, then without any major roster changes, came back and won the championship in convincing fashion this past season. He’s always quick to give all of the credit to the players, but coaching had as much to do with their championship run last year as any single individual did. What makes it even more impressive is that he was able to do it without two of his longtime assistants in Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer, who earned head coaching jobs with the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. Popovich is a living legend in coaching who every coach strives to be like. His impact on his profession will last long after he decides to call it a career.

Tim Duncan: Duncan cemented himself as the greatest power forward to ever play the game years ago. What he’s done since is distance himself from the competition in a manner that may never be matched and put himself in the discussion of greatest players ever. He’s aged as gracefully as any player in league history, and at 38 years of age he remains one of the best players at his position. He’ll forever go down as the ideal franchise player because of his selflessness, work ethic and the way he’s adjusted his game to remain a serious force at an age other greats became a complete non-factor at. Perhaps most impressive of all is the way he’s embraced guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and now Kawhi Leonard sharing the spotlight with him. He takes as much joy in their success as he does his own, a quality that cannot be taught.

R.C. Buford: In a day and age when most executives are graded by the major trades or free agent signings they make, Buford has built a dynasty off of elite scouting, patience and internal development. Clashes between management and coaching happen frequently throughout the league, yet the only time you’ve heard of a conflict between Buford and Pop was when Pop suggested that he was ready to maybe just work in the front office, and Buford declined, telling him “I need a coach, not a general manager.” That turned out to be another wise decision in the long line of them that Buford has made at the helm of the Spurs. Without the ability to spend freely or go into the luxury tax, Buford has always found a way to keep the Spurs competitive and he believed in his stars longer than most executives would have. Unfortunately for rival executives with aspirations of following his blueprint, it’s really rare for ownership to display the kind of belief and commitment to his vision that the Spurs’ owners have. He may not garner the same kind of mainstream attention that Duncan or Popovich do, but make no mistake about it, Buford is one of the best to ever hold his position as well.

– Yannis Koutroupis

Strengths

The Spurs are a deep, talented, experienced and unselfish team with great chemistry. You never hear of issues in their locker room because they look at the character of a player before they look at their talent level and make sure they only bring in guys who fit into their system and put the team first. Offensively the Spurs scored 108.2 points per 100 possessions, which ranked sixth in the league, with impressive efficiency (53.7 effective field goal percentage and 57.1 true shooting percentage – both ranked in the top three). Popovich has really opened up the playbook, allowed for more running in transition and given shooters like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green the green light to fire as they see fit from beyond the arc. Everyone is involved offensively, evident by their league leading 19.1 assists per game. The real reason the Spurs were able to get back to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy, though, was their improved defense. They only allowed 100.1 point per 100 possessions, the fourth best mark in the league. Leonard and Tiago Splitter were really key in that aspect. If the Spurs continue to defend at that level, a sixth championship is going to be well within reach.

– Yannis Koutroupis

Weaknesses

You can’t really mention any weaknesses on the Spurs without coming off as nitpicky. They’re a complete team that can play just about any style of basketball. Statistically they were close to middle of the pack with their rebounding rate, but were still in the top half and it certainly wasn’t an issue as they ran into teams in the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals that played primarily small ball. They are one of the older squads in the league, so there’s injury concerns, but every team, regardless of their age, can be set back by untimely injuries. The Spurs’ age may make them slightly more susceptible to them, though. On the court, they’ve struggled to find backups for Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker that are consistently reliable, but have gotten by just fine with what they have and often just utilize the versatility of Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw when they’re not getting what they need from whoever is Parker and Leonard’s back up at the time.

– Yannis Koutroupis

The Salary Cap

The Spurs still have their full Mid-Level (5.3 million) and Bi-Annual (2.1 million) Exceptions, but have already committed to 14 guaranteed players.  The team has three partially guaranteed players (Bryce Cotton, JaMychal Green and Josh Davis) fighting for the one remaining roster spot — each with small promises ($50k, $60k and $20k, respectively).  The team has also been linked to free agent forward Michael Beasley.  Aron Baynes remains a restricted free agent, and could take that 15th guaranteed spot if he accepted the Spurs’ $1.1 million qualifying offer – although both he and the Spurs may be looking for a sign and trade instead.  Carrying a championship roster, San Antonio is well below the luxury tax threshold ($76.8 million) with just $67.8 million in guaranteed commitments.  The Spurs also have a $1.5 million traded player exception for Nando De Colo, expiring on 2/20/15.

– Eric Pincus

Dunc’d On

Best Case

64-18

At first blush, it is hard to imagine the Spurs exceeding last year’s mark even if they are firing on all cylinders since Popovich so rarely puts his foot on the gas during the regular season.  Yet it should be remembered that last season’s number one seed was accomplished with myriad injuries throughout the early part of the year.  Parker played only 68 games, Leonard 66, Green 68 and Splitter 59.  Ginobili also played only 68 games, although he so regularly misses time that a higher total for him seems unlikely. But a few more games from those players and the Spurs could conceivably exceed last year’s total, although the injury to Patty Mills that will keep him out much of the year could hurt.

Worst Case

55-27

The Spurs’ depth and system-based success gives them perhaps the lowest floor of any team, as one key injury will affect them less than other good teams.  But age-related declines from Duncan, Ginobili, Diaw and perhaps most importantly Parker could cause the Spurs to take a bit of a step back.

– Nate Duncan

The Burning Question

Will age and/or complacency catch up to the Spurs?

With last year’s team that was the best in the league by a significant margin back intact and geared up for another run, there’s very few things that can get in their way of a third straight Finals appearance and potentially a second-straight championship. Recently, Coach Pop came out and said that he was worried about complacency, a legit concern considering that last year’s team was fueled by their failures from the previous year, where they came so close but ultimately fell in seven games to the Miami HEAT. They’re not going to have that this year, but considering the maturity level, experience and competitiveness of this team, those banking on complacency knocking them off their throne will likely be disappointed. The most pressing issue is their age and the injury concerns that come with it. Their core has a lot of miles on their legs. With an average age of 28 years and two months, the Spurs have the fourth-oldest team in the league (without Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs would have the oldest roster in the league by three years). Coach Pop has become magnificent at managing his aging stars’ minutes, even if it costs him money for giving guys a night off, but injuries are a part of the game and sometimes unavoidable. They’re already going to be starting the season without Patty Mills, but should benefit from the fact that most of their roster, outside of Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter – who played for France and Brazil in the FIBA World Cup, respectively – had a restful summer.

– Yannis Koutroupis

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca

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Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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