Rockets’ James Harden named first-team All-NBA; Dwight Howard on second team

<center><b>Omer Asik, center</center></b>  <b>2014-15 contract: </b>$8,374,646, guaranteed  <b>Comment: </b>Asik began the season wanting out, let his frustrations boil over when he was removed from the starting lineup and struggled early in the season. But he was outstanding when he returned from a stubborn injury, especially late in the season when Dwight Howard was out and in playoffs.  <b>Grade:</b> B<center><b>Patrick Beverley, Guard</center></b>  <b>2014-15 contract:</b> $915,243, unguaranteed   <b>Comment: </b>Beverley went from unknown to respected pest to among the top defensive point guards in the league. He was a good complement to James Harden as a ball mover and shooter, if not a consistent scoring threat.  <b>Grade:</b> B
For a moment, James Harden looked back.
He had been named to the All-NBA first team, but his thoughts turned to how rapidly he had moved into that echelon, after just five seasons in the league and only two as a starter.
“Looking back where I came from in the NBA, being Sixth Man and now being named the first-team All-NBA, it’s a great individual honor,” said Harden, who was named the NBA’s top sixth man in 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City.
Harden was joined on the first team by his former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, Miami’s LeBron James, the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Chicago’s Joakim Noah.
Yet, as quickly as he looked back, he found himself looking ahead to goals unfulfilled, potential unrealized.
<center><b>Omri Casspi, Forward</center></b>  <b>2014-15 contract: </b>$1,063,384, unguaranteed   <b>Comment: </b>After a promising start, primarily as a range-shooting four, Casspi fell out of the Rockets rotation completely, never quite filling the enormous void as a backup small forward.  <b>Grade: </b>C <center><b>Isaiah Canaan, Guard</center></b>  <b>2014-15 contract: </b>$816,482, guaranteed   <b>Comment: </b>Canaan had an outstanding season in the D-League, which was all that was expected. In brief stretches with the Rockets, he struggled, but he was drafted in the second-round to be a project.  <b>Grade: </b>B
“Just to be named one of the top five, basically, basketball players in the NBA is a great honor,” Harden said. “But the main goal is to hopefully one day be holding up a championship (trophy.) That’s what we’re focused on.”
Harden said that to get that, the Rockets do not need major additions. He said he emphasized to forward Chandler Parsons, who potentially will become a restricted free agent next month, that he remains an important piece. He added that he believed the Rockets need tweaks, not an overhaul.
“He’s a big piece of our team, to our puzzle and to where we want to go,” Harden said. “Hopefully, (Rockets general manager) Daryl Morey and the front office and Chandler and his team can get everything worked out.
“I think we have a lot in our locker room already. A couple of smaller moves would be good for us. I don’t know if necessarily the big move would help us out a lot. We have a lot of great players in our locker room, a lot of young guys that want to get better and want to work. Maybe a couple small moves and we’re right where we want to be.”
The Rockets made major moves each of the past two seasons, adding Harden and Dwight Howard, who as named second-team All-NBA.
<center><b>Robert Covington, Forward</center></b>  <b>2014-15 contract: </b>$816,482, unguaranteed   <b>Comment: </b>An undrafted free agent, Covington was the D-League Rookie of the Year and D-League All Star game MVP. He never picked up a place in the Rockets rotation, but offered a promising rookie season under the circumstances.  <b>Grade:</b> A
Howard finished a distant second to Noah among centers, but Harden said that Howard reestablished himself among the NBA’s elite.
“He’s back to himself,” Harden said. “He’s playing at a high level, injury free coming off the back surgery. He had a great year. I’m sure he’s excited and thrilled for next year, as well. We’re going to have a great summer and hopefully, we can be together for the World Championships.
“We’re definitely disappointed the season ended up the way it did. The positive is we did a pretty good job. Dwight played phenomenal in the post-season. Next year, we have a year under our belt. We can take it as a positive and go out and be ready for next year.”
They became the first Rockets teammates selected to the first- and second-team in the same season. (Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were second-team picks in 2007 and third-team selections in 2008. Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were third-team All NBA in 1995.)
Harden is just the third Rockets player to be named to the All-NBA first team, joining Moses Malone’s two selections with the Rockets and Olajuwon’s six first-team selections, the last in 1997. Harden was the only All-NBA shooting guard, with each of the other five guards selected to All NBA teams – Paul, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Lillard and Goran Dragic – all point guards, but he said he has “a long way to go.”
The All-NBA selection offered a reminder, however, of far he has already gone.
“I take it for what it is,” Harden said. “I embrace it. I try to keep working to get better.”

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