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The Starting 5: Can Rockets Win the West?

Nikki Boertman/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet 

1. Houston Rockets: 5 Keys to Winning the West – Duncan Smith, Hoops Habit

The Rockets had an amazing season last year, making the Western Conference Finals while riding the high of having come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Clippers in the previous round. They couldn’t keep it going, however, losing to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Duncan Smith of Hoops Habit runs down the five keys for the Rockets to win the West and get past the Warriors, and it involves staying healthy. Dwight Howard recently revealed that he played that series against the Warriors through a torn MCL and meniscus, and although it didn’t appear to affect his play too much (14.4 PPG, 14.4 RPG, and 1.8 BPG in 35.1 MPG), you can only imagine how things may have gone if he and Patrick Beverley were fully healthy.

2. Tyson Chandler takes issue with Mark Cuban’s view of his 2nd Mavs exit – Eric Freeman, Ball Don’t Lie

When Tyson Chandler was traded back to the Dallas Mavericks last season, he thought that maybe Mavs owner Mark Cuban had learned from his mistakes. Chandler was let go following their championship win in 2010-11, and the team took a step back. Cuban made it clear that the second time around would be different, and that they wanted Chandler for the long haul. However, the two stories conflict about why Chandler ended up in Phoenix when free agency hit. Cuban says they tried to work out an extension but couldn’t, and Chandler had some choice words in explaining his view.

3. Why the Bulls should not trade Taj Gibson – Mark Karantzoulis, Chicago Bulls Confidential

There’s been a lot of talk about which one of the Bulls’ big men needs to be traded, and I’ve made my case in the past for Joakim Noah. Some, on the other hand, argue that Taj Gibson should be the odd man out. He has two years remaining on his contract, is limited offensively in comparison to Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, and probably has more value than Noah at this time. But there are reasons not to trade Gibson as well. Probably the biggest one is that he’s a quality defensive player on a team that’s not looking too good defensively. In the preseason, the Bulls had a 106.2 defensive rating, which means the days of hard-nosed Bulls defense may be gone. The Bulls are going to need Gibson if they’re going to stop opposing big men from scoring at will this season.

4. Lakers Lose Preseason Finale, Clarkson to Shoulder Injury – Darius Soriano, Forum Blue & Gold

The Lakers got embarrassed by the Warriors in their final preseason game, losing 136-97. To add injury to insult, Jordan Clarkson suffered a shoulder injury that places his status for the season opener next Wednesday in doubt. Clarkson has described his injury as minor, which is good news, but there have to be concerns in Los Angeles about the Lakers going into the season. This could be their last season with Kobe Bryant, and this team doesn’t look to be nearly good enough to even make a run at the playoffs. They’re going to need a lot of fast development, for everyone to stay healthy and a lot of luck to achieve their lofty goals.

5. Raptors vs. Wizards: The rivalry is real – Daniel Reynolds, Raptors HQ

After facing off in the playoffs last season, the rivalry between the Raptors and the Wizards has become real in Toronto. The Wizards embarrassed the Raptors, sweeping them out of the playoffs. In as much of a statement game as a preseason tilt can be, the Raptors wanted to make it clear that they haven’t forgotten that feeling. They beat the Wizards 92-82 behind a trimmed down Kyle Lowry, and the new-look Raptors seem to have some pep in their step. Could the Raptors be the team that challenges the Cavaliers in the East this season?

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