James Harden plans to sign with Houston, right?

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James Harden plans to sign with Houston, right?

From Comcast SportsNet
HOUSTON (AP) -- James Harden plans to sign a long-term extension with the Houston Rockets before the regular season begins.The reigning Sixth Man of the Year joined his new team Sunday after he was traded to the Rockets from Oklahoma City late Saturday. The Thunder acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the surprising deal. Oklahoma City also sent center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston."It happened so fast, it happened very fast," Harden said. "But this is the position I'm in in now. Just have to make the best out of it. I'm with Houston now. I just have to come in here and play hard and win games."Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Houston was able to offer Harden a contract that Oklahoma City could not."Quite honestly, the value of the trade was greater based on the fact that the Rockets could offer him the contract that he was seeking," Presti said. "By doing it when we did it, it allowed the Rockets to secure -- or I believe it will allow the Rockets to secure him and James will get the contract that he was seeking. And because of that, we were able to capitalize on the trade and probably get a little bit more than we would have if we would have waited."The Rockets nabbed Harden on the night before holding a public practice at the Toyota Center. An hour before the practice started, fans peered into the shaded, street-level glass windows to catch a glimpse of the new arrival on the Rockets' practice court.The 23-year-old Harden says he'll have to adjust to a rebuilding team after playing for a contender in Oklahoma City.The acquisition of Harden completes an offseason overhaul for the Rockets, who've missed the playoffs the last three seasons. Houston cut or traded every veteran player, including point guard Kyle Lowry, backup Goran Dragic, shooting guard Courtney Lee and popular forward Luis Scola.The Thunder, meanwhile, are one of the favorites to win the Western Conference after losing to Miami in last year's finals."This is definitely different," Harden said. "But it's something that we have to learn to deal with. This is a business and everything happens for a reason. I'm going to just to play hard, try to play hard and do whatever it takes to win."Harden was a first-round pick by Oklahoma City out of Arizona State in 2009. He started only seven games in three seasons, but he became an indispensable reserve. Last year, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the regular season."I like the way he plays," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "He's got a pace to his game that I like, I think he plays at a speed where he can repeat things over and over again. He's not playing at a warp speed. He really takes his time, and goes when he wants to go, starts, stops. He's a really sophisticated player."Harden struggled in the NBA finals, shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3-point range. He scored 19 points with five assists in Game 5, a 121-106 Miami victory that clinched the championship.He'll also have to adjust to a starting role in Houston, joining Jeremy Lin in the backcourt."He's always been an efficient, easy player to play with," Lin said. "The way he plays, the style he plays is very in tune with what we're trying to do."McHale thinks Harden can make a seamless switch to a starting role."I don't think he'll need any adjusting," McHale said. "I don't think that'll be an issue at all. He's just going to get an opportunity to get more time and start the game."Harden and his new teammates arrived at the Toyota Center in a limousine just moments after Martin drove away.Martin has averaged 18.4 points and 2.1 assists in eight NBA seasons, most of them with Sacramento. He played 2 seasons in Houston and averaged 23.5 points in 2010-11 under coach Rick Adelman. The Rockets and Adelman parted ways after that season, and Martin's numbers dipped in McHale's first season.He was in the final year of his contract and is due to make about 13 million this season.The 6-foot-2 Lamb was the 12th overall pick in the draft. Lamb helped Connecticut win the 2011 Final Four and led the Rockets' summer-league team in scoring, averaging 20 points.Lin said he was "pretty excited" about the deal, although he said it doesn't change the team's expectations."The way we're looking at it is we want to make the playoffs, whether the trade happened or not," he said. "We're still looking at the same exact focus, the same exact goal."If nothing else, the arrival of Harden will deflect some of the attention away from Lin, on the court and off it."We'll see how everything plays out," Lin said. "It'll be dispersed a little more."

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.