Can Rockets Prove They’re For Real?


HOUSTON
— When the Rockets wore down and sprinted past the creaking Celtics, it was youth over age.

When Jeremy Lin recreated the old magic at Madison Square Garden and the Rockets wore out the Knicks, it was hope over their own struggles.

When James Harden made it all look easier than a walk in the park in a thumping of the Grizzlies, it was speed over power.

Now after winning five of their past six games, the Rockets have to prove they are as much substance as style.

While hanging around the .500 mark (14-12) through the first third of the season, this totally reconstructed Houston lineup has been equal parts entertaining and unfulfilling.

So as they enter the meat of the schedule, our very good buddy Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes this might be as good a time as any to determine whether the Rockets are legitimate playoff contenders in the Western Conference.

Beginning with the Christmas Day game in Chicago, the Rockets will play four games in five days, facing the Bulls, Timberwolves, Spurs and Thunder. Only the final game of that stretch, against Oklahoma City (21-5), will come at home.

“This road trip is key for us,” guard James Harden said. “It will be a good test having three games on the road against really good teams. In order for us to make the playoffs, we’re going to have to win some road games, and this is the time. I think we’re on a roll now as far as us playing together, so this is going to be big for us.”


Assuming some of that stretch will be difficult, the Rockets said they are better prepared for what will come than they were a week ago, when they crumbled.

“We are different,” guard Jeremy Lin said. “We made some big differences in terms of figuring out what works with our identity and what doesn’t work. A week ago, I would say we were not as sure of what to do as we are now.”

Since returning from his leave of absence two weeks ago, coach Kevin McHale has repeatedly stressed that the young Rockets lineup has to remain committed to the team’s up-tempo style of play.

“Every team has a style,” McHale said. “A lot of teams are trying to find that style. Once you find what works, you have have to be dedicated to doing it.

“I liken back to the old Hakeem Olajuwon days. The team didn’t one day say, ‘We’re never going to throw the ball to Hakeem tonight. We’re going to ice him out. We’re just going to shoot jumpers.’ They threw the ball to him every single time. That was their style.

“As a team, we’ve got to find our footing where we play the same every night. We may not shoot it as good and may not do a lot of stuff, but we have to play the same style.”

That is, besides pushing the tempo, sharing the ball, moving it side to side to create open jump shots and open lanes for Harden and Lin to drive through.

Since losing at Toronto eight days ago, the Rockets have averaged 118 points, 25 fast break points per game and hae made 53.6 percent. In Saturday night’s whipping of Memphis, they assisted on a season-high 32 of 44 field goals.

But now Houston starts a difficult week with a Christmas night game at Chicago, where the Bulls rank third in the NBA defensively, allowing 90.3 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting and 32.6 percent 3-point shooting.

The Bulls are quite good at stifling opponents’ pace by playing solid half-court defense and having the hyperactive Joakim Noah blow up the pick and roll and many attempts in the lane.

Often this season when they’ve been slowed down and forced to play deliberately, the Rockets have deteriorated into a group of individuals that stand and eventually tried to do too many things 1-on-1.

They say they’ve grown. They say they’ve changed. They say they are for real.

Now they are staring at a short, difficult window — four games in five nights, ending with OKC at home — to prove it.

46 Comments

  1. tay says:

    cousins is the best example of raw talent with no brain. he doesnt know how to win. you are naive if you think all his problems stem from the kings organization. he has had issues stretching back to his high school days. he was suspended TWICE already and we arent even halfway through the season yet. he couldnt get along with TWO different coaches. he’s a selfish hothead and he will only bring a team down. the best thing sacramento can do is step away from him so he can actually see the consequences of his actions. he is supposed to be a PAID PROFESSIONAL, and instead he acting like some spoiled kid.

  2. Alex Lamar says:

    One great advantage of consistent ball movement and sharing on offense is improved defense.
    The Rockets half court defense in the last three games has improved.

  3. wuffe says:

    The Rockets need one more “go to person”. Now, may be the best time to get Demarcus Cousins for the P.F. position. You have to think big. How are you going to beat the Heat. The team would be a monster with Omer Asik at C and Chandler Parsons at SF.

    • krespino says:

      Exactly…
      I wish that the Rockets front office think about acquiring DeMarcus Cousins. He would be a great addition.
      He is an exceptionally good player, and if he is having issues with the Kings it’s possibly because of the Kings franchise and the atmosphere there. I
      t’s understandable that DeMarcus would have aspirations to become an NBA star and feels that he is just being wasted with the Kings. He might not have the same attitude issues in the winning Rockets environment and under Rockets coaches.

  4. dattebayo says:

    I don’t see them in the playoffs either, I think they will have a record over .500, but they will miss the playoffs again.
    In 2009-2010 you needed 50 wins to make the playoffs and I think it will take that many wins again and I don’t think this team is good enough for that.

  5. ROCKETS says:

    Honestly the team is awesome but you still need have to add another star caliber player or close to that, i see josh smith as the main guy to try to get, and millsap just next, i do feel like the bench is the reason they are winning 5 out of 6, toney douglas is playing with tones of confidence, greg smith looks amazing out there, better finisher than asik and delfino shooting the 3 ball at a nice clip. Despite all of this im not sure if the rockets are a playoff team because id you take a nice good look at the western conference you will see that 1 through 4 is locked, okc, spurs, memphis and clippers, 5 and 6 golden state and lakers, 7 probably t-wolves, and then the 8 is houston, utah,portland,dallas will be a dog fight all the way to the end.
    GO ROCKETS FROM PORTUGAL !!!

  6. Tim NBA Fan says:

    This season may have the most competitive Western Conference ever. The Lakers and Mavericks are just getting key players back. The entire Northwest Division is .500 or better. It looks like 13 teams with serious potential to make it to the post season. 5 of those teams won’t. While some feel the top 4 teams are a lock to remain on top, every team is a major injury away from a big slide. Take Durant, Paul, Duncan, or Randolph out for an extended period and watch their teams slide back into the pack. Between now and the all-star break I think at least a few of those 13 teams will go from playoff contender status to lotto contender status, but for now, I wouldn’t count any of them out.

    Lately Harden and Lin seem to be finding ways to thrive together. Asik is producing more on offense than many expected. And their other young front court guys have stepped up. If the Rockets’ starters can stay healthy they have a great chance to get into the playoffs.

  7. Damo says:

    I agree the Houston needs a big time 4 to be considered a top 3 team in the West, which is loaded with experienced and super talented squads. I know hey want to develop all stars, but with the exemption of Harden, they have awesome depth, youth and energy- they now need some polish at the 4 with a palaver who can score out of the post, but also a solid defensive player, which don’t grow in trees, but that should be their goal. Patrick Patterson is a good player, but honestly, he is not a starting big on any championship team (except Miami!!). They have plenty of cap room….just wont be this year they decide to make a run at someone.

  8. s says:

    They are such an exciting team to watch now!

  9. Patrickmarc says:

    Rockets and Wolves are great team this year

  10. I’m die hard Celts & i think Rockets are gonna give a scare in playoffs whoever they play. They’re looking good as of late & getting better-watch out for them!!! Hey isn’t their coach GreenAllDay xCelts Hall of Famer!!! :)

  11. frans says:

    I really like the style of play of the Rockets. Most of the plus .500 rely on their star(s) to win games, but the Rockets rely on team effort the whole game. Even if Harden has an off-game Rockets can win.
    Only piece they need right now is a very good defensive PF or C and they can make a long playoff run.

  12. Yao says:

    I think they should win Bull, MIN, Maybe Spur but have a tough time on OKC.

  13. John says:

    The Rockets are about as “for real” as the Nuggets are, if that’s what you mean.

  14. jaxwel13 says:

    rockets this season excite viewers what will be the outcome of the game and this exactly i love it….

  15. jaychou says:

    i am chinese rocket’s fan,i believe rockets will smash bulls

  16. jaychou says:

    go rox!

  17. Allen says:

    I have been a rockets fan since Yao era. I think Lin is a great player. He tries his best in every aspect as a point guard. I think he is a playmaker. As long as he works hard and maintain a strong body, his future will be bright, as well as rockets. What has been going very well in the squad now, it seems nobody is selfish, which is great for sharing the ball. I like to watch rockets game and look forward to their coming games /

  18. RocketsFan says:

    I’m thrilled with how the Rockets are progressing. I think Morris is a good fit for their starting five and I like how Greg Smith connects with Jeremy Lin. It’s great that Douglas is playing better too.

  19. gino says:

    The Rockets Team will go as far as Jeremy Lin takes them. Amazing how this kid makes everyone else on the court better. I’d love him to see him play for the Lakers. I hope the rockets would trade him when on the second year of his contract, besides, he’ll be closer to home since he grew up in LA :)

  20. they will get where Parsons and Harden can take them

  21. krespino says:

    This is so pleasantly surprising…
    When the Rockets had announced that they were sending away Scola, Lowry, Dragic, etc, numerous articles and comments appeared saying the franchise was doing a crazy thing, they will suffer at the bottom of the conference for years.
    It didn’t turn out that way… This team is more exciting to watch.
    The team needs another big man though. I was optimistic about Motiejunas, I believe he has serious potential.

  22. Armin Halvadzic says:

    I don’t belive they are for real. Is just seems to soon.

  23. Euler says:

    Go Rockets, Go James Harden, Go Jeremy, Go Parsons!

  24. Abdel says:

    Dyrel morey is the luckest guy ever ..amazing how things worked for him

  25. CLIPPSSS says:

    Rockets have potential. I could see them as an 8th or 7th seed but not top 3…..

  26. Dr. O'Neal says:

    Houston will end up 7th seed.. just ahead of Twolves!
    hope they reach deep into the west finals.

  27. JB says:

    Why Oh why McHale keeps his best big man on the bench? D-Mo Got huge potencial and even now he is way better than other Rockets bigs… They send him to D league, but this league is a joke for him… everyone knows d league is no way to compare with euroleague… People did said D-Mo can’t rebound… And he proved he can, last season… This guy is way better than Valanciunas, but what can I say…I am not a Rockets coach…

  28. Tyler says:

    I think they deserve to be playing on christmas day more than the lakers do!
    …so does memphis…& chicago…. & the spurs!
    I thought you had to have a + 500 record to lock the christmas spot anway!?
    4 teams should feel robbed! I call BS!

  29. djstephenv says:

    Wish I could watch them on TV. The Rockets made a terrible decision regarding the Comcast deal.

  30. djstephenv says:

    Wish I could watch them on TV. The Rockets made a terrible decision regarding the Comcast deal.

  31. Bok says:

    As a Lakers fan I’m happy for the Rockets with their acquisitions and how things are starting to work out. They may not be a championship team yet, but moving in the right/forward direction is a good start. Good luck to the Rockets especially to Harden, Asik and Lin.

  32. AnnoYouLater says:

    i’ve watched most of the rockets games and i notice these past few games that the change harden made to his game made them a better team…he used to be a ball hog and forcing too much shots(jump shots)…but now he select his shots actually he prefer driving it to the rim and taking easy basket or drawing fouls,which makes him score a lot with out making too many misses and put the other team in to foul troubles…if he continue this kind of play they will surely be a playoff team…

  33. Smiley says:

    i have little doubts about rockets making the playoffs, but i don’t think they’ll get past the first round. top 4 of the west is pretty much determined already with thunder spurs grizz and clippers so the only chance rockets has of making it past round 1 is against grizzlies. If jeremy lin can improve his perimeter defense the rockets might get deeper into the playoffs. but so far i’m liking this team and hope they continue to do well :)

  34. Oatmeal Joe says:

    Everyone’s doubting the Rockets. Just watch when they make the playoffs and make all you look stupid.

  35. William says:

    Lets go rockets!!!! “…………there the youngest team and sittin at the .500 mark things are only looking up now…..if they can add Paul mishap are josh smith , al jeffson n e one they’ll be dangerous

  36. The Rocket says:

    we will make the playoffs!

  37. cpcheung says:

    The Rockets will make the playoffs and become the second or third in the Western Conference!

    • Streets03 says:

      WOW! who are you trying to fool us or yourself? LMAO you can’t be serious!?

    • Angelo says:

      ok.. i like the rockets too, but seriously? i give them 5th or 6th max. unless they will be able to get amare (i know it’s just wishful thinking. but wouldn’t it be nice?)

  38. Duv says:

    I’m a long-time fan of the Rockets. The great majority of people (including me) expected this would be a tough season for the team. It is obvious the Rockets were making room in their cap to uncover their next star. Harden is definitely that quality and his star is shining brighter each and every day. I liken his play to a cross between Manu, DRose and LeBron. Not quite at each of those guys levels yet but with enough hard work he will be. Whilst Patterson and Marcus Morris have shown improvement we still need a truly strong top 10 Power Forward to be a top contender. Asik has been a beast – I anticipated he would be because unlike a lot of other commentators I watched him play a lot in Chicago too plus I played Center back in the day and can recognise the fundamentals. Still needs to work on his offense but very serviceable as a Center. Put him with an offense-minded Power Forward and he would shine even more. I’m proud of how competitive and entertaining this team has been – but for a young team it is about sustaining high level play and maintaining consistency. Should be fun to watch! GO ROCKETS!

    • Angelo says:

      i know that this is a wishful thinking and it won’t necessarily effective, but: Amare Stoudemire to the Rockets. That would give the Rockets a threat inside the paint offensively. a pick and roll reunion with Lin. he will always be a liability on defense but Asik will be more than effective to cover those holes, it worked for nowitzki and chandler. NY will be more than willing to trade Amare for nothing to free up cap space. what team would want to pay 25M a year to a bench player (if it would be true that amare is ok with coming off the bench). lin, harden, patterson, stoudemire, asik… that’s a more than decent line up…

  39. rondo says:

    they won’t make the playoffs