Rockets Young, Dangerous, Confused

HOUSTON – There are nights when the 3-point shots rain down like the quenching drops from a summer thunderstorm, when the pace of the game is faster than a car chase in an action movie and everything is right in the Rockets’ world.

Then there are the others.

A 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter in New Orleans vanished like a drunk’s wallet on Bourbon Street. Down by two with seven minutes left to play in Boston, they lost. Down by three entering the final 4 1/2 minutes in Philly, they lost. Then a one-point halftime lead at home turns into a bag of hammers that falls on their heads in a beat-down by the Clippers.

A season-high five-game winning streak is followed by a four-game losing streak and the NBA’s version of a treadmill has taken them exactly where?

The Rockets are young and fast, young and entertaining, young and unpredictable, young and lethal, young and inconsistent. Did I mention young?

The Rockets have less experience than any team in the league. They’re like toddlers carrying around scissors — you’re never sure who’s going to get hurt.

“First of all, in an NBA season, if you have all veterans and you have 10 years of experience, you’re going to have slides,” coach Kevin McHale told reporters after the loss in Philly.

“That’s no excuse for it. We still have to do what we have to do. I’ve said it all along. Our guys are getting closer to understanding how we have to play and taking ownership of how we have to play.

“But then we’ll backslide and get into how they want to play. I think it will be a constant all year, just trying to get everybody on the same page.”

Perhaps no team in the league changed its DNA so dramatically and so swiftly as the Rockets, who pulled off the stunning trade to bring in James Harden from Oklahoma City just four days before the season opener.

Suddenly a franchise that had been in the limbo of having the best record in the draft lottery for three straight seasons since the Tracy McGrady-Yao Ming era ended with an implosion of bad knees and broken feet, had a bonafide star in Harden, a foundational player, to use the phrase of general manager Daryl Morey, upon which to build.

Harden has been all that and more, after barely unpacking his suitcase before dropping 45 and 37 points in the first two games of the season and since then tucking in among Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as one of the top five scorers in the game.

Harden is the big-time star that Morey has been chasing with his home-run swing for years and is not only an anchor for the future, but the magnet that the GM believes will draw more. While the Lakers can offer him the most money and the “Bank of Cuban” has been declared open for business in Dallas, Morey is of the opinion that he’ll have at least a puncher’s chance to get Dwight Howard to return his phone calls next summer.

Whether he lands the All-Star or not, Morey will go into the offseason knowing that he’ll have the salary cap space to land a max level player or divide that money up among a couple of others. While point guard Jeremy Lin still rides up and down the bumps in his first season as a full-time point guard running a team, fellow free agent signee Omer Asik has become a virtual double-double machine and undeniable success in the middle.

But for all the scoring outbursts and attention that Harden has brought to Houston, for now The Beard is more of a comb-over for lineup with plenty of bald spots. Though they play at the fastest offensive pace in the league, the Rockets don’t regularly combine smart with swift. And too often they try to substitute their own pace for playing defense. Their offensive rating is ninth in the league and their defensive rating just 17th.

In the past three games the Rockets have allowed their opponents to shoot 51.6 percent from the field and given up an average of 109 points.

Not many in Houston are complaining because their up-tempo style is fun to watch and Harden can be transcendent. Yet in terms of wins and losses, not much has changed. A year ago, at a similar point in a 66-game schedule, they were 17-14 (.548). Now the Rockets are 21-18 (.538) with a four-game road trip beginning in Dallas and a return to the playoffs could still be an uphill climb.

Right now, the Rockets are young and dangerous every night. The question is to whom?

11 Comments

  1. Alex Lamar says:

    Excellent piece. Defensively the Rockets are hurting at the four position as they rarely rotate to cover Asik when he commits for the shot block.

    Also, Hardin is guilty of ball stopping on offense and needs to make a quicker decision or rotate the ball. He is only 24 and needs to improve in his offensive decision making.

    • Just a thought...... says:

      C: Omer Asik, Cole Aldrich or 1st round pick C
      PF: Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris
      SF: Chandler Parsons, Terrance Jones
      SG James Harden, Carlos Delfino or James Anderson
      PG Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas or 2nd rond pick PG

      #Future Title Contender with Team Chemistry

  2. Number1HoustonRocketsFan says:

    Patrick Patterson, Omer Asik, 2014 2nd Round Pick FOR Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson

  3. Number1HoustonRocketsFan says:

    Rockets: Hawks:
    Patrick Patterson Josh Smith
    Omer Asik Ivan Johnson
    2014 2nd Round pick

  4. Ben says:

    They are young and exciting.

    Lin doesn’t have the athletic explosiveness and ability to go the basket that Russell Westbrook does, but he has so much raw skill. If he can improve his shooting and give himself more viable ways of beating defenders, Lin will be an elite point guard in 3 or 4 years. For all the backlash he is taking now Lin has a great skill set (and really, if Lin had just been given his first chance in Houston right now instead of with Linsanity last year, people would be talking about the potential he is showing and how well he is doing, instead of the opposite).

    I think this Houston could be the next OKC just the way they are. They have 5 youngsters starting, all of whom have shown they have huge potential. Just making sure the environment is right and learning to cut down on silly turnovers, and they will be well on their way.

    I’ve been watching several of their games, as I did with OKC back in 09 and LAC the year before they brought in Paul. They are so exciting to watch, and you can just feel the raw talent brimming and waiting to be reined in and focussed. Very excited to watch this team grow.

    • Houston, I Fear the Beard says:

      I agree with you on all the points. However, I feel like Harden is holding the team back. Yes, he scores great and makes plays. Yet they way he does this (iso, of the pick from other players) really takes away from the entire team, especially Lin, who is a fantastic creator when he has the ball. It drives me absolutely insane b/c while Harden is being efficient individually, the entire team’s offense is becoming disjointed and wont work without him chucking up 20+ shots a game.

  5. Rocketsguy says:

    If we can just guard better than we have the last couple of games, we are in business. Jeremy Lin is still getting used to playing a lot. Harden is Harden. Guys like Parsons and Morris need to make shots more consistently. By the time April comes around, watch out for Houston!

  6. Trade Deadline says:

    Trade Omar Asik for Jordan Hill
    Trade James Harden for Jodie Meeks
    Trade Jeremy Lin for Steve Blake
    Trade Chandler Parsons for Robert Sacre
    Trade Carlos Delfino for Darius Morris

    You’re Welcome Houston.

    AM I DOIN IT RITE?

    • BeardedSon says:

      @TradeDeadline

      No. You’re doing it absolutely wrong.

      Carlos Delfino is one of the better bench players for Houston right now and can put up 20 in any given night. Chandler Parsons is a huge defensive threat and can make it rain 3’s. Even Kobe gave him props. Though I’m not high on Lin, I”ll take him over Blake any day. Blake shoots air-balls and has proven he can’t get the job done with all-star talent surrounding him. As this article states, Omer Asik is a double-double machine. He has the inside presence this Houston team has been lacking for a long time. If I recall, Jordan Hill used to be a Rocket, but couldn’t produce. Finally, who in their right mind would trade Harden for Meeks?

    • danny says:

      are you serious with those trades.. that was HORRIBLE.. if you weree the GM you would be fired.. you are IGNORANT if you never want the rockets to win the playoffs then yes.. EXCELLENT CHOICE!! im jus shocked at the trades u put up.. none of those guys are better than any of those rcokets you dont know basketball.. youngest team in the nba.. still have work to do.. somethings wrong with your head.. might have a serious case of being MENTALLY CHALLENGED!!! do everybody you know a favor n give up on life!!