VIDEO: James Harden talks after the Rockets’ practice Tuesday
Sometimes the best thing that can come out of a players-only meeting is a newfound appreciation for the team’s schedule.
That’s not to say that the Houston Rockets haven’t been in need of something – anything – to address their turnovers, squandered leads, lethargy and two longer-than-any-last-season losing streaks of three and four games. But players-only meetings often reek of both desperation and window-dressing, with as much potential to make things worse if the wrong people say the wrong things as to make anything better.
Here’s one tangible reason that the Rockets’ closed-door session before practice Tuesday might actually pay off: their schedule gets friendlier. Houston hasn’t exactly run a gauntlet through its first 11 games — no Cleveland, no San Antonio, no Atlanta — but it did face six opponents who currently are over .500. The cumulative record of its foes so far is 61-52 (.540) and even if you factor out the results of their games against the Rockets, it dips only to 54-48 (.529).
In their next 10 games, beginning at home Wednesday against Portland, the Rockets will tackle teams with a combined 43-58 (.387) mark, counting the Grizzlies and the Knicks twice each. Four of those games will be on the road, with three sets of back-to-backs in the 10.
Still, it’s possible that clearing the air or cleaning up some miscommunication could benefit Houston on the court. It’s even possible that James Harden, Dwight Howard and the rest get a placebo effect – if they believe the meeting was helpful, they might actually play in a way that reinforces that.
And if neither of the above apply? Well, there will be plenty of time to hand-wring over that. For now, here is some of Calvin Watkins‘ report for ESPN.com:
“What happens in the room, stays in the room,” center Dwight Howard said following practice. “It was good for us to sit down and talk but it’s a long season and you can’t get caught up in losing a couple of games and getting upset and so frustrated and feel like it’s the end of the world. It is embarrassing. We hate to lose but at the same time we have a long season and we can’t think negative when we lose. We have to try and find the positive in any situation. You keep thinking negative, then negative things will continue to happen to you. You got to stay positive and fight through it. All this stuff will build our character.”
After the Rockets opened the season 0-3, they went on a four-game winning streak, which included consecutive road wins over the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers.
But the Rockets have lost their last four games and failed to reach 100 points in each. Houston is averaging 20 fewer points in their losses.
Whether or not the meeting will result in ending the losing streak is uncertain. The Rockets need their best player, James Harden, to pick up the scoring load. Harden has seen his scoring average drop from 38.5 points per game in victories to 20.9 in losses. In wins he shoots 46.4 percent from the field but that dips to 30.2 percent in losses.
“It was a good talk for us,” Harden said. “We hadn’t had an opportunity to communicate like that since the season had been going. It was good for us to communicate and each guy basically said what their role was and every single night they’re going to contribute to that role. After the talk we had a really good practice, guys communicated we worked hard and now it’s about carrying it over. It’s about doing it on the floor.”
Jonathan Feigen, longtime Rockets beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, tweeted out guard Ty Lawson‘s take on the meeting: