Let’s not get it twisted. Despite how bad Eric Gordon has looked to start the season, and despite how many times he trolls me on Twitter by liking one of my critical tweets, this team absolutely needs Gordon to win the championship. He was their second best player in last season’s playoffs. And I’ve remarked in the past that Eric Gordon being ‘on’ is what transforms the Rockets’ offense from merely historically great to video game level.
He defends, has range out to three feet beyond the arc, and can put the ball on the deck – a combination of skills typically found in All-Star level players and why he is slated to earn $20 million a year after this season. Get well, soon.
There’s a silver lining. I think the Rockets should be able to navigate the regular season without Gordon on the strength of their two ironman A-listers. It’s the postseason when they’d really need Gordon. This gives more of a chance to Ben McLemore and Chris Clemons, two youngsters who I’ve latched onto in the Red94 annual tradition of overhyping any prospect under 30 with a pulse. Seriously, I think McLemore can be Daryl’s first successful lottery bust reclamation and the last rookie guard I can remember being able to heat it up as quickly as Clemons was Aaron Brooks. And Brooks was looking like he was on pace to have a fringe All-Star career before an ankle sprain sent him to China.
Other silver lining is that this obviates D’Antoni’s impulse to f*** around with that Harden/Westbrook/Gordon starting lineup that he so desperately wants to roll with for some reason. Because not starting House at this point is malpractice.
Grand master plan for today: Clemons goes nuts and proves himself to be a viable NBA player, averaging like 11 points per game off the bench on 43% shooting from ‘3’ with a couple of 20 point nights mixed in. Gordon comes back before the trade deadline. The Rockets then use Clemons as the sweetener in a trade to acquire the 6’9 defensive wing they’ve been missing. Oh wait, that can’t happen because they don’t have any salary filler to use in a trade because Tilman already made Morey dump all of it. Never mind.
If you haven’t started a blog post by tweet-quoting yourself, you’ve never lived. I’m off work today and was supposed to spend the day with my family but instead woke up at 12:30 with awful congestion and chills. So I’m just laying here in bed typing this. Consider this one a freebie that wouldn’t have happened were it not for my current misfortune.
The tweet above captures my predicament. Most of you replied in agreement. Another great point raised by Kevin Glass, a writer for this web site, is that the team swiftly and resoundingly answered the one question facing them: Russell Westbrook and James Harden can co-exist on offense and likely will produce the best offense in the league. The underlying query was supposed to be the early subplot to the 2019-2020 season for the Rockets.
Nothing else really matters. Oh we need to see if they can tighten the screws defensively (they likey will), but there’s almost an air of inevitability to the season. None of this really matters until April and then we see if the team can finally make it over the top.
This could never happen, for various financial considerations, but I cannot even imagine the anticipation that would result from the forced scarcity of a 16-game schedule, with one game a week, akin to the NFL. I’ve said before that I don’t believe the NFL is inherently more entertaining than the NBA. We’d be hanging on every one of Harden’s stepbacks. Each game would be an event. 40 point triple doubles would have meaning.
I will say though that after Saturday’s game, I am feeling a little bit more excited. Russ and Harden sure are entertaining to watch. Hopefully as the Astros’ Game 7 disaster is left further in the rear view mirror, I can get back to enjoying this team.
A point once made over a decade ago which I found to be incredibly salient at the time was regarding defense and the coaching change from Jeff Van Gundy to Rick Adelman. It was said by someone on a discussion board that the more time that passed between the Van Gundy and Adelman eras, the worse the Rockets became defensively because the tenets ingrained in the holdovers from the previous era began to wear off.
The big change that catapulted the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets to 65 wins wasn’t offense. The team already had an elite offense without Chris Paul. What lifted that team into a different stratosphere and allowed it to compete with Golden State for seven games was that it became truly elite defensively. They changed schemes. They added Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker, replacing Ryan Anderson in the lineup completely with the latter. And they switched out Patrick Beverley for Chris Paul, the best point guard defender in the league for several years by measure of DRPM.