Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers on 2/18/14

With 29 games left to go, the Rockets are sitting in 3rd place in the Western Conference playoff picture.  What a difference a year makes for both the Lakers and the Rockets.  Dwight Howard’s decision to come to the Rockets is looking very smart now.  What an environmental change for Dwight.  This Rockets team is on an upswing that looks to last for at least a couple of years and the Lakers, well, the Lakers are losing at a pace not seen in LA for many years.

The Lakers personnel and management decisions have been crashing down on them for over a year now.  I live in Southern California and talk radio sure has changed in the afternoon with the decline of the Lakers.  There is so much for a Laker fan to complain about.  The hiring of D’Antoni has been the worst choice of all and that bad decision has spread the karma out for years to come.  Management also failed big time with the contract to Nash and the big contract to Kobe.  Injuries also have hurt this year with Kobe, Nash, Blake and Gasol all out for significant times.  Now it seems that Kobe is considering taking the rest of the year off to rehab and rest.  What’s the point of him coming back this season anyway?  To try to move up on the all-time scoring list?

I predicted earlier that the Lakers have to move Gasol.  I still think they will.  Why would they keep him?  There has been no talk of trying to re-sign Gasol after this year, and he doesn’t fit into D’Antoni’s schemes.  The Lakers are obviously at a rock bottom and trading Gasol could help to start the bounce back.  They are focusing on keeping their cap space available, so they won’t be willing to take back longer, expensive contracts.  The big dream in LA is to get Kevin Love and it seems like the Lakers wants to have at least the cap space available when Love is a free agent.  Trading Gasol for draft picks will be hard because teams are holding tight for what is projected to be a great draft.

Going after Melo is also talked about in LA, but Kobe says he won’t recruit to get him.  What?  Kobe may have a lot of rings and points, but not too many players would want to put up with his drama these days.  Howard was convinced to come to Houston due to the rapport Parsons developed with him, and his awkward relationship with Kobe.  It’s going to be a long few years for the Lakers as Kobe finishes up his career, Nash fades away and they try to lure an elite player with only their history as an attractor.  This is the lowest the Lakers have been, maybe ever.

As the Lakers sink, the Rockets are rising.  The question is how high and how fast.  They definitely have potential for this year to be their year, if the stars align and the playoff seedings are favorable.  We could be looking at a deep run into the playoffs, the likes Houston hasn’t seen for years.  Houston could also stumble and lose in the first round regardless of seeding.  This year has been remarkably inconsistent for Houston, and though the Rockets have won 7 in a row, their roller coaster ride could reappear at any moment.

The Rockets schedule looks a lot tougher over the next month than it has been of late, so Houston needs to pick up wins at every opportunity.  They need to win this game.  The schedule will allow the Rockets some time with playoff basketball atmosphere.  As they continue to gel, they’ll have to work on including Asik and Smith in the rotation (if there isn’t a last minute trade), and keep working on their confidence and ability to win in crunch time against the elite teams.

Morey sure has been quite this year with a team that now sits at 4 in Stein’s Power Rankings.  I don’t blame him.  It’s always easier to shake up a team that doesn’t have much of a chance, since there’s a lot less to lose.  I don’t believe Morey thinks that this is a team that wins a championship.  It’s close, but he’s looking at the next two years as well.  This next month will tell a lot about the Rockets future. But, let’s take it a game at time, set the tone, and push the Lakers around on their home floor on Wednesday night.

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About the author: Eric Nielsen is the owner of Lotushouse Records, an English major from SDSU, a basketball player and life-long passionate Rockets fan. He’s been following the team since the days of Moses Malone, Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy.

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The Rockets Daily – February 18, 2014