The NBA’s preseason has kicked off. The Rockets have been marketing the sport with exhibition games in Manila and Taipei against the Pacers. Kevin McHale has tinkered with lineups throughout the preseason. Naturally this raises a great deal of conversation around the fan-base with regards to one mercurial group of fans in particular. No, we’re not talking about the legions of Robert Covington fans or those die-hard Omri Casspi fanatics. Rather than lose sight of the forest for sake of individual trees, Rockets fans need to focus on the big picture at stake this pre-season.
Kevin McHale was peppered with questions about his thoughts on Jeremy Lin. In a way that is truly unique to Kevin McHale, he calmly replied he had spoken to Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley about the situation, and that he’s looking to experiment with the line up. There’s no point in fretting about the starting point guard. Both players are having great starts to the year. Jeremy is sporting a new shooting stroke and a more decisive game. Patrick is continuing his growth and development from his first year in the NBA. The salient question, is there anything to be disappointed about? The progression of both players is critical to the success of the Houston Rockets both this season and long term. Regardless of who is starting or finishing, so long as the Rockets are winning there isn’t a controversy in Houston.
There is competition at the power forward position. While worrying about the fate of the starting point guard is premature in the preseason, it’s not too soon to slam the panic button for Donatas Motiejunas supporters. Motiejunas was the only really proven commodity heading into the preseason. He managed to stick with the roster and even start at points last season. Ideally basic defensive awareness and a familiarity with the NBA game should be observable. Unfortunately for Motiejunas, it’s conspicuously absent. Two players are currently vying for the power forward spot, though. Terrence Jones, the incumbent favorite over Motiejunas has played up to expectations. His game has looked smooth, high energy, and complementary to Dwight Howard. The dark horse candidate to keep an eye on is Omri Casspi. Casspi has had an electric start to the preseason and has most likely played his way onto a roster spot with a fair chunk of minutes.
Omer Asik continues to deal with a lingering calf injury (strain). Greg Smith has been out of the preseason so far with a hip injury as well. The best chance for the Rockets to really evaluate tough pairings with Howard was left behind in Asia, however. The Asik/Howard front court idea has been tossed around as a way to placate Asik’s deserved spot as a starter and Howard’s warranted spot as a superstar (Yes, superstar). Greg Smith, at the very least, could’ve been a sufficient analog for Omer Asik in that Asik’s offensive game is only nominally more refined than Asik’s. More importantly, you can extrapolate how Asik would have succeeded defensively based on Smith’s lapses. Rebounding-wise the two are analogous. Unfortunately Rockets fans are left scratching their head as to the possible impact of a Rockets lineup featuring Howard and Asik. If Houston hopes to compete against the likes of the Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies then their first look at a twin towers lineup needs to come before the regular season.
The trip to Asia showed the Rockets sporting smiles along with championship caliber cohesion. The most notable story worth a laugh is Chandler Parsons’ new nickname; Gao fu shuai. Loosely translated it means “tall, rich, and handsome.” You’d be hard pressed to find people in Red Nation who disagree with such an assessment. The most important thing to take away from the smiles and laughs though, is that this team’s chemistry is already clicking and the culture in Houston looks primed for success.