Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets 1/8/14

With all the days off the Rockets have had over the last couple of weeks, fans are hoping for a reboot.  So far, the Rockets are perfect in the new year.  We’re all hoping that the cohesion between players has started and that the team is ready to make a run.  Remember how the Lakers came together at the end of the year and started winning after claiming Howard had integrated with Kobe and the rest of the Lakers?  Is that the Rocket’s fate this year?  Is Howard gelling better with Harden, Lin and Parsons?  That’s the thing I’m looking for as the Rockets play five games in the next seven days.  The Laker game is the only one at home, but all of the games are winnable for the Rockets. As Rahat likes to say, the Rockets should win these games, so they probably won’t.

Maybe the time off has helped to heal Asik and Smiths’ knees.  Unfortunately Parsons now has a knee issue and is questionable for Wednesday.  Smith is also questionable.  The time has given our injured players some time to heal but with Beverley and Asik still out, the Rockets continue to play from behind the eight ball where injuries are concerned.  Everybody has missed games this year except for Howard.  Man, where would the Rockets be without Howard?  Harden hasn’t played in six games this year, Beverley ten, Lin ten, Asik 18 and Smith hasn’t played in 26 games.

Hollinger has the Rockets odds at making the playoffs right now at 65.8%.  That’s eighth in the West.  I’m starting to worry about a middle of the pack finish.  Until the Rockets can get a sustained effort for a month or so, they will sit in the middle in the West and at risk of another first round exit in the playoffs.  This seems the most likely outcome unless something changes in the second half of the season.  In six more games the season will be half over and it’s getting more and more difficult to move positions in the battle for home court advantage.  It’s been so up and down this year that they’ve been both fun and hard to watch.  Getting Howard has raised expectations but they are only on track to win 51.5 games.  That’s still 6.5 games more than they won last year, but with a stacked deck in the West it’s going to take some magic to even win a series in the post season.

The Lakers are going to be playing the second of a back to back on the road on Wednesday.  They still haven’t recovered from hiring D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson.  I know I’ve said it in the past, but this was the first piece of business the new Lakers management handled and they botched it magnificently.  I live in Southern California and the Lakers have not recovered from this error.  It’s still the hot topic on talk radio in California.  Two of the biggest repercussions of their mistake are Howard being in Houston, he never would have left a team that Phil coached, and Kobe’s injuries.  D’Antoni mismanaged Kobe’s minutes so poorly and that led to Kobe’s injury.

Now the Lakers top scorer is Nick Young at 16.6 a game and a PER of 15.2.  The only standard they have left from the old days is Pau Gasol, and they nearly traded him for a Bynum salary dump.  Kobe and Nash have both only played six games this year and they’ve had massive injury issues besides that.  Blake has missed 14 games and Kaman is out of favor with D’Antoni and has only played in 18 games.  One bright spot they have in the past couple of games is PG Kendall Marshall who dished 17 assists against the Nuggets and 15 against the Jazz.  But he’s only played in 6 games for the Lakers this year.  Gasol has been playing well lately, but this season is an uphill battle for the team.

The Lakers are 3 and 7 in their last ten and sit third from the bottom in the West.  It’s going to be a long season for the Lakers and the talk in So Cal is all about if the Lakers tank or not.  The Gasol Bynum deal added a lot of fuel to that fire but in the end the Lakers decided to gut it out and see if they can get healthy and make a run for the eighth seed.  I wish we could have watched Jackson take a run at this old guys club.  But, as a Rockets fan it’s fun to watch the Lakers struggle!  This is a game the Rockets should win.  It’s a kind of game the Rockets must start to win if they are going to make any moves.  Let’s hope the practice time shows.

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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