Chandler Parsons returned against the Warriors and the Rockets quickly got back on track. Parsons is proving to be the glue that keeps the Rockets together. His quiet leadership is exemplified by the effort he puts out every single night. Parsons presence definitely sets the pace that is suited to Harden’s game.
Harden came back to life, determined to make up for his lackadaisical performance against the Suns. What inspires Harden’s effort is still not clear. But, an embarrassing game definitely sets up Harden to be aggressive and play with the impact that his contract requires. We need to see that killer every night. I see McHale walking a fine line trying to dial this in with Harden. Maybe at his age (he’s only 24) he’s still learning how to bring it every night, but it’s not there yet. Come playoff time, the Rockets need to figure this out and get an effort every game, that justifies his status as an elite player in the NBA. His three point shot percentage is on trajectory for a career low of under 30%, and his turnovers are at a career high of 4.1 a game this year.
Howard is definitely settling into his role with the Rockets. While it’s a very solid 16.8 points and 12.9 rebounds a game, he’s not the dominating force that can take over and will victories in the 4th quarter. Dwight is still finding his role with the Rockets. At this point he’s more of a force in the beginning of games than at the end. His presence in the middle on defense changes shots and his post moves seem to be improving, though he doesn’t get enough touches on the block to really set the tone for a complete game. Houston’s offense doesn’t lend itself, yet, to that kind of post and grind. But, come the playoffs we may see more teams shutting down the running game and the Rockets may live or die in the half court game that many series settle into. Howard is happy and the Rockets are winning, so that confluence helps settle and take care of Howard’s sensitivity, which is so important for him to play well.
Asik, Lin and Smith are still out with injuries. Aaron Brooks is making the most of his minutes, his signing is looking very smart and he’s great fun to watch. He’s hitting a team best .478 from behind the arc and getting to the hole, raining rainbows off the glass. Still, it will be great to get Lin’s mojo back on the court. D Mo is looking as good as he has as a Rocket, and is getting in a few more minutes with Asik out.
Depending on the future of Asik as a Rocket we may be seeing more D Mo in the future. It’s hard to imagine the Rockets trade Asik, unless there is a really great offer. Morey is just trolling, fishing for a desperate team after one quarter of the season in the books. He may get lucky, but the chances are still slim he pulls the trigger on Asik, just yet. Asik’s rebounding and defense in the playoffs could be critically important. They are so important that the $15M hit next year will be seriously weighed. It may be worth it this year to risk having that salary on the books for next year. The Rockets have the potential to beat anyone in a playoff series. I believe it depends on how the year finishes that will determine where Asik will be for the 2014-2015 campaign. If he stays, provides critical minutes in the playoffs and the Rockets run deep, I could see us keeping him for the final year of his contract.
The Magic come to town a beat down team. At 6 and 13, they are 28th in the league in points allowed per game. It could be a big scoring night for the Rockets fast break. They are two and eight in their last ten games. Rookie Victor Oladipo is intriguing as he’s getting 30 minutes a game but he’s not shooting the ball well at all in his welcome to the NBA. Arron Afflalo is having a career year with 22 a game and is hitting 46% from behind the arc.
Harden doesn’t need to dominate in this game, but he needs to be solid. I expect the Rockets to take a large lead at home, and hold it for the whole game. If all goes as planned there should be a 4th quarter where the reserves get some minutes, the starters rest and the Rockets get down with a clear victory at home.