We’ve seen this movie before. The Houston Rockets falter in the first half, get in a big hole, then make a furious comeback in the second half. They do it just about every other game, it seems like. Often, the story ends with an unhappy ending for the Rockets, as it did against the Indiana Pacers. Tonight, however, they tried the same thing and got a better result. The Rockets rallied back from a 20-point deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oh, and by the way? LeBron James didn’t play. Maybe it’s not really that impressive. Either way, the Rockets get a much-needed tick in the wins tally.

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“I feel like that’s a very successful way of playing. I know (the Rockets) have their opinions or whatever. (But) for the rest of the season, I’m going to make it an effort just to do what they need me to do offensively and defensively, and not focus on what happened back in Orlando (and) what happened in LA (with the Lakers) and just put my mind to finishing this season on a real high note.”

In reading Howard’s interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, one almost gets a sense that Howard is at peace with a decision he’s already made.  He seems to have moved on, resigned to the fact that the Rockets won’t feature the low post ability he believes he possesses.  Howard has been classy, mature, and undeserving of the slander he’ll inevitably endure this summer.  But in his citing O’neal and Abdul-Jabbar as peers, one gets a glimpse at the dissonance between reality and Howard’s self-perception.

Numbers aside, the Rockets have been almost unwatchable of late with Howard on the court; the Rockets are only watchable with Howard on the bench and not plodding around in the lanes James Harden likes to use.  And he may not be good enough anymore at protecting the rim to offset his drastic decline out on the perimeter.  The latter trait these days may be just as important as the former.  I first noted the slippage against the Trail Blazers in 2014, when Howard would labor recovering back to a rolling LaMarcus Aldridge.  Now it seems the big man has difficulty bending down altogether.

That’s not to say Dwight Howard is useless or can no longer help this team.  But it’s tough to see this team committing the type of resources Howard would demand to secure him long term.  I was on the fence initially, but its become clear its time for both sides to go in a different direction.  That the Rockets didn’t move Howard at the deadline is not revealing of a desire to keep him beyond this season – they likely felt they were better off with him than without him when not yet being able to make use of the cap space his departure would clear.

Clint Capela might be a step back.  (He certainly wasn’t last night against Indiana in posting a +12 to Howard’s -14).  But its become clear that its just not enough of a drop-off to warrant keeping Howard at a significant percentage of the team’s payroll.






in musings

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The Houston Rockets lost a close game to an Indiana Pacers team on a back to back. This Pacers team, clearly in the middle of a reloading period, and generally adrift over the summer, came together under a good coach and a hardnosed star in Paul George. They might not have the talent up and down the roster, but they use what they have very well and they have a real shot to make a little noise in the playoffs. The Houston Rockets, last year’s Southwest Division champs, rolling back the same team that made a run to the Conference Finals, weren’t shocking the world with a tight loss to a tired version of this team. This was just another Sunday, and this is just where we are.

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On the Kevin Durant scenario

I’ve heard one of my favorite local radio hosts state several times in some form or another, over the past few weeks during my evening drives home, that the Houston Rockets’ pursuit of Kevin Durant this summer is but a pipe dream.  The latest declaration, made on Friday, an insinuation that Durant wouldn’t even consider Houston, much less sign here, is what has prompted me to take to the keyboard.

I’m not sure I follow the sentiment.  Is Houston the front-runner?  Of course not.  Do they hold even decent odds to pull it off?  Of course not.  But there’s at least a slight chance of it happening, just like there always was of Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers for the Bayou City.  And the same people who are counting Houston out now were probably counting them out then.  And the same circumstances are at play: the Rockets again will be coming off a season where they will be a bottom seed, except this time, instead of featuring the promise of James Harden as a flourishing star, he’s a legitimate MVP caliber superstar, not to mention a close friend of the intended target.

I last wrote on this topic on February 6, and my stance hasn’t changed.  The advantage Houston has, aside from the friendship with Harden, is that they can present the team as a tabula rasa.  Durant can ultimately pick his own coach, a decision which would hold direct influence over the future style and scheme in which he would play.

Is the Houston situation ideal?  Of course not.  Ideal would be eliminating the uncertainty in Russell Westbrook’s future and Serge Ibaka not having regressed, and just sticking long term with the Thunder; ideal would be the hometown Wizards actually having taken the leap to respectability to serve as an obvious destination.  Does Durant care how history would remember him if he simply hopped onto maybe the greatest team in NBA history in the Warriors?

The safest bet is that Durant will stay on with the Thunder for one more year.  Another safer bet is the Warriors.  But to say the Rockets don’t even have a chance is an inaccurate appraisal of the field.  It may be a very slim chance, but they have a chance.






in musings

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The Houston Rockets are not as good as the Toronto Raptors.

Despite the victory tonight, that fact was apparent. Toronto is a team. They have a lot of guys from the pre-Harden Rockets era, and while those teams always failed to make the playoffs, they were never disappointing or boring to watch. When they went on a 15-point turnaround in the span of four minutes late in the second quarter, you could just see the Raptors run, shoot, and pass at a level which the Houston Rockets have not done all season.

So when an inferior team is playing a superior team, all you can do is hope for a bit of variance and luck. Tonight, that luck came in the form of great three-point shooting. So while Houston’s defense continues to have holes, and Clint Capela and Dwight Howard put on a free-throw missing contest for the ages, Harden scored enough points and the rest of the Rockets caught fire to put away this game down the stretch.

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