Nostradamstrauss – In ESPN’s 5-on-5 roundtable of predictions for the New Year, Ethan Sherwood Strauss goes way out on a limb and says the Rockets will shock everyone:
The Rockets will trade James Harden. He’s bad at defense and they care about things others don’t seek to quantify. I could see Houston trading Harden for some depth and high draft picks.
Strauss is just spit-balling, but I can’t see this happening unless Harden just gives up on the team. Despite what his defense looks like, the team is still clearly and quantifiably better with him on the floor. The fluffy face of the franchise isn’t going anywhere.
Evolution – David Vertserger at Hickory High has some insight into Dwight Howard’s image since his arrival in Houston, comparing what was said in the L.A. press when he left the Lakers to his production this year.
Dwight Howard has yet to become the league-wide favorite he once was, and perhaps he may never regain this widespread fandom. Whatever doubts concerning Howard’s immaturity, childish antics and mentality that still remain – they have their place. But as for his basketball this season, it has been unimpeachable.
James Harden is the analytical era’s most accepted high volume scorer. Nearly all his points accumulate behind the three-point arc, in the restricted area, or at the free-throw line—in the form of many, many free-throws every game.
These happen to be the most desirable scoring locations on a basketball court, and nobody uses them with more uncompromising concentration than Harden. Now 34 games into the season, Harden’s offensive repertoire is expanding to an unlikely area: the mid-range.
The Houston Rockets finished November on a 5 game winning streak and a 13-5 record. They had just defeated San Antonio on the road and the Asik-Howard fiasco was over. Sure, the team needed time to gel after their first 9 games where they started 5-4, but things were looking up, correct?
Fast forward a month later, and the scent of panic has begun to linger over this team. The Rockets went 8-8 in December, with a negative point differential. There were some good wins against San Antonio and Golden State, but Houston blew three games against Sacramento and Utah and were also annihilated by a Westbrook-less Thunder and the Pacers. The Rockets are currently 6th in the Western Conference by standings and 8th in point differential. These are not acceptable standards by a team that has hopes to win it all this year.
So, what are the problems? And what can the Rockets look forward to handle them?