All That Power – The Rockets finish the year at no. 7 in Marc Stein’s ESPN Power Rankings, a one-spot improvement over last week:
The contention here is Sunday’s sorry showing in OKC was a schedule loss on the heels of Houston’s impressive Christmas Day dismantling of the Spurs and ensuing wins over Memphis and New Orleans. Having just three games in the next 11 days is a welcome break after some crazy travel.
I mean, if ESPN wants to blame that embarrassing beat down on the schedule, then who am I to argue? The Rockets moved the opposite direction in John Schuhmann’s rankings at NBA.com. He has them at no. 9:
The Rockets just played seven games in five cities over the last 10 days, a stretch that featured Christmas’ best performance (a comfortable win in San Antonio) and ended with a serious thumping in OKC. Now they get a well-deserved break and a chance to enjoy those Christmas presents they got from Dwight Howard, with only home games against the Kings, Knicks and Lakers over the next 11 days.
The cruelest ranking for the Rockets this week is Hollinger’s computerized system at ESPN. It ranks Houston at no. 11. Not a good place for a team aspiring to be a contender. [read more…]
Now would seem like a good time to discuss the NBA schedule. Stars across the league are sitting on benches due to injury. Derrick Rose is done for the year, Al Horford is out, and even the unstoppable LeBron James had to miss a game. Looking at the Houston Rockets, Patrick Beverley is the latest player to contract the broken hand flu that seems to be going around, Ömer Aşık apparently can’t keep his knee from filling with fluid, and Greg Smith re-injured his knee. A nasty stretch of games, including two back to back sets of games in five days, has ground the Rockets to a nub, and ended the whole trial with a game against a mighty Thunder team. Every team goes through these patches, and every team struggles. But is this even necessary?
People have been talking about shortening the season for years, and there are many reasons to do so. There are, of course, many reasons to leave well enough alone, income primary among them. The season doesn’t need to be shortened. In fact, it should be lengthened. Not to add more games, but to remove sixteen games for each team, and to add more days off. No more back to backs. No more broken hands. Only basketball that matters. [read more…]
Before we go any further, there’s something great to take away from this game. Tomorrow is another day, and new, amazing things can happen tomorrow. James Harden might work on his defense. Dwight Howard might take some instruction on his post moves from Houston Rockets head coach and post play superhero Kevin McHale. Chandler Parsons might engage in some unexpected show of support and solidarity with another terminally ill child. The future is still bright and sunny for this Houston Rockets team, and the future starts with tomorrow.
It’s important to remember all that, because today is a thunderstorm on an iceberg with a whirlpool under it. The Rockets were obliterated, crushed, atomized, decimated, slaughtered and nearly kicked down to the D-League by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that’s been to the finals and is still mad about everything that happened since game two of that series in 2012. Would the Thunder currently be better if they had held onto James Harden? That quest is still going unanswered, because it’s impossible to think with Kevin Durant dunking on everyone as soon as they try to have a conversation. The Thunder are still the team to beat in this conference, and the Rockets probably didn’t even need to catch a plane back to Houston given how hard they got kicked in the rear.