Player Power Rankings: Week 20

Every Friday, I rank the active Rockets (who see the floor) based on their performance from the previous week. For last week’s rankings, here you go. Jordan Hamilton, Omer Asik, and Donatas Motiejunas were covered further in yesterday’s column.

12/13) Trisaiah Danaan

(Get it?) These two logged some garbage time minutes against the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, aaaaand that about sums it up.

11) Omri Casspi

Casspi is now a garbage time guy. It’s sad, but necessary.

10) Francisco Garcia 

Looking for a boost (maybe?), Kevin McHale called on Francisco Garcia to light a fire under Houston as they slogged behind Oklahoma City. It actually sort of worked, with the veteran hitting some threes and drawing some anger out of Kevin Durant. That was nice.

But for Garcia to enter last night’s game before Jordan Hamilton didn’t make a ton of sense. In no way is Garcia the better player, and it isn’t the best idea for McHale to reconfigure the rotation after every little hiccup.

9) Omer Asik

Wrote a lot of nice things about Asik yesterday. But all that’s left is basketball death. Read More »

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Chicago Bulls 111, Houston Rockets 87 – Disappointed

The Houston Rockets weren’t prepared to play. There’s plenty to say about a game featuring the worst Houston loss in the calendar year, but all of it simply describes how little the Rockets fought back when the Chicago Bulls unleashed their attack. Barring injury, this was a worst-case scenario for a team that needed to get back on track, not farther off the rails. The Rockets forgot how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend, and how to care.

The silver lining on this burgeoning, dark cloud is that this might serve as yet another wakeup call for a team that seems to fall asleep easily. The comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers may have been impressive, but it’s been forgotten that the Rockets played haphazard ball to get there in the first place. Since their magnum opus against the Indiana Pacers, the Rockets have been lackadaisical and complacent, culminating in the most disappointing game of the season. The good news is that there’s nowhere to go but up. The bad news is that this is about the third time this season that’s been the case.

Read More »

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Houston Rockets @ Chicago Bulls 3/13/14

Teams: Houston Rockets (44-19) @ Chicago Bulls (35-29)
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: United Center
Television: TNT

Notes:

  • The Bulls had won six of their last eight prior to Derrick Rose’s most recent injury back in November, but they were just 3-10 following the injury and still learning how to function without their point guard when Chicago came to Houston on December 18.  The Rockets won, 109-94.
  • Houston’s dynamic duo were awesome that night, as James Harden and Dwight Howard combined for 42 points on 18-27 shooting, with 13 boards, 4 steals and a +/- of +41.  The rest of the Rockets had their way as well; the team shot 53.7% from the field (36.4 3pt%), but no other Rocket had a double-digit plus/minus.
  • After a stellar February in which they were 9-4, the Bulls have cooled off and are just 3-3 so far in March, including a 104-96 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday.
  • The Bulls acquired Jimmer Fredette, formerly of the Sacramento Kings, on March 2nd.  But he has yet to make an impact with Chicago, averaging under three minutes in six games (3 DNP’s).
  • One last note that isn’t really game specific, but does anyone else remember the circumstances of the 2011 draft that led to Chandler Parsons and Donatas Motiejunas landing with Houston?  In a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Rockets acquired Johnny Flynn, the 20th pick (Motiejunas) and a 2012 second rounder in exchange for Brad Miller, the 23rd pick (Nikola Mirotic), the 38th pick (Parsons) and a future first round pick.  Luckily, they reacquired the Parsons-pick for cash considerations.
    Otherwise, that would have been that would have been the top-prospect in Europe, one of the best young forwards in basketball and a first round pick for Motiejunas and washout-Flynn.  Now, I love D-Mo, but that’s enough to make you resent anyone.  Eventually, Mirotic’s draft rights ended up with Chicago and he now appears set to join the Bulls this summer from none other than Spanish-power Real Madrid, who also happens to employ Rockets’ prospect Sergio Llull.  Mirotic’s development may still make this a loss for the Rockets, but the Parsons aspect kept it from being an all-out garbage fire.  Read More »

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The Rockets Daily – March 13, 2014

Bullseye - The Point-Forward All-Stars has, for several weeks now, been putting together themed-teams to highlight specific traits shared between its team members.  Collections have included the Non-Champions, the All-Payday team and now, the All-Bullseye team, featuring All-Stars who will be facing heightened scrutiny for various reasons come playoff time.  The team is comprised of Chris Paul, Joe Johnson, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard.

For Howard, the extra attention will be focused primarily on his ability to return to his playoff-winning ways.

It’s hard to believe that a No. 1 overall pick and an eight-time All-Star who advanced to the Finals as a 23-year-old has won a total of two playoff games over the last three years. As James’ Heat made the playoffs their personal playground, Howard, who had been considered an MVP candidate for a number of years and whose Magic advanced further than James’ Cavaliers in both 2009 and 2010, ducked out the side door. He is only now returning.

Other than a no-show in the Round 1, I can’t imagine too many scenarios where the Rockets are viewed as a failure after this season.  Coming into the season, no one except for Jeff Van Gundy really expected anything more than a second round exit for Houston.  And if the season ended today, the bracket would actually shake out pretty nicely for the Rockets.  (6-1 combined against Portland and San Antonio)

So as long as Dwight Howard performs at something close to his usual rate and doesn’t get ejected from any elimination games where the Rockets are being swept, there’s no where to go but up for the big-man.   Read More »

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Exploring the margins of a contender

We already know about Dwight Howard’s post-game, James Harden having the Western Conference Player of the Week trophy unofficially named in his honor, Chandler Parsons’ hair, and an envied three-pointers/free-throws/dunks or GTFO offensive philosophy.

Patrick Beverley’s un-muzzled feistiness; Terrence Jones flashing his tip of the iceberg potential and doing just about everything a human can possibly do above the rim; and Jeremy Lin’s consistently inconsistent play.

These are all are narratives that have endured throughout this season, and will surely resurface here and there over the next month or two. But now that nearly everyone is healthy (sorry, Greg Smith), and the Houston Rockets are accredited title contenders, what else is there to explore with this team?

They quickly debunked the theory that beating a fatigued Miami Heat team at home didn’t mean too much by stomping all over the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers before an uninspiring loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.

The Rockets are one of only four teams in the league with an offense (5th) and defense (9th) that resides in the top 10. Kevin McHale knows the rotation, and from here on out no drastic changes are necessary. This team has found and accepted its “identity.”

What about all we don’t know? For the sake of argument, nothing Howard, Harden, Parsons, Lin, Beverley, or Jones do in the playoffs should surprise anybody who’s watched them all year—good or bad. We know their strengths and weaknesses, what they’re capable of doing and not doing. We know tendencies and preferences. These are arguably the team’s six best players, and if any two or three craps it up in the first-round, Houston’s season could end with a disappointing thud.

Here’s a look at three relatively unpredictable contributors who could have a big impact in the playoffs, or make no noise at all. Read More »

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