Update (1/10/15 at 12:25PM): Sources close to the team have informed me that no promise to start was made to Josh Smith during the team’s negotiations with the forward.

It’s been a while since we last spoke, so I certainly appreciate you all’s patience.  The site required some backend maintenance which required my attention, but thankfully that problem has been fixed.  In the meantime, after two meaningless wins against the Lebron-less Cavs and what appeared to be some high school team from the New York area, the Rockets have sort of licked their wounds to recover from their first truly rough patch of the season.  In the aftermath of the Josh Smith signing, Houston now sits at fifth in the Western Conference, just one win ahead of the sixth seeded Clippers.  It still seems like just yesterday that the Rockets were staring directly at Golden State in vying for the top seed in the Conference.  Sigh.

It’s pretty irrefutable, I think, to anyone who had been watching the games that bringing in Smith destroyed the team’s chemistry, directly leading to their downward spiral in the standings.  The team looked lost, Smith was ineffective, and Motiejunas got thrown off his rhythm.  Still, even before these past two wins, I would contend that the move was a no-brainer and that the losses were a necessary cost to success.  Simply put, you can sacrifice some wins in December if it means integrating high-level talent for the end cause.  Ironically, things played out both exactly how I had feared, and how I had hoped would be the best-case scenario.  Recall my discontent upon the news that the team had promised Smith a starting role.  I wanted Smith, but thought supplanting Motiejunas would shatter the latter’s usage and confidence.  That outcome played out, and the team suffered, having wasted one of their most dangerous weapons.  But now, Daryl Morey and Kevin McHale have Smith but can also say they fulfilled their promise of letting him start.  They won’t be expected to reinsert Smith into the starting lineup upon his acclimation to the team, would they?  As long as the team keeps winning, in light of the disastrous early results, I can’t see Smith and his agent expressing any discontent.

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Rockets Roundup: 01/07/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days.

Grantland. The Future of Basketball Is Here, and It Looks A Lot Like James Harden.

“As of today, James Harden is the leading scorer in the NBA and the most important offensive force on a team in the thick of the Western Conference title race. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate, quite clearly the best shooting guard in the league. And yet, he’s more than that. Those plaudits only scratch the surface of what he’s doing this season…”

Houston Chronicle. Struggles down the stretch worry Rockets more than free throw absence in loss to Bulls.

“A day after the Rockets lamented so rarely getting to the line in the loss to the Bulls, when they made just three of five free throws to barely exceed the franchise records for fewest made and taken in a game, they pointed instead to their shortcomings down the stretch…”

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According to nbasavant.com, Motiejunas leads the league in scoring off hook shots, hitting his 89 such attempts at a 60.6% clip. He further ranks second when you combine those finishes with turnaround, fadeaway jump-shots. Context is important, of course – Motiejunas is not often guarded by the opponent’s top big man. But Motiejunas has nonetheless improved his ability to set deep post position against more athletic types and his footwork is very natural. He is able to score from either side of the block, often preferring to finish with a turnaround, right-handed hook but also carrying an up-and-under to protect himself against shot blockers and a jump-stop left-handed hook in his arsenal.

Bballbreakdown.com had a nice scouting report of our favorite Lithuanian 7-footer.  Motiejunas seems to have returned to form after being reinserted into the starting lineup the other night, though one wonders why the team curiously went away from him in crunch time against the Bulls yesterday after he had been eating Joakim Noah’s lunch.






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Rockets Roundup: 01/05/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days.  

Houston Chronicle. Five things we learned in the Rockets’ bounce-back win over the Heat.

From the opening tip, the Rockets were determined to play with all the energy they saved the night before. For that matter, they were determined. If the Rockets really did learn a lesson Friday that they applied to Saturday, it might have been worth taking their worst loss of the season. That would only be true if it lasts more than 24 hours, but there was no question that they responded to the embarrassing loss in their next chance, playing with the energy and urgency that was lacking and largely has been lacking in recent weeks. Even when they trailed early, the Rockets defense was aggressive at forcing turnovers, demonstrating the way they have to play even when they are not coming off the worst loss of the season.

Forbes. 2015 30 under 30: Sports.

As a chubby teenager with asthma, James Harden knew his NBA dream was a “long shot.” But the future superstar forced himself to get up early before school to jack up shots in the gym and lift weights. That work eventually earned Harden a scholarship to Arizona State, where he played for two years before being drafted third overall in 2009 by the Oklahoma City Thunder. More than five years later, Harden is living out his fantasy, now as the starting shooting guard for the Houston Rockets with an Olympic gold medal to his name.

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