The “New Age” Rockets made their debut at the Palace tonight to a wide array of questions after a season of complete roster shakeup. Can the rookies play? Will some break out? How will Asik work full time? Can Lin go Linsane once again?
And the biggest question of all got the biggest answer of all: How will Harden work as the franchise player?
In a tiring 44 minutes, he racked up 37 points (on 14-25 shooting), 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. If you drafted him in a fantasy league, imagine your feelings multiplied by about a thousand, and you might have an inkling of how Morey and the Rockets front office feels right about now. Given how many touches he had, four turnovers is very reasonable, and he managed to knock down 4 of his 10 attempts from downtown.
#Beardsanity is trending.
Given that this is by far the story of the game, and maybe even the night, it’s worth gushing about The Beard a little here. His first bucket as a Rocket was a quick layup-and-one straight into the teeth of an often porous Detroit interior defense. That was also his last one. If this game is any indication of his intentions, he’s happy to the the first option. He’s happy to pass to an open Carlos Delfino for threes. He’s happy to facilitate dunks. This is his show, now, and it looked like he loved it. It’s possible (even likely) that this was a one game anomaly, and his numbers will come back to earth. He can’t play 44 minutes every game, after all, and not every team is Detroit. But he’s already shown himself to be a massive upgrade at the position, and he’d have to fall back quite a bit to not be worth the 5 year, 80 million dollar contract he just signed.
Oh yeah, the Rockets have other players, too. Despite the fairly convincing final score, the game was a back and forth affair throughout, with both teams giving up runs more than taking them. 16 Pistons turnovers and 20 for the Rockets combined to make the game look more like wind sprints than NBA action for stretches in the middle. This Rockets team is young and uneven, which probably surprises no one.
None were more uneven than Marcus Morris. Three for ten shooting isn’t great, especially given that most of those were close to the basket. He also showed a Dalembert-level ability to not catch the ball on a few plays. Given how questionable he looked last year, and how unhelpful his game was tonight, one wonders why he got the start over Terrence Jones.
Jones wasn’t the only player with a DNP-CD tonight. In fact, all the Rockets rookies got to keep their warmups on the entire game. If Harden weren’t suddenly capping the Rockets (one summer) rebuild, it would be much more distressing to see the lack of minutes for developing players. Hopefully whatever Jones, White, Motiejunas… and Aldrich did to get in McHale’s doghouse is resolved soon, since Patterson is still nursing a strained quad, and Morris is unsatisfactory.
The Rockets bench in general looked wan throughout, with the exception of Delfino (7 boards, 15 points on 5-6 three point shooting). Of course, that’s what he’s there for. He’s going to get a lot of good looks this season with defenses focusing on Lin and Harden.
Lin was overshadowed by his own spotty shooting and Harden’s transcendent game. Five for twelve from the floor isn’t terrible, but isn’t good enough. His 8 assists all looked nice, though, and four steals is always nice. He had a few silly turnovers (four), but that’s at least down from the Linsanity days.
Asik led the team in rebounds with 9, and that’s something you can expect to read about 81 more times. He was the only Rocket consistently getting position to grab boards, and he also managed 5-6 shooting. He plays within his offensive limitations well, and he’s almost surely going to be putting in a similarly workmanlike game throughout.
Parsons had the well-rounded game we’ve come to expect from the new Glue Guy on the team, grabbing 7 rebounds and sending out 6 dimes. His 3 for 9 shooting was a bit less pretty, though. He kind of disappeared tonight, and that may just be the new reality for him.
The Pistons came out ready to win at home after a pretty good second half of last season, and an extremely good draft pick in Andre Drummond. He was quiet and played in limited minutes, but Greg Monroe was a real problem for Houston, putting up a very respectable 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists line. The Pistons aren’t bad, and their offense was often deadly on jumpers. The Rockets had real problems staying on perimeter shooters and boxing out to save their lives. Until Harden saved the team in the fourth, a disastrous (17-23) third quarter saw the worst of the Rockets’ rookie tendencies come out and stay out. For the first time in a while, the Rockets have a thin bench.
Despite some uncertainty, there’s joy in Mudville for Rockets fans at last. For the first time in years, they won their opening game, and they have a player who looks ready to grow into a franchise cornerstone. NBA fans are starting to get excited about the team for the first time in a while, and we need to jump on board with both feet.
Keep #Beardsanity trending.