A – That’s the grade ESPN’s Chad Ford gave to Houston’s offseason.
You have to hand it to Les Alexander. Virtually every other owner in the league would’ve fired Darryl Morey and given up on his Celtics-inspired plan to stockpile middling assets in an effort to land a couple of star players via free agency or trade. For too many years, the Rockets looked like they would tread water forever.
And then, pay dirt.
I know what all of you overachieving children of demanding helicopter parents are thinking right now. “Not an A+? How did we not get an A+? Now we’ll never
go to Princeton win a championship! My life is over!” Read on:
None of the rest of the acquisitions inspires much enthusiasm. Canaan was one of the steals of the draft, and I could see him cracking the rotation at some point this season. Williams and Garcia give the Rockets a couple of snipers, Casspi provides toughness off the bench and Camby will be largely serve as a mentor.
There are still holes. I’m not sold on Jeremy Lin as a championship-caliber point guard (though Mario Chalmers didn’t stop the Heat), and they still have some question marks at the 4 (Omer Asik? Terrence Jones? Donatas Motiejunas?).
Sorry folks. The Rockets are not perfect. Kind of like the ’12-’13Heat (no center), ’11 Mavericks (only one star), ’09-’10 Lakers (lousy point guard), ’08 Celtics (old guys without enough time to gel), ’07 Spurs (boring), ’06 Heat (Wade was too young)…
Howard has the good fortune of playing with a player in James Harden who can shoulder the responsibility of leading the team without being overbearing.
McNeill nailed the difference between Howard playing with Harden versus playing with Bryant with that last word, “overbearing.” Is Harden going to set the culture of the team? Probably. Is he going to be the guy who takes the big shots at the end of games? Abso-freakin’-lutely. Will Harden condescendingly mentor Dwight the same way Ian McShane treats Andy Samberg in Hot Rod? No. And by the way, if Houston ever beats the Lakers en route to a championship, then Hot Rod will be the official movie metaphor for Dwight Howard’s career from L.A. onward.
Darius Soriano from Forum Blue and Gold has sort of the contrary take on Dwight’s fit with Harden in the same article.
I’ll be watching Howard’s play in Houston very closely. Dwight heads into a situation with ball-dominant guards in an offensive system very similar to the one he seemed to dislike so much in Los Angeles. What adjustments he and the Rockets make to meet in the middle should be a major story all season.
This is basically the same thing that D’Antoni said right after Dwight made his decision–that Houston’s offense hasn’t been very different from D’Antoni’s, and it’s a good point. I see Dwight’s transition to Houston’s offense unfolding about four different ways.
1) Houston’s overall offense stays exactly the same (all pick-and-roll, all the time), Dwight fills the same role as Asik did last season but is so much more effective that puts up 20 points per night while setting a new record for FG percentage in a season. Dwight is happy because the team is winning and people are calling him a “team player.” The Rockets lose early in the playoffs because the other team shuts down the PnR, and the Rockets playbook is written on the back of an envelope.
2) Option #1, but Dwight is unhappy because he’s not getting enough post touches. McHale’s job security becomes a topic of speculation. The team falls apart. Phil Jackson and Mike D’Antoni dance the I-Told-You-So dance.
3) Most offensive sets stay the same, but about 30% of possessions now go to Howard on the block. Statheads complain that Houston isn’t running more PnR’s, but the offense is more well-rounded and ready for the playoffs. Howard’s lack of post skills gets blamed every time the Rockets lose. Houston wins at least one playoff series because the other team gets destroyed by Howard in the post. Critics are silenced on that topic until the following season, and the cycle begins again.
4) The offense gets a complete overhaul, and Dwight gets the keys. Dwight is happy at first. The offense stagnates. Harden gets grumpy. Losing happens. McHale’s job security becomes a topic of speculation. There’s a team meeting. Harden demands the keys back…
Then that leads to another watershed moment of either Harden and Dwight working it out and becoming stronger teammates or damaging their relationship beyond repair.
It’ll be fun.
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