From failure to injuries, the Rockets have forged an identity

Failure and injuries are two things no team wants to deal with. Ever. The Houston Rockets, however, have drawn strength from their failures and their injuries. Indeed, these two things have actually managed to help sort out some major questions about the Rockets roster. Specifically the Rockets have found three key revelations after dealing with failure and injuries. First, the Omer Asik situation has been colored by failure. The power-forward situation has become clearer due to failure. Injuries have revealed the depth of this roster.

The Failure of the Twin Towers

Omer Asik began the season starting next to Dwight Howard. On paper this looked like an ironclad defensive front and an adequate offensive attack in the frontcourt. On paper a lot of things look great. Unfortunately for the Rockets this duo failed to produce. Asik’s production took a steep nosedive that also managed to derail his initiative. Coincidentally, it was also this failure that forced Kevin McHale to quit putting an overmatched unit on the court.  Dwight Howard’s presence on the Houston Rockets made Omer Asik’s presence in the starting lineup wholly obsolete. Asik’s presence was never going to be a productive one next to Dwight. Every productive team featuring Dwight Howard featured a stretch power forward. Asik, then, had to adjust to being a bench presence.

That’s the obvious development in the Asik situation. Beyond that, however, we see that the situation created control on the trade market. How? The Washington Wizards reportedly engaged the Rockets in talks with the Rockets. Yes, it’s common knowledge that Omer Asik needs to be traded. It’s also common knowledge that Asik is under contract for another year, is an elite defensive center, and will command a great deal of money on the open-market. Houston rebuffed any attempts to send Emeka Okafor back to the team and the Wizards opted to acquire Marcin Gortat. Now, the Rockets are rumored to be seeking an impact player for Asik. Despite his lack of happiness, the Big Turk commands a great deal on the trade market and his status as a highly valuable and definite commodity places Houston in the driver’s seat for all trade conversations. This is considerably more attractive when you consider that the Rockets can now demand what they want for Asik and place their team in the best position to succeed.

Failure Lead to Success

Necessity is the mother of all invention, yes? This cliché gets to be cliché because it’s true. Though it’s hard to call Kevin McHale playing a stretch four next to Dwight Howard “invention.” The failure of Asik next to Howard, however, created success. Terrence Jones was given the starting power forward spot and has produced right out of the gate. As a started Terrence Jones is averaging roughly 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. In the preseason many writers assumed Dwight’s natural running mate in the frontcourt would be Jones. The emergence of Jones has further gifted the Rockets with the position of power in Asik negotiations. Any rumors of Ryan Anderson for Omer Asik are mitigated when you consider how productive the Rockets own “in-house” forward has been. There’s no need to ship out an asset to obtain a power forward now that a solution has been found. Even Donatas Motiejunas has found new purpose gaining back up power forward and center minutes. Granted, Motiejunas has a long way to go before he’s a viable option for consistent minutes, but the evolution of the Rockets roster is enticing.

Pain Is Just Weakness Leaving the Body

The most notable injury issue facing the Rockets is the bearded wonder, James Harden. Harden’s foot has been an issue for most the year. The benefit of the situation, however, has been the re-emergence of Jeremy Lin, among other things. Jeremy has showcased the fact that he’s a shooting guard at the point guard position. While Jeremy has been the focal point of the offense he has averaged over 20 points a game and shown aggression. That aggression translated to top five in the league in drives to the hoop. This time has been a major boon for the Rockets. Not only has this time showcased Jeremy and, no doubt, bolstered his confidence, but it also shows what Jeremy can produce as a featured player. Specifically, his role as a spark off the bench is perfectly modeled by his starting line up performance. This assertive and dominant Jeremy is one that needs to come off the bench.

The bench itself has shown a great deal of improvement due to injuries. In separate games the Rockets have gotten major production from Aaron Brooks, Omri Casspi, and even Donatas Motiejunas has produced in this time. The next-man up mentality is taking effect in Houston.


Out of the ashes of our hopes and production comes the fire of a new team. The Rockets have had to deal with early season adversity. This team, in many ways, really needed to. The Rockets entered the season with great expectations. The Rockets have struggled to find an identity and to make good on these expectations. In losing James Harden, jostling for roles, and attempting to solve their own lineup inefficiencies the Rockets, more than any other team so far, has had the most to gain from failure and injuries. If the Rockets hope to enjoy a productive season they will have to capitalize upon, learn from, and take advantage of these early season challenges and galvanize into the team we know they can be.

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Total comments: 2
  • goRockets says 1 week ago

    Very good points and observations about the evolution of the Rockets' season so far. Sometimes going through disappointments and challenges produces the kind of necessary effort to make sure you don't suffer those heartbreaks again, like some of the earlier close losses and double digit leads surrendered late in games by Rockets. I too agree that the foot injury to Harden may actually be a blessing in the sky (for now). Of course Rockets need him back, but his absence has allowed the coach to see the true depth of this team. And it is great assurance knowing that even without your best player, this team's offense is still very very good when they play team basketball, move the ball, make cuts, defend well, etc. Jeremy Lin has been playing well all year, in whatever role (starting PG or backup PG) he has been asked to play. Harden's absence further showcased Jeremy's versatility playing the combo guard position, especially now that his shooting efficiency has improved so much and he is attacking more than he ever has. Hopefully when Harden comes back, I think McHale should reduce his minutes a little bit, knowing his bench can play very well even when beard is not on the floor. And playing Harden less per night also guarantees he will be healthier going and more fresh going into playoffs. Hopefully the beard will hold the ball less after seeing how his team has been winning by playing team basketball. He still can be the alpha dog, but should only do so on necessary possessions, instead of constantly trying to hold the ball until he can't anymore and pass last second to another teammate to take a bad shot. I think this team still hasn't reached its ceiling yet and has much to improve defensively still, especially when beard returns. But the future is very bright if they can stay relatively healthy throughout the season. I hope Omer can stay, even though I know it doesn't really benefit himself much, but having him be backup to Dwight and play meaningful minutes is one of the Rockets' weapons that no other team has at the center position. Come playoffs, that could be really important.

  • rockets best fan says 1 week ago

    good article Mr. Davis

    I agree with most of your points, However I don't believe the Rockets have forged and identity. I believe they are within that process, but have not yet figured out who they are. when I think of Identity for a basketball team it means they have developed a style, a way they go about playing the game. example......Memphis.... any opponent knows when you play them it's going to be a slow down slugfest. The's about to be and high flying offensive showdown. those teams have developed their style. the Rockets are still trying to find the right balance. our players are not familiar enough yet to have figured out how to use all the weapons at their disposal. only time can do that. how much time? I'm hoping not to much ;)