Oct 7, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) smiles after committing a foul against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard has historically battled with foul trouble; a lot of big men do. This year, it is more important than ever that Dwight avoid silly reach-in fouls, nor even too many contact-inducing shot block opportunities because what backs him up is hardly inspiring.
The difference, right now, is that the Houston Rockets are so thin at backup center. Tarik Black has given supreme effort with poor results. He has the size to play center. But there’s a reason teams weren’t jostling for his services, and also why he wasn’t drafted. While Black may eventually become a decent backup, he has looked much smaller than his listed 6’11” in games. Whether it due to him actually measuring far shorter, or just playing small is tougher to ascertain.
In Game 1 against the L.A. Lakers, Howard was limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. The Lakers are a poor team this year, so the Rockets were easily able to overcome No. 12’s foul issues.
The same applied to Game 2 against the Utah Jazz. Howard fouled out with 1:33 in the game, but it was well in hand with the Rockets up 13 and cruising to a win on the second night of a back-to-back. Black found himself unable to get good looks with Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors there to contest his looks, hitting just 1-of-5 from the field. He had trouble grabbing boards, getting just two in 24 minutes of play.
Oct 29, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black (10) defends against Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke (3) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Rockets won 104-93. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Tarik Black played 24 minutes against the Lakers on opening night, and had just two points and two rebounds. Lakers big man Ed Davis dominated Black in the second unit, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor for 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks. While Davis is certainly a rising talent, Black was utterly outplayed in a game that the Rockets still managed to win handily.
So, it may not appear there is any issue here. It may seem the Rockets can continue to roll without a legitimate backup center. But this is faulty thinking. Houston has faced two of the worst teams in the West in Utah and the L.A. Lakers, so to win these games is a small feat for a team with its eyes on a title.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey has to be exploring trades to get a backup center. Clint Capela is in the D-League this year; there’s no sense looking at that as an option. Morey is going to have to make a move to fortify the bench via trade, and the Rockets have a lot of small contracts that are difficult to incorporate into trades.