For a majority of the season, the Houston Rockets were viewed as the biggest laughing stock in the association. Just three weeks ago, it seemed as if every game the Rockets played became a nightmare for Houston fans.
Fast forward to today. Although they are still ranked as the seventh best team in the Western Conference, the Rockets have regained their status as contenders in the West. Winners of six out of their last eight games, the Rockets are finally ready for lift off after their sluggish start to the season. Since their most recent success, some have considered Rockets All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard as strong candidates to represent their country this summer in Rio.
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Team USA Basketball have announced their finalists for this summer 2016 Olympic Basketball. The list includes 30 of the league’s top elite players from around the association. Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry have sealed their spot on the Olympic roster, but cutting the star-studded finalist down to 12 players will not be an easy task.
Although Harden and Howard are still considered amongst the top players in the NBA, some have questioned will either of the two Rockets All-Stars make the cut this summer? Even though Dwight Howard has reestablished himself as a dominant force in the league, most would bypass the 2008 gold medalist for a younger talent.
According Space City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson in her article, Can James Harden and Dwight Howard make 2016 Olympic U.S. Team? Richardson gave her reasons why Sacramento Kings‘ center DeMarcus Cousins would be a better addition to the team than Howard.
"“ Finally, I know many will question my addition of Cousins, but here is the TRUTH. [DeAndre] Jordan is offensively limited and can’t hit free throws. [Dwight] Howard while a solid option and Harden partner also is limited offensively, is getting older and like Jordan has his free throw issues .”"
While I do agree that Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan should not be on the roster, I must disagree with my editor about taking Demarcus Cousins over Dwight Howard. Not takiing anything away from the Kings All-Star center, but Cousins has yet to surpass Howard as the league’s best big man. (Not named Anthony Davis.)
Perhaps Cousins is a little more offensively gifted and is a better free-throw shooter, but he cannot bring the same defensive intensity to Rio like Howard. As well as his inability to control his emotions, which causes a lack in his professionalism over the years. In addition to his defense and emotions, Cousins tends to struggle a little against the league’s top elite centers.
Seven out of 14 times Cousins have matched up with some of the league’s top centers, he scored below his scoring average of the season. This also includes the 120-113 loss to the Rockets, where Howard held Cousins under 10 points in three of the four quarters and finished with 14 points. As for Dwight Howard, the bigger the match up, the more Rockets fan can expect to see the return of Superman.
Against the league’s best defensive center Marc Gasol, in four of a possible eight meeting over the past three seasons, Cousins has only averaged 17 points per game. A seven point difference in his scoring average over the last three years (24 ppg). This is crucial when selecting Cousins because Team USA and Spain will mostly meet up for the gold medal game. So unless the game comes down to free throws, I will take my chances with Dwight Howard any day before the over emotional DeMarcus Cousins.
As USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski try to decide between 12 out of 30 elite players in the league, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has to decide what to do with his off season acquisition Ty Lawson.
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With his lowest career numbers since his rookie season, 6.3 points, 4.1 assists, the Lawson experience has been nothing but a nightmare in Houston. According to Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle, in a one-on-one interview, Rockets general manager reflecta on this season’s highs and lows. Not even Morey can make sense of Lawson’s struggles this season.
"“ Huge upside. We know he’s capable of a very high level of play. He’s done it every year he’s been in the league. … At times the fit on our roster has been challenging for him and us. But I feel like J.B. has been working through that. “"
The Roster? Try naming that one player in particular that has made Lawson’s season a disaster. Like stated a few weeks ago James Harden’s isolation play is the main reason why the Ty Lawson experience has failed in Houston this season.
J.B. Bickerstaff has done a great job getting Dwight Howard more involved in Houston’s offense, but he has to use that same determination to get Lawson involved as well.
If Harden allowed Lawson to run Houston offense, about 85 percent of the Rockets struggles this season could have been avoided. Hopefully Harden does not dominate the NBA’s newest TV ad the way he does Houston’s offense.
According to the Associated Press on ESPN, the NBA will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a TV spot on February 22nd. Jeremy Lin, Stephen Curry, James Harden in Chinese New Year’s ad.
"“ The ad is called “Dining Table” and shows the stars sharing a New Year Day meal with a Chinese family. It is being broadcast until Feb. 22 across all of NBA China’s television and digital partners’ platforms . “"
In honor of the Chinese New year, the Rockets will wear their alternative Chinese uniforms for three straight games during the celebration of the new year starting February 6-10.
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series, as well as our Space City Scoop Round Table Sessions to help you get through the season. Start your morning with SCS Daily Rocket Science, which offers an update of news on the Rockets around the National and Social Media sites and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.