Houston Rockets Daily Rocket Science: Can we catch a break?


Donatas Motiejunas is missing games with an achy back. Ty Lawson has served two suspensions. Patrick Beverley is sitting with an ankle injury and has missed for personal reasons. Dwight Howard exited last night’s game just after it began with his own ankle injury. In a game ultimately decided in overtime, Howard and Terrence Jones accidentally put the ball in the other team’s basket while going for a rebound. James Harden has regularly not been getting the calls he got last season. Marcus Thornton missed an important game to be with his wife as she gave birth.

Those are just some of the instances where the Houston Rockets have not been able to catch a break this season. Every team experiences its own pains and struggles, but it sure seems like this team hasn’t gotten the lucky roll many times this season, so to speak.

Sitting at 22-22 after last night’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Rockets need for some of those rolls to start going in.

It’s not all bad, though. Harden had a milestone game last night, dropping his first triple-double of the season with 33 points, 14 assists, and a career high 17 rebounds. He also became the youngest player ever to total 1,000 made threes with his third triple of the game in the fourth quarter last night. Until exiting due to injury, Dwight had been playing his best basketball since leaving the Orlando Magic in 2012, highlighted by his 36 point, 26 board game against the LA Clippers on Monday. Players like Corey Brewer and Ty Lawson are finally finding their niche in the lineup (Lawson scored 18 on 8-13 shooting last night). There have been good things happening in Houston lately; the issue is that most of them have not resulted in wins.

James Harden dropped his first triple-double of the season in Rockets' loss to Pistons. pic.twitter.com/eBSEru0GQc

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 21, 2016

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Like I mentioned before, Dwight Howard is having a stellar year. It took some time for the media and casual fans to notice, but he is back to being arguably the best big man in the league. Not counting last night because of his early injury, he has had a double-double in ten straight games, averaging around 19 points and 14 rebounds per game. I don’t want to steal too much thunder from my fellow Space City Scoop writer, Coty Davis, so here’s his article on Howard’s recent productivity: Don’t call it a comeback: Dwight Howard’s recent success.

"Offensively, his post moves have become more efficient, while reclaiming his role as the Rockets’ defensive anchor. When Howard is playing this well and shooting a higher percentage from the charity stripe, the Houston Rockets are a tough team to stop. Yeah, his running mate James Harden may get all the glory when this team is winning, but the Rockets will only go as far as Superman takes them."

Now for a little lightheartedness. The NBA, as usual, does a very good job marketing to its overseas fanbase. This year, to honor the Chinese New Year, the Rockets (among other teams) will wear jerseys with Chinese lettering on them for a few games come February. The league also will release an advertisement for the Chinese New Year broadcasts and jerseys featuring James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Stephen Curry. Sports Illustrated featured the video and a preview of the jerseys as well as a bit of information on the celebration on their website. Take a look: Curry, Harden, Lin star in new NBA Chinese New Year TV spot.

"The Warriors, Rockets and Wizards will also wear special Chinese New Year uniforms during the month of February, and NBA games including all 30 teams will be live broadcast and streamed across Greater China as part of the league’s initiative. The league will also hold clinics and pay visits to underprivileged students, with former four-time All-Star Shawn Marion serving as a league ambassador."

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Back to serious stuff. As usual, Houston is right in the middle of lots of trade talks. Some people would advise and predict that the Rockets scrap most of what they have going right now and make multiple huge trades, while some call that folly and believe no trades will take place at all. While the reality is probably somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, it’s still interesting to try and think one step ahead of the trading game. In a video from Bleacher Report, NBA analyst Howard Beck predicted that the Rockets will be the biggest buyer in the trade market before the deadline next month: Beck/Bucher: Buyers and Sellers at the NBA Trade Deadline.

"It’s gotta be the Houston Rockets because the Rockets are always looking to buy. Daryl Morey is always active at the trade deadline and I expect he will be again. Earlier in the season, it looked like they might be sellers because they were struggling so badly but they’ve kind of rebounded and have played much better the last month or so."

With the Rockets playing slightly better than the season average lately, I’m an advocate of Morey giving the team a little more time to figure things out before making any earth-shattering trades. I know that the season is more than halfway over, but the Western Conference isn’t looking as dominant as it has in recent past. Trades run the risk of ruining what a team had going (the Ty Lawson experiment), and Houston has just now gotten into the swing of things after this past summer’s trades. If it’s at all possible to hold off on making moves until it’s apparent that the season can’t be salvaged without new personnel, I say wait. The only two teams I’d be seriously worried to face in the playoffs as of now are the GS Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.

As long as Houston can work its way up to the sixth seed, I still feel that this season can end well. It’s definitely plausible; the team has looked much better in 2016 than it did before and still sits in the seventh spot in the West despite losing two straight games. For things to work out optimally though, this team seriously needs to catch a break or two.

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