Daily Rocket Science – What a week!
It’s crazy how things can change in a split second. After losing to the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons last week, the Houston Rockets are now on a three game winning streak. After scoring a season-low 77 points in an embarrassing lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Rockets have become the second highest scoring team in the league, averaging 114.5 points over the past six games.
Perhaps Josh Smith‘s presence in the locker room means more to the Rockets than I initially thought. Hate to admit it, I was completely wrong about J-Smooth after the Rockets reacquired him from Los Angeles Friday morning. Since his return to Houston, the Rockets have resembled the team from last season.
It appears that they are having more fun on the court, while their ball movement rises to it’s best all season. Although Josh Smith deserve a bit of the credit for Houston’s turn around, Trevor Ariza‘s incredible play have gone a little under appreciated.
Since Dwight Howard‘s latest injury, Ariza has stepped up in place of Superman. As much as Smith has proved me wrong about his return to Houston, I stand correct about the Rockets title chances resting on the shoulders of Ariza.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
Despite his remarkable play over the past week, there is little talk about Ariza’s performance from other NBA analysts. It was delightful to see someone other than myself show some recognition to the 2009 NBA champion. From SB Nation’s The Dream Shake, Josh Reese in his article Trevor Ariza is White hot, and the Rockets are Streaking, recapped Ariza’s season best performance against the Pelicans, and how playing the power forward position have brought the best out of the 11-year veteran.
"“Having someone that is knocking down shots during the Rockets Dwight Howard-less streak is really coming in handy. Monday night, Ariza stayed hot and was making everything from deep in the first half. At one point during the second half, Ariza even faked nearly out of his shoes as he drained a three in his face. The few shots that were missed were off-balance threes or shots not in rhythm. During this three-game stretch, Ariza has been locked in. Playing the four seems to suit him. Dante Cunningham “"
Apparently since J.B. Bickerstaff’s small lineup change against the Bucks, no one has benefited more than Ariza. Over the last three games, he has posted 26.3 points, while shooting a blazing 61 percent from behind the arc. Not only has Ariza played great on the offensive end, but has reestablished himself as the Rockets best perimeter defender.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 26, 2016
Like Reese said, playing the four seems to fit Ariza the best. However, once Howard returns from his injury, it would be nice to see how much more dominating the Rockets will become with Howard at the center, and Ariza at power forward. However, in order for Ariza to continue to play the four, Bickerstaff would have to move Clint Capela back to the bench.
Speaking of Capela, if fans think he is having a career year now, just imagine how training with one of the greatest centers ever to play the game can expedite his growth. According to Houston Chronicle Johnathan Feigen, Capela will get another chance to work with Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon this weekend.
"““Dream is awesome,” Bickerstaff said. “Fundamentals, basics of the game, footwork – obviously, … Dream is unparalleled. There is no better teacher than Dream. Still, he can get out on the floor and do it. It’s great to have him around. His personality is great. Our big guys love working with him. “"
Sure Howard’s one-on-one lessons in practice have made Capela a good player, but imagine how much his game will improve once he continues training with Olajuwon. Capela has spent time with the Dream last year during the playoffs and this past summer, but now they can work on areas he still needs to improve and there is a body of work to pull video from. Capela is already a defensive stud establishing himself as one of the league’s best rim protectors. Many players around the league spend time in the off season with Olajuwon, so having him handy to work with during the season is real coup. The Dream will only enhance Capela’s growth and defensive prowess under this continuing mentorship.
However, the biggest excitement is on the offensive end. Like Olajuwon, Capela grew up playing soccer, so his footwork should be as good, if not better than Olajuwon’s. Not saying he is going to be better than the Dream, but just imagine what’s in store for Houston if Capela develops his own version of the Dream Shake!
As the Rockets prepare to make a mid season run after the all-star break, nobody job is on the line more than J.B. Bickerstaff. According to Bleacher Reports’ Josh Martin, he listed Bickerstaff as one of the 5 NBA Coaches with Jobs at stake in 2nd Half of 2015-16 Season.
"“Bickerstaff will have to keep hoping his team picks up its effort on the defensive end. Otherwise, the Rockets could have eyes for any number of the qualified candidates out there—including Thibodeau, whose ties to the organization date back to his days of coaching under Jeff Van Gundy—to fill the top job in Space City. “"
More from Space City Scoop
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Since taking over the Rockets late in November, Bickerstaff has became a better coach than expected. The Rockets are 20-15 with one of the best offensive games in the league averaging 104.9 points per game. However, Houston defense continues to be an issue as they are ranked among the league’s bottom feeders at 105.6 points per game.
If the Rockets can exceed expectations with Bickerstaff as head coach, expect Leslie Alexander to bring back the second generation coach. Of course if Houston fail to make the playoffs or get bumped out in the first round, the Bickerstaff era will be over sooner than he expected.
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