I’ve been saying for the whole season that there’s still time for the Houston Rockets to turn things around. In November, I said it just had to happen by December. Then, it just had to happen before the New Year. Now, it really has to happen before the All-Star break. It’s been nice being able to push back the ultimatum thus far, but it will soon be too late.
The Rockets face the hot Oklahoma City Thunder tonight as James Harden returns to his first NBA hometown. There should be no shortage of scoring with both teams ranking in the top five in points per game. Houston has beaten OKC in their only meeting this year, so the Thunder will come hungry for revenge. However, the Rockets need to start making a run at the 6th seed no later than right this very instant, and they’re aware of that.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
As Jake Hyman of HoopsHabit.com pointed out with his article yesterday, the Houston Rockets Must Get To No. 6 Seed In Western Conference if they would like any hope of a second round appearance. The 7th and 8th seeds will most assuredly be held by the invincible Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, spelling a definite first round exit for the last two playoff teams, no matter the circumstances. He boldly predicts the Rockets to knock off the surprising Dallas Mavericks by the end of the season.
For the defensively lax Harden, he wouldn’t have to handle the abundance of competent shooting guards at the Spurs’ disposal or three-point ace
for the Warriors. Guarding the non-jump shooting threat of
and high volume guard
should be a simpler task for the offensively-driven superstar.
The Rockets should be confident in knowing they have the advantage in two positions on the floor, as neither OKC, San Antonio nor Golden State boasts the shooting guard-center duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard.
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As Harden returns to OKC once again, we’re all reminded of the (in)famous trade that took place in 2012 that brought the most famous beard in sports to Houston. While I doubt there’s one Rockets fan with a sound mind who regrets that trade, thoughts in Oklahoma are a bit more torn. Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report wrote a piece holding the bold stance that the Thunder made the right choice in giving up the opportunity to have three of the top five players in the world on the same roster. It sounds crazy, but he makes a solid argument. Check it out here: Did OKC Thunder Make the Right Choice on Trading James Harden After All?
Remember, Harden was a sixth man in OKC. Prior to the trade, he’d made a grand total of seven starts during his three professional seasons. Many of his minutes came when Westbrook and/or Durant needed a breather.
But keeping Harden on the bench for much longer would have been nearly impossible. Sharing the ball between three elite scorers was a migraine waiting to happen.
Whether fans in OKC like it or not, James Harden is home in Houston along with fellow superstar Dwight Howard (at least for now). While the former has player has played nearly every game possible, the latter has struggled with a few nagging injuries over the past year or two. Superman recently came back to the court from an ankle injury, and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle noted that he’s on his way to being 100% again: Dwight Howard: Ankle OK but still working to get explosiveness back.
"“I felt OK,” Howard said. “I have to get my explosiveness back. They said that was going to take a couple days, a couple games. That was the only area for me. I felt pretty good out there as far as my wind.”"
For the Rockets to make the aforementioned push to the 6th seed or better, they’ll need Harden, Howard, and every other available player on the roster to be healthy and locked in. They’ve dug themselves a nice sized whole to climb out of, but for potentially the last time, this team can turn things around.
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