The Houston Rockets had an eventful day yesterday. First, James Harden (Three-Point Contest) and Patrick Beverley (Skills Challenge) were selected to participate in the All-Star weekend festivities. Then, the team sealed a close one in Phoenix, putting them just one win away from the three game winning streak I said they needed to ease my worries of a shot season.
They almost blew the game in typical Rockets fashion, needing more than half the fourth quarter to score more than three points. Thankfully, however, Corey Brewer (season high 24 points, 4 steals) and others stepped up when it mattered and knocked down the necessary shots to seal the deal.
If Houston can bring home a W tomorrow against the Portland Trail Blazers, I’ll feel good about their chances going into the All-Star break. Not good enough to believe in any real title contention though.
While anything is possible (hi Kevin Garnett), it doesn’t look like there’s a team that can stop the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets’ primary goal this season should be to get as much valuable playoff experience in, preparing the team to make a push at the title next season. If something wild happens and legitimate title contention becomes a possibility, that’d be great too.
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For the Rockets to continue into next season with their “win now” attitude, they’ll need to bring in another star without losing either of the ones they have now. It’s been rumored that Daryl Morey plans to make an all out push for Kevin Durant this summer; if that is to be a possibility, Houston will have to be as attractive a destination as possible.
That means Durant will have to be able to come join a program with two stars already locked in, ready to win a championship. Dwight Howard has to be present on the roster for that to be the case. There are many reasons why he should opt in to the final year of his contract after this season, but Max Croes of The Dream Shake put it best in his article yesterday. As much as I’d like Dwight to read some stuff on this site, I’d rather him take a look at this article in hope that he’d be convinced: Dwight Howard Needs To Opt In… Again
"If Dwight Howard wants to get paid and play for a title contender opting in accomplishes that goal. While it only takes one team to land a max contract, it seems unlikely the league’s best teams are going to offer up four years and $128 million to a 30-year-old with 30,000 minutes on a fragile back and knees. This offer seems more likely to come from a desperate Sacramento, New Orleans or even Orlando over an Oklahoma City or Golden State."
While rumors have circulated about what Howard plans to do with his contract situation, nobody knows for sure (most likely including the big man himself). With the salary cap set to increase soon, there could be an argument made that he should pursue a max contract. USA Today’s Sam Amick weighed the odds of Dwight leaving Houston and trying for a blockbuster deal this summer and looked at what general managers around the league would think about it. A case could be made in either direction so much is left to the imagination, but this article sums the situation up well: Will Dwight Howard pursue a max deal this summer?
"Yet of all the players who fit that bill, from Kevin Durant to Anderson Varejao, there may not be a more perplexing free agency case than that of Dwight Howard. The Houston Rockets big man has a player option for next season worth $23.2 million, though he is widely expected to opt out in pursuit of another long-term maximum-salary deal. And therein lies the question: is the 30-year-old Howard worth the max that would start at approximately $31 million annually?"
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Moving on from the Dwight Howard saga. Now that week 14 has come and gone, the NBA season has nearly reached its halfway point. The midseason reviews aren’t quite released, but the newest power rankings are hot off the press. Space City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson compiled near every single list and highlighted the Rockets’ placement in each of them. Week 14 was a tough one for Houston so the ranking isn’t quite up to where we’d like it to be. Perhaps a nice, three game winning streak to lead into the All-Star break would boost their placement for the next go-round. Check out this week’s list: NBA Power Ranking Lists: How Pundits Rank Houston Rockets Week 14
"In Week 14 the Houston Rockets hit a wall winning just one of their 4 games. After taking down the Pelicans they lost back to back games to Western power houses the Spurs and Thunder. Entering the final game of the week it felt like a must win, but the zebras not only allowed several Wizards to take dirty shots at Howard they threw him out of the game for complaining about it."
Not too long ago, the Rockets had a three game winning streak. Then, they followed that with a three game losing streak. Now, they have a chance to finish out another three game winning streak as they take on the Blazers tomorrow evening. I, for one, am sick of the constant back and forth that has defined this season.
Maybe the All-Star break can give the squad ample time to prepare to finish the season well. They need all the winning they can get if they want to save the season and have hopes to retain Dwight through the summer as well as lure some more talent to H-town.
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With the trade deadline around the corner make sure you visit Space City Scoop daily for our trade series. Each day SCS will feature an article on who the Rockets should trade for or what it would take to part ways with the players currently on the roster. Finally we’ll assess the Rockets and each team in the Association in terms of what their needs are, if they should be buyers or sellers and also speculate on who would be the ideal trade target.