Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts during overtime against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets continue to struggle as they are unable to form a cohesive identity.
Coming out of the all-star break, the Houston Rockets are still scrambling to make the playoffs. With only twenty-four games left, the Rockets are unable to afford time for self discovery.
All season long, the Rockets– along with the media– have tried to diagnose the problems faced by a team that made it to last season’s Western Conference Finals.
In truth, nobody has a complete understanding of what has contributed to the Rockets’ disastrous season. The Rockets’ lack of a clear identity makes it difficult to pinpoint the team’s issues.
All of these issues have played a hand in developing a team with a confused sense of identity.
Next: Harden and Howard?
James Harden and Dwight Howard
Feldman claims that Harden had Rockets former head coach Kevin McHale fired, and that Harden later pushed for Rockets management to move Howard as well.
Watkins, however, claims that the duo’s relationship is nowhere near as sour as perceived.
Traffic problems, CEO denied Harden asked for McHale to be fired, denies, Howard wanted Harden traded. And here come the Blazers.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) February 26, 2016
Putting personal grievances aside, Harden and Howard’s games fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Harden is an elite offensive weapon who is criticized for his lapses on the defensive side of the ball. Howard, on the other hand, has been among the leagues best defenders for years, but his offensive game can be said to be mediocre at best.
As the Rockets have struggled, rumors that both players have been pointing fingers at one another have persisted. As Watkins claims, however, Harden and Howard’s poor relationship may be exaggerated. Either way, the two have yet to lead the Rockets in an optimal fashion.
Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) signals to his teammates from the bench area during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won in overtime 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
While the Rockets are within the top ten in offensive efficiency, they rank 25th in defensive efficiency and 27th in opponents’ points per game.
Why the Rockets struggle to play defense remains a mystery. Some have claimed that the Rockets’ defense mirrors Harden’s lack of defensive effort, believing that the Rockets’ defense would improve if Harden was to play harder on the defensive side of the ball.
Those of you watching the Rockets for the first time in a while, yes, they're not very good on defense in the paint.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) February 26, 2016
Though it may be true that Harden has a negative effect on the Rockets’ defense, the Rockets also struggle because of their lack of depth at the power forward position.
Next: The Power Forward Position
Dec 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) drives the ball as Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick Young (0) defends during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Power Forward Position
With Donatas Motiejunas‘ injury, and Terrence Jones‘ inconsistent play, the Rockets have had a difficult time finding someone to plug in at the power forward position. This has resulted in the Rockets experimenting with an array of different starting lineups throughout the season, making it challenging to develop consistency.
Furthermore, with the change in lineup always being at the power forward position, the Rockets have had a difficult time defending what’s becoming one of the most important positions in basketball– the stretch four.
It also is telling of the Rockets poor rebounding numbers in which they rank 24th in the league.
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The Rockets’ coaching problem was made evident when they fired head coach Kevin McHale eleven games into the season.
While many people have claimed that coaching isn’t the Rockets’ problem since the Rockets continue to struggle after firing McHale, I believe that is an unfair assumption.
For one, in firing McHale while retaining his coaching staff, there wasn’t much of a change in coaching for the Rockets. Secondly, problems produced by poor coaching are resolved not by firing the inept coach, but by hiring a coach with a proven track record.
The only way the Rockets can know whether or not some of their problems are due to bad coaching is by hiring a coach who has had success around the league. If the Rockets have a coaching problem, an able coach would be able to solve some of the Rockets’ issues.
— Rockets Fan Zone (@Rockets_FZ) February 15, 2016
It is unlikely that the Rockets will solve their problems before the end of the season. For now, they remain in an unfortunate cycle of trying to figure out how to improve upon their weaknesses while lacking a clear sense of identity. As they try to make different efforts to turn their season around, they continue to shuffle through different coaches, lineups, and solutions– resulting in a loss of team unity.
While anything is possible, at this point in the season it looks like the only solution to the Rockets’ problems will be a long offseason in which the Rockets transform their lineup and coaching staff in hopes of establishing a cohesive unit.
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