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Houston Rockets: Harden and Howard aren’t the problem

Feb 25, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) high fives Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) high fives Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets have had a confusing, frustrating, and painful season.

Expectations were higher than they’ve been since the mid 90s, and then McHale gets canned eleven games in, the Rockets drop every game against the Nets, and yet, they managed to give Red Nation a Christmas present by beating the Spurs.

Rumors have been rippling throughout timelines how Harden and Howard have it out for each other. Harden is the big bad bearded-wolf who got McHale out of his job, and lobbied to get Howard traded. Many are claiming Howard and Harden are failing their chemistry class. Yes, this season has felt like tumbling down Mount Everest, but the superstars aren’t to blame.

Number one, I highly doubt the Rockets’ front office is willing to be pushed around by one of their star players. Harden’s beard is awesome but it’s not biker-gang-bully awesome. These off-court rumors will get retweets but have zero merit as the Rockets’s CEO made clear.

Harden and Howard aren’t the problem

So many people want to focus on Harden and Howard. Harden this. Howard that. Harden is/was dating a reality star, Howard is wearing funny shirts, etc. But you know what? Who cares? The TMZ-ification of the NBA is lame, uninspired, boring, and it has nothing to do with W-L column and the wonderful game created by Dr. Naismith.

Yes, big targets are easy to hit. Internet-shattering journalism, I know. But Harden and Howard aren’t the Rockets problem. They are still filling up the stat sheet.

The TMZ-ification of the NBA is lame, uninspired, boring, and it has nothing to do with W-L column.

Harden is still an atomic bomb on offense, ask the Trail Blazers. James is second in the association in points per game. He also leads the Rockets in dimes (7 a game), with 406 made field goals assisted by the Beard this season. Ty Lawson is second on the team with 179 assists on made field goals. A 227 assist difference. Harden isn’t a ball hog.

Harden leads the NBA in free throws made and attempted, and flirts with a triple-double most nights. And while no one will confuse Harden for a defensive star, he is second in steals on the Rockets—who are the number one team in steals. Outside of the centers and power forwards on the Rockets, Harden is number one in blocks. Yes, there are lots of Vines with Harden’s defensive lapses, but the narrative that Harden is aloof is ridiculous.

Dwight is third in rebounding, he still makes people rethink their shots, and can still put up monster numbers. Despite what Barkley says about Howard needing the ball more in the post, Howard leads all players and positions in post touches with 8.7 a game.

Beverly will always be on the NBA’s All-Irritant Team. We need a guy like that. His aggression and attitude are an intangible quality on the court. Over the last few months, Beverley has become a three-point shooter (41.1%). Ariza’s defense, as always, is solid and he’s been on fire from downtown.

What’s the problem?

So what’s this team’s problem? Our bench isn’t pulling their weight. If you watch the games, you know this to be true. The Rockets were able to come back and beat the Trail Blazers because Harden played the entire second half and only missing two shots in the final two quarters. He couldn’t come out of the game, too much was at stake. Our bench is less consistent than the officiating.

The Houston Rockets need a power forward who can rebound and play lock down defense. While Howard is third in rebounding, the Rockets are twenty-second in the league. Josh Smith provided a quick spark but hasn’t been able to do much in the last few games. Terrence Jones’s season has been filled with bizarre injuries and a car accident, so it’s no surprise his play has continued to drop off. D-Mo’s back problems have been setting the team back as well. Capela is a good player but we can’t expect him to play beyond his years. So what are we left with? A fun and interesting spark-plug rookie in Harrell. I love watching Harrell play. I hope he stays a Rocket for a long time, but he needs time to develop. We can’t fault him for him for that.

The Houston Rockets need a power forward who can rebound and play lock down defense.

As Morey and the front office look to the future, splitting up Harden and Howard isn’t the answer. Morey believes in the core. I do too. Sam Amick of USA Today says the Harden-Howard duo isn’t bad at all.

“In terms of dynamic duos, the Harden-Howard pairing is still the fourth-most productive this season based on combined totals of points, rebounds and assists per game (69.4). Only the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (81.8), the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (72.8) and the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo (71.8) have been more productive.”

More from Space City Scoop

Rockets need upgrades at two positions

There are two positions where we need upgrades. A point guard off the bench who can actually do more than Ty Lawson has done for us (which shouldn’t be very hard) and a defensive power forward who eats rebounds for breakfast. Despite the Rockets record, offense isn’t our problem. They are still fifth in the league in points per game. Defense is the Rockets’s Achilles’s heel. But they showed the world they can play defense when they come back from a twenty-one point deficit and beat the Trailblazers, the hottest team in the league, and held them to a mere twelve points in the fourth quarter.

If our defense can tighten up, and rebounds become our thing—watch out, world.  Clutch City is coming back.

Next: Houston Rockets Identity Crisis

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