The Rockets have looked like two different teams at times this season, and the worse of the two seems to be comprised of just one player.
I know, that seems a bit confusing. What I mean is that when the Houston Rockets aren’t playing well, it is often times due to the fact that James Harden is running too much of a solo act. Take Wednesday night’s game against the LA Clippers for instance. The Beard’s numbers were great as usual, with 33 points, 8 dimes, and 5 boards. However, nobody else on the team even totaled half of what he scored that night. Only one player took half the amount of shots that he took.
When a great player neglects to make others around him great, there’s a serious issue at hand. But remember, that issue only shows up when team chooses to play like the lesser of the two versions of the Rockets. In contrast to Wednesday’s game, last night Harden put up another great stat line (29 points, 14 dimes, and 5 boards) but also made his teammates better. If you want proof, just look at the box score. Three Rockets finished with a double-double, and Donatas Motiejunas was only one board away from joining that bunch. They soundly put away a young, athletic team in the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it’s because everyone contributed.
If I were Harden, I’d look for ways to get my teammates involved on a nightly basis. It’s not a perfect rule, but the team definitely seems to play together when Harden allows the whole team to get their touches.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
If you want more proof of the one-man-show issue, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes is here to give you some insight. His article provides stats and specific instances where Harden could improve his leadership and help his team to be the type of team they need to be to make another deep playoff run. He’s definitely capable of it, I just think the guy loses sight of how good his team could be if he really put forth the necessary effort.
"Harden is a great player. You can’t look at his numbers and conclude anything different. And you can’t ignore the way he led his team to the conference finals last season. But you can question whether his style of play/personality/preferred offensive M.O. are things around which Houston can build sustainable success."
Partially due to James’s one-man show at times, Dwight Howard is most likely going to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer. There have been rumors upon rumors that he’s unhappy in Houston and wants to go somewhere else this summer to finish out his career. Though nothing like that has come from his mouth directly, it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on in his mind. I do know he’s giving it thought, though, because he fired his old agent, Dan Fegan, a few weeks back. Now, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, he’s hired a new agent in Perry Rogers, the same guy who represented Shaq during his NBA career.
"O’Neal, a longtime public nemesis of Howard’s, had extensive conversations with the Houston center and sold him on the marketing of “Superman” and the representation of Rogers, sources said. The potential of marketing Howard and O’Neal in advertisements together played a role, too, sources said."
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This is an old and tired story by now, but there are just a few things that, if the Rockets would fix, would legitimately make them a great NBA team. The defense compared to last year is just sad to see and the guys don’t look like they care half the time. As weird as it sounds, however, Houston has looked much better ever since the arrival of Michael Beasley. Call it what you want, but that guy may be the glue the team needed to mesh well. The playoffs begin far too soon, so whatever process it’s going to take to fix this group needs to happen fast. Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta provided just three things the Rockets have got to do before the playoffs, all of which are completely attainable goals.
During the 2015-16 campaign, Houston has gone from playing with a chip on its shoulder to infighting. Jason Terry rhetorically asked NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury before the All-Star break: “Genuinely do we like to play with each other? That’s as simple as I can get it; X’s and O’s take care of itself. We’re talking about basketball, and if you can’t get five guys on the court that can function as a unit, you’re not going to have much success.”
Nothing helps morale like winning. If Clutch City can have some consistent defensive performances against bad teams, put together a winning streak and move up in the standings, it can recover its “clutch” again.
Clutch City takes on the Atlanta Hawks tonight, who despite never being great, are always good and will put up a good fight against Houston. Paul Millsap always gives Houston trouble with his unlikely combo of post moves and shooting range so look for D-Mo to have a chance to prove himself defensively. Make sure to check out Space City Scoop’s game preview for more information and the recap of last night’s W over the ‘Wolves.
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