The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, may finally have landed on the Houston Rockets. However, it’s Dwight Howard who is the focus of today’s Daily Rocket Science edition.
The Houston Rockets had an opportunity to move up the ladder this past week, but failed to rise to the occasion. In their last six games they’ve gone 2 and 4, losing the last two in the closing minutes of the match versus the Hawks and Thunder. Now they’ve fallen under .500 once again and find themselves clinging to the eighth seed with their next opponent (the Utah Jazz) looking to unseed them. Worse their two wins came against the Sixers and the injury riddled Memphis Grizzlies.
This entire season has been mired by inconsistency, however the Rockets have always seemed to maintain a playoff seed. Now the situation is critical as Houston could fall off the ladder if they lose to Utah tonight. And, there is no relief in sight as the six games following the Jazz are all against playoff squads. Worse the playoff teams they’ll face are some of the hottest teams in the NBA such as the Raptors, Cavaliers and Thunder again. The other three games feature teams fighting to move higher in their post season seeding such as Indy, Chicago and Dallas.
While James Harden hurt his foot in the Hawks game, he pulled out his iron man to play against his old team the Thunder. In the end, although he kept the team close his presence ultimately didn’t matter since they lost anyway. Prior to the game in Oklahoma City the spotlight fell on Dwight Howard between the ‘Stick-um’ issue and the Sam Amick article which ran Tuesday focusing on his use of the illegal spray along with the plethora of Howard story lines this season.
To that end, today’s Daily Rocket Science focuses predominantly on Howard:
Regarding the Stick-um issue:
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports Howard felt he did nothing wrong:
"“ “ I’ve been using the spray for the last five years,” Howard said. “I’ve never hid the spray. I never did anything to try to hide what I was doing. It was something to make my hands dry. Some players use powder. Some players use other stuff that’s put up on the table. I didn’t think I was doing anything illegal or trying to gain advantage against my opponent. Some guys use different techniques. Some guys use the stuff we put our feet on, the Slipp-nott stuff."
In Sam Amick’s USA Today article Howard focused on several issues:
First his thoughts on the role of centers in today’s fast paced position-less NBA:
". “The way the (NBA) game is played (now), it’s all outside-in, it’s threes, it’s super-fast,” Howard told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s really like we’re dinosaurs, and they’re trying to extinct us. But the Ice Age will not come, and we will not be extinct"
Further his comments are ripe with innuendo regarding his true feelings about his lack of touches though stated in a passive aggressive manner:
"” “You watch a guy like Shaq (O’Neal) or Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and all these guys, and I don’t know if they would want to just play with guys shooting threes and stuff like that. They want to be fed, but it’s the evolution of the game. And the way you stay relevant is trying to find ways to play without focusing on not getting the ball … I think it’s all just a mindset. Some teams are better at it than others."
Amick showcases why the big man might be disenchanted based on his usage and highlights how his All-Star shooting guard is the man who is dominating the ball:
". – – Howard, who averaged 13.4 attempts per game from 2010-12 during the peak of his post dominance, since he entered the league in 2004. In the last four games, Howard has had a combined 22 shots against Memphis, the Clippers, Minnesota and Atlanta as the Rockets went 2-2 is averaging 8.8 per this season, with only his rookie campaign – 8.3 per – lower it’s Harden’s usage rate, which calculates the percentage of a team’s offensive possessions that a player uses, Harden whose penchant for holding the ball is worthy of an Elmer’s Glue sponsorship. leads all perimeter players in the NBA at 32.8"
Giving credence to the thoughts Howard will be gone from Houston is one comment that felt like a throw away, but it stood out like a sore thumb to me:
".” (But) for the rest of the season, I’m going to make it an effort just to do what they need me to do offensively and defensively, and not focus on what happened back in Orlando (and) what happened in LA (with the Lakers) and just I know (the Rockets) have their opinions or whatever. put my mind to finishing this season on a real high note"
In a separate article touching on Howard’s expected decision to opt out this summer NBA writer Shaun Powell looked at teams Howard could possibly join listing his home town Atlanta, Dallas who made a strong pitch for him the year he signed with Houston as well as New Orleans, Charlotte, Miami and even his old team the Magic. Interestingly he doesn’t list the Bucks who were said to be actively talking with Daryl Morey at the trade deadline. Powell points to the one team who might be the most uninterested party as his current team:
". One team whose intentions are unclear is Houston. In these situations a team would very publicly express a desire to keep an important player. Yet GM Daryl Morey has wisely been non-committal. The Rockets are at a crossroads after reaching the 2015 Western Conference finals, looking like a team that needs a new identity if not a complete housecleaning"
Returning to Sam Amick’s article in terms of his relationship with Harden the comments Howard makes are mostly about the emphasis being on the two of them to figure out and how that takes time… but realistically how much time should it take?
"” “People feel … like we hate each other,” Howard said. – – -“We both have to figure out how we’re going to make this thing work. . – – – “It takes time, you know?” he said. “It takes time. If we can just come together like we’re supposed to and like we want to, then I’m telling you, we can win a championship. “I have no hate in my blood for this man, you know? It’s on us"
Before that can happen they’ll need to hang on to their current eight seed and continue to win in order to ensure they even make it in to the post season.
Following the above article James Herbert of CBS Sports wrote two articles based on the Amick offering the first touched on his ability to be a dominant center and he cites the decline in Howard’s game as part of the problem:
"Part of the problem is that Howard is just not as dominant as he used to be in the post. Back in his days, he would routinely hit defenders with a quick drop step and then dunk on them. He doesn’t have the athleticism to do that consistently anymore, so he’s not going to draw double-teams at the same frequency as he did in Orlando. Magic"
In his second article Herbert focused on the Harden – Howard dynamic and points out the rather obvious point that following a winning season to cite the fact they need to be on the same page after 70 games this season feels like he’s sweeping the real problem under the carpet:
". and it is disappointing that Howard still has to talk about getting on the same page with Harden after 70 games. According to USA Today, the two of them “consistently try to fix what’s broken and even occasionally go to dinner together to discuss such matters.” I suppose that is better than not trying, but it’s weird that this is an issue at all"
Speaking of Harden, though he did man up to ignore his twisted ankle injury it was Harden’s turnover and non-existent defense on Westbrook’s transition dunk that ultimately gave the Rockets the win. Andrew Joseph contributor of For The Win – USA Today Sports pointed to Harden’s lack of defense on this play:
Russ, back at it again!https://t.co/lseDJ9woZY
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) March 23, 2016
That’s if for today’s version of Daily Rocket Science, stick with Space City Scoop throughout the day for our updates, game articles and opinions on all things Houston Rockets.
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