Daily Rocket Science: Back to the drawing board

Mar 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center. The Jazz won 89-87. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center. The Jazz won 89-87. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

After losing their most important game of the season Wednesday night, one would have thought that the Rockets would kick it into high gear for the remainder of the season.

That’s what any normal human being would think. Sadly, though, that was not the case. The Houston Rockets dropped another L in the column, letting the Phoenix Suns run all over them on their own home court. After a good defensive effort against the Dallas Mavericks, holding them to just 88 points in the loss, the Rockets simply rolled over and allowed 124 ticks on the scoreboard last night.

The hope of a postseason appearance has been getting dimmer and dimmer, and now can only faintly be seen at all.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

It’s no secret that James Harden has left much to be desired on the defensive end of the court. After posting career highs in nearly every defensive category last season, he’s regressed back to his apathetic defensive attitude. While I don’t think he’s as bad as Vine makes him out to be, he’s certainly no lockdown defender. People complain often about his effort and ineffectiveness on defense. What people don’t complain about often, though, is his offensive production. Sure, it’d be nice if he passed to Dwight Howard more often or lowered the number of seconds he held the ball on some possessions, but nobody really challenges the idea that he’s an offensive juggernaut. However, Will Reeve Jr. of Today’s Fastbreak did just that. Armed with advanced statistics and scary comparisons, he argues that the Beard might not be so intimidating after all.

Harden is still number two in the NBA in scoring (28.1 points per game) behind Stephen Curry, and the Rockets are much worse offensively when he’s on the bench. However, when you dive deeper into the numbers, some ugliness crops up.

The Beard is shooting a career-worst (as a starter) 43.5 percent from the field in almost 40 minutes per game, all while posting an astronomical (and also career-high) 32.5 usage percentage (apparently just the way he wants it). Furthermore, his 4.6 turnovers per game are also a career-worst and good for worst in the entire league. The ball often dies with Harden, and it’s not always conducive to good offense…

To spare James from suffering any more criticism today, we’ll take a look at the oh-so-common discussion of where Dwight will play next season. While there hasn’t been talk of any concrete evidence that he’ll go anywhere since February, it’s still largely assumed that he’ll seek out a max contract, from Houston or elsewhere. According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Fitzgerald, the original Superman (that’s Shaq, for any of you NBA newbies) commented on the possibility of Howard returning to the Orlando Magic and said it may not be such a bad idea.

Leadership and intangibles aren’t qualities Howard has been known for in the past. Perhaps he can reverse that perception with the franchise that selected him No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft and, to use some of O’Neal’s words, help lift a burgeoning young team “to the next level.”

Similar to what LeBron James is trying to do—bring a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his second stint with the team—Howard could make it all the more sweet by winning his maiden title where his NBA journey began.

More from Space City Scoop

One guy on the Rockets’ roster who hasn’t gotten much media attention this season is the rookie, Sam Dekker. He’s been out for the vast majority of the year recovering from back surgery. That doesn’t mean that he’s been laying around though. He’s been working consistently to prepare for next season, according to Mike DeCourcy of SportingNews.com. It’s never a good thing to waste a year of basketball, especially such a formative year, but Dekker should be ready physically and more than ready mentally to get next season underway.

"“It’s been a little frustrating with me being hurt,” Dekker said. “But you learn a lot. Some people can step back and give up, but other people can use it as motivation to better themselves, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to learn every day and to stay involved.  A lot of rookies don’t get a chance to play and I need to make the most out of it and things will get better for me. Things will get better for me.”"

Let’s hope the Houston Rockets can take on the mindset that the youngster has. After such a disappointing season, I hope the Rockets can make the most of it just like Dekker and make things get better for them next season.

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