Suffice to say the 2015-16 campaign of the Houston Rockets has failed to live up to expectations. Looking back there were 5 obvious reasons why.
Throughout the season the Rockets were the Jekyll and Hyde team of the league. In one game the team would showcase strong efforts and follow it up by stinking out the joint. They would beat the top teams in the league only to lose the next night (badly) to a lottery team. The defense that vaulted them to a top team last season was no where to be found. On the perimeter they took major steps back, both in terms of defending it and in terms of connecting on their own three point shots after a season when they topped both categories.
The Ty Lawson Fiasco
The acquisition of Ty Lawson never had a chance as James Harden refused to allow him an opportunity to lead the on court ball handling. Even his forays off the bench didn’t work perhaps because by that point he felt like the team didn’t appreciate him or maybe he felt duped for never getting a true chance to succeed.
Whatever the reason, with GM Daryl Morey unable to find a trade partner for him it only exasperated the issue as he was eventually waived (signing with Indiana). The fact the Rockets tried hard to make the playoffs only served to punctuate the Lawson fiasco since Morey traded the team’s draft pick to get him.
— ALL IN Sports Talk (@allinsportstalk) April 27, 2016
Myriad of Effort Issues
The fact this team was able to beat strong teams confirmed their potential to be an upper echelon team. However, the fact the team would just as easily allow teams they should beat easily to stay in games and defeat the showcased their mindset.
It is hard to truly break down how good the Rockets are based on their performances. The one clear sign this was more personality and decision based i.e. effort was the fact the Rockets kept losing to far less talented teams. As the Warriors discovered a few times this season taking a team for granted can cost you. The difference between these two squads was the Warriors learned from their miscues.
Moreover the Rockets severe plummet in several key defensive categories pointed directly at a lack of effort. A good team doesn’t continually lose to inferior talent or chose to let a defensively challenged team stay in the game via not bothering to play defense.
Although the team can give the party line answer to reporters, this aspect of the team was the most frustrating. Fans pay their hard earned dollars on merchandise and to attend games. The least the players can do is reward Red Nation with effort!
Chemistry on Court
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Frequently the team stood listless on the court watching Harden over dribble resulting in yet another isolation shot by him or when teams loaded up expecting the iso-play his teammates would get a shot with mere seconds on the clock.
Arguably Dwight Howard got the worst of the Harden effect as the bearded man refused to pass him the ball. Every Red Nation fan recalls the end of shot clock hail Mary by Harden that he tried to play off as a pass to Howard which again only served to shine a light on the pairs issues.
Chemistry off Court
The off court chemistry was obviously an issue. Though the franchise would have done their best to protect the players the fact 3 separate individuals told Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of the eternal issues spoke to their lack of trust. In Amick and Zillgitt’s USA Today article
". While players tried to keep details of the meeting private, two themes emerged, three people told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. Harden’s play and aloofness have frustrated teammates, and McHale took the brunt of the blame for the team’s play. Practices were not resulting in improved play in games"
Considering the copious stories the media and fans never hear about until long after a players career has ended when things like this slip out it highlights just how bad the situation is behind closed door. Though management denied the reports they continued to appear and beyond the McHale firing, there was also tidbits about both Harden and Howard requesting each others trade. Considering how few touches Howard receives on court (either from Harden or others), it does make it difficult to buy the 2 stars argument that all is fine.
Make sure you check out Space City Scoops end of season Rockets Round Table:
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