One major thing that the Rockets lacked this past year was motivation, but after the disrespect shown to Harden and his team by the media, that might change for next year.
Yes, I’m still mad that James Harden didn’t get make an All-NBA team. During a season where there wasn’t much to celebrate, I wanted to at least be able to see my favorite player be appreciated for the talent he brings to the table.
Not only am I still upset about the snub, but Harden himself seems to be as well. This season was marked by an overall lack or motivation and effort, but I’m hoping that he uses the negativity and allows it to motivate him for next year.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
To expand a bit more on Harden’s intent to prove the pundits wrong next year, Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports reports on how the Beard has been thinking quite a bit recently about his should-be-infamous snub. Just like his infamous defensive lapses were turned into productivity during the summer of 2014, he plans on keeping this year’s disrespect in the back of his mind all summer long.
To his credit, Harden seems intent on using this “snub” as fuel for his own furnace this summer.
“That’s extra motivation for me, you know, to come back and be a better basketball player overall,” he said. “I’m not going to get down on myself. I know what I bring to the table. That’s another reason why I’m more excited about what we have as far as coaching staff and players coming in next year. So, you know, more motivation for me. I’ve got to get back in the gym, better myself, and everything else will work itself out.”
If the Houston Rockets are to show improvement next year, they’ll have to play better defense. In addition to hiring the offensive minded Mike D’Antoni as head coach, Houston’s management brought on the defensive minded assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik. The thought is that he, despite having less power than D’Antoni, will be able to whip the Rockets into shape on the defensive end of the floor. However, Rahat Huq of Red94 questions how effective he’ll be able to be with his inferiority to D’Antoni.
"What does it matter that Bzdelik is saying all of the right things? A man’s words hold no weight if he does not wield the power of accountability. Making James Harden an “outcast” for his lackluster effort is a great theoretical exercise. But what’s going to happen in reality? You are telling me that Mike D’Antoni is going to bench his best offensive player because he failed to get back on defense? I’ll believe that when I see it."
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One of the things that the media harped on throughout the course of the season was Harden’s perceivably tense relationship with Dwight Howard. It’s largely assumed that, for various reasons, Howard will opt out of the last year of his contract and leave Houston. If he does, Taylor Smith of Today’s Fastbreak believes that Al Horford would be more than suitable as a replacement. His recent addition of a three-point shot to his game would make him a perfect component of D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense.
"He’s mobile enough to hang with an uptempo style and would give the Rockets a big man that can help facilitate, which is something they’ve sorely lacked over the last several years. Horford isn’t a very good rebounder, but some of that could be alleviated by playing him alongside Clint Capela, who ranked 21st in the league in rebound rate (18.5) last season. With Big Al’s ability to step away from the basket offensively, you can theoretically get away with playing the two bigs together."
Until free agency starts in July, there will be a bit of a hold on any new developments. That should give the Rockets plenty of time to come up with a pitch that’s good enough to convince Horford to leave the Atlanta Hawks, as well as a backup plan in case Howard surprises everyone and opts into the final year of his contract.
In the meantime, James Harden should be wasting no time in preparing for next season. He has plenty of reason to better himself, and should be nowhere near lacking in the motivation to do so.
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