The Houston Rockets played their first preseason game last night against the Memphis Grizzlies in Birmingham, Alabama.
The offseason for the Rockets officially ended last night as the Rockets were back on the court for the first time since the 2018 Western Conference Finals. After beating up on each other during training camp and in scrimmages, Houston looked relieved to go up against an actual opponent.
Most of the Rockets main rotation players got a healthy amount of playing time, including the newest acquisitions of James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony. Some of the players showed a little rust, but the Rockets gave us a glimpse of just how dominant they can be, especially offensively.
Here are five observations from the Rockets 131-115 win over the Grizzlies.
Next: No. 5
5. Chris Paul looks healthy and ready to go.
Right off the bat in yesterday’s game, Rockets fans were able to see that Chris Paul is just fine from last year’s hamstring injury that ended his playoff run. Chris Paul had brief moments last night in which he looked like it was the Western Conference Finals all over again.
Paul hit a few contested three pointers, toyed with Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson Jr, and even made a crazy pass that went through the legs of a Memphis defender and set up a 3-point basket for Carmelo Anthony.
Paul didn’t lack any passion either as he received a technical in the first half of the game for being upset with the officiating.
Chris Paul looks like he is ready to start the playoffs today, of course they are about 6 months away, so hopefully Paul can stay healthy and be able to play at this level come April and May.
Paul knows how he can help the Rockets, and what he has to do to make sure they succeed. Barring injury, it looks like Paul will be back playing at an All Star level this season.
Next: No. 4
4. Carmelo Anthony looks comfortable and happy playing with the Rockets
Carmelo Anthony made his Rockets debut last night and he was solid as he finished with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.
Carmelo Anthony looked to be in rhythm when he shot the ball, never hesitated, and even had a funny moment. After drilling a long 2-point field goal, he looked at the Rockets bench with a smile and apologized for taking a long 2-pointer instead of a 3-pointer.
On the defensive side of the ball, Anthony was solid when he was matched up against Marc Gasol. He did a good job at getting the defensive rebounds, but did struggle a little when guarding players around the perimeter.
Overall, Carmelo Anthony was solid in his Rockets debut, and looks like he will be a much better fit with the Rockets than he was in Oklahoma City.
Next: No. 3
3. James Ennis looked like he can fit the Trevor Ariza role
James Ennis was another Rocket who made his debut last night. Ennis finished with 8 points on 60 percent shooting from the field but his biggest strength last night was in transition.
James Ennis excelled in transition off of turnovers and long rebounds. James Ennis did a good job finishing at the basket, and even showed some touch when he was on the receiving end of an alley-oop from James Harden.
Ennis struggled a bit to stay on the floor and was in foul trouble for most of the night, but showed that he can fill that role that Ariza has left in flashes.
Going forward in the preseason, something to watch will be how efficient Ennis can be shooting the three because outside of that, Ennis can do everything that Ariza did for the Rockets last season.
Next: No. 2
2. Eric Gordon is ready for another great season
Eric Gordon looked faster and slimmer last night.
Gordon’s 3-point shot was falling, and he was able to be effective when driving into the lane. Gordon was able to draw a few fouls and overall finished with 13 points on 60 percent shooting from the field.
Regardless if the Rockets decide to have him keep his role as the 6th man or if they choose to insert him into the starting lineup, Gordon will be successful for the Rockets this season.
All of the returning veterans from last season for Houston looked sharp, and that is great news for Houston.
All offseason long the Rockets have talked about how motivated they are to come out strong and finish what they could not last year, and from how they came into last night, it looks like they are ready to let their actions speak louder than their words.
Next: No. 1
1. Marquese Chriss and Michael Carter-Williams are players to watch throughout the preseason
Marquese Chriss struggled early in the game last night. Chriss had a few turnovers in the first half and allowed a few easy layups for the Grizzlies, but he was able to settle down as the game went on.
As the preseason continues, Chriss will need to prove that he can be more reliable as Capela’s backup. The Rockets will benefit tremendously if he can defend at a high level and then catch lobs and run the pick and roll effectively on offense.
As for Michael Carter-Williams, he was a good bright spot for the Rockets. Williams was strong at attacking the basket, especially in transition, where he was able to draw some fouls and shoot free throws.
It was interesting to see the Rockets utilize him as more of a wing rather than a guard, if he can consistently play like he did yesterday then he will find himself playing important minutes for the Rockets during the season.