While fans of the Houston Rockets know ESPN seems to criticize the team often, it’s hard to argue with some arguments made on a recent episode of The Jump.
Space City Scoop has covered the often negative attitude ESPN seems to have for the Houston Rockets at length throughout our time covering the team. From Jay Williams recently trying to make up a story that there was friction between James Harden and Russell Westbrook to them predicting the team will have the most turmoil this season, there has been a lot to cover.
Criticisms of the team continued Thursday on ESPN’s The Jump, as Richard Jefferson and former Rocket Tracy McGrady took to the airwaves to discuss their lack of faith in the Houston Rockets. “I never had faith in the Rockets,” said Jefferson. “Ultimately, they’ve always fallen short. There’s always been a lack of defense, always been a little too much one-on-one in the postseason. They’ve just fallen short too many times for me to think I [should] believe in the Rockets.”
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It’s hard to argue with any of those points when looking back at recent postseason history for the Rockets as well as recent trends. Houston is currently 23rd in the NBA in opponent points per game and has a defensive rating that’s right in the middle of the pack at 15th.
The lack of effort and commitment on the defensive end this week certainly has been an unpleasant surprise (especially since I was confident in picking Houston to win against both Portland and Memphis.)
While Richard Jefferson stated he believes the Rockets can make the second round again this postseason, he assured The Jump’s host, Rachel Nichols, that the team hasn’t been playing championship-caliber defense for the last few years and still isn’t. “Even though with the Chris Paul injury they were one game away, they still were playing a brand of basketball that isn’t conducive with high-level winning.”
This is where I start to disagree a bit with Richard. In the 2017-18 season, Houston’s defensive rating was sixth-best in the league while their offense was number one. That’s usually enough to get it done, as evidenced by the Rockets’ 65-win first-place finish that season. Still, Houston, as constructed, has some glaring needs on the defensive end of the floor that are preventing them from becoming an elite team.
“This is a team that has championship potential”, chimed in McGrady. “They should be competing for a championship. But because I don’t think they are sound defenders and not consistent at playing defense, they will always fall short.”
While the words are harsh, the Rockets’ play as of late hasn’t exactly been encouraging on the defensive end of the floor. Let’s hope that some coaching adjustments, help through the NBA market or more inspired team play begins to finally push Houston to the elite level they’re capable of playing at, or ESPN might just have even more ammo next season.