2. Perkins’ newfound love for small-ball
Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments the Houston Rockets have made this season is getting Kendrick Perkins to believe in them all of a sudden. Perk had been very outspoken about why the Rockets needed to fire Mike D’Antoni and had been very vocal about why Daryl Morey’s system wasn’t going to work for the Rockets.
These were valid frustrations, as the Rockets simply weren’t clicking, in spite of having two top-10 scorers on the roster. Perkins has done a complete 360, and is now a believer in the Rockets’ small-ball strategy, which he spoke about to Stoerner and Smith.
“I’ve been very critical of Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey for the small ball when they had a center, but I’m telling you I’m becoming a fan of this. Since they traded Capela, [I’ve been] watching what they’re doing, and I’m a fan of this. This is dangerous. What they’re doing right now is they’re saying ‘stop James Harden’, who is the best [isolation] scorer in the league, and ‘we’re going to space the floor, surround him with shooters and have another former MVP in his prime out there.’
I love what the Rockets are doing because they’re saying ‘we believe in this, we’re going all in, and try and stop these two killers we’ve got over here. These fashion kings over here.'”
Perkins is right, as any tandem of Harden and Westbrook is certainly dangerous. We all know James Harden can’t be stopped one-on-one, as he’s on pace to lead the league in scoring for his third consecutive season, despite many saying he’s having a bad season (which is erroneous).
But for as dominant of a season Harden is having yet again, the Rockets as a team have something even more dominant: an equal to Harden’s greatness. This is simply something they’ve not had in the past, which has made it easier to neutralize the Rockets in the postseason.
Teams have adopted the strategy of letting Harden get his share of points, as long as the players around him don’t get hot also. The addition of Russell Westbrook prevents that strategy from being successful, as Russ is averaging 27 points per game, with ease.
Perkins mentioned the spacing the Rockets have created with their lineup of 3-point snipers, which has benefitted Westbrook obviously, by allowing him to roam the paint. It’s also benefitted Harden by allowing him to pass out of double teams to hit the open shooters. Perkins has suddenly gone from one of the Rockets’ biggest skeptics to one of their biggest fans, which shows how they’ve already won many fans over.
Next: Rockets best in the West?