Charles Barkley on Houston Rockets’ playstyle: ‘That’s not a strategy.’

Charles Barkley (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images for The Match)
Charles Barkley (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images for The Match) /

Charles Barkley is never shy about making his opinion known, with his latest comments appearing to criticize the Houston Rockets’ approach to basketball.

Out of every team in the league, the Houston Rockets are probably the most unique. Their latest approach to the game, heavily influenced by analytics, saw nobody above 6-foot-8 in the team’s regular rotation, emphasizing shooting and quickness over everything.

While the brainchild of Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni saw some success in spurts, the Rockets ultimately flamed out in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers, who were able to adapt their strategy based on their more diverse roster.

Playing mid-sized guys alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were able to out-small-ball the small-ball experts, and they did it relatively easily. Meanwhile, the Rockets went down firing, continuing to rely on the outside shot to make up for the points they gave up on the other end.

The “live by the three, die by the three” mantra has resulted in dying more often than not for the Rockets when it matters most, and Charles Barkley has taken notice. On an episode of the podcast, If You Don’t Like That, hosted by former Kings announcer Grant Napear, the two discussed the state of the modern NBA.

“I want the game to just be played,” said Barkley. “This notion of if you make threes you win the game and if you miss threes you lose the game. I’m like, hold on a second. That’s your coaching strategy?”

Barkley didn’t specifically mention any teams initially, but Napear was quick to pitch in his guess. “That’s the Houston Rockets,” said Napear.

“Yeah,” said Barkley. “I’m like, that’s your strategy? That’s not a strategy.”

The Reliance of the Houston Rockets on the three

It’s no secret that the Rockets have been the biggest fans of the longball for a long time now. Since the 2013-14 season, Houston has led the league in 3-point attempts every year besides once, when they were second to the Golden State Warriors. That’s six first-place finishes in the last seven seasons.

The one-dimensional nature of Houston’s offense has led to multiple disappointing playoff exits, including this season, which narrowly saw them fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder in round one. Against the Lakers, the Rockets didn’t have a chance once the eventual NBA champions made some adjustments.

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“Go back to the Lakers series against the Rockets,” continued Barkley. “A.D. and LeBron just pummelled them in the post. The notion that we can’t have a guy who can get some baskets in the post. If you want to shoot threes every now and then, that just helps the defense out.”

While Barkley’s words might be a little tough, I can’t say I disagree with his sentiment. I’ve been advocating for more variety in the Rockets’ offense since I began writing for Space City Scoop, with suggestions that have included getting James Harden in the post more often and mixing in more mid-range looks overall as a team.

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Perhaps when a new coach is finally hired, that can be what propels the Rockets to make some tweaks to their predictable playbook and start to add some variance to their strategies once and for all. Whatever they’ve been doing for the last few seasons is not cutting it.