With five wins and only two losses, the Rockets have the best preseason record in the Southwest Conference. The preseason is a chance to test rookies and make revisions to rosters—it is not an accurate reflection of the regular season. Even the lowly Toronto Raptors compiled an impressive six and one record this preseason.
However, there is much going on during this preseason that should continue with the match against the Pistons this Wednesday.
Kevin Martin performed well, but his exit out of Houston shouldn't surprise many. However, the inclusion of Jeremy Lamb and several draft picks in the trade for Harden had a few Rocket fans wondering if the price was too high. Lazar Hayward, who was included in the Harden deal has already been cut. But then, adding an Olympian to your roster shouldn't be considered a negative.
Gary Forbes, Jon Brockman, Jajuan Johnson and Shaun Livingston have also been dropped, trimming the Rockets roster to 15. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Livingston. After coming off an injury last year, many were expecting him to back up Jeremy Lin. He is talented, and shouldn't have a problem finding a new home.
The preseason overall was a positive one for the Rockets. Starters Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson performed as many expected, putting up solid contributions with preseason minutes.
However, it was the performance of the rookies that elevated the team to the 5-2 preseason record.
Lamb had a great summer league, and followed it up with a great preseason opener, ironically against OKC, the team he was later traded to, where he scored 12 points and eight rebounds on 24 minutes of play. The same game where Terrence Jones scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds. Jones' effort was later rewarded with three preseason starts.
While we got to see a glimpse of what is to come from many of the Rockets starters, we didn't get to see much of Royce White. He had very few minutes, and all of them came in the latter half of the preseason. As a result, we didn't see the point forward many were hoping for. His best game had him scoring seven points and three rebounds against the Mavericks. He'll have to impress coach Kevin McHale if he wants to see more playing time. Unfortunately, minutes at the PF position is scarce this year with Patterson, Marcus Morris and White all vying for time.
McHale was cautious in playing Donatas Motiejunas too much this preseason, but each time he was on the court, he was impressive. It looked like he was comfortable on the court; several times posting double digit points, even having a game against the Spurs where he scored 16 points and eight rebounds. I fully expect Motiejunas to be a solid backup center to Omer Asik.
Asik has been the jewel to the Rockets preseason. He's displayed everything fans and coaches expected of him since signing from Chicago. In seven preseason games, and with only preseason minutes, he was able to average close to 12 rebounds a game. His offense is where many expect it to be, but there is no doubt that those numbers will only get better as the season starts.
If Lin had a better scoring preseason, many Rocket fans would be feeling more comfortable right now. Despite his highest scoring game being only 13 points, I don't think we should be panicking just yet. With the surgery that he had, it's his shooting that I expected to return last. Being away from the game that long, it takes some time for the touch to come back. During his last preseason game against Orlando he drained three 3-pointers in a row after missing his first. Hopefully a sign of recovery.
Lin has admitted that his knee is not 100 percent, and he's still recovering. However, his ability to help his teammates did not diminish. During a game against Memphis, Lin had 12 assists.
Many focused on Lin's decline in points during the preseason, but overlooked his improvements in turnovers. He averaged only 2.5 turnovers, a marked improvement from his time with the Knicks. Lin will have to improve if he wants to avoid continued criticism.
The Rockets had a great preseason, not so much because of their record, but because Houston was able to see the results of their drafts and trades. The positive atmosphere that existed before the preseason, is still there now that the season is about to start. The Rockets will be an exciting team to watch this season, and with the addition of James Harden, a potential playoff team.
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