Houston Rockets' Hottest and Coldest Players Heading into the All-Star Break

Matt DagostinoContributor IFebruary 12, 2013

Houston Rockets' Hottest and Coldest Players Heading into the All-Star Break

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    After Sunday's road loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Houston Rockets have lost two of their last three games. Two more road games against Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers are all that stands between the Rockets and hosting duties for the All-Star weekend.

    While the Rockets are not riding either a big winning streak or losing streak heading into the break, individual players on the team are running hot and cold.

    Whose numbers are worthy of praise and whose make Rockets fans yearn for a much-needed break over the All-Star weekend?

Cold: Greg Smith

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    Sunday was a disappointing day for Houston Rockets backup center Greg Smith.

    The Houston Chronicle reported Smith was sent down to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets' NBA D-League affiliate.

    Coach Kevin McHale sent Smith down to "recharge his batteries" while the All-Star break unfolds. McHale thinks Smith needs to raise his energy back to levels he was sustaining earlier in the season.

    "He was doing stuff that was odd for Greg," McHale said. "He was one-handing rebounds, wasn’t sprinting the court. I said, ‘Greg, those are things that are not you. You have to go up with two hands. You’re activity level has to pick up.’ That’s one reason I sent him down. I talked to him about it every day for a week as far as energy level. It seems right now it may be a good chance to go down there. We always use our D-League with our young guys. He seemed like a perfect candidate to go there and hopefully get the battery re-charged.”

    In his last seven games, Smith has averaged only 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds. He has not scored in double figures since Jan. 19. He is a far cry away from his excellent month of December in which he averaged 7.6 points and 4.4 rebounds, including two games of 20 or more points.

    The Rockets are hoping a brief D-League stint will keep Smith fresh and rejuvenate him for the stretch run.

Cold: Carlos Delfino

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    Carlos Delfino has slowed down as of late, mostly due to injury.

    Delfino battled an elbow injury that cost him almost three entire games.

    In the month of February, Delfino has totaled just 20 points. In mid-to-late January, Delfino had a stretch of seven straight games (and nine of 10 games) of double-digit scoring.

    Delfino's slow start to the month should be resolved as his elbow gets healthier and he gets back into a rhythm.

Cold: Marcus Morris

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    Marcus Morris seems to be in an ebb and flow situation with Patrick Patterson throughout the 2012-13 season. When one is excelling, the other is struggling. It has been rare where both of them having been playing well at the same time.

    Well, right now, Patterson is flowing and Morris is cooling off.

    Morris has seen his numbers shrink over each of the last three months.

    In December while Patterson was out with a foot injury, Morris was playing the best ball of his NBA career—averaging 9.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in just under 25 minutes per game. He also shot 46 percent from the field.

    With Patterson back in the fold full-time in January, Morris' scoring dipped to 7.5 points in just 19.6 minutes a game. His shooting percentage dropped to 37 percent.

    In the first half of February, Patterson is back into starting power forward form and Morris has fallen into the background again. His minutes (15.8 per game) have dwindled even more and so have his scoring (5.8 per game) and rebounding (2.4 per game).

    If Houston is able to get both power forwards clicking at the same time, they could form a very formidable duo.

Hot: Patrick Patterson

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    As noted in the previous slide, Patrick Patterson is rounding back into form heading into the All-Star break.

    Following a seven-game absence in December with a foot injury, Patterson was slow to get back in the swing of things. He scored in double figures just three times in a 14-game stretch from late December to mid-January. The low point came when Patterson went scoreless in eight minutes of action against the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 21.

    Since then, Houston has played 10 games.

    Patterson has scored in double figures in nine of those, including all five in February. He's averaging 17 points and nearly six rebounds and shooting nearly 60 percent this month.

    The Rockets don't need Patterson (or even Marcus Morris) to carry them. They have James Harden to do that. If he can contribute the way he has in February, that is plenty of production to blend in with the rest of the starting group.

Hot: Omer Asik

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    Omer Asik continues to surprise as one of the more steady centers in the league approaching the All-Star break.

    He is kicking into high gear as of late, too.

    For the season, Asik is averaging 10.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. But this month, he is averaging 14.2 points and 13.8 rebounds.

    He currently is riding a streak of eight straight games of 12 or more rebounds and he has totaled seven blocks in his last two games.

    With his salary at just $5 million this season, Asik remains one of the best values in the NBA right now.

Hot: James Harden

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    Has there a point this season in which James Harden has NOT been hot?

    Not really.

    But, considering the standards he has set for himself since becoming The Man for the Houston Rockets, Harden had begun to fall short of those expectations for a stretch at the end of January going into February.

    Back in December, Harden began a stretch of 14 straight games of 25 or more points, breaking Moses Malone's franchise record of 13 straight.

    In the 14 games after that streak, Harden reached 25 points just five times.

    Harden has picked up his overall game this month, though. He has totaled 101 points in his last three games against Miami, Portland and Sacramento. For the month, he is averaging 28 points per game.

    But, he hasn't stopped there. He has averaged 7.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists in February, too, including his first career triple-double (21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) on Feb. 2 against Charlotte and a career-high 12 rebounds against the Heat on Feb. 6.

    Just when you think Harden is done surprising people, he adds a new wrinkle to his ever-evolving game.

Hot: Jeremy Lin

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    The entire NBA world has Jeremy Lin under a microscope at all times this season, making it nearly impossible for anything shy of 25 points and 10 assists to be acceptable.

    But those looking at Lin through the microscope as of late have to like what they are seeing.

    Lin is having his best statistical month of the season in February.

    With season averages of 12.5 points and 6.1 assists per game, his 6.0 assists per game in February are status quo. But his scoring is up to 15.6 points per game, thanks to a 28-point effort against Golden State (his second-best scoring output of the season).

    More importantly, though, is what Lin has been able to accomplish with his peripheral stats.

    Lin is often criticized for his shot selection, his inefficiency and his turnover rate.

    Well, Lin has seen all of those numbers take a turn for the better through five February games heading into the All-Star break.

    His 51.9 percent shooting from the field? The best monthly total of the season for him. He also is 9-for-16 from beyond the arc so far this month. He has also lowered his turnover average to 2.2 per game, also his best monthly rate of the season.

    Things are trending in the right direction for Lin as the league's best make their way for Houston this weekend for All-Star weekend.