Preseason game results don't necessarily manner, but starting off the season with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans certainly wasn't what head coach Kevin McHale had in mind. Houston was able to bounce back in a win over the Indiana Pacers, however.
With two games already under their belts, the Rockets players will slowly begin to develop chemistry with each other. After bringing in some new faces over the offseason, general manager Daryl Morey needs to give his guys at least a few weeks to adjust.
The Rockets have a great shot at locking up a top-four seed in the Western Conference come season's end if all goes well. Now that the first steps in the journey have been taken, it's only a matter of time before we start getting into the thick of the season.
Omri Casspi is certainly an early-season winner, as he has produced extremely well in the preseason's first two games.
He scored 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting against the Pelicans, and then scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting against the Pacers. For a player battling for time off the bench, that type of production goes a long way.
Sure, the numbers are inflated due to the fact that he has played 21 minutes in each game. During the regular season, the only way he gets that kind of time is if someone suffers an injury. Knowing that Casspi can produce when called upon, though, should give Kevin McHale some trust in his new reserve.
Casspi will be fighting with Francisco Garcia for playing time behind Chandler Parsons, but Garcia may also see time at shooting guard.
By the time the regular season rolls around, Casspi should be in line for 12 to 15 minutes per night—but not a minute more. That's just enough time for him to leave his mark on the game.
Omer Asik has yet to see the floor this preseason, but he should be considered a loser because of the ESPN report that surfaced on Oct. 9.
Brian Windhorst reported that the Rockets may not be done making trades and cited Asik as a candidate to be moved. Asik is definitely a valuable trade chip and could fetch a nice return if Daryl Morey can find the right trade partner.
Asik could prove to be a winner after being traded to a team that will allow him to start at center, but he'd be a loser initially. Missing out on playing on a young team with untapped potential because of his desire for more minutes seems both selfish and foolish. He would be a nice asset off the bench in Houston given his defensive presence, and he would have the opportunity to win a championship a few years down the line.
Asik is a free agent in two years, so maybe Morey will look to get something for him before he almost assuredly jets. Unless he's willing to accept a reserve role at that point, he won't be back.
Greg Smith hasn't been talked about all that much in Houston these days, and he hasn't even played in the team's first two preseason contests.
He's arguably the team's biggest winner, though, as he may have just found himself some playing time. After acquiring Dwight Howard and Marcus Camby, Smith's minutes at center were sure to decrease. As soon as Omer Asik was thrust into a reserve role, it was clear that Smith would be the odd man out.
With the rumors surrounding Asik regarding a potential trade and now Camby's torn plantar fascia, Smith has run into some unexpected playing time. Camby's injury will keep him out for a while—at least for a few weeks of the regular season—so Smith will be given every opportunity to produce.
Smith had previously seen time at power forward, but the great debate between Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones continues to rage on. Smith won't see significant minutes there.
Regardless, Smith's early-season outlook has changed given some favorable circumstances.
Marcus Camby is the Rockets' biggest loser this preseason. With a torn plantar fascia at 39 years old, there's a good chance that his NBA career is effectively over.
Camby will miss a decent amount of time early in the season, but even when he does return, he wouldn't have had the time to work himself into the rotation. Plus, the sporadic playing time that he will receive won't do anything to aid the career of the 17-year veteran.
Calling it quits at the end of the season seems like a realistic possibility, but I wouldn't be surprised if he retired by NBA's All-Star Weekend.
A guy like Camby has nothing left to play for on a personal level. He's had a great NBA career full of accomplishments. Sure, adding an NBA title with the Rockets to his resume would be nice, but the chances of them doing so this season are still pretty slim.
Terrence Jones earned the start against the Pacers after Donatas Motiejunas played poorly in the first game against New Orleans.
Against the Pelicans, Jones scored 13 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Starting against Indiana, Jones took just four shots and dropped five points. He did, however, pull down seven boards—three of which were offensive.
Kevin McHale would love to have a clear-cut starter by the end of the preseason, but to to be perfectly honest, this is a battle we could see move into the regular season. Motiejunas and Jones keep trading punches. Aside from Jones' big production in the Orlando Summer League, there really hasn't been a defining moment for either player.
Jones should be considered a winner early on because of his ability to play well off the bench and his ability to play tough in a starting role. His line against the Pacers wasn't the prettiest, but it's a similar line to what we'd see in a starting role for him during the regular season.
Donatas Motiejunas earned the start against the Pelicans, but he scored just four points on 0-of-3 shooting. That gave Terrence Jones what he needed to start against the Pacers.
Ironically, Motiejunas was able to score 16 points off the bench in that one. Still, Motiejunas hasn't played all that well. He has just nine total rebounds in 45 minutes played, whereas Jones has 12 in 51 minutes. It's not much of a difference, but Jones' ability to play above the rim makes him a more explosive option.
Preseason rotations constantly shuffle and change, so Motiejunas should find a few more starts before the regular season begins. He'll need to perform well if he wants to start at power forward for the games that matter.
Kevin McHale has two semi-viable options at power forward, and it's just a matter of choosing one by the time the regular season starts. If nothing else, he'll have the luxury of riding the hot hand.