5 Holiday Wishes for the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have had their ups and downs this year, so as the holiday season commences, the Rockets have a wish list to get back on track.
The injury bug has been a big issue, and some players need to get back healthy and fast. General manager Daryl Morey needs to pull the trigger on a deal with Omer Asik so the Rockets can move on with their new teammates. Also, is it too much to ask for the threes to start falling?
With a difficult schedule throughout December, the Rockets could use some holiday fortune. So get out your hot cocoa and Christmas sweaters, because here are five big needs on Houston's holiday wish list.
Just when Greg Smith came back from that sprained knee, nearly half the team went down with other injuries. Earlier in the week, five different Rockets missed practice with some sort of health issue.
Perhaps most importantly, Harden rolled his left ankle in the Rockets game against Sacramento. He tried to tape it up and come back in, but it didn't work out too well and he had to shut it down.
Harden will sit out practice but doesn't plan on missing any game time. The same cannot be said about some of his injured teammates.
Jeremy Lin, who missed the game against the Kings, will probably miss some more time with back spasms, just after he returned from a knee contusion. Lin has struggled to stay healthy all season long, which is a shame because he was playing well off the bench for Houston.
Chandler Parsons has also been suffering with back spasms. He missed a couple of games earlier this month, and he continues to struggle with his lingering back issue. Without Parsons in the lineup this year, the Rockets are 0-2 in games against Utah and Phoenix. Parsons is crucial to the Rockets because he helps space the floor and create an offensive flow.
Terrence Jones missed practice as well, with flu-like symptoms. He should be ready to go for the Rockets without missing any time.
Lastly, Omer Asik has been out for some time with what's listed as a right thigh contusion. Asik has only suited up once in all of December, which may be because of trade purposes. Morey is shopping an unhappy Asik around the league, and he may be sitting out to avoid greater injury so he can be shipped off in an inevitable trade.
Amidst all of these injuries, the good news is that coach Kevin McHale is now back after missing three games due to his mother's death.
Trade Omer Asik Already
As soon as the Rockets signed Dwight Howard in the offseason, Omer Asik requested a trade. The disgruntled Turkish big man doesn't want to return to his days on the bench, like he did on the Chicago Bulls behind Joakim Noah.
Trade rumors have swirled around the locker room throughout the entire season. GM Daryl Morey told team offices league-wide that he intends to trade Asik between December 15 and 19, December 15 being the first day teams can trade newly signed free agents and December 19 being the last day teams can make a trade and re-package any acquisitions before the February 20 trade deadline.
A deal is imminent, with a number of teams in the mix to get Asik. Morey's asking price has been too high perhaps these past few weeks, but deals with the Celtics and Sixers or some possible combination of a three-team deal are heating up.
The Rockets definitely want an impact power forward or a first-round pick in next year's loaded class. However, the most important thing for Houston right now is to get rid of Asik and right the ship.
Once a deal is made and Asik is gone, the Rockets can move on and start focusing on basketball once again. Personally, I wanted Asik to stay and back up Dwight for constant rim protection and a formidable replacement should Howard get hurt, but he has become a locker room cancer and therefore needs to go.
Whoever replaces Asik, whether they have an impact or not, at least Asik's grim presence will be a thing of the past, and the current team in place will be able to focus on winning once again.
Start Making 3's
Even though there isn't much snowfall in Houston, hopefully it will start to rain threes this holiday season.
The Rockets lead the league in three-pointers attempted per game, but they are in the bottom half of three-point percentage at 35.7 percent. Some of their best shooters have been struggling all season long.
James Harden is shooting a career-low 31.2 percent from deep. Francisco Garcia, the three-point specialist, has been off throughout the season, only connecting on 34.6 percent of his tries beyond the arc. Aaron Brooks is the only player shooting above 40 percent, but he is the third-string point guard who has only seen time due to injuries in the backcourt.
Three pointers are a significant part of the Rockets' fast-paced offense. Whether the shots are falling or not, Houston will launch nearly 30 threes a night. This holiday season, let's hope the team can get back on track and the shooters start heating up despite the cool weather.
Some Statement Wins
It's a rocky road to the end of December. Between December 12-29, the Rockets have 11 games, seven of which will appear on national television. That goes to show you how difficult the schedule will be.
The first two games were against Portland and Golden State, in which the Rockets split those two on the road. Other games include Chicago, Indiana, San Antonio, Memphis and Oklahoma City, and those don't include other tough games on local TV, like Detroit and Dallas.
The Rockets will be able to gauge themselves with the rest of the league during this final stretch of 2013 before a lighter part of the schedule in early January.
My wish for the Rockets is to earn a couple of statement wins in these final weeks of December to gain some confidence and show the league that they can contend. They have ample opportunities against teams with top records and division foes, but the question is, can they compete with some of the NBA's best?
Bring Effort Every Night
Despite some big wins this year, the Rockets also have some inexcusable losses. Defeats to teams like Utah, Sacramento and Philadelphia are keeping this team from reaching contention level.
Sometimes, everything is clicking for Houston. Their threes are falling, they get some big alley-oops and the energy on both ends of the floor is high for the rest of the game. Some nights, however, it is a completely different story. If the shots don't fall, the Rockets are noticeably lackadaisical in their effort, especially against inferior teams.
If Houston could give 100 percent every night, the Rockets' record would be much better than it already is. I don't expect them to be perfect every game. There's a reason teams never go 82-0. There will always be some bad nights, but the effort should be there no matter what.
It doesn't matter if they are at home or on the road, playing against the Miami Heat or Milwaukee Bucks. McHale has to inspire his team to bring their best each night, and they will be a much better team for it.