As most of us NBA fans know, the Houston Rockets were touted as the "dark horse" team for the Western Conference with Yao Ming coming back and Kevin Martin healthy and in Houston for the full year.
Unfortunately for Rockets fans... That hasn't exactly happened. After a dismal 0-5 start Houston has improved to 8-13 this year and are only going to get better when Yao (sigh) once again returns from an injury and star point guard Aaron Brooks returns after being injured the fifth game of the season.
Here are Houston's recent stats:
Now on to the 10 ways Houston can rebound from the rough liftoff.
It's a simple one. But the Rockets have been one of, if not the, most injury plagued team in these past few seasons with stars like Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming being sidelined with season-ending and playoff-ending injuries.
This injury bug has continued to follow Houston as proven by Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming, Brad Miller, Chase Budinger, Kyle Lowry and the list just goes on and on.
If Houston can avoid all these injuries, things will start getting on the right path. But if not, it's going to be another tough season for Rockets fans, unfortunately.
OK, in the first few games of the season Houston was absolutely awful at defense. They were at or close to the bottom of the league in it. "Offense sells tickets; Defense wins championships" - Dave Thorson.
I'll admit they have gotten better the past couple games and that's comforting, but defense is all about effort and if you're not a good defensive team you have to wonder if your guys are even trying to stop the other team from scoring. Shane Battier can't do it by himself.
It's OK for a team to have one or two guys who can't play defense. Take L.A. for example. Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher are bad defenders, but the rest of the team's effort and talent picks up the slack those guys have.
The Rockets have had trouble finishing games. They have had a chance to win almost every game, but they have blown their chance to win it.
Take the Bulls game for example, all they had to do was make three of four free throws on their next two trips to the line and that's game. What happened? They hit two in the winding seconds and Derrick Rose nailed a three point buzzer beater to send it into overtime in which the Bulls won by three.
Obviously, getting the two main closers in Brooks and Ming back will be very helpful. There is still no excuse for blowing this many games. They need to identify a go-to player in the fourth quarter.
I don't think they are using Martin enough. He is a top 15 scorer in the league and is not getting his chances to prove himself late in the game.
The Rockets need a two-way player. Andre Iguodala fits the bill and comes at a much cheaper price than a "super-star" player.
My guess is it would take Jordan Hill/Patrick Patterson + Jarred Jeffries + 1st round draft pick to acquire Iguodala. Of course, you might be hesitant to take him on because of his contract, but it's worth it.
Iggy would fit right in to the offensive system that Rick Adleman runs full of slashes and screens. He would also be perfect if Adleman ever wanted to run a defensive set.
Not too shabby on the defensive end if you ever felt the need to go that way. That group might have trouble scoring, but with Yao, Iggy and Lee they should be able to manage.
Pretty snazzy, huh? OK, I'm kinda superstitious. But hey it's worth a try right? I don't think they have worn them all year, or at least I haven't seen them. I haven't caught all the games, maybe I missed it.
But who knows, maybe the team will start playing hot knowing they look so good in those retro-style jerseys.
The Rockets have lost to three teams they should have beaten—the Warriors, Raptors and Wizards. You add in those wins and subtract those losses and the Rockets are a game above .500 and the eighth seed in the playoffs.
They blew it against those lesser teams. If I recall, they had a pretty significant lead against the Wizards, but they let John Wall score a bunch of points and blow it. The Raptors were decent at best with Chris Bosh... But without him? That's a team the Rockets should handle with ease.
I may be alone on this, but to me, it looks like the Rockets just don't play with the same kind of energy and heart they played with last year.
Maybe they don't feel they need to play as hard because they know they will get Yao back or maybe they just straight up don't want to.
But that fire the Rockets play(ed) with defines this team and if they want to make a serious playoff push they need to get that fire back. Elite teams give you their best every night and if you don't do the same you'll find a quick exit in the first round or maybe not even a playoff berth.
I've been having a very hard time deciding whether I want the team to trade Brooks or not. At the exact moment I'm writing this, I feel a need to keep him. On a Rockets.com podcast they discussed the luxury of having Lowry as the backup and how well he works with them. It made me realize how well the system of Lowry and Brooks is.
They mentioned how Brooks and Lowry will likely be playing on the floor at the same time a lot and how Houston was most effective when both of them were on the floor. This made me think of how lucky we are to have a scorer like Brooks at the guard spot.
So as of right now, do not trade Brooks. A trade has been rumored, but is highly unlikely at this point.
The young guns have really given Houston a lift off the bench this year.
Courtney Lee, Jordan Hill and Jermaine Taylor and for this moment I guess we can call Brad Miller young...
Lee is a guy who has shot outstanding from three point range this season at 49 percent. While I doubt this can keep up it still is an outstanding number and his efforts at the defensive end just make it all the better.
Hill brings so much energy to each game both offensively and defensively. He is showing the Knicks why they should have kept him as he is averaging six points, four rebounds and almost a block a game in not even 20 minutes per game.
Taylor has started getting more minutes as of late, and the kid can score. He can create his own shot off the dribble, one of the few Rockets who can do that. In the six games he has played this season, he is averaging 4.5 points in only nine minutes of playing time.
Miller is the glue guy off the bench. He keeps all the young guns from getting out of control and moving too fast, he makes pin point passes resulting in easy buckets for Rocket players.
With the NBA taking over the New Orleans Hornets, Chris Paul might be thinking about making an exit. This opens a window of opportunity for the Rockets. The Hornets will be looking for young players with upside, expiring contracts and draft picks. Surprisingly, Houston has a surplus of all three.
Daryl Morey just needs to keep his eyes and ears open for any star player being made available and being the first guy to call the team.
If Morey can get Donnie Walsh to throw in Jordan Hill and two draft picks for Tracy McGrady he can do anything.
"In Morey we trust."
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