COMMENTARY | The Houston Rockets are in the process of turning the corner.
The Rockets have won three games in a row, six out of their last eight, and nine out of their last 12. Their only losses since January 12 have come to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies (twice).
From top to bottom, Houston has been plagued by short-term injuries all season long. The Rockets entered the regular season healthy, but Patrick Beverley quickly found himself on the shelf, missing the team's second, third and fourth games.
Shortly thereafter, it was James Harden missing four out of eight games with a bum ankle. Then, it was Jeremy Lin missing 10 out of 12 games with a knee injury and back spasms. After Lin finally returned, Beverley once again hit the shelf, this time with a broken hand.
Beverley came back after 14 games, but returned to a team that was minus Terrence Jones for a couple of games. When Jones returned to the starting lineup, Harden missed a pair of games (both wins).
Finally, on February 1, Harden returned to a healthy core of Dwight Howard (who hasn't missed a game all year), Parsons (who has missed five games), Beverley, Lin, Jones and Donatas Motiejunas.
Yes, Omer Asik and Francisco Garcia are both out indefinitely (with Garcia's injury definitely legitimate and Asik's injury legitimately questionable), and Greg Smith has been battling a knee injury for most of the year (he's appeared in only 11 contests after playing 70 games last season).
However, as it stands right now, the young, talented core of the Rockets is at full strength, which is a great sign for the boys in red.
The core of Harden, Howard, Lin, Parsons, Jones and Beverley have only been in uniform together 12 times this season, and just four times since November 21.
Depth is a legitimate concern for Houston, which has only Lin, Motiejunas and Omri Casspi coming off the bench and firmly in the rotation. But, as it stands right now, that eight-man rotation is good enough to win games, and if Rockets general manager Daryl Morey wants to make a move at the trade deadline (something he has shown the propensity to do), the focus should be on improving the team's depth (especially in the frontcourt).
There were whispers of Houston shopping Lin earlier in the season, and, personally, I was in favor of the move, citing Lin's chemistry issues with Harden, Houston's point-guard depth (Aaron Brooks is a solid backup point guard), and its need for help in the frontcourt as reasons to do so. However, since this team has had so much trouble staying consistent this season, the Rockets shouldn't trade the man who spawned "Linsanity" just two years ago.
On February 1, Lin led Houston to a convincing victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, posting a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Not only did Lin perform well, but Beverley (10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals) and Harden (28 points on 10-17 shooting, four assists) were also productive, and it's been a rare sight for all three guards to post solid numbers in the same game this season.
One game in the middle of an 82-game schedule doesn't mean all that much (especially when it's against a defensively inept team like the Cavs), but Houston's collective performance, especially from its backcourt, against the Cavaliers shows how high the ceiling is for this young squad.
Whether it's this summer or next summer, the Rockets are going to have to sign Parsons to a lucrative, long-term deal, so the luxury of having two starting-caliber point guards might not be possible in the coming years. With the San Antonio Spurs falling apart with injuries, Russell Westbrook's flaky knee, the Golden State Warriors' polarizing play, the Los Angeles Clippers looking beatable, and the Portland Trail Blazers unlikely (in my opinion) to contend with their lack of depth, the Western Conference is winnable for the Rockets this season.
Chemistry is not something you can forge, and for such a young and talented team like the Rockets, experience is all they need. Quietly, Houston has found a solution to its frontcourt problems with the emergence of Jones as a future All-Star at the 4 and the quiet but pleasant emergence of D-Mo as a third big man.
If Lin can keep his confidence up, Beverley can stay healthy, and Harden can continue to show the same kind of defensive intensity he has shown in the past month, the Rockets have a shot at taking the Western Conference -- an outside shot, but a shot nonetheless.
Morey is as creative as it gets when it comes to personnel decisions, and if he can pull off a deal for a guy like Kenneth Faried without moving anyone in the current rotation, the Rockets will be a tough out in the Western Conference.
After three days off, Houston squares off against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie who has followed the Rockets since he was a child. He created "The Daily Fix" on HoopsHabit.com, which is now a staple of the site.
- Sports & Recreation
- Houston Rockets
- Patrick Beverley
- Jeremy Lin
- James Harden
- Terrence Jones