Chance Westerman

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Rockets outlast Spurs in Texas two-step

With the way this 2018 season has started for the Rockets, it was no doubt in my mind that the Spurs would make a comeback late in the game on Saturday night. Missed 3’s, sloppy passes and suddenly this writer is pouring another glass of whiskey thinking, “Dear God, I have to write a story about these dude’s collapsing again? Great Christmas”. However, by the skin of their teeth, and much scoring from the MVP, the Rockets pulled away late to win 108-10.

Harden has had six straight games of at least 30 points while playing 40 plus minutes in 4 of those six games. To put this into perspective, Kobe had a run of 9 straight 30 point games in 2006-2007. Could you imagine the insanity if Harden does this for the next week or 2? Harden has completely carried this team even before the Chris Paul injury.

However, as much as we love watching the way Harden play this way, this isn’t a successful route to take playing a superstar. However, as of right now it’s working and even with the Austin Rivers signing, don’t expect James to take mins off for now. He will continue to play as much as D’Antoni and the team needs.

However, even with the win against the Spurs we must look at the entirety of the game and understand how it unfolded. This was a game that should have never come down to the last 2 minutes. This was a 14 point game to begin the 4th quarter and should have never gotten close, to begin with. In that aspect, some blame must be handed out for players who have not played well.

Eric Gordon continues to struggle from the 3 point line, and it doesn’t seem to this reporter that it is going to get better any sooner. Most will look and see the 4 3’s but taking 12 and 13 attempts the past two games has him looking desperately for his shot. Only shooting 30.2% from 3 this season is just unacceptable with the way Gordon played last season.

Gordon and this team collectively will have to continue to shoot even when cold, but at some point, these are going to have to go in for this team to stay afloat while Paul is nursing his hamstring injury.

With the addition of guard Austin Rivers on Sunday afternoon, GM Daryl Morey has no started to add NBA caliber pieces to this team. Moving forward look for Morey to use Brandon Knight or others plus draft picks to try and acquire key forwards and pieces. Look for the likes of Kent Bazemore and Caldwell Pope to be rumored to the Rockets within the next two weeks or so.

A win is a win, but this team’s killer instinct is not the same as last year. The way things are going this season, have some whiskey on hand and hope that they figure it out. If not, be prepared for headaches and yelling at the TV more often then not.

Harden Shines as Rockets Dominate Jazz

There’s a special place in basketball history for players who excel more every night and never stop improving. The Rockets defeated the Jazz last night 102-97 in a game that had techs, ghost foul calls and travels. (Yes, travels, Houston Twitter.) By the end of it all, the best player on this team, and maybe the second best in its franchise history, showed that he has become every bit the player we thought he would.

James Harden scored 47 points while grabbing 6 rebounds, dishing out 6 assists. He also had five steals, just to add to the pure insanity of how great of a player this man has become. Last night he joined the company of Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler as the only players to have three or more games of 45-5-5-5. With Michael doing it 10 times and Clyde doing it four times, you can expect to see James move past Clyde and possibly catch the GOAT in a stat that’s beyond description.

But besides the sweet greatness of James Harden, this game had a sour taste that has lingered throughout the early season: what in God’s name is wrong with Chris Paul and Eric Gordon?

EG and CP3 combined for 23 points last night on 7-23 shooting. That’s unacceptable from two players that need to stand and be counted every single night. Granted, if this had just been one bad night from EG and CP3, you could chalk it up and move on. However, these two have not lived up to last season’s form.

Most believe that CP3 is hurt or suffers tendinitis in his shooting elbow. Whether or not he is injured, he needs to play significantly better for this Rockets team to have any shot or prayer at competing in May and hopefully June.

And I have no idea what has happened to Eric Gordon’s shot. We already knew that he was a streaky shooter, but even dating back to last year, he had never been this inconsistent or terrible shooting the three. With his recent comments to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, it’s clear that EG is not the same player that he was last year. Shooting 29% from three-point range this year won’t cut it, and Daryl Morey knows it.

It was a solid win at home but in the end, there is room for improvement for two of the four best players on this team. They will need to step up before the voices become louder and the challenge becomes harder.

All stats courtesy of NBA Advanced Stats

Houston, We Have a Malfunction

By now we have all seen the horrid start the Rockets have gotten off to. Even with the win against the Blazers, the fans have been calling for the burning of the gates after every Rockets loss. The question has now turned to if and how the Rockets turn this season around before 41-41 becomes the glaring end to a season that started with a perceived chance of a championship.

With Ennis and Tucker followed by Clark and House, and with the eventual trade or release of Carmelo, the Rockets’ wing depth has fallen to the worst in the NBA. A replacement for the injured Ennis now becomes crucial for this team. Pressure is on Rockets GM Daryl Morey to pursue better role players to fit around James Harden and CP3.

Even with a trade imminent, the Rockets have to rely on rookies and underachieving free agents for at least one, possibly two games to help avoid sliding any further down the Western Conference ladder.

With so many trade rumors swirling, most of us want the big names. But with few assets to offer besides draft picks, Morey has to become creative. Look for deals that have a draft pick or an expiring contract attached to help them go through smoothly.

Some potential deals to keep in mind this upcoming weekend and leading into next week:

  • Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight for Kent Bazemore
  • Chriss, Knight and Nene for Evan Fournier and DJ Augustine
  • Knight and Chriss for James Johnson

Most likely, a few small moves will be made. But with Jimmy Butler off the board and the Washington Wizards unlikely to trade Bradley Beal or Otto Porter, it may be necessary to adjust our expectations with respect to what the Rockets can gain, when it comes to in-season trading. We would all love Anthony Davis to become available; sadly, even if this were to happen, it’s unlikely that the Rockets would be able to afford the price the New Orleans Pelicans would want for him.

This Rockets season has a chance at being the worst in their franchise history. Given the Rockets’ history and the expectations put on this season, I originally felt led as a reporter to assume it was championship or bust. Now it’s just a question of whether or not this season can be saved before it’s too late.

Rockets: Daryl Morey, This Isn't New Science

With the news per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski of Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony parting ways with the Rockets, I must take a step back and realize something: I am terrible at predictions. At the moment Carmelo was signed, I truly believed it had changed the Rockets’ bench and made them a better offensive team. However, if I take credit for the predictions I get right, I must take the L for the ones I get completely wrong.

The season being so young, I did not believe the Rockets would cut him this early or look at him as a failure of this offseason. However, with Gary Clark entering the league, it’s become apparent that Anthony was asked to take a lesser role on the team. Being a respected veteran, he became upset and asked for a meeting with Morey.

With all this speculation circling around the team, Rockets GM Daryl Morey addressed the media with a press conference before Sunday’s game against the Pacers.

“The claims that Carmelo will be released are inaccurate and expects to be back in the rotation when healthy,” Morey said via Jonathan Feigen.

In any professional sport, it’s common for a team spokesperson to say the opposite of whatever rumor is being circulated. However, the old saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has never rung truer.

If the rumors and reports that Anthony’s short time in Houston is up are true, then most Rockets fans will blame this stint on him not adapting to his surroundings. However, as this writer knows and most Houston reporters also know, it takes two to dance. During this young stretch, Chris Paul has not been the same Chris Paul. Coming off the bench, Carmelo needed CP3 to be his normal self. Carmelo was only going to work in Houston if all the stars aligned, but as we have seen in the NBA, the stars never truly align. It takes acceptance and understanding of your role as an NBA player to be successful.

Carmelo is gone, and now we can hear the “Carmelo ruined the team” jokes and hear how he was a bust. But in the end, with injuries and not enough time, we will never know how Carmelo would have worked out. But with all the smoke that has always been around Carmelo, the question to Morey should be:

Why in the hell did you sign if you knew everything he was?

I have always trusted Morey and his decisions, but he must take the blame for this. Letting Ariza go at 15 million for one year was the right move. But if Carmelo was the reason that LRMM was let go, it’s a terrible move. There will be blame for both sides, but Morey is the one who offered him the contract and has been chasing him for years. He doesn’t take many L’s, but when he does, they are very bad.

Houston Rockets fans, Carmelo is gone. You can cheer, cry or drink, whichever makes you feel most comfortable. However, as a writer of this team, there will always be a little thought repeating in my head over and over: Would Carmelo have made it work if just given more time? Alternatively, is it just the end of the career of a Hall of Fame player who will now be remembered only as a ball hog and a disruption in the locker room? Time will tell how he finishes his career, but one thing is certain: It won’t be in Houston or for the Rockets.

Rockets: The Good, the Bad, and the Fight?

The Rockets are 1-2.

I repeat, the Rockets are 1-2 and Twitter is losing its collective mind, hoping this isn’t 2015-2016 all over again. Let me talk you off the small ledge that you are standing on before you write this season off and start looking at next year’s free agent class.

The Rockets have played three very good teams to start the season, have not had a backup center, and the defense has lacked communication. These are problems that can be easily fixed and, with time, will be worked out.

But to be fair to those fans who believe this year may be like the 2015-2016 season, the elements for a disaster are there. The 2015-2016 team did not have the offensive talent that this team has, but when bringing six new players in, new roles have to form; some newcomers may not agree or accept the roles required by the team.

Carmelo obviously can still play in this league, but he is now a bench player in the eyes of Rockets. Things may change over time if Ennis cannot perform. But for the time being, and with it so early in the season, a starting lineup change will not come until it is evident to the coaching staff that Ennis can’t do his job as a starter.

By now you have probably all seen the video of CP3 and Rondo getting into their fight, which ended in a two-game suspension of CP3. Although the Rockets did beat the Lakers behind the efforts of James Harden, MCW’s play has been subpar and there are questions regarding how he will integrate himself with this offense. But like the starting lineup, MCW will need time to adapt, and if he can’t, the coaching staff won’t be able to play him.

With reports of Jimmy Butler still being in the Rockets sights, a lot of early season results may push Daryl Morey towards or away from trading for the 5-time All-Star. However, with or without Jimmy Butler, this team will need to adapt very quickly to this season. It isn’t the Western Conference of last year. The Rockets can be beaten by a Western Conference team on any given night and they will need to bring the same intensity they showed against the Lakers to be able to win on a nightly basis.

It’s just three games. I know these losses can make people remember 2015-2016 and panic immediately, but this team has two Hall of Fame point guards, a Hall of Fame forward, and a Hall of Fame head coach. If this team is 20-20 after 40 games, I will then be worried at a level 5 on a scale from 1-10. But until then, in the words of the great Aaron Rodgers:

R-E-L-A-X