Rockets Still a Significant Work in Progress
There have been times in the Rockets' history when they got off to slow starts in games. This year, it is a slow start to the season. But when I predicted they would go 11-7 in their first month with Dwight Howard, it wasn't because I thought they would come flying out of the gates. It was because I expect them to out-talent the weaker teams and struggle against the contenders. So far, that's exactly what has happened.
Photo by Marco Torres Howard has been a beast on the boards.
After wins over the league's also-rans (including a near loss to Utah), they ran into a buzz saw in the LA Clippers Monday night. Despite a lackluster effort in LA LA Land and their first loss of the young season, there have been promising signs for the remainder of the season. But if there has been anything consistent about this team thus far, it is inconsistency.
Howard is dominating the glass in the first four games even though he played limited minutes Monday thanks to foul trouble. But his offensive game is still clunky and the rest of the Rockets have yet to figure out how to feed him in the post. James Harden is again a dominant offensive player, but he hasn't improved his defensive game thus far, something he said was a key focus for him in the offseason. In fact, he was worked over by JJ Redick -- yes, JJ Redick -- against the Clippers.
Jeremy Lin has had a nice start taking over the starting job for Patrick Beverley, who tore an abdominal muscle and will be out at least another week.
But confusion on the offensive end along with poor defensive rotations and occasional lapses in energy have caused the Rockets to often look awkward. The players spent a lot of time together in the offseason, but there is no substitute for real games against opponents trying to win. At two different points during the second half against the Clippers, Chandler Parsons and Howard were unable to connect on consecutive alley-oops, the first too low, the second at the right height but the wrong time.