Your 2013-14 Noobs Guide to the Houston Rockets
Maybe you haven't been watching the Rockets for a while. Maybe their abject mediocrity over the last, oh I don't know, 15 years, has left you complacent. Maybe you grew up during a time when the Rockets weren't winning titles and contending for championships. Or maybe you just didn't care that much...until now.
Photos by Marco Torres Dwight Howard gives the Rockets a serious inside presence.
No one is going to judge you for hopping on the bandwagon now that the Rockets appear to be relevant (and perhaps good even) again, particularly since the Texans season is (unofficially) over and what else are you going to do, talk about the NFL draft? I know that is what sports radio wants from you, but you're a smart sports fan and you like teams that win. So, welcome back...or for the first time...to the NBA and your hometown Houston Rockets.
For those who haven't been around for a while, a lot has changed in the last 10 years. So, I'd like to act as your official tour guide to the 2013-14 team, show you around the roster, introduce you to the GM and the coach, give you some insight into what to expect from this team this year. Hint: it's going to be interesting.
The Long Timer
You'd think a list of guys that have been with the team for a while would be longer than one guy, but, in the span of just over two years, the entire roster has been turned over and only Chandler Parsons remains. Parsons is in his third year after being taken in the second round of the draft. He's primarily a small forward though he will slide to power forward in smaller lineups. He has surprising athleticism and runs the floor well. Two seasons ago, he was one of the team's better perimeter defenders. That slipped a bit last year and he's trying to get back to that form. He is a streaky three-point shooter who can light it up on occasion, but will go through several-game shooting slumps, but he is probably the third best player on the team and is one of the leaders on the floor.
The H-Town Stars
At the end of training camp last year, the Rockets had a gift dropped into their laps. The Oklahoma City Thunder, desperate to clear some cap space, decided to move talented sixth man James Harden. The Rockets picked him up for a steal and he has rapidly become one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Don't let his trademark bushy beard fool you into thinking he is some gruff, surly, punk. He's a quiet, thoughtful guy who is supremely gifted. Though he has struggled early this season from distance, he is a great three-point shooter to go with one of the more devastating middle-range games in the NBA. He also has a slow, deliberate long step move referred to as the "Euro Step" which is a signature for him and allows him to get to the basket with ease. He is always near the top of the league in free throws attempted and made, and is an outstanding passer. His biggest challenge will be to become a better defender. At the moment, it might be a stretch to call him mediocre as he sometimes seems lost on that end of the floor, but he is the team's best player and he's still in his mid 20s with plenty of time to improve.
This offseason, the Rockets managed to woo free agent big man Dwight Howard away from the LA Lakers. Howard is a prototypical center with tremendous upper body strength and stellar athleticism. He gives the team a terrific interior defender and is always near the top of the league in blocked shots and rebounds. Howard has been criticized for being a little too happy go lucky, particularly in LA, but his struggles there were more likely about his injury issues than his attitude. Where Howard struggles is from the free throw line, where he frequently shoots below 50 percent. That allows teams to employ a "Hack-a-Dwight" strategy late in games to force him to score from the line. So far this year, he has looked better from the charity stripe, but it could be argued that his misses have cost the team at least one game.