What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Monday, February 11, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 12. Houston Rockets

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st):  17-14,  third place Southwest Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):

  • Points Scored: 105.2 (2nd)
  • Points Allowed: 103.8 (30th)
  • Team FG%: .455 (10th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .461 (26th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.4 (8th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.6 (18th)
  • Turnovers per game: 16.4(30th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.1 (11th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):

  • Scoring (ppg): James Harden (26.1)
  • Rebounds per game:  Omer Asik (11.8)
  • Minutes per game: James Harden (38.2)
  • Assists per game: Jeremy Lin (6.4)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Omer Asik (.515)
  • Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (1.9)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Omer Asik (1.1)

Worst Player of the Month:  Royce White

Once considered a draft day steal, Royce White has went from a potential building block for a franchise to a team pariah and has also managed to insult and diminish those who suffer mental illness.  He has allowed his anxiety problem to cause friction and disharmony in the Rockets forcing the team to suspend him because of his rather public antics.  White has become less of an advocate for those who suffer from mental illness and more of a mockery as his behavior not only has painted him, but all who suffer and struggle with mental illness day in and day out in a rather non-flattering light.   Much of the blame has to go to the Rockets, however, for drafting a player that had so many red flags to begin with and allowing for the situation to deteriorate to the point it has.  Hopefully, White can get his head straight for his own sake because so far he has his personal demons to alienate and isolate him instead of doing the right thing and face them head on as those with problems such as his continue to do each and every day.  
First Player of the Month: Omer Asik

Okay, granted, he is no Hakeem Olajuwon nor is he any where near being Yao Ming, and he is not even close to resembling Ralph Sampson when he was at the peak of his career; however, Omer Asik has put on a stellar performance thus in his first season as the Rockets' starting center silencing any doubters who criticized the Rockets for signing him to a three year deal worth an estimated 30$ million.  From spending the bulk of career as a backup for the Chicago Bulls, Asik has shown that he has the goods to be an elite center in the NBA averaging a double double in points and rebounds along with a defensive stalwart in the paint leading the team in blocked shots per game.  His most surprising asset as been his ability on the offensive end which many had criticized was far from adequate for an NBA started as he not averages above 10 points per game, but also leads the team in field goal percentage as well.  Asik has certainly made opponents think twice about leaving him alone in the paint while focusing their energies defending perimeter threats such as James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.  It is still too early to determine Asik's cieling as he continues his phenomenal play, but hopefully he can provide even more surprises in the future.

It looked as if the Rockets would be heading straight down after following up a 7-8 November by starting December losing three of their first five games.  In those first five games, the Rockets impressed many showing their ability to put up points on the board as they averaged 111.6 points per game; however at the same time, they many many avert their eyes to them as they allowed their opponents to score 117 against them. Nonetheless, in spite of their rather shamefully porous defense, Houston managed to finish the month rather strong entering 2013 winning eight of their next eleven games in rather impressive fashion beating their opponents by a average margin of 15.4 points.  Through the month of December, no team was able to hold Houston back on the defensive end as the Rockets were unstoppable scoring at will with games of 100 or more points in all but four in December.  What is even more impressive was not only the way the Rockets manhandled their opponents, but also who they humiliated and where they did it.

This team who boasts one of the youngest teams in the league managed to easily dismantle a seasoned veteran and one of the Eastern Conference's best, New York Knicks, right on their home floor in Madison Square Garden (12/17/2012).  The Rockets also waltzed into the renown fortress in the Windy City, otherwise known as the United Center, and simply crushed one of the league's best defensive teams, the Chicago Bulls scoring an unfathomable 120 points on them (12/25/2012).  Houston also held their ground on their home floor simply swatting away such foreign invaders as the Boston Celtics (12/14/2012), Philadelphia 76ers (12/19/2012), Memphis Grizzlies (12/22/2012) and Atlanta Hawks (12/31/2012)--all by an average margin of 19.5 points.  Houston could have even gotten 10 out of eleven if they had managed to hold on to beat the Toronto Raptors on the road (12/16/2012) and another road game against the San Antonio Spurs where both teams simply lit up the score board as they accumulated a total of 238 points altogether (12/28/2012).  After that terrible 2-3 start where they simply laid down defensively, the Rockets woke up and tightened their defense allowing just 98.0 points per game--a nine point drop from the 117 that they allowed at the start of December.

To the untrained eye, allowing 98.0 points per game from an opponent does still seem pretty high by NBA standards; however, it is only that high because of a couple of lopsided contests where the Rockets allowed the Spurs to score 122 points and a blow out loss at home at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder (12/29/2012).  Otherwise, the Rockets managed to hold the rest of their opponents to just 95.9 points per contest--a far more respectable number--with them only being able to score 95.3 in that eight win stretch that finished 2012.  They also kept their opponents to .439 shooting in those eight games as well which by casual observation, looks as if this will continue to be a positive trend for the future as the season progresses.  And if that is the case and they manage to continue winning at the same pace, expect the Rockets to surprise the league and ring in their first playoff appearance since 2009 with a roster that many believed would be headed back to the lottery once again.  Other than a couple well known names and a questionable free agent, the rest of the team's roster remains relatively unknown, inexperienced and relatively untested to say the least.

Primarily, the team's fortunes have rested solely on the shoulders of James Harden, who last season came off the bench of the NBA Finalist Oklahoma City Thunder and spent most of his young career remained in shadows of the team's two superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  Although he is currently having an All Star caliber season, no one can really call him a household name just yet as he has not really had the media exposure since the Rockets are currently considered by most standards as a fringe team.  The player that actually came in with the most fanfare was actually Jeremy Lin, whose underdog story has been immortalized thanks to his amazing performance which can be classified as one of the greatest moments in sports history.  Unfortunately, Lin has yet to live up to all the hype that was generated last season as his performance has been far from stellar to say the least compared from last season.  Although his numbers did improve from the previous month, he has yet to live up to the high expectations put upon him or played well enough to justify the Rockets giving him a contract that will pay him up to 15$ million in its final year.

Other than those two, the rest of the team consists of virtual unknowns--players who were selected either rather low in the draft or not at all and have not really performed well enough to garner any real attention.  The majority of the players seem to overlap one another as none of them really have a defined position making it even harder to differentiate any one of them at any given time.  Seven of the team's players are forwards that fall in the "tweener"  category who have all the skills and abilities that allows them to play in the front court decent enough; however, their skills and abilities are at best average and far from exceptional enough to set themselves apart from the rest of the league.  With such a team, it is hard to see how the Houston Rockets can separate themselves from the pack in a rather stacked and highly competitive Western Conference and will most likely end the season yet again just a game or two shy from making the playoff and headed to the lottery for a low draft pick to look forward to.  Fortunately for the Rockets, they have youth on their side as all but four of their players are under 25 years of age and have enough intriguing pieces to perhaps entice a possible trade partner to fork over a game changing player that will finally take this team over the top once and fall.

So as the season progresses, it will be important to keep an eye on the Rockets as they might make a move, whether they be on or off the court, that will possibly change the face of not only the future of the season, but the very fabric of the NBA . . .