ROCKETS RELAUNCH

Here are some important takeaways after watching the Rockets new-look offense

So far, so good for the Rockets offense. Composite photo by Jack Brame

This past weekend quickly became exhilarating because of the appearances of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins playing in a game together for the first time with the Rockets. It was also exciting for head coach Stephen Silas, as he made his first appearance as the Rockets' new coach. These three key components have a lot of questions to answer as the season is about to get started.

Will Wall be explosive off the dribble and going towards the rim after suffering an Achilles injury? Did Cousins make a great recovery from an ACL injury? How much movement did Silas add to the Rockets' new offense?

All these questions were answered as the Rockets finished the weekend 1-1 against the Bulls.

1) John Wall

Wall looked extremely explosive towards the rim by being able to jump off his left foot. He had no problems attacking the basket over defenders if not getting by them too. Wall shot 48 percent from the field, including 33 percent from the perimeter. He was efficient at the rim by making 77 percent of his layups. Wall's usage in 21.6 minutes was 34 percent as he was able to average 6.5 assist per game. He felt extremely comfortable in Silas' offense by maximizing his potential.

Wall and Cousins were great in pick-n-roll and pick-n-pop, which the Bulls struggled defending. Cousins was able to use his size to slow down the defender, which helped free Wall for layups or kick-outs. This weekend, Wall averaged 17 points per game, but the minute restriction came into play. Honestly, the Bulls had a tough time defending Wall because he attacked the gaps extremely well.

2) DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins was able to showcase his shooting from the pick-n-pop offense. He was able to average 12 points per game and shoot 62.5 percent from the perimeter, which is impressive after having a year off. Cousins looked preserved in Silas' five-out offense because of his positioning on the court. He mostly popped or became wide-open in the corner from the perimeter. When Christian Woods comes back, Cousins will rotate on the pick-n-pop, instead of living off the perimeter. Boogie did look impressive when rolling towards the basket in the pick-n-pop formation.

Also, Cousins is in great shape and should be more mobile as the season goes on for the Rockets. He'll be a great voice and another leader for Houston.

3) Stephen Silas and ball movement

Silas' ball movement on the five-out offensive was exciting because the ball touched every player's hands. Inside the Rockets' offense, Bruno Caboclo had a nice showing Friday night by shooting 62.5 percent from the perimeter. Caboclo didn't see any minutes from Houston's former coach, Mike D'Antoni. Friday night, Caboclo had 17 points versus the Bulls and got open shots because of the ball movement of the Rockets. Hopefully, Caboclo has more opportunities this season so he can progress.

Silas even found better shots for Eric Gordon, as he finished with 16 on Friday night. Gordon shot 50 percent from the perimeter and was able to find different lanes to attack on offense.

As the ball moves through the offense, more players on the Rockets got opportunities. Now that James Harden has joined the Rockets' practice on Monday, it will be interesting to see how he operates inside the offense. Silas' new offense involves less isolation, which helped Harden thrive underneath D'Antoni for four years. Harden has averaged over 30 points per game for the last three seasons. Hopefully, Harden changes his mind about playing with Wall because an enticing opportunity presents itself.

Silas has his hands full with this loaded offense since Harden, Cousins, and Wall are on the same team. Hopefully, Silas can make it work if Harden stays with the Rockets.

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Davis Mills bounced back Monday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans took to the field with pads on for the first time. Here are 11 observations from the first padded practice.

1. Davis Mills had a much better day today than he did on Saturday. Saturday saw Mills struggling to quickly decide and beat some solid coverage. Monday saw the offense chipping away at the defense with short and quick completions. Mills is much speedier than last year’s version in deciding.

2. Davis Mills has yet to throw an interception. This is a fact that delights and perturbs Lovie Smith who is the head coach but also calls the defense. In fact, Mills hasn’t really gotten close to throwing an interception.

3. Davis Mills has still yet to hit a clean deep ball. This isn’t a concern, Mills had some of the best deep ball numbers last year, but it would be nice to see him hook up on one of these plays.

4. Kyle Allen tossed a touchdown in the two-minute drill. He hit Chad Beebe on the sideline for a score. This came after Davis Mills led an unsuccessful two-minute drive.

5. The best play of the day from Davis Mills was in the red zone. He surveyed the field after the snap and tossed a dart only where a fully stretched Brevin Jordan could catch it. Jordan landed in the end zone. Touchdown offense.

6. Brandin Cooks is so good. Nobody can consistently cover him. Steven Nelson had a very physical win early in practice against Cooks, but later Nelson was yet another Cooks victim.

7. The most regular victim of Brandin Cooks’ skills was Derek Stingley. The rookie cornerback found himself on Cooks a ton and rarely “won” the rep. After practice Cooks and Stingley were working 1-on-1 on the practice field.

8. Jalen Camp had a few nice plays Monday. The second-year player from Georgia Tech is long and athletic. He skied for a pass early in practice and later hauled in a deep pass. There is competition in front of him but there is an opportunity for the youngster as well.

9. Rasheem Green is set to be a factor for this defensive line. I need more time to watch him in pads, but he blew up a play today that would have been a quarterback sack in a live rep. His physical stature stands out among the defensive linemen.

10. Nico Collins has a best friend that helps him a ton: the sideline. It is rare to see a player in just his second year use the sideline as much as Collins does, but he frequently makes plays on the sideline. Collins was practicing sideline and back of end zone catches with Mills and his footwork was very clean.

11. The running backs have a little more than you think they have. Marlon Mack is shifty and looks a lot closer to the player he was that rushed for 1,999 yards over two seasons in Indianapolis. Rookie Dameon Pierce has plenty of burst and vision to his game. When asked how the team improved the running game left tackle Laremy Tunsil said “we went and got Pep Hamilton and we’re fixing to get this (expletive) rolling.”

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