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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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