ON THE ROCKETS
3 reasons for the Rockets slow start and why they will turn it around
Tonight the Rockets will take on the Utah Jazz for the first time since ousting them from the playoffs in the second round last season. The Rockets’ chances of winning don't look great, and the possibility of falling to 1-3, maybe even 1-4, to start the season is a very real one. Patience, however, should be exercised before tossing this NBA season’s hopes into the nearest trash bin, as there are a number of correctable issues that have contributed to Houston's sluggish start.
1. Houston's assistant head coach retired a little over a month ago
Jeff Bzdelik is embodying the old adage of not knowing what you had until it's gone. Bzdelik was instrumental in Houston's rejuvenated effort on defense last season and retiring a month before the season started came as a huge blow. Now the Rockets are in catch up mode as the players and Bzdelik's replacement, Roy Rogers, look to play catch up and get up to speed. It's shown in the first three games, as Houston has failed to switched assignments as gracefully as they had last season, in addition to being absolutely pummelled inside the paint. This should simply be a practice and time issue that can be smoothed over. The question is whether it's fixed sooner rather than later.
2) New rosters need time to sync
Houston was forced into a lineup overhaul this offseason with the unexpected departures of forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. The result was the arrival of five new Rockets, with at least four of them slated for a legitimate share of minutes. A shake up of that size is bound to require a learning curve, and most team's have it figured out by December. That learning curve becomes even longer when my next point becomes an issue.
3) The Rockets are really banged up
The lineups you have seen head coach Mike D'Antoni trot out have been awful, yes. They also were never meant to be part of the plan. It was never the plan to have point guard Michael Carter-Williams start at small forward. No one honestly thinks that P.J. Tucker or Carmelo Anthony should or will continue to rotate in at center, but at the moment they will because they have to. All of these moves are out of necessity because the Rockets are incredibly beat up. Everyone paying attention to sports media at the moment is aware of Chris Paul's brawl-related suspension, but that will be over by Wednesday and barely scratches the surface of the issue. At the moment, the entire Phoenix Suns trade return of Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss are sidelined. Knight was a virtual lock for at least 10-15 minutes a game at point guard, but complications from knee rehab have pushed him back to an undisclosed timetable. Chriss meanwhile should return soon from an ankle injury and add relief to Clint Capela and the front court. Veteran center Nene has also been out with a calf injury. Add forward James Ennis III's injury sustained Sunday that will have him sitting a few games and what you end up with is a laughably thin rotation to start the series.
The point is, reinforcements are coming, so hold tight. Patience this season will more than likely be rewarded, but if the Rockets aren't careful they'll be stuck in the unenviable position of playing catch-up in a loaded Western Conference.