THE ROCKETS REPORT

As Carmelo rumors swirl, Rockets finish week with 2-2 mark

James Harden and Clint Capela led the Rockets to a win Sunday night. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets began last week’s slate of four games riding a two game winning streak. After securing a statement win in Indianapolis, Houston was embarrassed by the Thunder. They would go on to lose a close battle with the Spurs before blowing out the Pacers in their rematch to close out the week 2-2. Houston is now 5-7 on the season, good for fourth place in the Southwest division and 12th in the Western Conference.

Game Nine: Houston at Indianapolis Pacers (W, 98-94)

At this point, Houston had finally strung together two wins, albeit against awful teams. The Indianapolis Pacers represented an opportunity to prove whether or not Houston could compete against a playoff caliber team. Pacers star guard Victor Oladipo was intent on ruining the Rockets’ night, and very few of Houston’s shooters seemed to be able to do anything about it. Harden provided just enough offense to power Houston past the finish line, however. Contrary to Houston’s reputation as an elite offensive unit, it was their defense late in the game that secured the victory. Harden led the Rockets with 28 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. Oladipo led the Pacers with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Game 10: Houston at Oklahoma City Thunder (L, 98-80)

Having pushed their win streak to three games, Houston was slowly beginning to regain confidence. Oklahoma City, meanwhile--having suffered a similar slow start to the Rockets - would be entering their Thursday matchup against Houston without their star point guard Russell Westbrook. It seemed, by all accounts, another winnable game to stretch the Rockets’ win streak to four. That is, until tip-off. Houston was run off the court, unable to defend inside the paint, and unable to buy a bucket. The Rockets would go 11-42 from three, and a 15-point third quarter would all but seal their fate. Harden led the Rockets with 19 points, outscored by the Thunder’s Paul George who was good for 20.

Game 11: Houston at San Antonio Spurs (L, 96-89)

The confusion continued Saturday night for anyone trying to figure out this Houston team. Looking to shake off Thursday’s nationally televised beating, the Rockets looked poised to take advantage of an injured opponent. It was more of the same, however, as the Rockets dropped their second straight contest. Flashes of offensive competence could be detected, as Harden and Eric Gordon poured in 25 and 23 points respectively, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the team’s collective 33 percent field goal rate. The matchup was closely contested throughout until San Antonio rode an 8-2 run late in the fourth to victory.

Game 12: Houston vs Indianapolis Pacers (W, 115-103)

By Sunday night rumors were swirling regarding Carmelo Anthony’s future with the team, and questions surrounded the Rockets as to where they would turn their focus after missing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. It seemed like Houston had had just about enough of it and if they were taking their frustration out on the Pacers, it certainly worked. The lid was finally taken off of the bucket and the Rockets delivered a lights-out break-neck offensive spectacular the likes of which hadn’t been seen since last season. Shooting 20-of-47 from beyond the arc, Houston turned the matchup into a track meet that Indianapolis was simply unable to keep up with. Clint Capela was fed to the tune of 18 points, while Chris Paul finally resembled his all-star form with 26 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. It was Harden, however, who stole the show in Houston’s first home win of the season with a spectacular 40 point, 9 assist, 7 rebound masterpiece.

Looking ahead

The Rockets will need to ride whatever confidence they gained from Sunday night’s blowout victory into this week’s matchups, as they’ll face off against two juggernauts and an early season surprise. On Tuesday Houston will travel to the 9-4 Denver Nuggets before returning home to take their first crack at Golden State on Thursday, then finishing the week against a surprising upstart Kings team. This will be the toughest week the Rockets have faced this season, and even if their offensive woes were, in fact, left behind in San Antonio, it’s possible that Houston’s record will get worse before it gets better. Once again, until the Rockets can consistently perform like they did offensively Sunday night, it’s tough to take Houston in any of this week’s matchups. I expect a win against the Kings if they can keep up with the young team, but not much else. I see a 1-2 week.

 

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Composite image by Jack Brame.

There's an elephant in the room when it comes to the Houston Texans. No, it's not Bill O'Brien. He's the ominous black cloud that hoovers over the whole building. That cloud is like a slow moving weather system that's constantly dumping rain and flooding the city. Eventually, it'll pass, we'll rebuild and recover from it.

It's not even the McNair family. Cal and Janice are the building itself. It exists, but needs people around and operating it in order for it to fully function. Sure, it could use some work. After all, it's almost twenty years old and could probably use a facelift. It happens when buildings age and are only taken care of or held to minimal standards.

The elephant in the room is Deshaun Watson. More specifically, his progress as a franchise/superstar quarterback. I've heard different people talk about this in one way, shape, form or whatever. AJ and Fred covered it on ESPN Houston's The Blitz. My friend @itsDanielBsr tweeted it and brought it up as well. There were others who talked about this topic, but these were the two places I encountered it in which I could pay closer attention.

When it comes to Watson, most people believe he's a great talent. However, there is a growing sentiment that it's time for him to take the next step. Watson turned 25 on September 14. He signed his four-year extension about a week before his birthday. When you're getting paid like a top quarterback and people recognize you as one of the better young quarterbacks, there comes a time when you need to poop or get off the pot.

When calling Watson to the carpet, people will call O'Brien into question. O'Brien is a factor in holding Watson back some. He's been the play-caller his whole time here in Houston up until this year when he allegedly turned it over to Tim Kelly. We've all seen how that has gone. O'Brien is also the general manager that traded away Watson's top target in DeAndre Hopkins. These type of things can hinder a young quarterback's growth and development, but at what point do we stop blaming O'Brien and start looking at Watson?

Some will point to the offensive line as a key factor as to why Watson isn't progressing. We've seen him escape sacks and create plays out of thin air. But when is it time to call him to the carpet for not going through his reads and/or making a check-down? He often escapes sacks and looks downfield, but should he be looking to scramble more often? Should he be reading progressions better? These intimate details are answers we won't ever get, but we hope we can understand that Watson is making his reads and decisions the way he's supposed to.

Whether it's his big extension, his bumbling idiot of a head coach, his lack of protection, or his lack of weapons, fans will eventually stop giving Watson a pass. Del said it best on ESPN Houston's The Bench: When will people stop bringing up Clemson when talking about Watson's greatness? NFL quarterbacks have their college career talked about in their rookie seasons. After that, it's all about what have you done for me lately. I sincerely hope Watson realizes his tremendous potential. He's a star now and a superstar in the making. The one thing that he needs is the success on the field that will catapult him into the upper echelon of the other top talents at his position. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson all have either a league MVP award and/or a Super Bowl ring. If Watson is to be mentioned in that rarefied air, he needs to start taking the necessary steps. The clock is ticking and people are watching. Your move Deshaun.

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