KEYS TO SUCCESS

Here's how the NBA shutdown helped the Rockets

Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

The NBA shutting down for the Rockets was a good thing as it allows this new reformed Rockets squad to get more comfortable with each other. This also gives coach Mike D'Antoni time to analyze his players more. After four months of rest, this team can become much more dangerous for the playoffs.

Before the All-Star break started, this team had a lot of changes. They had just traded Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks. Inside that trade, multiple players from opposing teams were moved. In that deal, the Rockets received Robert Covington from Minnesota Timberwolves. Covington became a great fit because of his shooting ability, length, and athleticism. He came up huge against the Los Angeles Lakers by shooting 57% from three. The Rockets also required Jeff Green, so they were able to stretch the floor more. Green has become useful because he averages 10.4 points per game and shot 41.2% from three. Now the Rockets have acquired Luc Mbah a Moute which will help the defense when he arrives in Orlando.

Covington feels more comfortable with the Rockets offensive set now but it took some time to get used to. Covington was able to grab additional help from his teammates when it came to learning this offense.

"Just getting more accustomed within the offense. I didn't know too much; I was just out there playing and being guided. Its helping me be more fluid with everything," Covington said on Sunday during the press conference.

Since practice has begun for the Rockets, they have focused more on defense. The Rockets are ranked 19thth in points allowed on the season. The first thing each player has said is that the communication must be better. They lacked communicating on the floor this year because of the holes on defense. Tons of breakdowns on defense allowed easy scoring for opposing teams. The Rockets are ranked 20thth in field goals allowed and 25thth in steals.

"We're getting better every day." We've been doing [a] really good job of communicating on the court," Covington said. "We're paying attention to the little things. Some guys are getting better because we're holding each other more accountable."

If the Rockets want to win a championship in Orlando, their defense must be better.

Now that D'Antoni was given more time to analyze his players, he has put a new offensive set in. GM Daryl Morey told the media on Friday that D'Antoni was working on a new offense. D'Antoni wants to explore the offense more, so he is able to use all of his weapons properly. His focus is not to over coach them because of their individual talent. Having James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Eric Gordon, guys who can get their own shot, it is better to be hands off at times.

"You've got to be careful; you don't want to overcoach them. Most of the emphasis is on turning up what we do, and just trying to make it better," said D'Antoni on Sunday. "We did try to add some wrinkles."

Now that Westbrook and Harden both know their roles, things can become much easier for the Rockets. Both players know how to be effective at the same time without getting in each other's way. This team will become much better because of the rest, and urgency to correct their past mistakes.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans lost again as their road game ineptitude continues. Former Texans stars DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt helped the Cardinals to the 31-5 victory.

1. The lack of talent is getting exposed earlier and earlier each week. The Texans have seen games slip away faster and faster from them each week. The team is overmatched almost everywhere.

2. Penalties remain a problem for the Texans. It seems like clockwork the team gets an illegal motion or illegal formation each week. Jordan Akins torpedoed a drive with a chop block. Max Scharping erased a positive play with a hold.

3. Davis Mills had some solid moments, but again, this team isn't good. It is hard to assess Mills with this team. He's making quicker decisions but he doesn't have the time or the players to make big plays.

4. The offensive line stinks. The interior of the line is still a mess and with Laremy Tunsil down the edges find themselves shaky as well. The running backs don't block well. The blocking tight ends don't block well. It is bad football in what was supposed to be a much-improved unit.

5. Desmond King was the best returner in the preseason. The team elected to give Andre Roberts an opportunity for a few games, but with his departure, the duties went to King. King is the most successful returner the Texans have had in a long while. Yes, it is that clear after just one game.

6. Max Scharping was benched in favor of Justin McCray. McCray produced similar levels of success. Scharping was benched last year for a journey-man veteran as well. The former second-round pick isn't getting it done.

7. Speaking of former second-round picks, Lonnie Johnson had an interception. That was the highlight of his day. Otherwise, Johnson frequently has me asking "what is Lonnie Johnson doing?" The former second-round pick at cornerback has been less than impressive at safety. Johnson seems to frequently be out of position or making the wrong choice in coverage.

8. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid day against the team that traded him away. Hopkins hauled in seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. After he scored, Hopkins looked to bring his hands together and mimic a prayer motion. I don't anticipate this was a nod to Arian Foster but perhaps could this have been about Jack Easterby?

9. The Texans had some sacks, but little of that action came when the game was close. Jonathan Greenard added two sacks to his total. The success Greenard is having is frustrating when you consider he couldn't get on the field last season. Charles Omenihu returned to action and had some pressures for the defense.

10. During the game reports surfaced that the Panthers might be interested in trading for Deshaun Watson. It was also reported by the Houston Chronicle Watson had vetoed a trade to Philadelphia, so the Eagles will not be involved in the Watson sweepstakes. The Panthers can only trade two first-round picks. The Miami Dolphins have three first-round picks they can trade for Deshaun Watson.

11. The Texans decided on a "culture" head coach in David Culley. His team has looked lifeless on the road. While the Texans took their beating, the Lions gave it their all against a good Rams team. Detroit is winless, but they play harder and better than the Texans. It grows clearer each week "culture" is meaningless if the team can't win.

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