There's no getting around it, the Rockets must feed their future
The Rockets beat the Southwest division leading and second place Western Conference Memphis Grizzlies 123-112 right here in Houston on Sunday night. It gave Rockets' fans a sliver of hope and glimpse into the future in what has otherwise been a dismal season so far. The next night, they lost to Eastern Conference leading Miami Heat 123-106 in Miami. That game got away from them in the second and third quarters after they had a lead coming out of the first quarter. This is still a very young team in need of growth and development. They may not have all the right pieces in place, but they have enough of them in order to get started on building in the right direction.
When trying to grow and develop a young team, they need playing time, practice together, and as many reps as possible in live game action. Of course, health and work ethic are important, but being thrown in the fire and tested (hopefully passing said tests) is the best way to gain that necessary experience. When they selected Jalen Green with the number two overall pick, it was assumed everything would be built around him. So far, Christian Wood has remained the center point while Green and others have been reduced to second fiddles.
Green has recently seen a slight uptick in his shots, minutes, and production overall. The more he’s played, he’s played well and shot a much better percentage. In March, he’s averaged 21.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.8apg (1.4TOs), 51.2% FG, 34.2% 3pt, and a 59.9% true shooting percentage. Kevin Porter Jr has had a decent March as well: 19.0ppg, 3.8rpg, 5.3apg (2.8TOs), 1.0spg, 43.5% FG, 34.3% 3pt, 54.0% true shooting percentage. When I watch the Rockets, I often see Wood commanding the most touches and shots. Lately, Green and KPJ have been a bit more assertive.
Another guy who’s been seeing more action and proving himself has been Alperen Sengun. In February and March, he’s averaged more than 20 minutes a game, about 10ppg and 6rpg. The more he plays, the better I like his game. His footwork was decent, but you can tell he’s been working with Hakeem Olajuwon to tighten it up and fine tune some things. His basketball IQ and passing ability jumps off the screen, especially in pick & roll or post situations. If he develops his outside shot to be more consistent and stretches it out to the three-point line, he’ll be even more dangerous.
Initially, I wanted Wood to stay and grow with the other core members of the roster. I was wrong, changed course, and saw the light. All it took was for me to key in on Sengun’s ability to be a better fit with Green and KPJ over Wood. He’s more unselfish and seems to have a better attitude. Wood is too worried about getting his and making sure people know he’s never at fault. He whines and cries and points fingers and always has the most incredulous look when something goes wrong when he’s involved. Sengun on the other hand, is fun-loving, carefree, and seems like he really enjoys the game.
Coach Stephen Silas has been playing these youngsters more and trusting them in key situations. Josh Christopher is another youngster who’s been playing well at times and showing potential. The work he puts in before and after games is impressive for a rookie. Coach Silas has grown to trust these kids with handling key situations. Seeing them grow and realize their potential is something I hope he gets to see to the finish line. Former players he’s coached in the past have all credited him with helping them grow. Look no further than right up I-45 at Luka Dončić, who heaped praise on Silas when he took the Rockets’ job.
Ultimately, that decision will be up to owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Rafael Stone. Fertitta will determine whether Stone keeps his job if he can buy the best groceries to allow Silas to cook a good meal. The way that meal turns out will determine who stays and goes. Here’s to hoping this is worthy of a Michelin Award and not a 1-star rating on Yelp.