ROCKETS REPORT

Rockets get off to slow start with 1-2 opening week

James Harden and the Rockets struggled in the opening week. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rockets kicked off their season on Wednesday with an eye-opening thud against a formidable New Orleans team, before a weekend back-to-back series against both of the the Los Angeles squads. Houston was able to squeeze a hard fought victory out of the Lakers, but lost starting point guard Chris Paul to a two game suspension for fighting. Following Saturday’s contest/brawl, the understaffed Rockets would go on to drop a close one to the Clippers. After three games the Rockets are 1-2 and last in the Southwest Division.

Game One: Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans (L, 112-131)

Fans looking for an easy win to shrug off last year’s crushing playoff exit were treated to a rude awakening courtesy of the basketball stylings of Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. Scoring 32 and 30 respectively, the duo fueled an early game push that the Rockets were never able to catch up to. In a largely uncompetitive game Eric Gordon led Houston in scoring with 21 points, while Harden flirted with a triple-double (18 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds). P.J. Tucker and Chris Paul each added 19 points.

Game Two: Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers (W, 124-115)

There are very few things outside of a championship that are more satisfying that playing spoiler. A year removed from defeating the Golden State Warriors on their ring ceremony night, the Rockets were back at again, this time ruining LeBron James’ highly anticipated home opener with his newest team. James pushed through a slow start to finish with 24 points, while Harden torched the Lakers to the tune of 36 points. If the wildly close game throughout wasn’t entertaining enough, fans were treated to an in-game brawl instigated by Lakers forward Brandon Ingram. The tension boiled over when Lakers guard Rajon Rondo spit in Chris Paul’s face. Paul responded in kind with a less-than-friendly face push, which incite a flurry of Rondo punches. Ingram returned to fray to add a few cheap shots before everyone was separated. Houston would pull away at the end, but it would come at a cost. Paul would ultimately be suspended 2 games, while Rondo and Ingram received 3 and 4 game suspensions respectively.

Game Three: Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (L, 112-115)

Missing their star point guard Paul due to suspension, the Rockets took to the Staples Center late Sunday evening in a face off against a Clippers team that was seemingly gutted throughout the trade deadline and off-season. What was expected to be an easy win turned into a struggle throughout, and a 39-point third quarter surge and last minute  bench contributions would put the Houston away, dropping them to 1-2 on the season. Harden paced the team with 31 points and 14 assists, while Clint Capela and Gordon added 23 and 21 points each.

Observations

Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of speculation since he arrived in Houston, and through three games he’s not exactly passing the eye test. While averaging over 27 minutes per game, Anthony is only averaging 8.3 points per game, to go with 0.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds. Three games certainly isn’t enough to draw any real conclusions, but it certainly is a little eyebrow raising. Hopefully we get more of a Michael Beasley effort this season and not a Joe Johnson.

Looking Ahead

The Rockets have a light two-game schedule to look forward to next week as they square off against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and a home rematch against the Clippers Friday. Houston will call on the services of their bench against the Jazz to help fill the void left by Paul’s suspension. The Jazz, now healthy, are one of the tougher teams in the Western Conference, so don’t expect an easy win. The Rockets will return to full strength against the Clippers this friday, and should have no issue dispatching the patchwork squad. I expect a 1-1 week.

 

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It's all systems go for the Houston Texans! Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images.

It was 2002 and the city of Houston was rewarded with the NFL's 32nd franchise. I remember the newspaper special section with all the info points on the new team. There was even a full page graphic explaining how the grass plates were constructed. (Side Note: We should've known right then and there it was going to be disastrous!) There was a level of excitement unseen since the Rockets won a title, I'd assume. People were wearing “32, Houston” jerseys. There was more Battle Red, Deep Steel Blue, and Liberty White around town than a Fourth of July day parade.

The next time the city was excited about Texans football involved the Gary Kubiak days of making the playoffs. After that, Bill O'Brien hung a few division title banners as well. That's when the lull came. It all came crashing down, swiftly and mightily. The death of Bob McNair may have played a part in things deteriorating so quickly. Whether blame is placed here or there, changes needed to be made. Cal McNair was seen as incompetent. In comes Nick Caserio. He had a mess to clean up. The last two seasons were awful, but necessary. After back-to-back one-and-done coaches, Caserio has hired his guy.

Enter DeMeco Ryans. The former Texans great linebacker was the 49ers defensive coordinator the past two seasons. He took over a great defense and kept it going. From the moment he stepped on campus at Alabama, he commanded a different level of respect. Not only was he good, but he was a leader. Nicknamed “Cap” because he was a captain on and off the field. That followed him to Houston. His presence was felt everywhere he went. It was known before his career ended that he'd most likely be a coach one day.

This moment in time right now is giving 2002, Kubiak playoffs, and O'Brien playoff vibes but amplified. Why? Because one of this franchise's own has come home. Ryans was the most desired candidate this coaching cycle. Sean Payton may have had the bigger name, but Ryans was the one the Broncos tried to go back after, then settled on Payton. Teams he turned down had to move along and find other candidates to fill their vacancies. HE CHOSE HOUSTON! Nothing like feeling desired and being chosen!

I believe DeMeco will turn this franchise around and make them a contender. It's very rare that you have a star athlete turned sought after coach and NOBODY has a bad word to say about him! Social media has turned things into a 12-hour news cycle. Yet you've NEVER heard or seen DeMeco involved in any foolishness. He's been a model citizen, while also maintaining a high level of play and now coaching. When people respect you for your football acumen AND your character, that says a lot. Whoever said nice guys finish last obviously hasn't met DeMeco.

Armed with some cap space, draft capital, a capable GM, and ownership seeking a fresh start, DeMeco is set up to succeed. It's up to him, and Caserio, to finish what was started two years ago. Currently, the house on Kirby has a few more improvements to make. Some paint, redoing the floors, new landscaping, and new furniture. The kitchens and bathrooms are done. It needs the final touch. DeMeco is that final touch.

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