JOEL BLANK

Rockets problems are far bigger than Carmelo Anthony

The Rockets have bigger problems than this guy. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Everyone wants to blame Carmelo Anthony for all that ails Houston's favorite basketball team. It's the easy way out, the fastest way to point fingers. The average fan and all the outsiders can say the aquisition of Melo is the reason the team is below .500 and can't seem to score 100 points anymore.  The truth is, the problems are way deeper than that and are spread far and wide accross a team and roster that is light years away from the squad that should have been in the Finals a season ago.

By now you all have read and watched and listened to me vent about how important the losses of Jeff Bzdelk, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were to this team. The defense has been a disaster through the first ten games and they can't get stops and can't slow down teams when they get on a run. Their two best players have been below their averages at best and have each spent time out of the lineup due to injury and suspenson. The team that was supposed to be able to score with anyone has found it difficult to score 100 points in a game lately. They can't make the most important shot in their offensive system, the 3-ball, and struggle to make free throws and even layups occasionally. Eric Gordon looks like a shell of his 6th man of the year self and has struggled to adjust to his new role with Melo on the roster. The list goes on and on. So, sure, the defense is bad, but there is so much more to this story and a majority of it starts and ends with the General Manager that loves to soak up the accolades but hates to be in the cross hairs of criticism.  

Daryl Morey is a General Manager that cannot stand pat, period. The same reason he has made a trade at the deadline virtually every year he's had a say so or control of an NBA roster, he can't seem to sit still and "run it back" with the same roster or close to the group that got you so far, so good last year. He was fine with Ariza and Luc leaving, which most observers agreed with, but where he screwed up was not replacing them with players that had similar skill sets and could play the same system the same way as their predecessors did.

He brought in a handful of guys that can't shoot the 3 ball and can't defend individually or collectively the way this team needs players to play in order to be effective. He made a trade to unload another mistake he made previously in Ryan Anderson and brought back a wasted lottery pick in Marquese Chriss that seems disinterested at best, as well as a back up point guard coming off major knee surgery in Brandon Knight.

The roster at first glance is exactly what I thought it would be, a bunch of dudes, just guys, a few folks past their prime and some more who were going to be asked to do things completely different from what they did a year ago, and of course, two of the best players in the game. there is no continuity, no chemestry and no chance of them playing the style and brand of basketball that they played all of last season as currently constructed. 

Morey brought in Anthony, a player that he had pursued for more than seven years, that he had to have and was convinced he was the missing piece to the Rockets championship puzzle. It was like a Wall Street wolf that was so obsessed with a stock that he buys it too high and way too late to have any ROI, but it doesn't matter because he finally got the prize he had coveted for so long! He was so adamant that Melo be in Houston that he ignored the negative past history that Mike D'Antoni had with him and basically told the coach that he would not only have Anthony on his roster again but that he better find a way to make it work.

That's not even taking into consideration the back story between the player and his first NBA coach, Jeff Bzdelik. Not exactly the kind of treatment you give a guy that won you more regular season games than you had every seen your franchise win in a regular season and the guy that turned your defense into a top six squad in the league as opposed to the bottom feeding "D" the team had played previous to his arrival. 

If the GM really believed in the squad that he constructed for this season and thought it was talented enough to win a title, then why was he in such hot pursuit of Jimmy Butler? Why was it rumored that he was willing to give up four first round draft picks and a couple of major rotational players for just one guy?

Is that the sign of a guy that liked what he saw in the first month of the season or a guy that knew he had plenty of work to do to try and re-construct a roster that wasn't going to cut it in a loaded and talented Western Conference, let alone compete for a title? Now that Butler has been traded to Philadelphia, that dream is over and the heat that has been on the H-town GM is getting to a boiling point. There aren't too many all-stars out there to be had and there aren't too many GM's in the West in a hurry to help out Morey. The Anthony situation is up in the air, but the rest of the roster should be too. Regardless of what happens with Melo, Morey had better be on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, trying to add better pieces to this puzzle and a supporting cast that can make shots, execute a system and get stops better than the roster he has right now. There's still time to right the ship and get back on course with sights set on a return engagement with the Warriors, but time is of the essence and there is no quick fix in sight.

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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