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Why are the Rockets scared to play basketball without James Harden?

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James Harden can find his shot whenever on the court. He is averaging 38.1 points per game which is first in the league. Harden was criticized for not taking enough shots on Christmas Day. But, is it really Harden's fault why the Rockets lost that game against the Warriors? No, because his teammates should pick up the slack!

Russell Westbrook has looked great for nine straight games but struggled Christmas Day against the Warriors. At times it looks Westbrook is playing in panic mode instead of attack mode. He struggled with or without Harden on the court. Westbrook still needs to work on his confidence even when shots are not falling. Another thing Westbrook still struggles with is forcing shots that are not there. Westbrook must stay courageous, optimistic, aware, and know to pick his moments.

Danuel House must make shots when they matter. House shoots over 40% from the field but struggles when his number is called. Harden would love to see House make those shots when doubled late in games. The only way House can become a great player is when he shows up in big moments. If House wants to be a spot up shooter, he can not shoot 35% from the three-point line.

Austin Rivers can be a tough watch at times because of the talent he is hiding. Rivers has everything in his repertoire to become a great player. He honestly has a good-looking crossover and shooting form in the NBA. It is just sad that he never displays it in game play. Rivers shooting the ball less than 15 times a game is a crime. Sometimes it looks like Rivers is scared to touch the ball. There is no reason for Rivers just to make himself a spot up shooter in games. Rivers is averaging 8 points per game which is an underachievement for his skill set. It is extremely important for Rivers to step up more when Harden gets doubled. He has the talent to compete for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year every season.

Ben McLemore had his bright spots this season but can not stay consistent. By McLemore not staying consistent means he is non-existent in games. There are times earlier this season when he struggled to get minutes or score zero points. This could hurt the Rocket's bench in a dramatic way. He can continue to be the bright spot for the Rockets when confident. McLemore is averaging 10.2 points per game this season. He has not averaged this much since his second season with the Kings. He had a career high against Toronto with 35 points. One thing McLemore must do is make plays when shots are not falling. When McLemore stays active defensively, he becomes a problem for other teams. He has finally found his NBA home with the Rockets.

The Rockets rank dead last in bench play this season. This bench is also shooting right under 40% on the season. If the Rockets want a chance to compete for an NBA Championship, the bench must be better. Daryl Morey could make possible moves for free agents or trades to help the cause.

NOTE: Eric Gordon comes back Tuesday versus the Pelicans.

Jeff Green just cleared waivers with the Utah Jazz. He could be helpful to the bench if Morey decides to pick him up.

Rockets just signed William Howard from the G-League. He is a 6'8 lengthy shooter.

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Hiring DeMeco Ryans would be a good first step. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to its second straight AFC Championship game. After making the Super Bowl in 2022, it’s hard to believe the team is just four seasons removed from being in the bottom of the NFL with a 2-14 record.

The Houston Texans find themselves in a similar position to the Bengals a few years ago. Houston is in a transition stage following the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt and the flurry of other talent that defined the Bill O’Brien-led era.

The Texans are currently near the bottom of the league, but here is why they could be not that far off when it comes to turning the corner as the Bengals did over the last few seasons.

In 2019, Cincinnati was still led by Andy Dalton at quarterback. It was the first year under head coach Zac Taylor and the team had a lot of holes to fill.

After finishing with the worst record in the league, the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. They used their second pick in that same draft to take a key playmaker in receiver Tee Higgins and used the third pick in linebacker Logan Wilson, who has started in every game he has played in for the Bengals this season.

In the 2020 season, Burrow showed flashes of being a star QB, but suffered a season-ending knee injury that once again saw Cincinnati picking toward the top of the draft. In 2021, it used the No. 5 overall pick to draft Ja'Marr Chase.

With the key pieces in place added on to other hits they made in free agency and in previous years’ drafts, such as selecting Joe Mixon in 2017 and signing former Houston defensive lineman D.J. Reader, the Bengals quickly became one of the top teams in the league, and Burrow has become the only quarterback not named Tom Brady to have a leg up on Patrick Mahomes.

While it is much easier said than done, the Texans are in position to do just as the Bengals did beginning in 2019. Houston has an abundance of draft capital, even more than Cincinnati had when it went through its rebuild, including six in the first two rounds of the draft for 2023 and 2024.

It will be on Nick Caserio to put together the best roster with those picks to put the Texans back into relevance, and it begins with the hiring of the head coach. Could DeMeco Ryans be the answer in Houston?

The Bengals were patient with Taylor after two seasons of just two and four wins. Whoever Houston hires this go around will need to have stability. Taylor has proven he was the right man for the job even after the shaky start.

The next two drafts will define what the next decade looks like for the Houston Texans. They are at a crossroads when it comes to which direction they will take. Even at its best over the last decade, Houston’s ceiling was the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs.

Choosing the right quarterback and surrounding him with elite talent on both sides of the ball will be key. No pressure Caserio.

If he plays his cards right, it just might be the Texans competing against Burrow and the Bengals or Mahomes and the Chiefs on Championship Sunday in 2025.

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