NBA Analysis: Houston Rockets Year in Review

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Well, after 30 games the 2010-2011 Houston Rockets are right back where they began the season – at .500. And as Houston fans know, it has been a struggle to even get back to the .500 mark.

So as I sat back and watched the Rockets pull out a 100-93 victory at home against the Washington Wizards, I tried to wrap my head around this season. I know. It’s no easy chore. But as the Rockets sit at 15-15, consider that this team started 0-5 and also 6-12. Moral victories certainly shouldn’t be something that Rockets fans, and the organization for that matter, take pride in. But we could be sitting there with a team that is 10-20 instead of 15-15. Keep that in mind when I get to Houston’s January schedule in a little bit…

The truth is this: we’ve gotten a big bag of mixed results from the Rockets this season. Early in the season, Houston decided it wanted to build first half and fourth quarter leads only to see them quickly evaporate. It was an incredibly frustrating thing to watch, and it had to be frustrating on Rick Adelman and the players. At times, this team looked like a legit threat to win its division only for it to self destruct and vomit all over itself late in games. Of course, there was the Yao Ming and minutes played clock, which leads me to the one word Rockets fans have gotten accustomed to seeing attached to their team – injuries. First, it was Kyle Lowry to begin the season. Then it was another Yao aggravated foot, followed by Aaron Brooks missing over 20 starts, and the grand finale, also referred to more correctly as a grand kick to the groin, was the announcement that Yao was done for the season.

Not this again…

Unfortunately, the up-and-down rollercoaster season is sounding all too similar to last season, and that’s certainly not a good thing. However, with new faces in the mix it hasn’t all been bad. When Brooks was sidelined with an injury, Lowry was sensational. His 42.2 percent shooting percentage from the floor might not reflect that, but we’re talking about a guy that right now averages 7.2 assists per game, 2.04 steals per game (fourth in the NBA), 4.0 boards per game, and adds 10.8 points per night on average. Luis Scola has been, well he’s been Luis Scola which means he fills it up every night even if his defense slacks at times. Kevin Martin has done everything he can to keep this ship afloat by shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and an extremely impressive 44.3 percent from beyond the arc. Oh, the shooting guard is also second in the NBA in free throw percentage. Shane Battier actually won a basketball game against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers with his…offense! Yes, that happened. Plus, Jordan Hill has been an impact defender at times, and Courtney Lee is close to figuring out where he fits on this team.

But along with the injuries, there has been even worse as well. Chase Budinger entered this season with high expectations, but right now his shot simply isn’t falling (36.6 percent from floor and 25.0 percent from deep). Defensively, the Rockets have been poor at times, and are currently rated seventh in points allowed per game and 12th in field goal percentage allowed. And did I mention all the leads that were blown late in the basketball game? Plus, all the injuries have really impacted the flow and the ability for this team to gel while figuring out rotations. Adelman had to go from juggling a lineup with Yao’s minutes limit while working in all of the new faces, to dealing without his starting point guard, and now back to gradually working in Brooks along with establishing roles and some sort of bench scoring presence with Budinger not living up to the hype.

Again, it’s been a big ball of mess to start this season, and we’re already 30 games into an 82 game slate.

Unfortunately, I wish I could give you something different, Rockets fans. But I’m afraid Houston is about to have its fate sealed with a ridiculously hard January schedule. I know. Just as soon as the Rockets rip off five straight and 10-of-13 and look like they’re heading in the right direction, they have to welcome the scorching Miami Heat to town. And that’s just the beginning, folks.

The January schedule includes these goodies and February begins with two treats:

Sun 02  @ Portland

Mon 03  @ Denver

Wed 05  vs Portland

Fri 07  @ Orlando

Sat 08  vs Utah

Mon 10  @ Boston

Wed 12  vs Oklahoma City

Fri 14  vs New Orleans

Sat 15  @ Atlanta

Mon 17  vs Milwaukee

Wed 19  vs New York

Fri 21  @ Memphis

Sat 22  vs Orlando

Mon 24  @ Minnesota

Wed 26  vs LA Clippers

Thu 27  @ Dallas

Sat 29  @ San Antonio

Tue 01  @ LA Lakers

Wed 02  @ Utah

Yes, that’s the next 19 games and only four of them are against teams that are under .500. Also, the real icing on the cake, or spit in your soda, is the five back-to-backs (10 games) the Rockets have to endure.

If the Rockets are going to position themselves for any sort of playoff run, they’ve got to figure things out in a hurry, remain healthy (sans Yao), and they’re going to have to really earn it.

On the plus side, this team has really taken a step in the right direction lately. Who knows? Maybe they’ll take us on a ride and makes the second half of this season a lot easier to figure out for people like me, and a lot more enjoyable.