James Harden Dazzles, Others Fizzle in Houston Rockets Season Opener

By Ian Jacoby
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

We’re two full days into the NBA regular season and I’m beyond ready to over-react. Who’s with me?

The past several days of NBA coverage by the national media seem to have been largely devoted to printing some permutation of the following: The Houston Rockets won the James Harden deal and will become a quality team in the future or the Oklahoma City Thunder lost the Harden deal and can’t contend for a title or the Rockets over-paid Harden ($80 million/5 years) or the Thunder made a smart trade for their future and won’t fall off at all.


This Rockets fan only knows one thing. If the future of Houston basketball looks like it did tonight against the (maybe, sneaky good) Detroit Pistons then the next few years are going to be both exciting and a little bumpy.

Sure, Jimmy Harden and his majestic facial hair absolutely torched the Pistons “defense” on the way to a 105-96 victory for Houston. Houston gave him $80 million for 5 years and he wrote a very public thank-you card. 37 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds are no accident, but what of the rest of the team’s performance?

Well there was one other bright spot, and that was the intelligent play of Jeremy Lin. While Lin ended the night with 4 turnovers (actually not a bad number for Lin, who’s been criticized for his propensity for sloppy ball-security,) his 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 12 points are a great point of reference for the kind of consistent play we could see out of the $25 million point guard. It’s what GM Daryl Morey is likely expecting, at least.

The rest of the night was dreadful.

Everyone will write about Harden’s 37 points, as they should. He almost single-handedly lifted Houston past Detroit, but make no mistake; this was a poorly played game by the Houston Rockets.

They fell down by double-digits twice, caused by poor passing from everyone which led to numerous turnovers, the fact that Marcus Morris was allowed to touch the ball and Houston’s absolutely atrocious second unit.

Who stood out from the bench play? Carlos Delfino. You read that correctly. I don’t even…

When Carlos Delfino is the only person outside of your two stars who looks like a threat on offense, you’ve got real problems.

While he did have a hot hand during the 4th quarter and eventually ended up going 5 of 6 from behind the arc (the only shots he took) it’s obvious that the Rockets can’t rely on him to be a big scorer every night, which begs the question “Where were our rookies?”

First round draft picks Terrence Jones, Royce “Is it cool if I drive?” White and Donatas “Donut” Motiejunas played a collective total of… hold on this math is difficult… ZERO MINUTES.

Head Coach Kevin McHale played none of them. All first-rounders, all potential all-stars given their physical abilities and none of them saw a minute of basketball.

There were times when watching Toney Douglas, D-League all-star Greg Smith (who, it should be noted, had some monster dunks), newly-acquired Daequan Cook and Mookie Morris on the floor together, and you just wanted to ask if you could sub in and give it a shot. The ball didn’t move, the floor was spaced incorrectly, everyone looked slow and nobody could make a shot.

This is a newly imagined Rockets club and things will take some time to come together, but until everything falls into place, it’s tough to find a sensible reason for McHale thinking that none of our rookies are worth checking into the game just to see what happens. Especially given the absence of current starting power-forward Patrick Patterson.

This was a tough win for the Rockets. There’s no question that Detroit came to play behind an efficient night for Jason Maxiell, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe. But if the Rockets want success going forward, there’s a level of comfortability they’re going to have to obtain, and they definitely aren’t there yet.

Hopefully, Friday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks will look a little more fluid.

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