On an opening night full of intrigue, the Rockets edged to the Pistons, 105-96, with James Harden buoying an excellent team offensive performance. In addition, Jeremy Lin added 12 points and 8 assists, Omer Asik had a 12 and 8 of his own, and Carlos Delfino put in 15 points while only missing one shot.
There will be more to come, but for now, here are a few brief observations:
1) James Harden is very, very good
At least in game one, the early returns on James Harden are extremely strong. Picking up a double-double in his first contest, Harden had a ridiculous 37 points and 12 assists, carrying this team to a nice early season victory.
More importantly, Harden looked absolutely comfortable in the role of the primary option, taking advantage of having the ball in his hands on almost every possession. With the Rockets making him the foundational piece for the next six years, things are definitely looking up.
I don't want to overreact to one game, but at the very least, the early returns are quite strong. If you can, go and buy some stock, it'll be rising quickly.
2) This is a work in progress
As we could have predicted before the season, this team of young guns is going to go through stretches where nothing seems like it's going well. Tonight, it was late in the second quarter and the middle of the third that were nearly unwatchable.
With no consistent shot creators outside of James Harden, opposing teams can exploit the Rockets ball control problems and go off on long runs. Tonight, that was evident, especially when Harden on the bench.
Without guys like Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee and Samuel Dalembert who anchored a Rockets bench, the Rockets young bench got absolutely worked at times. Daequan Cook and Toney Douglas looked awful, and Delfino and Greg Smith could only do so much.
I want to repeat in case it wasn't clear: Toney Douglas is a horrific basketball player. Truly Rafer Alston-esque.
3) The Rockets are going to be extremely dependent on Asik and Harden
If Omer Asik goes down at any point this season, pencil the Rockets down for a long losing streak. Obviously, the same applies to James Harden, but Asik is at least as important to the Rockets' defense as Harden is to the Rockets' offense.
Asik is the Rockets' sole big body inside, the only man who can match up with opposing bigs and control the paint. After years of deep rosters with reasonably interchangeable pieces, the Rockets will be hit extremely hard if anyone of their core pieces goes down. Greg Smith had a great night, but he will not cut it as the starting center.