I tried my hardest to forget about the Rockets this weekend. However, the Rockets and I seem to have a few things in common. Whenever I feel like I've gotten them out of my head, they make a comeback and embarrass me. Fittingly, Rick Adelman shows up in my dreams. He's constantly in the dream world, so of course he would have a permanent residence there.
It seems there's a simple thought going around Rockets fans right now: disappointment. It goes beyond the 0-3 record. Living in an area populated by Mavericks fans, I spent months convincing so-called "NBA experts" (read: Mavs fans) that the Rockets were a darn good team this season. I put myself on the line. But I don't mean this selfishly. Every time I read that the Rockets won't make the playoffs or see projections with us finishing eleventh in the West, it makes me want to scream. Don't people understand that this team has the pieces to make a serious playoff run? Well, through three games everyone else has been right.
It's a disaster, being 0-3. So many rational thoughts start going through your head, such as:
"We should start shopping Yao and get good value while we can."
"I think it's time to show Mr. Morey the door."
"Might as well shoot for 0-82 to get Harrison Barnes."
"If only I was 7-feet tall we'd be so good."
"It's time to give the keys to the future of the franchise: Jared Jeffries."
OK, no one is thinking that last one. But it was funny, right? All of them are.
It's simple. This team needs a break. That's all it's going to take, in my mind. A win of any sort is going to jumpstart these guys. Twice in my life I've been on teams that started the season poorly. We got a fluky kind of win, and we never looked back. Granted, the NBA and church league basketball aren't the best comparisons, but the value is still there. Just one win, and everything changes.
But what these Rockets need is their own Novak moment. We remember Steve Novak for two things: as the subject of Tom's intense fandom and this:
I am thoroughly convinced that this incarnation of the Rockets needs their version of Steve Novak's shot. Now, game winners are hard to come by, and this team doesn't have many one-on-one players, but the Rockets need one player to be clutch once. That's not too hard, and it's going to happen. One moment like this would be great.
Now, before I make some stupid predictions, let's get on to the matchups.
It's ironic that the surprisingly 0-3 Rockets face the equally surprising 3-0 Hornets. Picked the finish the season last in the Southwest division, they have wins over three playoff teams from a year ago. With victories over the Bucks, Nuggets, and Spurs, the Hornets have made themselves relevant early in the season. For more on the Hornets, visit At the Hive, the SB Nation blog for New Orleans. Rohan is one of the best, and the readers there are pretty cool.
PG: Aaron Brooks vs. Chris Paul:
Two years ago, he was the best point guard in the league. Then he has an injury-riddled season and he's a "top 5" point guard. I call shenanigans. When you compare players to each other, "when healthy" is usually implied. So Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. Not Rondo, D-Will, or Nash. Chris Paul is the best.
Aaron Brooks has to be the guy to create for the Rockets when they get into stretches. But he's been disappearing at inconvenient times. I'm sure he's upset about the extension situation. Who wouldn't be? Nevertheless, if he wants to make money this offseason, he's going to have to be the hero for the Rockets when they need one. That doesn't mean he has to score copious amounts of points, or even rack up more than five assists per game. He just needs to start doing some dirty work.
SG: Kevin Martin vs. Marco Belinelli:
Belinelli is an Italian player, so it's safe to assume that he played for Toronto at one point.
Through three games (not a great sample size, but what do you want me to do?), he averaging 8/3. He's shooting 33%, so of course he'll choose tonight to get out of his slump and kill the Rockets. He'll get at least 15.
Speed Racer is going to need to get a hell of a lot more than 15. He probably will.
SF: Shane Battier vs. Trevor Ariza:
Finally, a break for Shane. He's had to guard Kobe, Monta Ellis, and Carmelo Anthony in the first three games. Most teams have at least one very good/elite wing, but New Orleans is one of the exceptions, which is one of the reasons people don't take them seriously.
Oh, and news flash: Trevor Ariza used to be a Rocket. Very recently.
He'll be chasing Kevin Martin around tonight. He did get to practice with Speed Racer for a couple of months before the season ended, so he probably has some knowledge of Martin's moves.
"Handles" is averaging 10/4/2.
Advantage: Even, I guess
PF: Luis Scola vs. David West:
West is a perimeter-oriented power forward. Sure, he can beat you inside, but where he really excels is with that 15-20 footer he loves to take. Combine that with a pick and roll with one of the best point guards in the league, and you've got a deadly PF. Luis doesn't like to defend perimeter players, so I expect West to tear him apart, as usual. Yao playing behind him will help, but when the big fella is out, the paint becomes chaos defensively. That's when teams will attack us.
I never thought I would ever consider Erick Dampier the answer to any of the Rockets' problems. Unless we had a problem with the team not sucking enough. I've since warmed up to the idea of Dampier. I can't wait to see what he can bring to the table. And thus, a diatribe about a couple of power forwards who should be praised effusively turned into a plea for Erick Dampier to be the interior defense savior.
C: Yao Ming/Others vs. Emeka Okafor:
Emeka was a nightmare for the Rockets last year. He's built like Chuck, but taller. It's no surprise he took our lunch money when the teams clashed last season.
Yao should help, but Emeka is too physical for the other center candidates. Brad Miller, Chuck, and Jordan Hill won't be able to contain him. Emeka isn't an explosive player or anything, but he can wreak havok, especially if the Rockets decide not to box out.
Hornets: Jerryd Bayless, Marcus Thornton, Willie Green, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Smith, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, DJ Mbenga.
Rockets: I have no clue Adelman is going to use. If you are attending the game, you have a 7.3% better chance than Jordan Hill of getting into the game.
Advantage: Rockets. I hope to be able to say that 78 more times this season.
Rockets: Lowry day-to-day (back spasms)
Prediction: We are winning this game. I look forward to welcoming the haters back.
Hornets vs Rockets coverage