It's finally here! After the longest offseason in the history of ever, the Houston Rockets open their 2013-2014 campaign tonight in Houston. The preseason has provided great signs for the Rockets, but now the games matter.
The front office has been working towards this summer ever since Daryl Morey traded Tracy McGrady. The players have been working towards this season since May. The Rockets won the offseason by winning the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes and added at least one solid rotation player in Omri Casspi (THE PLAYA FROM JUDEA!!!). Add to that the natural talent progression of young players (James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley) and the Rockets could potentially be an elite team this season. It won't always look pretty, but it's sure going to be fun.
Normally, the beginning of preview will be composed of my thoughts on the previous game (if I watched it) as well as broad statements about the Rockets and their opponent. Since there is no previous regular season game to draw on so far, today's broad strokes will be some basic reminders about TDS policy for the game preview and game thread, followed by the actual matchups that you so love and crave.
-No personal attacks. This one is easy folks. It takes a lot to get banned here. We allow swearing (which few other sites do, if any) and the general tomfoolery, but personal attacks or offensive slurs will get you kicked out in an instant. If you see that someone else has made a comment that falls into this category, please flag it. That makes it easier for the writers to see and deal with.
-No links to streams. I know the CSN situation sucks, but that's an SB Nation policy that we have to maintain. Ask around on twitter and you'll probably get your answer. But don't ask here.
-Be kind to outsiders. This isn't an SBN policy per se, but it's an AK policy. If fans of other teams come here and legitimately want to discuss hoops, please treat them with respect and decency. If they come to troll, flag their comments and ignore them. This usually isn't a problem, but I just wanted to reiterate.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker thrashed the Rockets to the tune of 35 and 24 points in the two matchups last year. Walker is a quick but also physical point guard, which was a combo that gave Lin fits last year (see: Westbrook, Russell). I don't know if Walker will go off tonight, but a common theme from last year was a poor all-around defense outside of Omer Asik.
Beverley has to make Walker's life miserable. If he can, the Rockets could have this in the bag. The depth behind Walker is Ramon Sessions, who is a smart point guard if not the most athletic. These are the guys that Lin absolutely destroys, and it's why I think Walker is the key to the game.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Gerald Henderson
Henderson averaged 16/4/3 last year for the Bobcats and was rewarded with a 3-year, $18 million contract. He didn't play very well against the Rockets last season, but that was last season. Henderson isn't a fantastic three-point shooter, which seems to be the bugaboo for the Bobcats in general.
The last time these teams met in Houston, Harden got his first career triple double. I look forward to leaving the advantage in the Rockets' favor all season.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Despite the general bashing of the Bobcats by the media, I like a lot of the moves that they've made. That's especially apparent in the draft. I really liked MKG's game at Kentucky. He finished with averages of 9/6 in his rookie season and made the second-team All-Rookie squad. He could be an absolute monster if he develops his jump shot further and continues to work on his defense.
Parsons is the obvious X-factor for the Rockets this season. Last year's second-leading scorer for the team, Parsons will have to take his jack-of-all-trades abilities to the next step. On certain nights the team will need him to create. On other nights the team will only need him to defend and make open threes and timely cuts. How he adjusts to the situation will dictate just where the Rockets line up among the top 6 teams in the loaded Western Conference.
Power Forward: Dwight Howard vs. Cody Zeller
If you know me at all, you know that I'm a huge Texas Tech fan (my alma mater). But if you know me as a basketball fan, you know that there's two college basketball teams that I love: Gonzaga and Indiana. I love the programs, the locations, the atmosphere at the games, the styles of play, and especially their coaches. So it's no surprise that I've had a basketball man-crush on Cody Zeller for the last two years. I don't know if his game will translate to the NBA, but he's definitely better than Tyler Hansbrough. And Psycho T has carved out a decent career in the league as a rotation big. And Zeller runs the court really well, earning him the nickname "The Gazeller" in college. He was also called "The Big Handsome," but that doesn't really apply here.
You might have heard about Dwight Howard. Most of us remember where we were on that fateful July 5th afternoon when Sam Amick broke the story that Dwight had chosen the Rockets.
Then we all remember where we were when Chris Broussard and Alex Kennedy tried to spoil our fun with the "50-50" situation. Broussard and Kennedy had tried to ruin our fun all week because they are
soulless bastards that love Los Angeles for all the obnoxious reasons reporters.
All of that leads to tonight and this season. Oh man it's going to be fun.
Center: Omer Asik vs. Al Jefferson
I'm higher on Jefferson than most people. Admittedly, he took the money this offseason instead of gunning for a ring. I expect him to play out this contract and then take a pay cut to play for a contender. But for now, he's a focal point in this offseason and is one of the few back-to-the-basket powers left in the league. He can back you down, he can hit that fade away, or he can turn and face you up to set up the triple threat. He's no joke, and he's going to get the ball a lot. The Rockets will have to attack him on defense and try to get him out of the game. The only issue is that his backup blocked the Rockets approximately 329 times in two games last season.
The goal for Asik is simple tonight, just like it will be most nights: defend the paint at your usual elite level and do the little things on offense like setting picks and screens. Asik can average 0 points per game and no one will care. He might be the only starter in the league where that's true. But that doesn't make his life any easier. Tonight will be a tough matchup against a physical Big Al.
Rockets: Jeremy Lin, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones. Is AK disappointed that we don't get the "Reggie Williams vs. his former team" angle? Yes. Yes he is.
Bobcats: Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Jeffery Taylor, Josh McRoberts, Anthony Tolliver, Bismack Biyombo
Advantage: Even-not a bad bench group for the Bobcats on paper
Prediction: This shouldn't be close; Rockets win 115-91.
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