The Rockets are still in fourth place in the Western Conference despite dropping four of their last seven games. It's telling that there appears to be no panic among Rockets fans.
That's because it's just so early to evaluate this new roster. Kevin McHale has been tinkering, seeing who fits where. The players aren't nearly as comfortable as they were when everyone was getting too much playing time and the chemistry was off the charts.
Josh Smith's shooting has been as bad as advertised. Maybe he can share some of Corey Brewer's mojo, because the former Timberwolf's career sub-30 three-point shooting percentage is a distant memory: he's shooting 53.8 percent from downtown for the Rockets, because what.
Brewer will regress, and Josh Smith can't possible shoot below 35 percent from the field for long, can he? He's been good on defense, a willing and excellent passer and a sneaky cutter. He hasn't been shooting, but he's been helping in other areas. Whether that outweighs the horrible shooting is tough to tell.
Alexey Shved has a sprained left ankle so he's played only 18 minutes, few of consequence. I was hoping Shved would supplant Jason Terry's minutes if JET gets cold (like he is now), but his health has gotten in the way.
I'll touch on what's to come for the Rockets in the game thread post (foreshadowing!). Until then, a long-overdue Rocket Fuel:
Feigen at B/R means some sort of #hottake apparently. He says Josh Smith (shooting 34.1 percent) is playing well. I agree the whole team has been sloppy but Smith, offensively at least, has been a minus.
Rahat Huq points out a potentially disturbing result of the new acquisitions: the disappearance of Productive Donuts and any playing time for Canaanball.
Harden is at No. 1 in SB Nation's MVP power rankings.
Harden's December has been phenomenal. The Rockets guard is averaging 30 points, seven assists and six rebounds this month, and his efficiency has jumped after a poor shooting start to the season. He's shooting nearly 47 percent overall and better than 34 percent from three and he's still getting to the free throw line almost 10 times per game. Harden's best performance of the season came in a 110-95 beating of the Trail Blazers. In just 32 minutes of action, he put up 44 points, seven assists and five steals. The historic performance was his third game with at least 40 points in the span of 12 days.
Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney believes Josh Smith will be "a net positive" with the Rockets, but Houston is just going to have to live with terrible jumpers and boneheaded decision-making. "More good than harm" is basically Rockets fans mantra over J-Smoove at this point.
An interesting read as Rondo opens up to Sam Amick. Amick is an underrated guy but he does a good job of letting misunderstood players -- like Dwight Howard, on multiple occasions -- explain themselves at length.