This is a season that the city of Houston wants to forget. For eight years, the Houston Rockets have made the playoffs. James Harden became the sole reason why the Rockets were a post-season fixture in that span. Sadly, Harden wanted out because of personnel changes and upper management.
But before Harden wanted out, Daryl Morey’s former Rockets’ GM and Russell Westbrook had also left the team. Each component is in different situations. Harden is with the Brooklyn Nets, Westbrook plays for the Washington Wizards, and Morey manages the Philadelphia 76ers. All due to confusion in the organization.
Coaching search, perceived chemistry gel, and luxury tax are the reason Harden, Morey, and Westbrook are now in new places. Other problems on the Rockets’ roster have occurred a ton this season. Several players have dealt with COVID tracing protocols or had symptoms and a multitude of other injuries.
After waiting 20 years to coach, instead of trying to push a title contender over the top, Stephan Silas has instead dealt with drama of Harden, Westbrook, and P.J. Tucker not wanting to be there and has juggled multiple starting lineups. Not having enough practice time with team has affected his coaching. Injuries have also hurt Silas’ chances of winning.
When the Rockets went on a six-game winning streak, Christian Wood got injured. During Wood’s injury span, the Rockets went on a vicious losing streak. Before things went bad-bad for the Rockets, the tandem of Wall, Oladipo, and Wood were officially dubbed the “WOW Factor”.
Inside the winning streak, the Rockets had a top-five defensive rating in the NBA before the 20-game losing streak. It almost seemed like the Rockets given up.
Victor Oladipo was included in the Harden trade by being swapped for Caris LeVert. He wasn’t much useful for the Rockets because of injuries and bad shooting. Oladipo dealt with knee problems while shooting 32 percent from three. He never recovered from his previous knee injuries with the Indiana Pacers.
“We had kind of, organizationally, made a decision that— that the Victor fit wasn’t— wasn’t kind of a good one. And so at that point, you know, what do you do, right? So— so then it became make a deal that has some upside. I’ll walk you through, I think, what the upside is and— and move on to the next— to the next stage, right. So from our perspective, really like the guys in the deal.” - Houston GM Rafael Stone
A dynamic gel could never be built between Oladipo and John Wall because of load management. They were never allowed to play back-to-back nights, which increased the losing streak with Wood out. No matter if both played, the losing still happened.
Although the Rockets became a losing team, life was presented from Kevin Porter Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, and Jae Sean Tate. Porter was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers for second-round pick. Tate became a surprise for the Rockets’ organization because he was undrafted and played overseas. Martin and Porter were both called up from the G-League after making a huge impression.
After losing 20 games in a row and Eric Gordon and David Nwaba to injuries, the Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 117-99. Even though the Rockets beat Raptors, they struggled to win more games. The Rockets eventually traded Oladipo for Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. “Kelly and Avery are both guys we’ve liked for several years,” Stone said.
Olynyk became an instant spark on the court and inside the locker room. He has always supported Porter during tough shooting nights and lent his veteran’s acumen to Tate and Martin.
His shooting splits have become prominent with the Rockets. So far, Olynyk has a career high with the Rockets by averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting 38 percent behind the three-point line and 49.7 percent from the field.
It’s hard to see Olynyk coming back because of a likely high asking price. He hasn’t proposed a number yet, but it could be outside the Rockets’ market.
After hoping the Rockets would have a good season, things became totally opposite. The Rockets have the worst record in the NBA and have become a lottery team, getting a chance to draft Evan Mobley, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, or Jonathan Kuminga in the NBA 2021 draft if their pick lands 1-4.
Silas and John Lucas are starting to unlock the stardom of Porter, who recently had 50 points and 11 assists versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wall had a great return after missing two years on an NBA court. He gathered 20.6 points per game, 6.9 assists, and shot 40.4 percent from the field.
Tate has climbed up to third-place on the Rookie of the Year voting chart and probably made first team rookie.
Martin has showed his insane athleticism at 6’6” by dunking on and blocking seven-foot centers. He even had career night against the Bucks by getting 26 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from three.
Wood averages almost a double-double by gathering 21 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and shot 63.1 percent from the field. He even shot 37.4 percent from three while having a 59.1 percent true shooting percentage.
“For me, [this] is not a nightmare. It’s just dealing with the circumstances and all of the things going around with the team. Being ready for this position. Tackling problems and solving them, that’s what a head coach does. Obviously things were not perfect, but here we are.” — Silas
At the end of day, Harden had every right to force himself out of the Rockets’ organization. He deserves to win a championship after serving eight years in Houston. Although Harden left the Rockets in shambles, Silas and Stone believe a turnaround is coming soon.
”[Steph Curry] was just saying how happy he is for me and he’s looking forward to seeing the turnaround when it happens here in Houston under my leadership.” - Silas