The Houston Rockets are in the midst of an 8-game losing streak. That’s just past the halfway point to their longest losing streak of the season: the 15-game monstrosity earlier this season. Should Houston lose their next three contests (and Vegas will say that’s highly likely), the Rockets will have two double-digit losing streaks sandwiched around an incomprehensible 7-game winning streak.
The Washington Wizards started 10-3 and were the toast of the league. They fleeced the Lakers in the offseason and somehow landed a rotation of solid players for the price of Russell Westbrook. Think about that: every team that has traded Westbrook away has gotten something nice out of the deal. The Thunder got a bevy of draft picks and swaps from Houston, the Rockets got a first round pick and a player who is willing (at times) to sit out and let the younger players develop, and the Wizards got Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers, along with Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday from others in the 5-team trade.
Since their torrid start, the Wizards are 9-15. They have hit .500 three times, but have won the following game each time. They are currently in seventh place in the East, and sit just two games out of fifth place and simultaneously two games out of 11th and outside the play-in altogether. So this is a big game for them,
For Houston, tonight will be about reintegrating Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood into the lineup after their suspensions. Both put themselves ahead of the team, and frankly neither is good enough to get away with that sort of thing. I’m sure fans of every other team is already drawing up lopsided trades to land Wood, but let’s talk about KPJ specifically for a second.
Kevin Porter Jr. is in a great professional situation. He’s getting to play point guard for a team that is willing to let him learn on the job. There’s no pressure. The team is 10-28 and before the Denver game no one was calling for him to be cut, waived, or traded. He’s had some great games, but he’s mostly been so-so. He’s already on his second chance in Houston after Cleveland decided he wasn’t worth the trouble and traded him for a pick that had 0% chance of being conveyed. Houston has John Lucas as a player development coach. Lucas has dealt with demons of his own and is well-respected around the league. The Rockets only felt comfortable bringing in KPJ because they were confident that Lucas could unlock something in Porter Jr.
So if Houston is a great situation for him, what’s the perfect situation? On a really good team, KPJ is coming off the bench and mostly being asked to score. He’s certainly not in line to be the face of the franchise. He’d go from starter to role player. There would be expectations. And other places would not be content to watch him shoot under 40% in most of his games. On another bad team, he’d be lucky to be getting the same opportunity as he is in Houston. He’d be on his third strike, and he’d have the shortest leash of all time. Not every team has a John Lucas. Not every team has the time and resources to help a young kid develop and realize his potential.
Maybe part of this is me being older and more experienced with disappointments, but KPJ has to understand that this is the best chance he has at making it big in the NBA. Because if he keeps this up, he’s going to be radioactive to other NBA teams.
Wood made a mistake here too and is also culpable. However, I think the situations are different. Wood’s leash is certainly shorter than it was just five days ago.
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