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Interview with Mat Issa on what to expect from the Rockets in the second half of the season

The Rockets are ready start the second half of the season, but what can fans expect?

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The second half of the season for the Houston Rockets ramps up Friday versus the Orlando Magic. Although the Rockets are 15-43, they can still experiment with the younger pieces on their roster.

The continuity between Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green is getting better, while Christian Wood is still trying to find his footing. Alperen Segun has become better each game because of patience.

Besides the rookies, it was reported that Dennis Schroder and the Rockets are not looking at a buyout, which is good. In the last three games, Schroder is averaging 12 points, 7.7 assists, and 4 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 36.4/25.1/90.0 percent from the field. Schroder has formed a certain bond with Green on the court, as he wants the rookie to be aggressive.

The ‘Baby Rockets’ have shown certain flashes throughout the season, whether it was Green having a 30-point game or Porter filling up the stat sheet and giving the Rockets a certain pace. Wood is having a rigorous season. He takes certain ill-advised shots instead of reading the defense and finding a better look for himself or teammates. If Wood takes bad shots, it slows down the pace and ball movement for the Rockets. The Rockets are a minus 7.6 with Wood off the floor while they are minus 10.6 when he is on the court.

As the Rockets have seen inconsistencies in their offense, they are ranked 27th in the NBA in offensive rating (107.1). Per 100 possessions, the Rockets average 107.1 points per contest, which puts them at the 27th spot again. The good thing about the Rockets this season is they lead in pace at 102.1. For a young team, that is good, as they need to play fast.

Coach Stephan Silas does a great job of finding each player’s shot and putting them in place to score. Although the Rockets average 16.9 points off screens, Silas runs various sets so everyone can become active on the court. Because of the flare and double pin down screens, the Rockets lead the NBA in effective field goal shooting with 58.3 percent.

I believe Silas could turn this team around when given another season. As Rocket spectators are impatient, Silas needs more time. Silas could be dealing with two more rookies that will have to develop for next season when drafted.

We talked we Mat Issa of of BasketballNews.com and Forbes Sports about what to expect the rest of the season. Make sure you toss Mat a follow on Twitter at @matissa15.


Zack Allen: What do you expect from the Rockets in the second half of the season?

Mat Issa: I expect to see what you normally see from a 15-43 team during the second half of the season. I expect to see some bad losses, some really encouraging moments, some flashes from their young core, and at least one or two 40-point explosions from an obscure G-League call-up that has NBA Twitter wondering if the Rockets just uncovered another building block for the future.

ZA: Do you think Jalen Green has lived up to your expectations?

MI: That depends on what expectations you are talking about. Has Green lived up to expectations relative to his place in the draft so far? Probably not, he was the second player selected in the draft, and yet, most of us could name five rookies who have flashed more promise than him. But if your first-year expectations were centered around him demoing the skills that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place (the proper way to judge rookies, by the way), then he has more than lived up to that.

Once I started getting more of a feel for his game, the first higher-outcome comparison that came to mind was Zach Lavine. And from watching him, you can totally see the blueprint for him developing into that sort of off-ball/on-ball scoring machine. His athleticism is insane. He may have missed quite a few dunks last Saturday, but seeing his face literally come up to the level of the rim was jaw-dropping. Also, his first step is of the blink, and you might miss it variety (which will undoubtedly make him a free-throw drawing jukebox for years to come), and that jumper, while not falling as consistently as you’d like, still looks pretty clean for a 20-year-old. Oh yeah, and he’s only 20 years old. He’ll be a fine player.

ZA: Do you think Christian Wood still has something to prove?

MI: I wrote about this last month when I went in-depth on the Rockets for my two-part article with Mark Schlinder, but I think Wood gets an unnecessarily bad reputation. On defense, he’s not really suited to play the five and anchor an entire backline of a defense. What he can do is get out on the perimeter and use his length to keep guys in front of him (kind of like Lauri Markkanen in Cleveland).

I say this because I feel like your question is getting on the belief of many Rockets fans that Wood is not a winning player on that end of the floor and that to remain a part of the team’s long-term plans, he needs to “prove” that he can be. I push back on those claims, and while I do believe some of his issues on that end boil down to effort, most of it is just a symptom of him being miscast in a suboptimal role.

Remember, this is the same guy who went undrafted and climbed out of the G-League to get where he is today. He wants to put in work. He wants to be great. Just give him an opportunity to do so.

ZA: Although Rocket fans are uneasy, is Coach Silas still the right fit for the Rockets?

MI: It’s hard to say because we haven’t really had a chance to see the entire rolodex of his playbook. Initially, Silas was brought in to try and revamp a Harden-led offense, but of course, Harden’s premature departure made it so that vision was never fully realized. This year, Silas has had to oversimplify his offense to accommodate his inexperienced backcourt.

I think the worst part of modern sports culture is the lack of patience we have for coaches when so much of success is context related. Right now, Silas probably looks average/below-average to most, but give him time and a stable situation, and who knows, maybe he’s Tyronn Lue in a few seasons.

ZA: Is Zion Williamson something Rafael Stone should chase?

MI: I’m not really going to try and speculate on the whole Zion fiasco (I’m lame, I know). All I know is that when he’s right, he’s a generational offensive player, and those are usually the types of players your chips on the table for if the opportunity presents itself.

But I’ve also been of the camp that you shouldn’t publicly dangle your young players in the hopes of obtaining star capital, because if a deal doesn’t end up going down, it is a terrible look for morale (remember that guy Ben Simmons). So if you are going to try and acquire a high-level player like Zion, I would do it as stealthily as possible (like the Bulls going for Nikola Vucevic or the Kings going for Domantas Sabonis). That way, if anything goes wrong, you don’t lose the trust of your guys (I know it’s snaky, but it takes a cobra to slither around in the weeds!).