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Five Out: Meet the New Year

Same As The Old Year.

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets
I was once a bust! Now I’m scoring 49pts! Ask me how!
Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to January, 2023’s first Five Out, where the more things change, the more they stay the same, for now, anyway.

The Finnisher not finished at 25?

What’s this picture of a 7ft tall Finn doing on Five Out? Well, he scored 49pts on the Rockets last night, along with 8 rebounds, and pretty much nothing else, as The Finnisher, Lauri Legend, doesn’t pass much.

Of course a lot of players score a lot on the Rockets, so what’s special here?

Markkanen is now 25 years old, in his sixth NBA season. He’s spent most of his career being considered a bust, especially for his #7 draft spot. Now he’s having a “miracle comeback” in Utah, officially his fourth team, at, surprise, the age where NBA players tend to really come into their own.

Keep Lauri in mind when you’re wanting to apply “bust” labels to young Rockets, when you’re wanting to trade them away. Sometimes what’s needed is the right situation, and more important, time.

Speaking of Time

Despite the call for patience with young players, is patience required for young coaches as well? Perhaps not, as the Rockets are currently in the process of basically not being competitive in most of their games. Sure, getting Jae’Sean Tate back helps, mostly because he’s experienced and versatile. He can’t do much, though, for an offense that cannot score when the opponent actually tries to play defense. Tate can’t fix a team that can neither score in transition, nor defend transition. He can’t set every pick.

Is Stephen Silas running out of time? My sense is, yes. It’s a shame, as he’s not in the situation he was offered to coach - the Rockets re-tooling around James Harden. Instead, the team might be one of the very least experienced overall in NBA history. The fact is though, Eric Gordon was right. Most Rockets, and the team, don’t look any better at the half-way point in the season than they did at the start. In some ways, they look worse, in terms of defensive effort.

I spoke about time, and situation, being important for young players. It is for coaches, too. Right now JB Bickerstaff and Mike Brown are coaching playoff teams. They seem to have gotten in at just the right time in a turnaround process. Beyond that, they’ve both had a couple of painful experiences as a head coach, and now, they’re having a good one.

I think the same will prove true for Stephen Silas. If think he’s got talent, and will be a good head coach at some point. If he’s not coaching the Rockets, he’ll get another shot, and he’ll do very well with it. Try to imagine the Rockets still having JB Bickerstaff as the coach. It seems impossible, despite his current success.

Trade Deadline Low-Grade Fever

The NBA trade deadline is still more than a month away. Most trades historically aren’t transacted with this many weeks left on the clock. They’re done in the two weeks leading up to the deadline, and right at the deadline.

Now, because of the expanded playoff, or play-in, picture, many teams do not appear to have made a decision to push more chips into the pot, or to fold their hand for the season. Hopefully this can work in the Rockets favor, as the Rockets appear definite about wanting to move Eric Gordon.

Still, one of the things I’ve wondered about both Stone and Morey is: do they realize they’re holding assets that are decreasing in value? Eric Gordon has an expiration date as a Rocket, and it’s not far off. Being sure of value, when no one wants to pay it, is perhaps another word for not understanding the nature of markets, and declining value of assets.

I don’t think the Rockets option to re-up Gordon in the summer will prove to be anything worthwhile, if that’s the path Stone follows. It’ll turn out that we’ve got Eric Gordon for at least one, and maybe three more years, and the Rockets can play this same game. Again.

Stone has typically made good moves, but the clock for insisting on some sort of internal value metric for Gordon is nearly past. He’s not part of the next team, and trying to make him one seems foolish. He’s not the canny old sergeant to get the young recruits into shape. Eric’s a good all-around combo guard who needs to be on a competitor.

What would I be happy to take at this point? A first round pick, of basically any sort.

No Change Fees

Here’s another little exercise I’m sure the Rockets have done. At what point does the team move on from Stephen Silas, if that’s their decision?

Now would seem like a good time. Unlike the rest of Silas’ tenure, the Rockets effort and commitment to playing hard seems to be slipping for some, and entirely gone for others. That’s the death knell, to me. A bad team, with bad habits, is a problem going forward, in a way a bad team with good habits and effort simply isn’t. I think this is why there’s basically one player left from “The Process” 76ers still on the 76ers.

Silas’ contract is expiring at seasons end. If the Rockets hand the job to Mahmoud Abdelfattah, they’re basically not spending a cent more that they would have to finish the season anyway. Abdelfattah has a half season to show real improvement with the team.

It’s a free look at the best internal head coaching candidate the Rockets have. If Rockets ownership and management has decided to move on, the time is soon.

Two New Years Resolutions For Rockets Players

Right now it’s hard to separate actual player development problems, from inexperience, from team problems, from a development log jam.

Here are two things, however, that can’t really be lumped into any of that:

Set A Real Damn Pick

Get Back On Defense

These aren’t high level concepts. They don’t require any particular basketball system, in fact, they’re universal. They DO require player accountability. If no one is accountable for setting actual, usable, picks, if no one sits for not running back, it’s not going to change.

When I write I think the Rockets need to all go to a “Basketball Fundamentals Camp” over the summer, I’m not kidding.

I’ve provided a sample resolution:

I, (insert player name here), resolve to run back, as fast as I can on defense, and I further resolve to set the sort of pick I’d like to have set for me in 2023. May owls eat my eyeballs if I fail in this resolution.


Rockets 2023 Resolution

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Set Picks.
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Lose Weight.
    (4 votes)
  • 64%
    Run Back On Defense, to the right place, even.
    (57 votes)
  • 20%
    Learn a new language. French, maybe?
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    Certain people: spend more time with family.
    (6 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now