Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Rockets can’t shoot, can’t defend, don’t know what their best lineups are. Klay Thompson is still all NBA - against college aged kids and GLeague talent like Daishen Nix. Yes, two of his best four performances this season were against these Rockets, something that probably won’t be mentioned when the commemorative toasts are made.
Against a Rockets team that for reasons best known to coaching and management, insists on having players go under on screens on NBA shooters. On NBA shooters like Klay Thompson. He may not be what he once way, but if a defense goes under a screen, if a defense switches off him to guard, let’s say, Donte DiVencenzo, he’ll make you pay. Thompson certainly did tonight, going 12-17 from 3pt range for 42 points. Sure, he got some soft calls for six points, and the only shots he made were from three, but he made 12 of those.
In some ways it’s barely worth talking about what the Rockets did, as little changes, and that by necessity, from injury. They don’t change their approach, their rotations continue to baffle. They can’t shoot, they can’t guard, and they can’t pass. It’s 58 games, and the Rockets just had over a week off and everything looks exactly, precisely, the same.
The only thing that has changed recently is that in the absence of both Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green the Rockets discovered they have a third guard prospect, no excuse me, a fourth, in Josh Christopher. Daishen Nix continues to play more minutes than Christopher. Nix continues to look slightly better, but not like an NBA guard.
The main upside is that even the Rockets coaching staff probably will be forced to admit TyTy Washington is better. Simply giving Washington minutes is enough at this point. Unlike Green, or Porter, who need more than minutes in bulk to improve at this point.
Tari Eason can probably use minutes in bulk. He simply does stuff that’s helpful, even when he’s making mistakes. His mistakes are the sort that he simply needs to get out of his system, and no better time than the painful present.
KJ Martin is already an NBA league average SF. Just leave the Mikal Bridges thirst trap and focus on what you have at home. Martin is three years younger, and almost as good right now. On a team with any defensive organization I daresay he’d be as good right now. Nobody around the NBA seems to realize how good he is, and will be. That’s great - extend him. Now.
Alperen Sengun looks out of sorts, and didn’t play much of the second half. It’s unclear why. He had a bad shooting night, but so did Jabari Smith Jr., and he logged 34 minutes. Sengun did have 9 rebounds and 8 assists, so he contributes even when he struggles. I suspect the coaching staff liked the small ball match-up, which did more or less keep pace with the Warriors who weren’t Klay, for whatever consolation that brought.
There’s been a real “Playing Out The String” feel to this coaching staff since mid December, when it became clear that what they were doing simply wouldn’t work with the players they had. While that’s understandable, the very young players on the Rockets are doing anything but playing out the string. They are trying to build their careers, to get a second contract.
They should be learning and growing. Despite the clever plan to tank three years, and then make changes, this time, which isn’t replaceable with developing players, is being wasted. Nothing is being learned. Nothing is being gained.
Sometimes the cost of a thing isn’t simply what was paid for it.
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