The Houston Rockets are finally playing a team with the same amount of rest as them.
Of course, it’s still a road game coming at the tail end of a disastrous 2-week road trip that has dropped the Rockets out of the play-in spots in the Western Conference.
A common complaint from Ime Udoka on this trip has been a lack of energy. I feel like he has talked about it in every postgame presser he’s done for the past two weeks. Either it’s “I didn’t like the energy to start the game” or “I didn’t like the intensity coming out of halftime.” That’s obviously paraphrasing, but the message has been consistent: the Rockets are not putting forth the effort required in the NBA to win games, especially on the road against hungry teams.
Look, excuses can be made. The Rockets are re-integrating Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason back into the rotation. Almost every game has come at a disadvantage in terms of rest. Road trips are difficult for every team. Road trips are extra rough for young teams like the Rockets. And energy? Most of the Rockets haven’t been asked to play with energy in mid-January since college.
That’s not a slight on Stephen Silas. Or at least, not directly. For most of Houston’s rotation, the season had already been over by this point in previous years. The Rockets were 10-34 on January 17, 2023. One year earlier, they were 13-32. They were playing out the string. The All-Star Break was coming up, and that’s about all that was left to look forward to for some of these guys. At 19-20 going into tonight, they are three wins away from matching their total from last season, their most since the bearded fellow played a whole season for them. This is Jae’Sean Tate’s fourth season in Houston. It’s already his third-winningest year. In January.
So the energy thing is real. The All-Star break isn’t coming to save the Rockets. It’s four long weeks away. There’s two more back-to-backs left this month. One of those comes against two of the “easiest” games Houston has left on the schedule (Charlotte and Brooklyn, both on the road). And there’s clearly not an easy answer to the problem, or else the coaching staff would have found it already.
But if the Rockets want this season to matter? If they want to play meaningful games in March and April? Well they’re going to have to find the energy. Because if they don’t, they’ll be watching the playoffs from home knowing that if they had just mustered up a little more juice in January, they could be there. And the free agency moves, the development from Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr., and the re-invigoration brought on by the hiring of Udoka will have have been wasted. They’ll just amount to a few more wins and a couple of steps up the Western Conference ladder.
And that can’t be enough.
How to Watch
Space City Home Network
Reggie Bullock-GTD (back)
Jalen Brunson-GTD (calf)
Josh Hart-GTD (knee)
The Line (as of this post)
Looking ahead because we can
Saturday night in Houston against the Jazz