Houston Rockets Embrace New Flight Path

There are doubts when the Houston Rockets don’t pass the ball, doubts about their stars, their bench and even their coach.

But with each win and each pass the Rockets appear to be quietly quelling those doubts.

The Rockets gave NBA followers around the world a taste of how good they can be during their 112-101 win over Oklahoma City Thunder at the Toyota Centre last week as their offence flowed and their new-found bench strength gave a strong signal they are now fitting into the team.

Despite making a good start to the season, the Rockets wanted to add to their depth and give superstars James Harden and Dwight Howard more support, especially after they lost small forward Chandler Parsons to free agency this past off season.

So they made deals to acquire swingman Corey Brewer and point guard Alexey Shved then made a splash a few weeks back by signing embattled forward Josh Smith who had his multi-year contract bought out by the Detroit Pistons due to his struggles with the team.

After facing some struggles to find ideal roles for their new signings; the Thunder, and a national television audience, got to see them in full flight with Smith scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds as sixth man while Harden (31 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds) was electric as all five starters scored in double figures.

Rockets starting power forward Donatas Motiejunas said his team was starting to find its best play after much hard work.

“We play for each other and it’s a strength for our team because we have more than one player who can score from each of the positions,” Motiejunas told Downtown after the Thunder game.

“It’s really just an extra level for us.

“In the start we struggled, especially because we had such an intense schedule.

“You have to walk the [new] guys through the offence but they have just come from other teams where the philosophy is different and coaching is different.

“I think it was really important to make them understand the way we want them to play, it took a little time but they are getting more and more comfortable.”Motiejunas recognises the importance of everybody playing their role.

“In important games we need from all the players a contribution, not just James and Dwight,” he said.

“So more and more players can help us then the more dangerous we are going to be.”

In the super competitive Western Conference the Rockets will repeatedly be tested in the second half of the season by other serious title contenders but with each game the Rockets appear to be learning a little more about themselves and gain more confidence in each other.

Of course the Rockets are far from the finished product as shown by their 131-106 loss to Western Conference leaders Golden State Warriors on Sunday [Australian time].

Rockets coach Kevin McHale said his side had to keep the faith in their game plan whether they are playing good or bad.

“We can’t get tired of doing successful things,” McHale said.

“Against Orlando [their game before OKC] we ran a couple of plays and then someone would take an early shot and you look around like “why did he do that?” - if we ran the play to its end we would get a layup.

“We want to be a team that keeps running that play until someone makes a stop then we’ll make the adjustment.”

Harden has run into a rich vein of form in recent weeks, not just shooting with efficiency but creating plays for others and attacking the basket with vigour.

Harden’s play is now at the level where he is considered a genuine contender for this season’s Most Valuable Player Award along with fellow Team USA stars Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry - the Warriors superstar got the better of Harden on Sunday so expect fireworks next time they play.“He has the ball a lot and I think he’s just making more simple plays,” McHale said.

“He is still putting up some unbelievable numbers.

“Earlier in the year he wasn’t shooting the ball that well but we were still winning games so I said to him he was going to have a month or six weeks where he shoots the ball unbelievably well and he is in the middle of that right now.

“He has the ball a lot, he knows where his shots are and he never has to really force anything - he takes what’s there.”

Motiejunas is one of the players who benefits most from the Rockets’ extra passes as he moves into extra space created when Harden or Howard are double-teamed or draw help defenders.

The Lithuanian left-hander says his side has been well-coached and setup to succeed, now it will be on them to perform in the second half of the season and hopefully deep into the playoffs.

“[Tonight] Everything was working, everyone was touching the ball and making shots so it was fun to play when we are playing like that,” he said.

“We are a real dangerous team when we play to our full potential and hopefully that is going to be our start and we can start from there and just go up.

“The coaches do a great job of preparing us for games and doing the scouting report so if we are stepping on the floor and not giving our best then it’s not their fault - it’s all on us.”


Follow me on Twitter @rpjward

Follow Downtown @Downtownball


Author of the article

After leading my under-18 side in baldness and bench minutes I realised my basketball talents were best outside the court. I’ve covered basketball and other sports for Fairfax Media and Rural Press, I’m proud to have met and told the stories of many of Australia’s best basketballers both in country and overseas. I love basketball in all forms and all levels. Follow me on twitter: @downtownball

One Response

  1. Glenn at |

    Still laughing from the LeBron / Worthington story….where Wortho calls out “I’ve got number 6”. Brilliant!

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