Leading up to tonight’s game vs Houston, we posed a few questions to Mitchell Felker of Red94.net.
What is up with Omer Asik?
He’s just unhappy with his situation. Last year he was one of the breakout players of the season; this year he’s relegated to the bench and a measly 17 minutes a game. Part of that is his fault though. He’s formally requested to be traded twice and even voluntarily chose not to suit up for a couple of games. Since then he missed over a month with a thigh contusion.
But since the failed Dwight Howard/Asik starting frontcourt was broken up and Asik moved to the bench, the Rockets have been elite in the few games he was actually able to play. Asik is completely overqulaified for his reserve-role on the Rockets, but Houston’s ability to defend the rim for 48 minutes a game is very rare in the Association.
And besides Asik, the Rockets have struggled with injuries all year. They have avoided “The Big One”, but have never really been at full strength. GM Daryl Morey was open to trading Asik, but I think he is jut as excited to see what he has moving forward with this roster.
Are the Rockets happy with their point-guard position? We’ve seen rumors for Rajon Rondo, but I actually like the Patrick Beverly, Jeremy Lin and now Aaron Brooks combo.
Well, as I’m sure you know by now, Aaron Brooks was traded for small forward Jordan Hamilton of the Denver Nuggets. The Rockets needed shooting and wing-depth more than they needed a third point guard. And I like Hamilton for the Rockets. His strengths (catch-and-shoot, athleticism & solid rebounding) are exactly what the Rockets needed, so he should fit it nicely with Houston’s style of play. The Rockets have rookie Isaiah Canaan bouncing back and forth from the first team to the D-League, and while they would certainly prefer to not have to rely on him this season, he will be available.
But yes, I think they are happy with the situation. I would even venture to say that management views point guard as a strength for the team. Both guys have an elite skill, pressure-defense for Beverley and attacking the rim for Lin, and second-units featuring both Beverley and Lin have been quite effective as well.
Patrick Beverley brings a lot of intensity, and his defensive presence against players like Steph Curry is why he’s in the starting lineup. Jeremy Lin has been a little up and down, but he’s also been the fill-in for most of the aforementioned injuries to the backcourt, so he hasn’t had a chance to get comfortable in a particular role since Dwight Howard was introduced to the team.
But that has changed in this eight game winning streak. Lin has had two stinkers, but for the most part has been efficient. Not to mention, this week the Rockets had their full roster in practice for the first time in weeks. They’re finally healthy and just in time for the stretch-run. I expect the Rockets run of late to continue as they get back to the rotations Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey envisioned
Has Dwight Howard been everything you imagined he would be? If not, how so?
He has been everything I expected. That’s not to say it’s been roses the entire time, though. His free throw shooting is still a very real problem and his postups range from unstoppable to catstrophe seemingly possession-to-possession.
But it is safe to say that the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. His footwork has been outstanding since the new year and the other Rockets players are finally learning how to play with him. There were issues early-on because no one on the Rockets had ever played with a real interior presence, but now they are really gelling. Howard’s dominance has even given second-year Terrence Jones a little room to stretch his legs and surprise some people with his play.
Most of what the Rockets are ultimately able to accomplish will come down to how they defend the perimeter. But Dwight Howard is the trigger to it all. His presence frees-up James Harden, Chandler Parsons and the rest to do what they do best: play fast and attack. So he may not be 2009 Dwight Howard anymore, but I don’t think anyone really expected that. Plus, 2014 James Harden is much better than anything else on those Magic teams. If the way Howard has played recently is what we can expect for the rest of the season, the possibilities are very exciting.