What’s New in Houston?
The NBA is hard to predict. Things can change on a dime. That edge is so razor-thin,` capable of toppling towards success, or misery, so evenly, for the die-hards, it can be emotional violence on par with chaotic love. The Rockets find themselves on such an edge. They began the season doing exactly what people expected of them at 1-16.
Then, the pendulum tilted forward, as it does sometimes, for the sun to crack a shine on the Rockets dog-dayed ass. And wouldn't you know it, suddenly they have won 8 out of their last 10.
And then, just like that, as quick as a flutter or whimper, a blink or a twitch, the Rockets are knee-deep again in their own ennui. They suffered one of the worst losses of the entire NBA season against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, 124-89. At one point, the Rockets, with most of their best players sidelined to various injuries, trailed by 45 points.
The Knicks, for many years, have been a sort of respite for teams struggling to find identity, wins, or change. Role players have career highs. Stars take the next step. Legends break records. In many ways, this iteration of the Knicks could provide the Rockets with a bounce-back win after getting smacked in the mouth.
But these Knicks are a strange bunch. They have been hit with their own string of injuries as of late. RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes are all out with Covid protocols. Kevin Knox will join those three as he is now listed in Covid protocols.
The Knicks couldn’t take out their frustrations against a superior team Tuesday night when Steph Curry broke the all-time record for made three-pointers. But perhaps, against an injured, weakened adversary, they can exact their overwhelming failures out. It’s like what Logan Roy said in the second to last episode of Succession this season: “Life’s a fight for a knife in the mud.”
PG DJ Augustin is one of the few players from the 2008 NBA Draft still impacting games. Sure, he's only averaging 5 ppg this season. But, he’s only averaged 9.6 ppg for his career. Teams don't sign Augustine for his scoring outputs. At least not anymore. Augustine is still in the NBA because e can be trusted. He is cut from the same cloth as Chris Duhon and Darren Collison. He’s steady, dependable, and cool as a cucumber. He doesn't;t turn the ball over or launch ill-advised shots outside of the system. In fact, he can slide right into any system, run by any coach, because of his IQ and adaptable game. As he's doing tonight, for an injury-riddled Rockets team in desperate need of leadership and an able body.
SG Eric Gordon is one of the last holdouts from that almost decade-long contending Rockets squad led by James Harden. Eric was one of the countless three and d players surrounding Harden, sometimes at all four positions around Harden, ready to sling threes and switch on defense. Gordon has had a productive and consistent career. Still, as a leftover of a time long gone, he is averaging only a tick under his career average of 16.6, at 15.1 this season. His time with the Rockets might be short, as it is expected trades will begin to begin now that players signed this past off-season can be moved. Let’s enjoy his professionalism and heart while we can. Even if he’s on the opposing team.
SF Garrison Mathews is indicative of the myriad of storylines existing at once, at all times, in the NBA. On one side of the narrative arc, you have the superstar who grew up through elite prep schools, a single-season dominating on a D1 college said, and then drafted into the top, where he continues to advance into All-Star form. On the other side, you have guys like Mathews. The kid was undrafted in 2019, signed a two-way contract with Washington Wizards where he shared time with their G League affiliate, Capital City Go-Go. Then he was waived, picked up by the Boston Celtics before the 20201 season, only to be waived before the end of training camp, only to be claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets, who later turned his deal into a two-way contract with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. And now here he is — averaging 12 ppg and 3 rebounds as a starter for a rebuilding Rockets team, in need of a shot in the arm. Mathews, like The Dude, abides.
PF Jae’Sean Tate has been steady this season in a vacuum. When you are on a team in a rebuild, players like Tate are given opportunities to prove their individual talent, and ability to make others better. Tate has done both. He’s averaging 12 ppg and 6 rpg in his second season. Not bad for an undrafted player who is relatively older, at 26-years-old. He has vaulted himself into the young core of the Rockets that will be the building block of the team going forward. Against the Knicks, however, he might provide the right counterpoint for Julius Randle to have a big game and get his mindset back on track. Tate is not a great defender and is only 6’4, so he will give up a lot of size to his All-Star opponent tonight. It's on Randle to capitalize.
C Daniel Theis, somehow, has stuck around the NBA. Not sure why, but teams are always giving him a chance, and seemingly regretting said chance by the end of the season. He is shooting 29%form three this season, and only gives the Rockets 3.8 rebounds per game. All this for your starting center? It’s high time for rookie, Alpern Sengun to start. Sam Presti most recent mistake(the Thunder traded Sengun to the Rockets after selecting him), and subsequent Rockets gift, is proving to be one of this draft’s best players. The kid is giving 10 ppg and 5 rpg off the bench in 18.5 minutes a game. Fans are excited to see what would happen if he was given starter's minutes.
Knicks can not continue losing forever. Or can they? Things have to break, eventually, right? Or do they? The San Antonio Spur game earlier this month was a good example of the Knicks being able to rally when needed before things get too out of hand. The Knicks will do so again, tonight. Albeit, by single digits.