Just about a month ago, the Rockets were playing above their talent and seeming to benefit from being freed of the James Harden drama.
Now, reality has set in.
The Rockets are a team without a legit superstar or two on the roster, and in the NBA that is the equivalent to trying to play basketball without a ball. It doesn’t work, and as a consequence the Rockets were riding an 11-game losing streak following Sunday’s 133-84 loss to Memphis.
Ironically, the last team the Rockets beat before starting their win-less streak Memphis on Feb. 4, a victory that capped a stretch in which they won 7 of 8 games.
While the Rockets fans are up in arms now – especially during the franchise’s longest losing streak since dropping 15-straight games during the 2000-01 season – the team is doing its best to hold it together.
“With a (12)-game losing streak (as of Monday’s loss to Cleveland) it’s easy to point the finger and all of those things, but we’ve just got to figure out a way to win, point blank, period,” said guard Victor Oladipo. “It’s no other way to talk about it, there is no other way to fix it but that. We’ve just got to figure out a way to win.”
Figuring out how to win, however, is closely tied to figuring out what’s wrong with the Rockets. On the surface, it’s the departures of superstars Russell Westbrook and Harden, two players who not only make big shots but make players better around them just by their presence.
The Rockets now lack that dynamic ability which is evident in the long scoring lulls they often have gone through in this recent run. There are stretches where the team can’t buy as basket. It doesn’t help that emerging star center Christian Wood has been out with an ankle injury and the Rockets hadn’t won since.
Oladipo has been bothered by a nagging foot injury which rendered him unavailable for back-to-back games. The Rockets didn’t play with the same starting lineup in consecutive games for the month of February until the final two games.
Point guard John Wall has been the most consistent player on the roster, but his play alone hasn’t been nearly enough.
“We’re on a losing streak right now, nobody in the locker room is happy about it,” said forward Sterling Brown. “We are going to bounce back.”
The question is when?
First-year coach Stephen Silas is working hard to figure that out, but he’s also fighting the reality of the sense of urgency to win versus the need to trust the process while not being as concerned about wins and losses.
“It’s my job to highlight the positive, to show the negative, fix the negative and try to keep, as hard as it can be in this situation, an even keel,” Silas said. “When we are on a six-game winning streak you are through the roof and now we are on a losing streak you are down in the dumps.
“It can’t be that way, it has to be a consistent message for the players on a daily basis. That’s the best way to kind of help them through the pressure all of the things they are feeling as far as grinding to win a game.”
Rockets by the numbers
6 The most wins in a row they’ve had this season
20 The number of points John Wall is averaging
43.8 Rockets field goal shooting percentage
112.6 Average points opponents are scoring