Judging from the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like much is going right in the Rockets camp.
In fact, it looks to be going all wrong as another Rockets season has them mired in mediocrity with an NBA-worst record (11-36) and it wasn’t until Monday’s win over Minnesota that they snapped an abysmal 13-game losing streak. No other NBA team has lost as many games in a row so far this season. A third-straight NBA Lottery season is in the making.
But embattled coach Stephen Silas recently told The Defender he still believes the team is moving in the right direction despite all of the losing.
“Absolutely,” said Silas, who was 48-153 during his first three seasons as of Monday night. “Look at the way [Alperen Sengun] has played [recently], look at the stretches of play where we good for 42 minutes but in a span of six minutes we weren’t very good.
“So yeah, there is definitely a feeling we are moving in the right direction.”
Silas is right in a lot of ways. This extremely young and talented Rockets squad does show flashes of promise, but it’s those befuddling moments of ineptness that lead to losses upon losses that have many questioning if the Rockets are indeed headed in the right direction.
The concern has grown even more in the past couple of weeks as two former Rockets guards have been vocal in casting doubt on the franchise’s ability to win under this regime of general manager Rafael Stone and Silas.
John Wall and Austin Rivers have said what many of us have wondered as we watch current Rockets guards Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. score baskets but still seem unable to grasp the fundamentals of winning basketball.
“Somebody needs to teach KPJ and Jalen how to play the right way,” Rivers said recently to the media after a Rockets game with his current team, the Timberwolves. “They need those vets. I like those guys, they’re super talented, they can really score. They need someone to help them take that next step.”
What’s interesting is last year, the Rockets had that vet guard in former All-Star John Wall. But someone in the organization, presumably Stone, made the head-scratching decision that Wall should either come off the bench or just not play at all while the team worked out a trade.
The thought process then was that Green and Porter were the future and that it was best to let them play through their mistakes during the Rockets rebuild. The problem is a year later, the two still haven’t seemed to grow much.
Both are still playing way too much isolation ball, making far too many turnovers in the backcourt (coming for 6.6 turnovers per game) and just not seeming to get the difference between scoring the ball and playing winning basketball.
Wall tried to warn them, as veteran guard Eric Gordon likely has, too. But it’s often hard for young starters to hear much from the bench. Wall, who ripped the Rockets for trying to tank games during his disastrous tenure, had some words of advice for the team when he was here.
“Don’t get used to this,” Wall told the Rockets’ younger players. “This is not how the NBA is. It’s a bad organization right now. They’ve got to fix some [expletive].”
But while Green and Porter get much of the blame, the reality is without any veteran leadership – only two players are over 27 – it’s hard to imagine the Rockets turning it around anytime soon.
The Rockets have certainly drafted well with impressive young talent like power forward Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, Sengun and Green, but without some veteran leaders in the mix, it’s conceivable that they could be spinning their wheels for the foreseeable future.
To his credit, Silas remains optimistic. Silas was hired to coach and provide therapy for the Russell Westbrook-James Harden duo but that never happened and suddenly the first-time head coach found himself in the middle of a rebuild.
Now Silas and Stone are on the hook for the lack the progress the team is showing.
“The best teacher is experience, and that’s what they’re getting right now,” Silas said. “You don’t look at certain guys around the league, and just because they went through a rebuild, they have a losing attitude. There have been teams that have done it before.”