All Systems Go: The Rockets Are Young, Focused and Ready to Compete

Fun-loving, but hyper-competitive on the court, the Rockets are ready to deliver a new age in Houston basketball. Fans are ready for that, too.

Crane and the Astros filed a motion claiming the bankruptcy filing was simply a way for the other parties at CSN to take over the network. He might be right, but the move could certainly be justified given his hard-line stance thus far. With the bankruptcy filing, CSN is seeking the appointment of a trustee who would potentially make unilateral decisions in the "best interest" of the network.

The Rockets have remained oddly quiet for their part, but no doubt they are hoping the court will grant CSN's motion and put them on the path to wider coverage. Fans are hoping for the same, but the court system moves slowly and it's hard to know how long something like this will take. For now, if you aren't a Comcast subscriber and refuse to switch, you might be relegated to sports bars and friends' couches for Rockets games. At least they're on national TV a bunch this season.

Is this team, as constructed, a championship contender this season?

Surrounded by players he really likes, Howard is all smiles in his Rockets uniform.
Photos by Jeff Balke
Surrounded by players he really likes, Howard is all smiles in his Rockets uniform.
Dwight Howard laughs it up during a commercial promo shoot on Rockets Media Day.
Photos by Jeff Balke
Dwight Howard laughs it up during a commercial promo shoot on Rockets Media Day.

There are a lot of things that have to go right to put the Rockets in the position to win a title come June. They must remain healthy — Howard has had some back issues, most notably before last season, that have limited him (remember, the last guy with a back injury on this team was Tracy McGrady). They have to figure out how they're going to play on the floor with one another. The Rockets want to play up-tempo, but it's hard to imagine them leading the league in fast break points yet again with a guy like Howard who can dominate the paint.

But scoring is hardly the biggest issue for this team, which was already at the top of the league in most offensive categories last year. Defense is a different story. Harden and Lin, in particular, must improve as individual defenders. Harden has committed to being a more complete player and the combination of his size and athleticism would seem to indicate that with work and effort, he could be an elite defender. Lin will need to step up that part of his game or risk losing his job to Beverley.

Perhaps the biggest concern is solidifying the Rockets' rotation. Right now, assuming Lin starts, Beverley and Asik are their best bench players. They will have newcomer Omri Casspi and a ­re-signed Garcia, both of whom can shoot (and Garcia showed some defensive mettle as well in the OKC series), but the Rockets have very little offensive firepower on their second team, which could be an issue as the long season wears on. They are close, but the odds are against them winning it all this year. Next year, however...

Month by Month


Home Games: 10

Away Games: 8

Back to Backs: 5

National TV: vs. Lakers (TNT), at New York (TNT), at Dallas (ESPN)

Key Game/Stretch: Back-to-back games, home for Brooklyn and away for San Antonio

The first month of the season gives the Rockets a chance to both test themselves and get their chemistry together. In addition to Lin's return to Madison Square Garden and Howard's first game against the Lakers, there are some grueling back-to-back stretches, all of which require travel between them. Favorable matchups with Boston and Philadelphia are balanced against two meetings with the Clippers, an away game in Memphis, and the last back-to-back of the month against Brooklyn and the rival Spurs.

Projected Record: 11-7


Home Games: 8

Away Games: 8

Back to Backs: 3

National TV: at Portland (TNT), at Golden State (ESPN), vs. Bulls (ESPN), at Indiana (ESPN), at San Antonio (ESPN), vs. Grizzlies (TNT), at Oklahoma City (NBATV)

Key Game/Stretch: Back-to-back games beginning Christmas Day at San Antonio and home for Memphis

The month of December is when the Rockets take center stage against some of the best teams in the NBA. With only three back-to-backs and plenty of games against the league's also-rans, they could rack up a few wins. But they also face tough games against the Bulls and the Thunder, never mind the biggest two-game stretch of the season to that point when they face the Spurs on Christmas day and the Grizzlies the day after, both on national TV. The Rockets seem like the type of team built to thrive in the spotlight. We'll find out in December.

Projected Record: 10-6


Home Games: 8

Away Games: 6

Back to Backs: 4

National TV: vs. Knicks (NBATV), vs. Lakers (ESPN), vs. Thunder (TNT)

Key Game/Stretch: Home and away against Memphis followed by home for the Spurs and at Dallas.

The end of the first month in 2014 is made up of a brutal stretch of games. Fortunately, the first half of the month includes projected gimmies against Boston, the Wizards and the Hornets along with a couple of home games against Milwaukee and Sacramento in the second half. But beginning January 16, the Rockets play five division games including a home-and-away back-to-back pair against Memphis followed by two days off and another back-to-back set against San Antonio and Dallas.

Projected Record: 9-5


Home Games: 3

Away Games: 7

Back to Backs: 2

National TV: at Minnesota (NBATV), at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN), at Golden State (TNT), at Los Angeles Clippers (ESPN)

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The NBA is still mostly a crapshoot.  Injuries, interpersonal fueds, etc can derail even the most talented team.

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