So, this James Harden kid is pretty good. He torched the Detroit Pistons for 37 points, 12 assists (a career high), six rebounds and four steals on opening night and it appears he is everything advertised and more. No doubt he isn't going to go off for that kind of game every night, but he has instantly become the best player on the Rockets.
Sure, it was against the abysmal Pistons, but what makes Harden's game so impressive is that nothing he does is spectacular making it all replicable. The toughest thing in the NBA is to be able to be consistent on a night-in-night-out basis and Harden's strength is that his game lends itself to that kind of consistency. He's an efficient scorer, a better than advertised passer and he looks to be a surprisingly good defender. So far, it's $80 million well spent.
The Rockets other new big name, Jeremy Lin, has a serviceable game with 12 points and 8 assists in the opener, but once the chemistry grows between he and James, they can without question be one of if not the most dynamic backcourt in the NBA. Lin is still feeling his way out there and probably has a couple months of work before he shakes off all the rust of knee surgery, but as his explosiveness improves, so should he and Harden's potency.
The problem for the Rockets is what happens once you get beyond their dynamic duo and starting five. The fall is precipitous.
Only having a couple days practice with the new guys certainly has had an impact, but it is hard to imagine how the team will fare with a bench made up of guys with limited talent and experience. Toney Douglas was productive as a back up point guard in New York and I feel like he can do a serviceable job in the same role here, but opening night was tough for the former Knick.
Marcus Morris, who will, it appears, back up Patrick Patterson at the power forward spot when he returns from his quad injury, managed to settle down and play OK for a time against Detroit, but he looks shaky. I'd like to believe, as the season wears on, Coach Kevin McHale will find some minutes for rookies Terrence Jones, who was so good in the preseason, and Dontas Montejunas. That doesn't even account for Royce White, who missed a chunk of the preseason.
While Carlos Delfino provided scoring punch in the form of five three pointers, he is a defensive liability and when he isn't hitting shots, it's tough to imagine who Daequan Cook or anyone else filling that role.
Finally, there was Greg Smith, who spent nearly his entire season in the D-League last season. The big man had a very positive night on Wednesday before he left with an injury that appears to be not serious.
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The problem with youth and inexperience will certainly show in lack of consistency, but it was immediately apparent on the defensive end of the floor. The mark of a great defensive team is how well they rotate to the open offensive player and how well they defend the pick and roll. For the moment, it appears they have a lot of work ahead of them.
It was an exciting start for the Rockets and it looks like this will be a very fun team to watch, but their shortcomings will be trouble as the season wears on and will limit how far they can go in the deep Western Conference.
The video below, however, will go deep into the recesses of your brain. You've been warned. "WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT...BEARDSANITY!"