No one said there wouldn't be growing pains, but they probably didn't literally mean pain. The young Rockets have struggled through a string of three straight losses on their first west coast road trip of the year dropping a second overtime loss in Portland before falling to the Lakers and the Utah Jazz, the latter of those two in rather lackluster fashion.
Through it all, James Harden played through the dreaded "flu-like conditions" finally succumbing after a half and six points in Salt Lake City Monday night. Carlos Delfino is nursing a sore groin and has missed a couple games. Cole Aldrich twisted an ankle against the Jazz and missed most the game. The Rockets were down to nine healthy players by the end of the third quarter in Utah and the combined level of experience of all nine guys was 17 years, less than two years per player.
Talk about ouch.
There have been some bright spots even in the struggles. While Jeremy Lin continues to struggle with his shot, he has shown some significant flashes in the passing game and he continues to get his hands in the passing lane. Omer Asik, the forgotten restricted free agent signing, has been a revelation early on this season, averaging a double double and near the top of the league in rebounds.
Marcus Morris has demonstrated spending a rookie season in the D-League might actually be a good thing for a player -- hear that, Royce White? Morris has been a big part of the offense early on this season averaging almost 11 points per game, showing great touch from long range at 40 percent and looking like he could play the small forward position after all. The other SF on the court, second year player Chandler Parsons, has picked it up in recent games and is up to 12 points per game scoring and his continued solid defense.
Maybe most importantly, there has been a Terrance Jones sighting. The athletic rookie power forward who so impressed in training camp and the preseason had been glued to the bench until this past week. Since getting into the rotation, he's averaged six points, three rebounds and a block in just 15 minutes per game. He is an extremely gifted athlete, actually handling the ball up the court in a few limited possessions. Fans who have been clamoring for him to see more playing time finally got their wish and he hasn't disappointed though he does still appear a bit lost on the defensive end of the floor.
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As for the aforementioned White, no word yet as of writing this on his meeting with Daryl Morey about issues he's been spouting off about on Twitter since he decided not to participate in team activities about a week ago. I hope the kid gets some help and does go to the D-League to get some valuable playing time. Rookies Dontas Montejunas and Scott Machado have been playing quite a bit for the Vipers in the Rio Grande Valley and the experience is no doubt helping.
Unfortunately, it won't get easier for the Rockets. A three-game homestand starts Wednesday night against the Bulls, Knicks and Raptors before Harden's return to OKC next week. After that, it's only the Jazz, Lakers, Spurs (twice) and Mavericks before the schedule lets up a bit.
If they continue to perform as they have been, they could see a lot of Ls before seeing too many more Ws.