Amid Flurry of NBA Trades, Rockets Stand Pat...and for Good Reason

Chris Paul has blended perfectly with this roster, which is probably why the Rockets don't think they need a trade to improve.
Chris Paul has blended perfectly with this roster, which is probably why the Rockets don't think they need a trade to improve. Photo by Jeff Balke
In the fourth game of a four-game road trip in Miami Thursday night, no one would have faulted the Rockets for losing. The Heat are a tough matchup for Houston and the Rockets got into Miami early Wednesday morning after playing in Brooklyn the night before. They were clearly tired and missing two starters (Trevor Ariza still out with a hamstring strain and Ryan Anderson with an ankle sprain) and their best bench player (Eric Gordon is still nursing a stiff back).

Yet, James Harden and Chris Paul, the team's marquee superstars, handled the pressure and buried the Heat down the stretch in a barrage of offense. Harden had 41, the eighth time he has done that, twice as many times as the next guy on the list. Paul racked up 24 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds.

In other years, this would probably have been a game the Rockets conceded rather than lost, but they seem unwilling to give in to the grind of the NBA and the injuries that come with it. They have only lost twice in their last 15 games, a stretch that included Portland, Minnesota, Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio and these Miami Heat twice. They are now only a half-game back of the Warriors for the best record in the NBA and even in the loss column.

It probably comes as no surprise that they didn't make any trades at the NBA deadline on Thursday, despite a number of wild deals involving teams like the Cavs, Knicks and Lakers. General manager Daryl Morey is not typically known for his restraint this time of year, often moving players (er...assets...) around like chess pieces. But with the chemistry this team has developed and the mid-season acquisition of Gerald Green, it's tough to imagine what they could have done otherwise.

Still, there is a chance that players bought out by their teams like Joe Johnson could make attractive late-season signings. Johnson, in particular, would provide another ball handler and yet another quality shooter. But even with no further moves, the Rockets, barring injury, appear set for a deep playoff run.

The four games remaining before the All-Star break include a pair of home games against the somewhat dangerous Nuggets and lowly Mavericks. But, they finish the week with back-to-back travel games in Minnesota and home for awful Kings. That Kings game would appear to be a trap for any other team — the last night of a road-weary mid-season grind before a long break — but the Rockets proved in Miami they aren't that team. And that they don't need help from trades to be one of the best in the league.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke