In my own personal metaphorical bubble, perhaps the biggest indictment of this absolutely deplorable 2015-16 edition of the Houston Rockets came on Monday night, when their 116-105 loss to the Detroit Pistons was demoted to third string (much like Ty Lawson) in my Monday TV rotation behind a Sheamus era edition of Monday Night RAW and a Monday Night Football game pitting Josh McCown against Matt Schaub.
Yeah, that's right… these Rockets actually have found a way to be less watchable than Matthew Rutledge Schaub. As it turns out, I was 1,000 percent accurate in my rankings. RAW was only mildly boring, Schaub and McCown were morbidly entertaining (pick six included!), and the Rockets unequivocally suck.
If Rockets management decided that 11 games is enough to fire Kevin McHale, then it's certainly well within my rights to say this after 18 games: This team is a 15-man affront to sports professionalism. I have no idea if the ousted Kevin McHale was the problem, but seven games in, it sure doesn't look like J.B. Bickerstaff is anything close to a solution.
Here are the results in the first seven games of the Bickerstaff Era: two convincing losses to the Grizzlies, a home loss to the Knicks, last night's butcher job against Detroit, and wins over the Knicks, Blazers and Sixers. In the three Bickerstaff-coached wins, they needed two Hail Mary three pointers to take the Knicks and Blazers to overtime and they beat the Sixers (who are 0-and-everything, last I checked) by two points.
So the Rockets are two answered prayers and two points away from being 0-7 and being the Sixers' only conquest with Bickerstaff running things. I say this not to put the blood of any of this massacre of the game of basketball on Bickerstaff's hands. Instead, it's merely meant to point out that what ails this team goes beyond whatever words of
begging encouragement can come from one man's mouth. Whatever is going to cure this disease, it does not appear to be in Bickerstaff's bag of tricks.
Bickerstaff can't make Trevor Ariza a better shooter, Jason Terry five years younger, Corey Brewer good at basketball again. However, he can give this team some sort of construct to its offense, and come up with some rotations that work. On the latter, I give him credit for trying, at least. Starting Clint Capela with Dwight Howard, sitting Ty Lawson — at least Bickerstaff isn't standing pat.
Offensively, though, this still looks like the same mess we saw the first 11 games — no plan, no movement and a ton of watching James Harden. You guys ever have a neighbor who tries to be that handyman around the house, spending an entire afternoon assembling a weed whacker or some shit before he finally says "Ah, fuck it" and signs up for a lawn-mowing service? Well, the Rockets' offense is that guy. They spend half the shot clock aimlessly passing the ball around, setting half hearted screens, trying to look like an NBA half court offense, and then ultimately they say "Oh well" and let Harden go one on one….which is a god-awful shitty suicide mission of a game plan when Harden is barely shooting 40 percent from the field and barely 30 percent from three-point range.
Oh, and while we're on Harden, it's really tons of fun having the star of the award-winning YouTube series "How to Play Defense Like A Fat Kid In Gym Class" version of Harden back. Right now, Harden's 30-point-per-game average is an über-deceiving masking agent for the God's honest truth — James Harden is playing basketball with the professionalism and effort I would expect out of someone who is sexing a Kardashian:
Is there an analytical model for this? https://t.co/72Bz9hrYi4 Asking for a friend.— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) December 1, 2015
Here's the biggest problem in all of this: Other than waiting for a light to go on, I don't know how this gets fixed. This offseason was the first time that Daryl Morey brought back virtually everybody from the previous season and even added a borderline All-Star (when playing at his potential) in Lawson. They sailed into a salary cap stratosphere that makes in-season deals really difficult to do without moving major pieces, but at this point, it may require moving a major piece. (In other words, Dwight may want to make sure there are good terrarium supply stores in, say, Sacramento.)
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This is Morey's "all-in" group, the one he'd spent eight years tinkering with to finally arrive at, and this is what we have — a dysfunctional, underachieving crew who look like "playing basketball" is WAY down their list of things they feel like doing. Morey sat at the poker table for eight years, went all-in on a hand that looked like a full house, and it turns out it's just a bunch of rags.
The analytical Morey has inadvertently given himself the most difficult puzzle to solve — fixing these Rockets. A coaching change sure hasn't done the trick, and when the solution for consuming them and maintaining sanity as a fan is to "watch more Matt Schaub," you know just how bad this thing is.
I hope somewhere Kevin McHale is on a beach, lighting a cigar with one of Les Alexander's numerous hundred-dollar bills he just gave him to go away, and cackling maniacally. He's the only winner in this whole thing.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.