Everyone sitting at home, raise your hand if you’re as excited as I am about the NBA season back in action? Although I do love me some basketball, I never thought I’d say those words, especially in week 9 of the NFL, but given the way baseball and football has played out here in Houston this year, I’m ready to see some W’s put on the board.
And the Houston Rockets are looking as if they may not give us a hat trick in the disappointment department.
As you all well know, the Dwight Howard era has officially begun in H-town. This year’s slogan, A New Age, promises a different team, and those all around the NBA have quickly noticed, thanks in part to the drama king himself and the $88 million that got him here.
You may have heard of James Harden and Dwight Howard (or seen them on those awkward billboards where it looks like Harden is telling Howard how to say Houston), but Daryl Morey scripted two of the most notable back-to-back offseasons to bring each of us THIS TEAM. And it’s damn exciting.
The NBA Season is here, and thankfully it’s a long one. The Rockets ran the Bobcats up and down the court to start the season with a 83-96 win over the team who has most recently come off an NBA-worst two-year record of 28-120 (sounds a little like an Astros record, doesn’t it?).
No surprise, Howard shined in his Houston debut with 17 points and 26 rebounds, tying his career high. He also added 2 assists and 2 blocks for the night. But a win over Charlotte and some of these lesser NBA teams doesn’t say much. After all, the highest scorer for the Bobcats was Josh McRoberts with 15 points for the night. The Rockets had three (THREE!) guys top that: Howard (17), Harden (21) and Garcia (19). The game felt a little like David and Goliath, so you can’t put too much stock in it.
Here are a few key things I’m personally going to keep an eye out for:
1. Potential Drama. For the first time in a long while, the Rockets have multiple big names; it’s no longer a guessing game of the roster. I think there are a few elephants in the room with this team, so we’ll see how that plays out as we get a little deeper into the season.
You do recall just two seasons ago where ESPN announcers didn’t know a single name on the team, with K-Mart being our biggest name? My how times have changed in just two years.
2. The Rest of the Division. The Rockets play in the West, notably the toughest in the league. It will be interesting to see how the team plays, but equally to see how the other big teams will do. That will dictate our Playoff changes just as much as anything else. To put it simply: the Western Conference is stacked, like Pamela Anderson kind of stacked.
3. Back to the Drama (I am a girl, remember). Howard took his drama straight from Orlando to LA, and we’re all crossing our fingers he left it just outside Kobe’s locker. The Rockets are quite frankly boring on the drama front, which is probably a good thing. The team jells quite nicely and I’ll be interested to see if Howard left his dramatic ways and doesn’t drive a rift between this team.
4. Defense. This team has been so focused on offense, that’s just another reason Howard was such a key pickup. Last season the Rockets ranked 28th in the league (2nd worst in the league), allowing 102.5 points per game.
5. Patrick Beverly vs Jeremy Lin as Starter. I think Kevin McHale was genius in starting Beverly over Lin on opening night, but it’ll be interesting to see who wins that starting battle, who stays healthy and who can lead the team on offense better.
6. I’m certainly going to miss Carlos Del-THREENO. This team has got to find another perimeter shooter and clutch guy to keep this team going. As of opening night, it looked like Garcia may step up to those shoes behind the arch.
7. I will not miss: Royce White. Sorry buddy, but peace out.
8. Where to Watch? I’m deeply saddened that on Howard’s highly anticipated debut, even in torrential downpours, the Rockets couldn’t sell out the home opener. The seats, especially the pricier ones the cameras kept panning around, were wide open for the taking. Furthermore, this Comcast-only option-Monopoly-nonsense to watch games will prove a little trickier this year with fans wanting to be more involved watching D-12. It’ll be interesting to see how involved fans can stay throughout 82 games of mostly watching at bars. Could prove to be interesting weekday nightlife of getting hammered, right Houston?
Oh, and if you thought a Dwight Howard / Wilt Chamberlain comparison seemed ludicrous, there’s this:
Howard is only the 4th different player in the last 50 seasons with at least 17 points and 26 rebounds in a season opener, the first since Wilt Chamberlain did it 43 years ago, where he had 31 boards (via ESPN Stats & Information).