It was not a nice summer for the Houston Rockets, and their celebrity general manager Daryl Morey. After Chris Bosh spurned ongoing talks with Houston to return to the Miami Heat on a deal worth around $118 million, the basketball world was ready to the put the Rockets under a headstone. This snippet of Morey whiffing on a ping pong serve seemed telling:
Morey had unloaded Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to free the space for Bosh, Carmelo Anthony or — the dream of dreams — LeBron James. He also let Chandler Parsons sign a deal with the rival Dallas Mavericks (one he chose not to match) and the team looked depleted. Then, James Harden had some fairly graceless things to say to the media.
"Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets," Harden said when asked about his changing roster. "The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We've lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we'll be fine next season.”
Those words cost The Beard some points with his fans, but so far in 2014-15, Harden appears to be right. Parsons has been effectively supplanted by the overlooked Trevor Ariza, an ace defender and knockdown 3-point shooter who fits into Houston’s program a lot more suitably than Parsons ever did. With tenacious point guard Patrick Beverley and a defensively improved Harden, Ariza has become the linchpin to a perimeter stronghold that’s making Dwight Howard’s life protecting the rim much easier.
It’s hard to keep track of in all the debate about Morey’s often-cold style (a common impression Grantland’s Andrew Sharp describes as “treating players like assets instead of humans”) but the Rockets are really good.
They’re off to a 5-0 start, looking vindicated and driven on the heels of a 108-91 statement victory in Miami. And tonight they take on the champion San Antonio Spurs at home, with Texas supremacy at stake, at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.
— John Wilmes