Rockets Remain A Work In Progress

Rockets aren't satisfied with their 18-9 start

Adam Spolane
December 19, 2019 - 1:46 am
Westbrook, Harden

Photo by Kim Clement/USA Today

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- With a third of the season in the rear-view mirror, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni summed up his thoughts on what he's seen from his team thus far.

"You’re never happy, but you’re not sad. You just keep going forward."

The Rockes enter tonight's game at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers 18-9 on the season, which has them in a tie for fourth in the West, but they are actually even with the Clippers in the loss column for second place. The team is third in offensive rating and has climbed to 16th in defensice rating after a dreadful start to the season. It hasn't been a healthy start either. Eric Gordon has played in just nine games after undergoing knee surgery last month, and the flu has taken out multiple players for multiple games. With those setbacks you'd think D'Antoni would be pleased with having won 67 percent of his games, but he's not.

"We’ve probably blown about three games, probably won a couple that maybe we shouldn’t have, so it averages out. I think we’re a little bit underwater compared to what we should be."

To be honest though, the Rockets aren't overly concerned about their record. What matters is how they're playing.

"What are we like 25, 30 games in," Rockets forward P.J. Tucker asked Wednesday. "It’s still super early in the season. The goal is to be where we want to be in April and working towards getting there is the ultimate goal, like the actual work that goes into it. We’re gonna have ups and downs, good starts, bad starts to games, finishing out games. We’re gonna have our problems, but the thing is it’s continuously trying to get better, get guys healthy to get back to full strength and it’s gonna take time to get there."

The Rockets are getting closer to full strength with Gordon set to return soon. Wednesday marked five weeks since he went under the knife and the Rockets said he'd be out six-to-eight weeks, so it's possible the guard could make his return on the team's upcoming 4-game road trip. D'Antoni said he'll come off the bench when he does return.

"I don’t think we’ll know about this group until we get Eric back, and get him in the way he’s always played and then we’ll see what we got totally," D'Antoni said.

When Gordon returns they'll need him to be better than the guy playing on a bum knee the first three weeks of the season, but his return should help a second unit led by Russell Westbrook which has struggled at times this season. The Rockets have been outscored by 5.4 points per 100 possessions when James Harden is off the floor. That number has dropped to one over the last six games as Westbrook finds his footing with his new team. 

"Seeing Russ continuously grow and figure out his spots on our team and how he can help, and I think that’s gradually getting better," Tucker said.

Westbrook led Monday's thrilling comeback win over the Spurs and he is averaging over 27 points on 53 percent shooting over his last five games. The Rockets only loss in that stretch was on a walk-off 33-footer against Sacramento last week (Westbrook didn't play in Saturday's loss to Detroit), and D'Antoni believes Westbrook is gaining confidence within the Rockets scheme and seeing that grow matters as much as anything at this point.

"He’s such a big piece that he has to be confident and playing well for us to play well. We’re finding better ways to use him, and I think he’s getting more comfortable with rotations and how many minutes he’s playing and when he’s playing and who he’s playing with. He keeps getting better and he’s gotta keep getting better. We’re not there yet."