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Rockets Showing Signs Of Fracture Following Ugly Loss In Utah

Eric Gordon says he's "not having fun" following 27-point loss to Jazz

December 07, 2018 - 1:52 pm

By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

It was November 25, 2015. I, along with a couple of other reporters stood waiting in front of Jason Terry’s locker. He was always my go-to back then because on a boring team he was quotable and had essentially experienced everything during his long NBA career, you just had to wait awhile. On this night, the wait was worth it.

The Rockets had just played a lifeless game against the Memphis Grizzlies, losing for the third straight game, falling to 5-10 on the season. Coming off an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, that team started 0-3 only to win four in row. After losing the next four games Kevin McHale was fired and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff. The Rockets won that night, only to lose the next three, and Terry was asked why this team, which was essentially the same as the one before it continued to struggle.  

“Who told you that?” Patrick Beverley, standing a few feet away chimed in at the declaration that this was the “same” Rockets team.

That’s when Terry made it clear the same names don’t equal the same team.

“No, it’s not the same group,” he declared. "We gotta quit saying that. This is not the same group, I’m just gonna leave it at that. It’s not. Whoever told you that is kidding themselves.”

“Not watching the games,” Beverley added.

As the scrum broke up, Terry wished us all a Happy Thanksgiving and gave us all a quick summation of what he had just said.

“Remember, not the same group.”

That team did play better as the season went on, but still disappointed following a quick and embarrassing playoff exit. Fast-forward three years and the whole thing is playing out again right in front of our eyes.

After getting within 24 minutes of a Western Conference championship, the Rockets entered this season with super-high expectations, but a 19-point opening night shellacking inside Toyota Center has given way to more and more ugly performances, compounded by Thursday’s 27-point loss in Salt Lake City, but the team, while not sugarcoating its poor play has made plenty of excuses. They’ve brought up injuries and suspensions and an unfriendly schedule, and while all of these are legitimate it’s hard to take them seriously after watching Thursday dreadful 48 minutes.

Thursday night, the Rockets had their full compliment of players (minus Brandon Knight) and had not played since Monday. To put things further in their favor, Jazz center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was ejected before three minutes had been played. The Rockets led when Gobert was shown the door, but trailed eight at halftime, only to be outscored 38-11 in the third quarter. It was the Rockets eighth double-digit loss of the season, matching their total from a season ago. After the game, Rockets guard Eric Gordon sounded like someone who has had enough.

“I’m just not having fun man,” Gordon told The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. “I’m just not. This sucks. Even the times where I have good games. We’re just not using some guys the right way. Are we gonna make the right sacrifices? Do we have the right attitude?

“Last year was the best year I’ve ever had being a part of a team,” he added. “We just never had a bad moment. If we ever had a bad game as a team, you knew the next game we would blow somebody out. It didn’t matter who it was.”

Gordon then summoned his inner Jason Terry.

“We can’t compare this team to last year, because we’ve had a lot of changes. More young guys, we just have to look forward to what’s next.

“Look how they’re playing, that’s how we used to play. Sharing the ball, getting up and down and attacking. We’re not doing that anymore.”

For the first 12 losses of the season, the Rockets stayed positive and talked about working through the problems that had plagued them. They remained unified but it feels like that unity is beginning to crack.

It’s significant Gordon be the one to indicate there is some sort of issue within the Rockets. He’s not the type to say anything controversial. He seemingly does everything he can to avoid it, and while the 29-year old in his third season in Houston has been mired by a brutal shooting slump all season, he hasn’t wavered from his positive nature, until now.

It’s been very easy to make the comparisons from this Rockets team to the one from a season ago. Two teams with lofty expectations that are underachieving following a conference finals appearance. The big difference being the 2018 version of the Rockets still enjoyed playing with one another, but after 24 games that great chemistry appears to be fracturing, and if something doesn't change quick, it could break.