And It Is Beautiful
The minds of basketball fans everywhere were completely dumbfounded when the Houston Rockets traded their center, Clint Capela, to the Atlanta Hawks and received Robert Covington in a 3-team deal. Everyone assumed the Rockets had another move coming where they would add a big man to replace Capela, but that was not the case. Instead, the Houston Rockets decided to utterly break the game of basketball and change it into a math equation. They came to the conclusion that their best chance to compete this year would be to attempt 45 to 50 threes a game, and not play anybody over 6’7”. The Rockets were heavily criticized by the majority of NBA fans, but after seeing about a month of this new Rockets team, I am convinced they were right. The moves they made have unlocked their full potential as a team, and they have turned into a real contender in the NBA.
By sending Capela out the door the Rockets’ front office, along with coach Mike D’Antoni, bet on the talents of point guard Russell Westbrook, and they struck gold. Since the trade happened the Rockets have spread the court with shooters, which has opened lanes for Russell Westbrook to do what he does best, go from one end of the court to the other in a split second and dunk on a defender. The inner monster of Russell Westbrook has been unlocked — or maybe I should say reborn. Once again he is torching NBA defenses with his speed and ability to finish at the rim just as he did during his MVP season in 2017. Since the trade, Russell Westbrook has arguably been the best PG in the NBA, averaging 35 points per game while shooting 57% from the field.
The recent play of Russell Westbrook has boosted the Rockets into becoming contenders, however that is not the only thing that makes this Rockets team special. Some people refuse to watch this brand of basketball, but what the Rockets are doing has caught my eye and I fully respect it. They went all-in on the “small ball” approach. Sometimes, it can be hard to watch the Rockets get into shootouts, and pass up wide-open layups for contested 3s, but it is their strategy and all the players have bought in. There is also a new edge to this squad that was not there before and it intimidates opposing defenses. Elite defenders, like Rudy Gobert, are scared to guard this Rockets team because they are getting embarrassed by the speed and aggressiveness of Russell Westbrook.
This change in playstyle has also brought out a new side in Rockets’ fellow superstar guard, James Harden. Harden and Westbrook have started trash-talking opponents and critics like never before, and it is fueling their success. Westbrook has coined the “rock the baby” celebration, which he does every time he embarrasses opposing defenders. The only difference is that this celebration is often used when a bigger player scores on a smaller defender, but Westbrook uses it when he makes the giants of the NBA look like babies. Harden, on the other hand, recently made noise for trash-talking reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo about Antetokounmpo’s lack of skill. Harden claimed that he is the most skilled player in today’s game, some see that as arrogance, but Harden is just confident. This recent run of trash talking that the Rockets’ stars are participating in is putting a target on their back, but also a chip on their shoulders, and they now have something to prove in the playoffs.
This brand of basketball has put the rest of the league on notice. It boosts the toughness of the team, allows Westbrook to play at an exceptionally elite level, and puts a lot of pressure on opposing perimeter defenses. I believe it gives the Houston Rockets a real chance to compete with other contenders in the West, and have a shot at contending for an NBA title.