Houston Rockets: The pandemic delay will help with small ball concept

Houston Rockets guards James Harden, Russell Westbrook and head coach Mike D'Antoni (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets guards James Harden, Russell Westbrook and head coach Mike D'Antoni (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets have arrived to Orlando in their isolated bubble and small ball could work better than ever. Why? Let’s take a dive into things.

The Houston Rockets will be restarting their season soon and it’s going to be interesting if they’ll be able to maintain some sort of continuity with the global pandemic that we’re fighting to win being as ravaging as ever in the United States.

While some countries are starting to wind down their restrictions and re-open their businesses, the U.S. is still is mired in a situation on how best to combat a serious problem of public health.  But some sense of normalcy is needed for the sake of all of our sanity and restarting sports is a great idea in theory but the execution is a wholly different story.

The NBA has devised a plan to keep players safe with frequent testing, while following CDC guidelines during practices as well as games and the players will have the option to wear a MagicBand which will work as a key to access different areas of the bubble and can be used as an early indicator of symptoms of the coronavirus.

With MLB and the MLS having to start/stop their activities because of either testing delays or players/staff being exposed to COVID-19, it looks like the rollout could be a complicated one.

But it’s so far so good for the NBA as teams roll in but we’re about to find out over the next few weeks if they’re in fact, the league that had the best plan to execute in order for the business to keep thriving.

So while that’s going on, as a result of this pandemic, the Houston Rockets look a lot different since March.  They’re healthy, hungry and have some new additions chomping at the bit to make their mark to try to get a championship for the third time for this franchise.

Mike D’Antoni has been allowed to coach the team in the bubble and he is as eager as ever to get back to work on his small-ball concept — effectively winning games without a dominant center — in order to prove his mettle as a coach.

It had been working for the most part but with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon fully healthy, the sky is going to be the limit for this offense.

The addition of Robert Covington, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Luc Mbah a Moute (the most recent) along with swingmen Danuel House Jr. and Ben McLemore is going to stack the deck against the competition.

D’Antoni’s theory is that if you play good enough defense and out-shoot as well as out-score your

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opponent, you can effectively win games against teams with dominant centers.

Just look at when they take on the Utah Jazz regularly during the season.  The Houston Rockets force Rudy Gobert out of his comfort zone by shutting down the paint and forcing him to shoot bad shots.  This takes him out of the equation and forces guys like Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale to step up to which this team has proven they’ve been effective in minimizing their efforts.

Coincidentally, on defense, there are times where Gobert is having to chase around Harden or Westbrook and they just run circles around him because his response time is just not quick enough to adjust to the deft moves that they make to get to the bucket.

This also would work just fine with guys like Anthony Davis but when they face a polished center like Giannis Antetokounmpo and the massive arsenal that awaits, it proves this team has problems with containment.

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But nonetheless, I see the Houston Rockets having immense success with this team and I think they will turn some heads — even more so before the shutdown — we transition through the summer months into the fall.

When the dust has settled from the battles, there’s no question that this team will be among the last few that are standing and you take that to the bank.