Rockets preview: Portrait of a team as a clusterflock of talent and miserabilia

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

The Houston Rockets lay somewhere between brilliant experiment in institutional fugue and (way) off Broadway basketball-based performance art. Closer to the performance art, I think.

Sometimes, when Kevin McHale wakes up in the middle of the night, he looks at the Houston Rockets' roster he keeps by his bedside at all times. He glances it over, then he takes out the barely disguised Daryl Morey voodoo doll he also keeps by his bedside at all times, then he pulls a crocheting needle out of his pillowcase, then he stabs Voodoo Daryl in the eye, then he puts the items from where he pulled them, then he lays his head back down, and finally, he sleeps a warm, comfortable sleep. And somewhere, Daryl Morey calls out in sincere pain and then trades for another 6'8 power forward or 6'5 point guard. All is normal.

FEATS OF STRENGTH

The Houston Rockets are deep. There are a lot of players on this team. I found that out by pulling up the Houston Rockets' roster and counting the number of players on it. Some of these players are pretty good. Some are not. Most are good at one thing (Kevin Martin, offense; Omer Asik, defense; Jon Brockman, eating pancakes; Scott Machado, being the next Jeremy Lin) but bad at others (Kevin Martin, defense; Omer Asik, offense; Jon Brockman, eating broccoli; Scott Machado, being the next Vin Diesel).

Just at forward, the Rockets have a plethora of intriguing talent. No wonder they used the amnesty clause on Luis Scola. There's Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Royce White and Donatas Motiejunas. That's like an entire draft class, practically. It's at least a full six-sided die. At least one is bound to work out, right? The other young prospects Houston will attempt to develop are Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin. Asik needs to develop, but he's a bit older (26), and Martin somehow became the team's cagey veteran despite still looking 22. (He's 29.)

The plan for this team is both clear and confusing. In the world of a transaction-based NBA, it makes perfect sense. Morey wants a superstar, so he is stockpiling assets to help him land one. But in the basketball-based NBA, this roster is an LSD-fueled dreamscape. If it works out, it'll be pure luck, it seems.

AIRING OF GRIEVANCES

The defense is going to be a major problem, which makes it sort of hilarious that Asik -- who is pretty much a one-trick Turkish pony at this point, and that trick is defense -- is anchoring the team. Lin and Martin are going to get beaten like a dozen eggs at the VFW on a Saturday morning. That is a bad defensive backcourt. I'm not sure how good or bad Lamb will be early in his career, but Lin and Martin? I know how they'll be on defense. It's not good. The forwards are all question marks to me -- Patterson projects as a good defender, and I doubt Motiejunas will be ready for the adjustment early in his NBA career. Parsons is well-liked by Kevin McHale, so that must mean something positive on defense. White, Morris, Jones? All questions. So this team, despite spending $25 million on a defense-only center, will not likely be able to rely on its defense night after night.

On offense, the Rockets might be playing 4-on-5 with Asik unless he learns how to stop fumbling the ball and finish plays. Part of Lin's extraordinary spell in New York was his playmaking. He was making plays for Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, two great finishers. He needs Asik to finish plays to keep those assist levels high. Martin is a stellar scorer who operates entirely outside and above any set offense -- that's not a knock, it's a reality. He could score 22 on 10 shots inside a submarine two leagues below sea level. It's what he does, whether Bob Cousy or Micheal Ray Richardson is his point guard. The forwards, again, are question marks. Lamb could be very nice, but we'll see.

We'll see. That should be the Rockets' marketing motto this season (if they didn't want to use "brilliant experiment in institutional fugue"): The Houston Rockets, We'll See!

FESTIVUS MIRACLES

It will be miraculous if ...

The Rockets aren't involved in every single superstar rumor until the Rockets land a superstar.

Jeremy Lin has a season in which no one outside of Houston takes note one way or the other.

"I really love my roster," Kevin McHale said.

Omer Asik is referred to as the new Vlade Divac.

Donatas Motiejunas gets more attention than countryman Jonas Valanciunas.

Daryl Morey escapes overwhelming snark from skeptical comedians on Twitter.

THE HUMAN FUND

Let's get sincere.

Team MVP: I don't even know what to put here.

Team X-Factor: Omer Asik

Team Finish: 4th in Southwest | 11th in West

Best Championship Hopes: MIT Sloan Sports Analytic Conference Hot "What The Hades Was That All About" Panel Championship.

***

The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.

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