Harden Propelling Rockets Back to Relevancy


Rockets fans have had to deal with quite the roller coaster to end 2018.

Houston started the season 1-5, 4-7, 9-11, and 11-14 before turning things around just recently.

Melo Mellows Out

The Carmelo Anthony experiment failed miserably. He appeared in just the first 10 games for Houston this season, averaging career-lows in points (13.4/game) and minutes (29.4/game). And although he remains away from the team right now, it’s pretty clear he’s played his last game as a Rocket.

Melo was supposed to be Trevor Ariza’s replacement, but it just didn’t transpire that way. With interest levels very low, expect Melo to be waived sooner than later.

Rockets Hit Rock Bottom

On December 8th, the Rockets dropped their 14th game of the season– a mere three weeks ago. At that point, they were sitting at the bottom of the 14-team race out West (sorry but not sorry, Phoenix).

Image via Basketball Reference

Harden Takes the Wheel

Since Dec. 8th, the Rockets have gone on an absolute tear. Victors of 10 of their last 11, Houston is now 21-15, sitting near the top of the Western Conference– a place they called home for the majority of last season.

It’s tough to really understand what finally clicked, but we know one thing is certain– the Beard is back.

Not that he really left, but there was general dysfunction and frustration within the Rockets’ organization. Harden has been Houston’s top scorer in all but six games this season– three of which he sat out. Last year’s MVP is up to 33.3 points per game this season, almost an uptick of three from last year (30.4).

His point totals during their 10-1 run? 29, 50, 32, 47, 35, 35 (loss), 39, 41, 45, 41, 43. Their lone loss in this span was a two-point drop in South Beach.

Paul’s Absence a Non-Factor Thus Far

Chris Paul exited that eventual December 20th loss in Miami with what was later determined to be a left hamstring strain. Not the worst outcome, but it looked as if the Rockets were due for another slide.

This was the exact opposite of what’s transpired since. The Rockets are now winners of five straight and are right back in the thick of things. General Manager Daryl Morey ironically chose to sign CP3’s favorite guy, Austin Rivers, to replace Paul for the duration of his absence.

For now, at least, it appears the supposed tension is over.

2nd MVP Crown on the Beard’s Mind

At this point, this year’s MVP crown is a two-man race. Harden, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite Giannis’ everyday grind, it doesn’t faze Harden– at least, not yet.

D’Antoni Earns Coach of the Month Award

For the 4th time in his short tenure with the Rockets, head coach Mike D’Antoni takes home the Western Conference Coach of the Month feat. This won’t likely be his last.

Big Test Ahead

Houston’s next four games (at Golden State [25-13], at Portland [22-16], vs. Denver [24-11], vs. Milwaukee [26-10]) will be their toughest stretch yet– so we shall see what James Harden and co. sans-CP3 are truly made of.




About Eric Peterson

CEO and Content Manager at TLSM and Bucks Lead branch. Currently studying Sport Management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Twitter: @EricTLSM

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