Tag:Houston Rockets
Posted on: April 19, 2011 11:38 am
 

Rick Adelman a fit with the Lakers?

Posted by Royce Young

Though he wasn't a fit with the Rockets, most everyone agrees -- Rick Adelman is a very good coach. He "mutually parted way" with Houston yesterday and the word is, he's not done coaching. Currently there aren't any open coaching slots as of now -- excluding the Rockets one, which I'm thinking he's not a candidate for.

Except there is one that will be open for sure at season's end. The Los Angeles Lakers position.

Phil Jackson has made it very, very clear that he's retiring after this season. And while the leader in the clubhouse for the position is Brian Shaw (he's got Kobe's stamp of approval), there is some uncertainty as to who the Lakers might target. Are they looking for the next up and comer like Shaw, or could they try and track down a solid veteran coach... like Adelman?

Fran Blinebury of NBA.com is thinking the same thing and writes:
Make no mistake about it: as No. 8 on the list of all-time wins (945), Adelman can still cut it in today’s NBA. Even though general consensus has Brian Shaw succeeding Phil Jackson, the Lakers would be foolish not to give Adelman a look. Nobody in the profession would make the offense as easy and satisfying to Bryant than Adelman.

If Adelman wants to continue coaching, he’ll be back in the league winning games somewhere next season.

It's an interesting thought. I'm not really thinking it's all that likely because it definitely feels like this job is Shaw's. But Adelman is a proven winner and might be a good fit for the next few years as the Lakers wrap up the Kobe Era. Adelman isn't a long-term 15-year guy, but for the next four or five seasons, it could work.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:47 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 6:26 pm
 

Rick Adelman done as coach of Houston Rockets

Rick Adelman is reportedly out as coach of the Houston Rockets. Posted by Ben Golliver. rick-adelman

In a move that doesn't come as a huge surprise, the Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Rockets will not bring back head coach Rick Adelman for a fifth season.
Rick Adelman, who led the Rockets to their only playoff series win in 17 years and a franchise record 22-game winning streak, will not return as Rockets coach, a person with knowledge of the decision said Monday.
After consecutive seasons in which the Rockets failed to reach the playoffs, Adelman and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey failed to reach agreements on how they would continue to work together.
In four seasons with the Rockets, Adelman had a 193-135 record, the best winning percentage (.588) of any coach in franchise history. He moved to eighth in NBA history in career coaching wins with 945.
CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported that there was a good chance team and coach would part ways about two weeks ago.

At this stage of his career, Adelman is a "win now" coach, the kind of Xs and Os sideline master with the experience to take a quality team on an extended playoff ride, as he did with the Rockets in 2008-2009. 

The problem, of course, is that the 2011-2012 Rockets will not be headed deep into the postseason. With the uncertain future surrounding chronically injured center Yao Ming and with a roster devoid of top-end talent, next season is almost guaranteed to be another rebuilding year for Morey and company. Adelman -- who is 64 years old -- expressed confusion at the team's trade for Hasheem Thabeet at the deadline and it's understandable that undertaking a player development and rebuilding effort wouldn't be his top priority. For the Rockets, that becomes a philosophical difference -- or at least a difference in motivations -- that required a change.

Given his decades of experience and the fact that he's taken multiple franchises to the Western Conference Finals, there's no question that his services will command interest around the league. 

As for Adelman's replacement? Yahoo! Sports reports that former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy are two potential candidates while Rockets assistants Elston Turner and Jack Sikma will also be given interviews. 
Posted on: April 14, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Pistons, Wolves waiting on coaches, Raps on GM

Posted by Royce Young

The regular season is over, so you know what that means? Yes, the playoffs are coming, but it also means coaches are about to get fired. Two that definitely have their head at least near the chopping block are John Kuester (Pistons) and Kurt Rambis (Timberwolves). But it doesn't sound like anything is imminent, tweets Ken Berger.

"Sources say Minny (Rambis) and Detroit (Kuester) will wait before making decisions." Berger also says the Pistons have been "paralyzed" by ownership transfer. The Wolves are holding with owner Glen Taylor in New York for owner's meetings.

Berger noted yesterday that both Kuester and Rambis are likely to be fired, according to multiple sources. Berger wrote, "Kuester's firing is widely believed to be a foregone conclusion, though a source said there is "no timetable for anything" the organization is doing due to the pending ownership change. Rambis' tenuous situation did not get any help from GM David Kahn on Wednesday."

Also mentioned in there is that Rick Adelman's future is up in the air in Houston. Which is pretty crazy but understandable as the Rockets try and transition both their roster and staff moving ahead. Adelman's contract is up after this season so it'll just come down to an evaluation by Daryl Morey and the front office.  

Berger also says the Raptors are "unchanged for now" on the status of general manager Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo's contract expires June 30, along with coach Jay Triano. The Raptors are in a serious rebuilding situation and Colangelo might not have the opportunity to work on it.
Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:08 am
 

The context of Rick Adelman's possible hot seat

Rick Adelman's Rockets are over .500 and he's one of the most respected coaches in the league. So how could he possibly be out after this season?
Posted by Matt Moore




There was a time, way back when, when winning more games than you lost as a head coach earned you some modicum of job security. Those days are through. Now everything about your job performance is contextual. Win tons of games but fail in the playoffs? Canned. Win less than half your games but show promise and development year after year? Keep your gig! Fall prone to a roster compromised by severe injury after severe injury and still manage to win more games than you lose? 

Ask Rick Adelman how that works out. 

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports in his weekly Post-Ups that Adelman could be swept out once his contract expires at the end of this season. Adelman's Rockets are currently three games out of the 8th seed in the West held by Memphis with four games remaining. They are four games over .500. From KB: 
Everyones contract is up in Houston, including Adelman's. Theres no doubt he's one of the games finest coaches. But with Yao Ming's future up in the air, it could be time for Adelman to move on. When Portland gave Nate McMillan an extension last month, it opened the door for the Rockets to do the same with Adelman. But sources say communication and trust aren't great between Adelman and owner Leslie Alexander, who may conclude that its time for a different direction. Then there is the uncertain future of GM Daryl Morey, whose contract also is up and whose status was described by one industry source as "questionable."
via Post-Ups: Important MVP race deserves hard consideration - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Adelman has a career .606 winning percentage, and is 191-133 for a .589 percentage with Houston. This, despite Yao Ming missing 187 of the 324 games Adelman has coached for the Rockets. The Rockets have made the playoffs twice during his tenure and will, in all likelihood, have finished 9th the past two seasons in a crowded West. To put it in perspective, the Rockets would have been the 8th seed in the East last year, bouncing the Bulls, and would be the sixth seed in the East currently, above the Sixers and Knicks.  

But of course, again, things must be judged in context. The Rockets had a substantial core of talent this season even without Yao Ming. Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and the emergence of Kyle Lowry as a big time player shows that the potential was there. The big collapse for the Rockets this year was on defense. Until two midseason trades, the Rockets had been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They've made terrific adjustments during this late season run, but that inability to get stops falls on the coach. 

Even then, however, you have to wonder if Adelman wouldn't have a doubt about his situation had Daryl Morey been able to translate his considerable ingenuity and roster management skills into a star player. That's what Houston misses so dearly, the guy you can turn to to make a play for you on either side of the ball. But it didn't happen, and now Adelman's looking at the possibility of his contract not being re-upped. 

There are reasons for Alexander to hold, however. The Rockets are on the books for just $48 million next season. Even in a revamped CBA structure, they'll have some wiggle room. Daryl Morey has never had as much financial freedom as he's about to have. If he were to whiff again, or if Adelman was unable to translate an upgraded roster into victories with a healthy club, it would definitely be time for a change. But to let loose one of the more respected general managers, even after a bad run, and one of the more respected coaches, even after some bad defense, in the face of them winning more games than they've lost? 

Patience is a virtue, but then, everything has to be put into context. 
 

Posted on: April 1, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2011 1:18 am
 

Two weeks to go, the playoff picture is clearing

Posted by Royce Young



It's April. That's not an April Fools joke. It really is April.

That means mid-way through this month, about half the league will be done playing. And the other half's season will just be starting.

The NBA playoff picture is kind of like one of those 3D images where you have to cross your eyes to see it. It's all coming together, it's all becoming much more clear. We've almost zeroed in on the 16 teams that will be standing come April 16, but the back ends of the East and West still need some settling.

The most contested races right now are the crawl to eighth and the fight for second in the East and the battle for second and eighth in the West. But, really, nothing is all that certain. Let's try and clear this fuzzy playoff picture.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Battle for the top: Chicago (55-20), Miami (53-22, 2.5 back of CHI), Boston (52-23, 3.0 back of CHI)

It's a three-team race for the top spot in the East, with the Bulls appearing to have a pretty good grip on the situation. The Celtics have been slipping after appearing to have quite the handle on things. Then they traded Kendrick Perkins, everyone cried and things started to go bad.

Of course the Heat are lingering and a favorable schedule, they could realistically win out. That could very well slide them into at least the two spot and maybe push the Bulls for the top. Wouldn't that be something.

But it really looks like this is Chicago's conference to lose. The Celtics being three back is a pretty big gap to close and even with the Heat's nice schedule to close, the Bulls are just playing too good right now. They'll likely finish the way they stand now with it going Chicago, Miami, then Boston, which of course would mean the Heat would play New York in the opening round. That'll be fun.

Looking locked in: Orlando (47-28), Atlanta (44-32, 4.0 back of ORL)

There is a chance that Atlanta catches Orlando for the four-seed. It's about as likely as Robert Tractor Traylor staging an NBA comeback, but it's possible. The Magic currently hold a four-game lead over the Hawks, but Orlando's schedule of seven games is pretty easy to close.

The Hawks are finally playing some decent basketball and their 85-82 win over the Magic and a big 88-83 win over the Celtics Friday will be big confidence boosters leading in to an opening round series with Orlando. It looks like Atlanta will concede home court to the Magic, though. Everyone remembers the absolute destruction of the Hawks by Orlando in the opening round last season, and it didn't matter if those games were played on the moon, the Hawks weren't winning. Maybe things will be different this year, but I think we can be pretty sure this is the 4-5 matchup in the East.

Light jockeying: Philadelphia (34-36), New York (37-38, 2.5 back of PHI)


It's funny to look back at things people like me were writing after the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony. I actually questioned if the Knicks were contenders this year. We were all wondering if the Knicks could move up from six to maybe five and maybe even four. Now they're holding on to seventh with an outside chance to get to six.

I suppose there is even a chance the Knicks could go the other direction too. And, realistically speaking, they could still fall out of the playoffs entirely as they're only up 4.5 games on the Bobcats with seven to play. An unlikely fall, but certainly possible, especially with this erratic bunch. I think if you gave the Knicks another month they'd definitely be a candidate to drop out -- or maybe even rise some. Really, this group is hard to figure.

Philadelphia holds a two-game lead over the Knicks for sixth and with the way the two teams are playing, it looks pretty certain that that's the way they'll finish. They play each other one more time next week, so that game could be the decider.

The ugly dog contest: Indiana (35-42), Charlotte (32-43, 2.0 back of IND), Milwaukee (30-45, 4.0 back of IND)

This is where these three teams have to stop and ask themselves a very important question -- What's better for us: A first-round playoff exit and the money we make from two extra sold out home games, or a lottery pick and chance at good player?

Let's look at the three:

Indiana: It's definitely in their best interest to go ahead and get to the playoffs. For one, they've held the eighth spot for a large portion of the second half of the season, so falling out would feel kind of like a choke of some kind. Not really because when you're eight games under .500, you sort of choked the entire season anyway and just had the good fortune of playing in the East.

But they've built some decent momentum the last two months under interim coach Frank Vogel. And, behind the improvement of Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert plus some good players like Danny Granger and Darren Collison, the Pacers could win a game. Making the playoffs would serve them better than getting another young player to develop. They already have enough Paul George's.

Charlotte: They should tank away. They've won four straight and are just a game back, but they tried to mail in this season at the deadline when they gave away Gerald Wallace for very little. The Bobcats need more young talent and need to start building. A playoff berth really does them very little.

Milwaukee:
It doesn't matter. The Bucks already have been one of the season's bigger disappointments, so if they made the playoffs at least they'd have that to feel better about. Then again, they're going nowhere and could always use that higher pick to try and snag an offensive player.

The Bobcats probably have the toughest schedule which hurt them Friday losing to Orlando and the Pacers picked up a big one-point win over Milwaukee as well. It sort of feels like Charlotte is headed for the berth for some reason even though the Pacers definitely want it the worst. And Friday night's results go a long way toward helping Indiana's bid. Whatever the case, this whole thing is pretty ridiculous.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The unexpected race for No. 1: San Antonio (57-19), Los Angeles (55-20, 2.5 back of SA)

Three weeks ago, the top spot in the West appeared to be a foregone conclusion. The Spurs were easily the best team in basketball -- record wise -- and were going to cruise to the No. 1 seed by six or seven games.

Then Tim Duncan got hurt. And then the Spurs dropped six in a row while the Lakers were running off nine straight. Then the gap closed to just 1.5 games with two weeks to play and both teams headed in different directions. Suddenly the Lakers actually had control of their own destiny to win the West.

Thing is, the Spurs aren't going to panic. They aren't going to worry about losing that lead. And if they do, they can live with it. That roster is too veteran, too mature and with Gregg Popovich, there's no anxiety there. Besides, I don't think they really care all that much about the difference between one and two, other than having that home court advantage over the Lakers.

The Lakers and Spurs do play one last time on April 12, so that game could be one to watch. But in all likelihood, the Spurs will regroup and finish up just strong enough to lock up the top seed.

The right to play L.A. in the second round -- or maybe the Spurs: Dallas (53-22), Oklahoma City (50-25, 3.0 of DAL)

The Mavericks are really in an interesting place. Technically they're just 1.5 back of the Lakers for second, but after Thursday's beatdown and the fact L.A. is the hottest team in the league, it feels like that race is over.

And now Dallas has to look over its shoulder just a bit at the Thunder who have been storming (see what I did there?) the past month (14-2 in March). The gap is 2.5 which is pretty big with only seven games left and most of the games on the road for OKC, it'll be difficult to catch Dallas.

Probably better for the Thunder too seeing as I think they'd prefer to have San Antonio in the second round instead of the Lakers. (Ironically if the Spurs keep losing, they might have to get to three. This is so confusing.)

OKC matches up much better with both since the Kendrick Perkins trade, but the Thunder has a better chance versus the Spurs to advance. Dallas is probably thinking the same thing though, especially after Thursday.

Locked in, sort of: Denver (46-29)

The Nuggets have been just outstanding the last month. Think about the mood after they dealt Carmelo Anthony. Most felt like an extra playoff spot had opened up in the West because it was a sure thing Denver would drop out.

Instead, they went up.

And if it weren't for the Thunder playing such fantastic basketball, the Nuggets would be pushing hard for the Northwest Division title and four-seed. But it doesn't look like they'll catch OKC who have a five-game lead. The Nuggets and Thunder do still play twice though and with the series at 1-1 this season, Denver could take the tiebreaker.

It's unlikely Denver would drop behind New Orleans (3.0 back) or Portland (2.5 back), but the Nuggets can't just coast into the five-seed. They appear to match up pretty well with OKC and would likely rather have the five-seed over six versus the Mavericks or seven versus the Lakers.

A real derby: Portland (44-32), New Orleans (43-33 (1.0 back of POR), Memphis (43-33, 1.0 back of POR), Houston (40-36, 3.0 back of MEM and NOLA)

After a very important Friday, the Blazers moved to sixth, the Hornets dropped to seven where they're tied with Memphis. The Rockets picked up a major win against San Antonio to stay three back of the eight spot.

Obviously the Hornets have an uphill battle to fight sans David West. Losing their best scorer is a major, major blow and one that will likely drop them down. Then again, so far without West the Hornets are 2-2 with a big win over Portland Wednesday. There was a bit of worry New Orleans could lose its playoff spot, but three games is a lot for Houston to make up in two weeks (though they do play one more time).

Portland really seems like the team set to get the six-seed. They have the most remaining healthy talent (that's a funny thing to say), are playing really well and don't have a killer schedule to finish. With a nice 99-91 win over the Thunder Friday, Portland finally reclaimed that six-seed and I don't see them losing it from here on out.

Memphis has a chance to either make up serious ground or lock themselves into eighth. The Grizzlies beat the Hornets Friday to knot things up and have one more New Orleans and one against Portland remaining.

And then Houston. I'm keeping them in the mix but a three-game deficit in six games is a lot to make up. The Rockets made their bed in November with their awful start.

Here's how I see this playing out: Portland is getting the six. They're too good, don't have a challenging schedule and have a lot of incentive to get the six because they match up well with Dallas. New Orleans, is falling. The Hornets are going to lose both games to Memphis and drop to eighth. Which is probably a blessing in disguise because they match up much better without West against the Spurs than they do against the Lakers.

And the Grizzlies will settle in at seven, playing the Lakers who they actually match decently against with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inside. Give Memphis Rudy Gay for this series and I honestly see it going seven.

Right now, 20 teams are still in the playoff mix. In two weeks, it'll be down to 16. Sad that maybe the best race is between three teams a combined 30 games under .500. Such is life in the bottom half of the East.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 9:22 pm
 

What happens to the Hornets without David West?

Posted by Royce Young



Hopefully I'm jumping the gun here. Hopefully, David West didn't suffer a major, serious injury Thursday night against the Jazz. But according to all initial reports and just the way it looked, West will likely be out the rest of the season and probably the entire duration of the postseason.

Right now, it's been classified as a "left knee trauma." That last word makes this thing sound pretty scary. He'll have an MRI later today to determine the severity.  (UPDATE: Reports are that West tore his ACL and is done for the remainder of the season and postseason.)

Two questions immediately popped up after West was wheeled to the locker room in a wheelchair: 1) With an early termination option, what's this do to West's desire to opt out and test free agency and 2) are the Hornets totally screwed now?

The first question is still a little premature to really delve into because we don't exactly know the extent of the injury and how West's career could be affected. But what we do have a pretty handle on is that West likely won't be appearing in a Hornet uniform this season and that means New Orleans' postseason aspirations have drastically been altered.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. Let's not pretend that this was a championship New Orleans team that was destined for an appearance in the Western Finals. It's a good team that pending a favorable matchup could maybe get to the second round and of course with Chris Paul and West, be able to push an opponent to six or seven games there. That was the Hornets' immediate future.

Without West though, everything changes. First, CP3 just lost his top target. Gone is his pick-and-pop buddy, the guy the Hornets liked to isolate at the end of games, the guy they liked taking their last second shots. Gone is their second best rebounder and second best interior defender. And gone is their second best player. Take the second best player from any playoff team and that group is in trouble. Take Pau Gasol away from Kobe. Take Jason Terry away from Dirk. Take Russell Westbrook away from Kevin Durant. Things change big time.

And in the Hornets case, things change fundamentally too. Like I said, West was a dynamic option for Paul because the two loved to run a mid-range pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop game. West's backup Carl Landry has no ability to do that. He's a terrible jumpshooter. West's range extended nearly to the 3-point line while Landry isn't making anything consistently past the free throw line.

Really, the Hornets might be better served using Jason Smith almost equally with Landry. Smith is a decent mid-range shooter (shoots 42 percent from 16-23 feet on 2.8 attempts per game) and in spot time for Emeka Okafor, performed pretty well highlighted by a 20-point effort against Washington. Still though, there's no replacing West in the offense. Already the Hornets struggle on that end (20th in offensive efficiency) and without West, all the load goes on Paul to score. Trading Marcus Thornton for Landry at the deadline was a good move to provide frontcourt depth, but the Hornets are going to really miss his ability to score these last three weeks.

I'm talking playoff ramifications here, but maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Are the Hornets even going to get there without West? Right now, NOLA sits at seventh in the West at 41-31 which is three games ahead of the streaking Rockets. Three games though is a lot to make up in just 10 games. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the schedule isn't easy to finish. Six of the 10 are at home which is nice, but they have games against Phoenix (twice), the Lakers, Portland, Memphis (twice), Indiana, Houston, Utah and Dallas. If you'll notice, all 10 of those games are against current playoff teams or .500 clubs (well, Utah is 36-37). Yikes.

I think the Hornets will survive and squeeze into the postseason though, which is something I'm sure the organization desperately is hoping for from a financial standpoint. The Rockets will need to finish with seven out of 10 or so to catch the Hornets and with game against the Heat, 76ers, Spurs, Hawks, Mavericks and suddenly a big one against the Hornets April 6, that'll be tough.

But it'll likely end there for the Hornets. Getting to the postseason will be a task and while advancing was already somewhat of a long-shot, it's most definitely not happening without West. As it stands now, the Hornets would play the Lakers in the opening round and without West, the size of Andrew Bynum, Gasol and Lamar Odom will entirely overwhelm New Orleans. Really, their best hope for winning a game or two in the playoffs is to slip to eighth and catch the Spurs who they match up with a bit better.

The season may have changed in a big way for the Hornets Thursday night which is a real shame. The team has been an inconsistent mess for a lot of the season, but was finally finding some consistency lately. All of that probably flies out the window with a serious injury to David West.

I'm hoping all this analysis is totally worthless by later this afternoon as West's MRI shows it's not serious. But that's looking unlikely. Which is unfortunate for everyone.
Posted on: March 21, 2011 8:48 pm
 

Hasheem Thabeet to be assigned to the D-League

Posted by Royce Young

Back to the D-League for Hasheem Thabeet, via the Houston Chronicle. Not exactly a sentence you expect to write about a former No. 2 overall pick.

Thabeet, who was acquired from Memphis in a trade for Shane Battier, is on his way to the Rockets' D-League affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He wasn't expected to make an impact with the Rockets and after playing only four minutes with his new team, a trip to the D-League is the only way he's going to see the floor.

Thabeet is just the latest example that if you're 7-3 and can block a shot, you can get an NBA contract. Thabeet was the highest ever pick assigned to the D-League when the Grizzlies sent him down last year. Now he's the highest ever pick assigned twice.

But the thing about Thabeet is, and will always be, that you can see the potential. Not for greatness or anything, but the skill and instincts are there. He has ability. He's horrific offensively, soft inside, doesn't rebound well for his size and just gets in the way offensively, but in terms of protecting the rim, he's pretty good at it.

Development has always been the buzzword for Thabeet and in Grande Valley it won't be any different. He really has a lot to improve on but if he realized it, he could be a decent NBA player. He won't ever be worth the No. 2 pick, but a decent backup center, he could be.

It's easy to root for Thabeet because he's a good guy and by all accounts, has a work ethic. He just hasn't put anything together yet. Another trip to the D-League probably won't change that much, but at least he'll actually see some floor time.
Posted on: March 21, 2011 5:02 pm
 

Better late than never, here come the Rockets

The Rockets have turned things around and are playing well enough to contend for the playoffs. 

Posted by Matt Moore




Going into the trade deadline, the Houston Rockets were stuck in neutral. They had started the year with a great deal of promise: a young team with a few established veterans, a seven foot monster in the post when healthy, a terrific, versatile power forward and some good talent. They were in a position to re-enter the race for the Western Conference. Then, it all fell apart. By the time the deadline had rolled around, they were a sub-.500 team who couldn't seem to make any significant progress, and were a mess defensively. Before trading Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier, two of their better players, the Rockets had a defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 107.8. That's Warior-like, fourth-worst in the league stuff. 

It was a boggling development for a team that isn't loaded with offense-first chuckers. Rick Adelman's teams have historically been solid defensively, and this team features competent role players and guys with enough experience to know how to execute. And yet, there they were, getting burned defensively game after game. As a frame of reference, the Rockets have not won a game versus the other two teams in Texas this season. Kind of rough when the Rockets have played them six times already. 

But since moving those players and getting really only Goran Dragic back? Everything has clicked for the Rockets. They've won 11 of their past 14, have moved up to the ninth spot in the West and are closing fast on Memphis, and their point differential has landed them seventh in the West. In short, everything's coming together. The key to their newfound success is two-fold. One, their defense has risen not only to acceptable levels, but is drowning teams. And two, Kyle Lowry has made a phenomenal jump in production. 

Defensively, starting with Houston's game against the Nets in their first contest after the deadline, it has gone from a team giving up 107.8 points per 100 possessions, to just 102.5. That's an improvement of 5.4 fewer points allowed per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, had the Rockets' maintained that defensive production the entire season, they would be the ninth best team in that category, tied with Philadelphia, and this is after an abberation-like 110 defensive efficiency surrendered to the Jazz Sunday. The improvements have come across the board. They're allowing a lower effective field goal percentage (factoring 3-point shooting allowed, from 50.5 to 47.7 percent), are turning their opponent over more often, and surrendering fewer fouls. Watching them, it's not just their intensity and effort that has improved, but simple things. Players are responding to one another better in help defense, taking better angles, playing more sound and giving more effort. In short, they're gelling at the exact right time. 

An interesting side note: Since the departure of known defensive artist Shane Battier, two young wings are getting considerably more time. In March, rookie Patrick Patterson and second year man Chase Budinger both saw substantial increases in their per-game minutes. Adelman's move to longer, more athletic lineups runs counter to the basic thought that to improve defensively, you need to rely on veterans. Instead, Adelman's using the length and athleticism he has at his disposal. 

The Rockets' offense has not tailed off during this streak since the deadline, as they are scoring more efficently (up 1 percent in offensive efficiency). They are shooting slightly better and getting to the line a touch less. In short, offensively, they haven't really improved considerably, but they've maintained their success (currently 8th in the league offensively). And that has been in large part due to Kyle Lowry. 

Lowry is averaging ridiculous numbers in March, and has led fans to wonder if the star Houston has been looking for is emerging all on his own. From Rockets blog Red94: 
Lowry, for all of his five years in this league, is but a wee 24 years of age his 25th birthday will come in four days. He is entering that prime that we all write about mystically, reverently. The initial reports on said prime? Remarkable. Lowry’s March has been one for the ages, including averages of 20.4 points on 50% from the field and 46% from three, 7.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds; tack on a couple assists, and those are Chris Paul numbers. This month of madness culminated in Sunday night’s struggle with the Jazz in which Lowry posted his first triple-double, leaving a stunned Rockets fanbase with more questions than ever. He can’t keep doing this, can he? Has he actually found his stroke, or could this be more fool’s gold? Wait, that really good little kid is already 25?
via Kyle Lowry Might Be the Star the Houston Rockets Need | Red94 | essays and musings on the nba and houston rockets.

As Zach Harper puts it, "Kyle Lowry Over Everything" (or, "KLOE"). Lowry is initiating things, forcing the issue, and more than anything, has found his long-range stroke. Before the season, looking at Lowry's perimeter numbers, it was stunning how bad he was. He would often hoist 3-pointers in transition, but knock them down at a terrible rate. This season, his overall 3-point percentage is up 11 percentage points to 38 percent and he's shooting 35 percent in transition from the perimeter. He's more aggressive, showing better vision, and turning the ball over less. 

The question will be whether Lowry can sustain this production and become the building block for the future kind of star they need. But in the meantime, the Rockets are just glad to be be back in the race. With the Grizzlies facing a ridiculously difficult schedule until the end of March (games against Utah, Chciago and Boston in the next week alone), Houston has a great opportunity to make a run for the playoffs. After a season stuck in neutral, the Rockets have found their gear. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com