I was fortunate enough to have Bruce Bowen find a bit of time to answer a few questions about the Houston Rockets in lieu of the matchup between the two teams Friday night on ESPN.
1) How has the Omer Asik dynamic - in the starting lineup then hurt, benched, and demanding a trade - played out throughout the season?
Anytime you have any negativity that is unwarranted, it makes things difficult. Even though, as of right now he's not an integral part, it's still that elephant in the room. It's more or less a rotting piece of fruit. You can smell it and you know it's there. You know something needs to be done about it.
2) Has James Harden's defense taken a toll on fans and players or has his offense been enough where people take the good with the bad?
I don't think you can ever call anybody a star in this league if they don't play both sides. And he's shown that he doesn't have any concern on the defense. It gets to a point where you have to be held accountable. And sometimes guys don't want to be held accountable because they are not capable of doing something. But, at least if he couldn't do it, you could accept it because he just can't. But because he can and he chooses not to, that's where the questions will start getting thrown at him as far as why aren't you giving that same effort you give on offense when it comes to the defensive side.
It's not one of those where you look at like the Heat and the Knicks or the Heat and Chicago or even now the Heat and the Pacers. I think they have to get to the Finals and really do things in the playoffs as far as truly becoming something more. Even with that being said, Houston still won. It's not like they shut them up by winning. It's more the media blowing it out of proportion. It will be interesting this year to see how things pan out.
4) The Rockets, like the Warriors, have suffered multiple injuries to their best players. What's been the mindset of the team and how have they dealt with it?
People understand that injuries are part of the game. You have to continue forward. No one is feeling sorry for anyone when it comes to injuries. It's opportunities for guys to step up and show their worth at that particular moment. I think Houston is a deep team and the fact that they have other guys that they can go to like Garcia. When it comes to that, it's opportunities for other guys to step up and make a contribution, whereas before they may not have been able to make a contribution because of the limited time.
5) Daryl Morey seems to have a knack of picking up solid shooters and wing players off the scrap heap. First Carlos Delfino and now Omri Casspi. How's his addition helped the team?
I don't think it's the fact that he's been able to find people out of the heap. These kids are talented. They were all drafted in the first round. Sometimes, guys playing on certain teams are not necessarily a good fit. What he's been able to do is possibly put those guys around others that allow them to succeed. Here it is, you have a scenario with Omri Casspi, he's a shooter. So, you have Dwight Howard on the floor. Howard creates a lot of attention as well as James Harden. Double team goes there and now he's able to spot up and knock down a jump shot. When you ask Casspi to create his own shot, now we're getting to an area where he's not as successful. We saw that with him in Cleveland. Being that he's now in a situation where having certain superstars on the floor takes the pressure off and it allows him to be a good role player, that's what you get more than anything else.
6) Has Terrence Jones' growth and subsequent insertion in the starting lineup been a surprise?
Not a surprise but it's been a pleasantry as far as seeing a kid work and continue to get better and not just rest and be satisfied because he's in the NBA. He's talented down low, I think it's even better that he's able to play alongside someone like Dwight Howard where there's not a requirement for him to be super. It's more about him playing to his ability. Not playing outside of what he does. Basically, being an asset with Dwight on the floor. Being able to clean up the rebounds, and when he gets his opportunity, he does a good job of being consistent. It's not a surprise but it's a pleasantry that you have someone that is constantly improving alongside someone like Dwight Howard.
7) And, of course, we can't leave without a Dwight Howard question:
Of course not!
8) Has his mini-refusal to run multiple pick-and-rolls in consecutive possessions, instead opting for post-ups despite scoring them at a low rate for himself, been a concern for what could be the best offense in the league?
Again, we're talking about strengths. He's not a pick and pop guy, so if you're constantly running pick and rolls with someone after it doesn't work the first time, it's one of those deals where you are not utilizing a player at his strength. If that's Dirk Nowitzki, if that's Tim Duncan, yes - they are pick and pop guys, but Dwight is a guy that's going to roll down to the basket. So the best thing that someone can do is try and turn the corner and draw that help with the defense when you get him rolling to the basket for a lob or even a drop off. I don't think that's to his strength. When it comes to this point of the game, you want to play toward his strengths because we've seen what he can do when he's dominant and playing to those strengths.