HOUSTON – Coach Mike D’Antoni began to make an excuse for the recent Houston Rockets fights and then stopped in the middle of a sentence, saying he couldn’t do it with a serious face.
The Rockets have lost three of their last four games after a 117-107 loss on Wednesday to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Toyota Center.
D’Antoni acknowledged that the “collective spirit” of the Rockets, who are considered contestants, was off.
“No, it’s a concern. But for me, the focus is not on doing it right,” D’Antoni said. “The focus is more on looking at the back of the shirt instead of the front. We just have to get over it, and we will.”
“Every ship rocks sometimes. We are rocking right now. Two weeks ago, if you had asked, we were in a great place in terms of equipment. It is a delicate thing. You must be careful, and at this moment, we are trembling; but we have veterans who will straighten the ship. “
D’Antoni took more than 20 minutes from the final bell to begin his post-game press conference, the longest wait for this season, partly due to a long discussion about the team’s problems in the locker room. Rockets star James Harden described the session as an opportunity for players to express their emotions and concerns.
“Everyone is their own person and they feel some kind of way about what is happening, individually and as a unit,” said Harden, who had a record 13 points in the season with 3 of 12 shots of the Trail Blazers, who doubled – He joined the leading NBA scorer on a regular basis. “Then you talk about it and you take it off your chest.”
The Rockets’ routine during the past week, which included double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Trail Blazers, has taken Houston to fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
Harden summed up the solution in two words: “Play harder,” echoed by his co-star, Russell Westbrook.
“As simple as that: play hard,” said Westbrook, who had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the loss and was the only Houston player with a plus-minus positive. “Everything else will be online. Enough talent, enough experience, knowing how to play the game. I just have to play hard every night.”
An excuse that D’Antoni made was that some key Rockets were dealing with physical problems. The Clint Capela center has a persistent bruise on his heel that has made him lose three of the last nine games. The sixth man, Eric Gordon, is getting back in shape after missing six weeks after knee surgery. Power forward PJ Tucker suffered a stinger in his right shoulder in Saturday’s home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“That is an excuse, but that does not work,” D’Antoni said. “We just have to go back. Right now, it’s a difficult point. We had difficult points last year, we had difficult points the previous year, you always have difficult points.”
The Rockets responded to a difficult situation at the beginning of last season by getting rid of Carmelo Anthony, who was exiled when Houston had a 4-6 record and was eventually traded to the Chicago Bulls along with cash in a salary payment agreement. Anthony had no other opportunity to play in the NBA until Portland signed him in mid-November, but insisted he had no additional emotions from facing the Rockets for the first time since his awkward dismissal.
“I spent all that, the time I was free,” said Anthony, who had 18 points in 7 of 10 shots and 12 rebounds in the Blazers’ victory. “The time I had to think about that situation, and I have dealt with all the emotions you can think of. Trying to understand why. Questioning me at the beginning. Working so hard to overcome that and be at peace with that.”
The Rockets are now trying to discover how to overcome their difficult time. The schedule will not do them any favors, as the Lakers, Thunder and Denver Nuggets, leaders of West Los Angeles, will come to the city for the rest of the Houston family home.
“It’s not easier for us,” said Harden, who has had his two lowest starts of the season in the last four games. “We have some difficult opponents to come, and we have to solve our path. We will do it. We will do it. I think everyone goes through difficult times throughout the year. For us, this is now.”
“The true measure of a man is where you stand in adversity. So we’ll see,” he said. “I live for things like this, and I know that the boys in the locker room feel the same way. We have to keep that.”