HOUSTON – Coach Mike D’Antoni started to find 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 dropped three of their last four games after a 117-107 defeat on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Toyota Center.
D’Antoni acknowledged that the “collective spirit” of the Rockets, who consider themselves contenders, was dead.
“No, it’s a concern. But for me, the goal isn’t to do it well,” said D’Antoni. “The focus is more on looking behind the shirt instead of in front. We just have to get over it and we will do it.
“Every ship is shaken sometimes. We are shaking right now. Two weeks ago, if you asked, we were in a fantastic place as far as the team is concerned. It’s a delicate thing. You have to be careful, and right now, we are wobbly, but we have veterans who will repair the ship. “
D’Antoni took more than 20 minutes from the final buzzer to begin his post-match press conference, the longest wait for this season, in part due to a long discussion of 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 feels a kind of way for whatever is going on, individually and as a unit,” said Harden, who was kept at a minimum of 13 points in 3-of-12 shooting by the Trail Blazers. , which doubles – simply the NBA scoring leader on a regular basis. “So talk about it and get it off your chest.”
Last week’s Rockets rut - which included double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Trail Blazers – took Houston fifth in the Western Conference rankings.
Harden summed up the solution in two words: “Play faster”, which was repeated by his co-star, Russell Westbrook.
“Simply: play hard,” said Westbrook, who had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in defeat and was the only Houston player with a positive advantage. “Everything else will go online. Enough talent, enough experience, knowing how to play. I just have to play hard every single night.”
An excuse that D’Antoni made was that some key rockets were facing physical problems. The center Clint Capela has an annoying bruise on the heel that has made him lose three of the last nine games. The sixth man, Eric Gordon, is getting back into shape after six weeks after knee surgery. Powerful striker PJ Tucker suffered a sting in his right shoulder in Saturday’s home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“This is an excuse, but it doesn’t work,” said D’Antoni. “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 point early last season by getting rid of Carmelo Anthony, who was exiled when Houston had a 4-6 record and was eventually traded with the Chicago Bulls for cash in a deal. rubbish dump. Anthony didn’t have another opportunity to play in the NBA until Portland signed him in mid-November, but insisted that he no longer had any excitement about facing Rocket for the first time since his embarrassing layoff.
“I spent all of this, the time I was out,” said Anthony, who scored 18 points in 7 out of 10 and 12 rebounds in the Blazers’ win. “The time when I had to think about that situation, and I faced every emotion you could think of. Trying to understand why. Questioning myself at the beginning. Working so hard to overcome that and somehow be at peace with that.”
The Rockets are now trying to figure out how to get past their crude patch. The program will not do them any favors, with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder and the Denver Nugget, leaders in the West, arriving in the city for the rest of the Houston home.
“There is nothing easier for us,” said Harden, who has had his two releases with the lowest score of the season in the last four games. “We have some tough opponents coming up, and we have to figure out how to deal with it. We will do it. We will do it. I think everyone is going through difficult times throughout the year. For us, this is now.”
“A man’s true measurement is where you stand in adversity. So we’ll see,” he said. “I live for things like this, and I know the boys in the locker rooms feel the same way. We just have to be there.”