James Harden is out of Houston, and his former teammates seem to be completely OK with that.
The new-look Houston Rockets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 104-101 on Thursday for their fourth straight win. The team is now 5-3 since trading away Harden.
After the game, John Wall — the point guard Harden reportedly didn’t want to play with — was asked what has changed since the beginning of the season. Wall stated the obvious, that it’s hard to play as a team when your star is shuffling for the exit:
Wall on what has changed since the season opener in Portland: "The team wasn’t where we wanted to be and we had people that didn’t want to be here. So it’s kind of hard to play through that. Once the trade happened, we got the team that we wanted and guys that wanted to be here."
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 29, 2021
Before the Harden trade, the Rockets were one of the most chaotic teams in the NBA. Harden was still posting big numbers and had playoff-level talent around him, but all that translated to was a 3-6 record and Harden openly saying the situation was unfixable.
So the Rockets traded him for a package that basically came out to Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo and an ungodly amount of draft picks, and have seemed to have fixed things in the process.
Rockets’ new roster is starting to work
The Rockets’ win over the Blazers provided some reason to believe the Rockets, now 8-9, can still make a playoff run.
Wall had 20 points and six assists. Oladipo led the team with 25 points. Christian Wood, the team’s biggest free agent acquisition, had 22 points and 12 rebounds. The whole team held the Blazers — sixth in the NBA in offensive rating entering Thursday — to 101 points.
Houston’s defense has looked like a new unit since Harden’s departure, ranking first in the NBA in defensive rating in that span according to StatMuse. Under new head coach Stephen Silas, the Rockets seem to be coming together:
"It's been great comin' to Houston. I feel like all of us are on the same page and we all have something to prove."
Victor Oladipo and the Rockets are motivated.
(via @NBAonTNT) pic.twitter.com/5bNNcAWK5Q
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) January 29, 2021
The Rockets should have plenty of opportunity to build up even more momentum, as their only opponents with a record above .500 over the next 10 games are the 10-8 Spurs and 7-6 Grizzlies.
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