If the rocky start to the season is making fans of the Houston Rockets nervous, perhaps the admission from head coach Mike D’Antoni will put minds at ease. After an expected win against a depleted Warriors squad last week, D’Antoni said, “There’s a certain point where you turn it on and play good defense. If we would have done that the whole game, we could have probably been in control earlier. We’re working on it. We’re just not in great shape right now. We will get there.”
The game was incredibly close during the first half which is why D’Antonio explained that the squad was nowhere near peak conditioning for the season. He made the decision to take it easy on the squad during the preseason which is why these first few games have had more of an inconsistent feel to them.
Harden chimed in with the opinion that conditioning is the responsibility of the individual players. “We’re getting there game-by-game,” Harden explained. “We don’t really practice a lot. So we’re a vet team. He lets us go out there and compete at a high level and kind of work our way through conditioning that way. Individually, we have to make sure we’re doing that and as a team we have to make sure we’re doing that.”
It has taken Harden, who has remained in the MVP conversation consistently in the last few years, a couple games to hit his stride but if his performance against the Chicago Bulls over the weekend was any indication of what’s to come, he’ll be just fine. Harden’s 42-point, 10-rebound, 9-assist, and 2-steal performance moved him past Scottie Pippen on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
It is still way too early to make any predictions about how the Rockets will fare during the regular season or post. For now it looks like the veteran team will continue to focus on conditioning themselves, nursing nagging injuries and finding their rhythm as a team.