Photo from Heat Nation
In October of 2012, James Harden left Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Houston Rockets. Not only did he join the Houston Rockets, but he was the Houston Rockets. Since the moment he arrived in the city of Houston the team was built around him and all his talent he has to offer. Every win was traced back to Harden's incredible offense, and every loss was traced back to an off night. This season, Harden has been encountering off nights way more than he is used to. Yes, I know what you're thinking, he is still averaging 34.9 points, which is the highest in the league. But during the most recent month's teammate, Russell Westbrook co-headlines this team, not letting Harden be the only star. During an outstanding game Saturday night against the Boston Celtics, Westbrook ended the game with 41 points, eight rebounds, five-assist, and three steals helping win the game 111-110 in OT. This exact game is just one out of many examples that the Rockets being Harden’s team, isn't only “Harden’s Team.” Head Coach Mike D’Antoni talks about Westbrook and how “You can’t go to the supermarket and buy heart,” and how, “You know he has that. It’s pretty impressive.” In a recent trade deadline, the Rockets got rid of center Clint Capela and a first-round pick to gather forward Robert Covington, forcing them to play small. After this trade was completed it was known as one of the worst trades, but the Rockets proved everyone wrong coming back strong, and winning seven of their last ten games. They have 21 games remaining and a chance to climb to the second seed. Westbrook responds to their transformation after being asked if it put him in a better position offensively saying “I don’t know, man,” and then follows that by saying “I just try to find ways every year to be better and find ways to become a better player and teammate. Obviously, based on the changes we made and the way we line up, I have to find ways to constantly keep being effective and help my team win games and that’s what I try to do.” It's clear that after this change, it makes sense for the Rockets to spread around the perimeter giving Westbrook a lot of room to drive in and attack, and that's exactly what he's doing. Westbrook is one of the, if not the most athletic player in the NBA making it easy for him split the defense, get past multiple defenders, and attack the basket, making in the paint his most consistent area to play. Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins excitingly shares that he hasn't seen anyone dominant in the paint like Westbrook since Shaquille O’Neal played. Perkins continues to joke about how he changed Westbrooks's name to “Russell Westbrook O’Neal,” because of his success in the paint even with his small structure. Westbrook talks about himself saying that "Right now I think I'm moving in the right direction. I've just got to stay locked in on what I'm doing and my craft and keep doing what I've been doing since I've been in the league, and that's going out and competing every night." Although they haven't been playing this style for a long time, they have proved themselves by winning against not only the Boston Celtics but the LA Lakers and Utah Jazz showing that they can compete against elite teams. This season has shown that now when Harden has an off night, Russell can and will step up to keep his team on track which wasn't shown in the past season, even while playing alongside Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. This coming Thursday the Houston Rockets face the LA Clippers which is going to be a difficult matchup. Can the Rockets pull off a win?