The Houston Rockets have lost all but two games in the month of February, and their struggles coincide with Christian Wood injuring his ankle. In fact, the team has not won a game since he was sidelined three weeks ago on Feb. 4, dropping from a record of 11-10 to 11-19.
Stephen Silas and Co. are searching for answers, sliding down the Western Conference standings quickly on a nine-game losing streak. With Wood out and DeMarcus Cousins waived earlier this week, Houston’s simply been lacking big men.
The team signed Ray Spalding to a two-way contract 13 days ago, yet he only lasted one-and-a-half games due to an untimely Achilles injury. To shore up the center position following Spalding’s release, the Rockets brought in former 2017 first-round pick Justin Patton on a separate two-way deal. He’s seen 33 minutes of action already and has shown promise in his two games.
Attempting to counter the rash of injuries and roster turnover in a tumultuous season, Silas has elected to go with a small-ball approach. P.J. Tucker and 25-year-old rookie Jae’Sean Tate have been manning the 5 position as Houston goes with a five-out strategy offensively. Rockets star John Wall admires how his teammates (such as Tate) are competing, but he hasn’t been the biggest fan of playing small when the team has to take on more sizable competition.
“I wouldn’t say it’s us missing bigs, it’s the way we want to play... but it’s kinda tough when we’re playing against a team that has a seven-foot center or guys like that rebounding and things like that,” Wall said. “It's just difficult, to be honest, for me. I’m a person that likes to pass. I’m used to finding my bigs on the roll. Not even just having a lob threat; I never really had one of those ‘til I got C-Wood for real, but just having a big that I could throw the ball too that can finish down there.
“It just makes our team more dynamic when we have all smalls out there. It’s kinda tough because they’re just switching 1-through-5 and loading the paint against us and making it tough [on offense]. You’ve seen it. It’s just one or two guys out there at a time -- ‘cause me and EG [Eric Gordon] would be out some games, Vic [Oladipo] would be out some games, I might be out some games -- and they were basically just on the perimeter playing one-on-one the whole time. We definitely need some type of paint presence. You need that. I just think with any team, you’re gonna have to have that. And that’s why I feel like we kinda struggled at times because we’re down there doing the best we can to fight and try to get rebounds and do the little things, but it’s a lot harder when you’ve got a seven-foot guy [against you].”