New City, Same Summer Struggles

Rockets Drop Vegas Opener to Miami 92-81
by Chad Shanks

Summer League isn’t for those prone to yelling at the TV.

The games lack the fluidity of your typical NBA action, fostering a game-watching environment ripe for voice-losing as cries of “What are you doing?” and “Why did he shoot that?” are rapidly fired at the screen.

Summer League is not the regular season. Summer League is a dogfight.

The Rockets’ Vegas roster, like every other team’s roster, is full of players trying to prove that they belong at this level. So for one week in the desert, these men will scratch and claw and take every chance they get to show what they’ve got.

For the Vegas Rockets who cracked the roster last season (Canaan, Covington and Motiejunas) this is their chance to seize a spot in the rotation. For the first few minutes, they did just that. With James Harden watching from the bench, Houston got an early lead thanks to D-Mo flashing the inside/outside game and Canaan attacking the basket.

However, as has been the case with any squad lately that sports the red R, turnovers reared their ugly head and Miami finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run. They then scored off the break with ease in the 2nd, punctuated by Shabazz Napier lobbing one to James Ennis as no Rocket got back in transition. The Heat never looked back, handing the Rockets a 92-81 loss in their Vegas opener.

Now, there’s no reason to go Chicken Little here. The Vegas sky will not come falling down because of a bad Summer League game. The guys who’ve been on the big stage know that good minutes here can lead to good minutes in November. The guys trying to make it to that stage – like 3-point marksmen Maarty Luenen and Luke Hancock – know that every drained trey can bring them that much closer. Others, like the ones who made the cross-country trip from Orlando, will just need another game or so to gel with their new squad. All in all, no reason to think tonight is a sign of things to come from players who may be expected to play big minutes this season at Toyota Center.

So, if you yelled at your screen tonight, you’ll continue to yell as the week goes on. This is still Summer League and players you’ve never heard of on other teams will still pull up for guarded 29-foot 3-pointers in transition; but as the games continue the cream will rise to the top. The Rockets have roster and rotation spots up for grabs and it will be interesting to see who bounces back after game one and takes the first steps.

The Rockets will play Portland tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. CDT. Watch on CSN Houston or online on ESPN 3 or NBA Summer League live streaming.

Stat Leaders:

Isaiah Canaan: 18 points, 4 assists
Donatas Motiejunas: 13 points, 4 rebounds
Nick Johnson: 11 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds