The Grizzlies look to shake off a blowout lost to the L.A. Clippers by conquering another uphill battle in taking on the cult of small ball Houston Rockets. This will be Memphis’ first time taking on the Rockets since the trade deadline, & luckily Ben DuBose & The Rockets Wire of the USA Today Sports network was gracious enough to collaborate on this feature. We got them to answer 5 questions as the series goes & we ask about everything from the championship window of Houston to comparing players to Megan Thee Stallion & Lizzo.
As the Grizzlies look to snap a 2 game losing skid since returning from all-star break, They will have to do so without the debut of the Grizzlies newly acquired small ball universal plug-in Justise Winslow, as well as Jaren Jackson, & Brandon Clarke who are all out with injuries. Those craving Jordan Bell minutes should be receiving their fix.
EdMemphis: With Houston doubling down on small ball & employing a five out lineup now mostly, the Houston Rockets are now daring teams to make them pay for the lack of size. Should the Rockets be worried, especially with the Lakers & Nuggets of the world?
@BenDuBose: I think the Rockets are more worried by the record of the Nuggets & Lakers than their size. Since going small, the Rockets have beat the Utah Jazz with Rudy Gobert, the Lakers with Anthony Davis & the Dallas Mavericks with Kristaps Porzingis. There's a large enough sample size to not be to concerned about the size disparity, & if you weren't previously the best team in the West, there's a case to be made that the smartest play is to increase the variance-which becoming even more dependent on 3-pointers does. I don't know if they'll win the West, but I understand where they're coming from. I don't think they were winning it the previous way with Clint Capela, so I don't mind them trying something new. James Harden & Russell Westbrook are each now in their 30's, so their window isn't open forever. If the Lakers or Nuggets beat them, it'll simply be because they're a really good team in their own right, as oppose to the Rockets did anything "wrong" per se.
EdMemphis: Houston is home to three of the hottest artist in entertainment right now with Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion & Travis Scott. In comes Russell Westbrook & James Harden in such fashion for the Houston Rockets. Who is the 3rd guy in Houston now & do you feel they have a true 3rd star or moreso a 3rd option by default?
@BenDuBose: It depends whether you're talking offense or defense. On offense it's Eric Gordon. He's been crucial during the last two postseason runs against the Warriors & a big part of why the Rockets have been so close. The Rockets not only need Gordon's shooting, but also his ability to drive to the basket & play physical. But on defense, it's either P.J. Tucker or Robert Covington (or more accurately both). Honestly, I'd say all three are roughly tied when it comes to being the third most important player.
EdMemphis: Ja Morant has been compared to Russell Westbrook & Brodie also happens to be his favorite player. What similarities do you see between the two & in what ways are they different?
@BenDuBose: I see some similarities between Morant & a younger Westbrook, though Ja is a better 3-point shooter. Morant reminds me of Russ from the perspective of his relentless desire & willingness to attack. They're also athletic freaks at point guard.
Morant reminds me some of Harden becuase he's a high-IQ player, but Harden over the years has become so savvy as a scorer. Perhaps Morant can do some of the same things, but it's hard to project now because it's so early in his career, & a big part of what has made Harden so elite on offense is how he continually adjusts to what defenders throw at him. We can pick up Morant-Harden comparisons more in a couple of years, once we see how Ja responds to the new ways that defenses inevitably try to combat him.
EdMemphis: What is the championship window on this Rockets squad as currently constructed? Who goes this summer if they don't make it out of the West?
@BenDuBose: The Championship window is the next two years, in my opinion. Westbrook & Gordon are 31. Harden is 30. Covington is 29. You've got this season & at most two more, which not coincidentally is also the time frame that all four of those guys are contract. At that point, they'll have to reconsider where they are, because at that point they'll reach a phase where many NBA teams begin to decline.
If not the Rockets, I think the Lakers are deserving favorites. They've been the best team in the Western Conference all year, they're likely to have home court advantage throughout the playoffs, & they also have the best big man in the west in Anthony Davis. Beyond that LeBron James has consistently shown an ability to step his game up even more in the playoffs. I think Houston has a chance, & they did win at Staples Center earlier this month, but the Lakers deserve to be called the front runners.
EdMemphis: Who is your favorite Houston artist of all-time & which Rockets player in team history would you compare that artist to?
@BenDuBose: I'm going to take the easy way out & say Travis Scott, because he's so beloved that bobbleheads of him wearing a Rockets Jersey were given out at Monday's game. I'll compare him to Gerald Green because no matter how you feel about his game, he's undeniably Houston & lives & breathes the city. In turn, the fans have his back no matter what. Unfortunately, Gerald was dealt at the trade deadline because he's out for the season & they needed the roster spot for Jeff Green, but you probably get the idea. Gerald is a legend in Houston for his continued loyalty, & Travis Scott is as well.
Thanks again to Ben DuBose & The Rockets Wire as well as USA Today Sports for taking the time & granting us written & visual content for this article. Be sure to check out @TheRocketsWire & the rest of their content on all of their platforms.