John Wall wants everyone to know the Rockets are going to be just fine without James Harden. In fact, it seems as though they prefer it that way.
Houston’s 104-101 victory over Portland on Thursday night extended its current winning streak to four games, keeping the Rockets firmly in the Western Conference playoff picture. Wall, who had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds against the Trail Blazers, noted that the culture has been a lot different since a certain former MVP was traded to the Nets.
“The team wasn’t where we wanted to be, and we had people that didn’t want to be here,” Wall said. “So it’s kind of hard to play through that and try to find a chemistry. Once we got that away, and then we made the trades happen, we got the team that we wanted and the guys that wanted to be here.
“Once we all committed to what we wanted to do, we’re gonna be a good team.”
John Wall: “Team wasn’t where we wanted to be & we had people who didn’t want to be here, so it’s kind of hard to play through that & try to find a chemistry. Once we got that away and we made the trades happen we got the team that we wanted and the guys that wanted to be here..” pic.twitter.com/DF3bQhOdWu
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) January 29, 2021
It’s hard to argue with Wall’s evaluation, which was in line with his previous comments about the Harden situation. When the top player doesn’t show up to training camp on time, flouts health and safety protocols and expresses zero interest in working on his conditioning or relationships with new teammates, it’s impossible to create a positive environment.
No one could reasonably say the Rockets should have higher odds to win the NBA championship than the Nets, but they have been playing much better since cutting off “The Beard.”
Just take a look at the numbers before and after Harden left Houston:
Rockets before the trade: 3-6, 111.1 defensive rating (ranked 22nd)
Rockets since the trade: 5-3, 102.7 defensive rating (ranked 1st)
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 29, 2021
Since James Harden was traded to the Nets:
Rockets have the 8th best net rating.
(21st before the trade.)
Nets have the 13th best net rating.
(3rd before the trade.)
— Josh Eberley🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) January 29, 2021
Victor Oladipo, who is averaging 22.4 points per game since being acquired by the Rockets as part of the blockbuster deal, told the “NBA on TNT” crew that the Houston experience has been “great” so far. The Rockets appear to be comfortable flying under the radar without a superstar.
“It feels like all of us are on the same page, and we all have something to prove, and we all want to win,” Oladipo said. “Once you have the same mentality and you put a group of guys together, special things can happen.”
As Wall mentioned, it helps when all of the members of the team actually want to be there.