Michael Beasley is, in a sense, the quintessential Houston Rocket, even though he’s been with the team for only four games.
Beasley fits right into the Rockets’ overall pattern of being… well… largely free of patterns. Houston is just about impossible to neatly slot into any kind of pattern or category other than one: It is an utterly unpredictable team, more than any other in the league.
The Rockets are the team which can give up on defense, folding the tents in the process of giving up 128 to a point-starved Milwaukee club a few weeks ago.
They are the team which snapped the Toronto Raptors’ 12-game home winning streak several days ago.
The Rockets are the team which gave up 123 points at home in regulation to both Detroit and Washington in late January.
They are the team which snapped the Boston Celtics’ 14-game home winning streak Friday night, while also stopping the Celtics’ run of nine consecutive games with at least 100 points scored.
The Rockets’ 102-98 win is just the latest troll job from a team which continuously removes its head from the sand to do something commendable… and then buries that head in the sand days later, immersed in a medicority far beneath its capabilities.
Among all the Rockets, James Harden and Dwight Howard bear the most responsibility for what’s happened this season. Their leadership capabilities need no elaboration — everyone around the league can see these skilled players for what they are in terms of the more intangible aspects of value to a team. Yet, with Michael Beasley now in the mix, the Rockets have yet another player who comes and goes as he pleases, making nary a peep in two or three games but then lighting up the world just when everyone’s about to give up and move on.
Beasley had played two games with the Rockets before Friday. In those two games, the former No. 2 overall pick — whose career has been an erratic and wayward tangle of bad decisions and wrong turns — managed 10 points and 2 rebounds, a slight dent on the stat sheet and nothing more.
Friday in Boston, Beasley exploded for 18 and 8 in just 15 minutes. It’s true that Jae Crowder’s injury in the third quarter compromised the Celtics and limited what they wanted to do, but Boston has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to solve problems. The Celtics have proved they can push themselves past opponents with equal or greater skill… but not the coaching Brad Stevens brings to the table.
Beasley, for one night, confounded Stevens and his team. Whatever he did in his 15 minutes, the Celtics couldn’t really figure it out. Beasley did miss 10 shots in those 15 action-packed minutes, but he made nine, and he feasted on the boards. He gave the Rockets a turbo-boost and lit a fire which translated to the defensive end of the floor.
The Rockets are the ultimate box-of-chocolates team in the NBA this season: More than the Bucks and Jazz (which do well at home but suffer on the road — they’re more predictable that way), Houston is inconsistent no matter where or when it plays. Harden and Howard have embodied this Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, but now, Beasley offers another icon of this split identity.
Here is the essential point to be made about the 2016 Rockets: With each new conquest they forge — the comeback win at Portland; the streak-snapper in Toronto; the double-streak-stopper in Boston on Friday — the more one develops a sense of anger at the team’s inability to retain its best basketball identity.
Wins such as the one Houston pulled off against Boston are great in microcosm, but as soon as the camera pans out and looks at the wider landscape, it’s just about impossible to not be ticked off that the Rockets are essentially a break-even club.
They are, in so many ways, Michael Beasley.
The relationship is reciprocal.