Rockets’ Trevor Ariza tells truth: “We’re not playing hard enough”

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Energy is a skill in the NBA — and one the Houston Rockets have been lacking.

The Rockets have the second-worst defense in the NBA this season. Our old friend Matt Moore laid it out brilliantly at CBS’s Eye on Basketball with these stats: The Rockets are 28th in defensive rebound percentage; 28th in allowing second-chance points; 25th in putback points per possession allowed; 25th in number of opponent field goal attempts in the restricted area per game; and 29th in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim. This is a team with Dwight Howard on it (and the numbers are a little better when he is on the floor), but the Rockets are simply getting outworked nightly on defense.

Trevor Ariza admitted as much to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

The good news for Rockets fans is that effort is correctable. While this is the kind of thing that gets coaches fired, it should be James Harden, Howard, and the other veteran locker room leaders on this team who make the change happen (by words and example).

If you’re in the camp that thinks any team based around Harden and Howard can’t ultimately succeed, you’re just nodding your head.

But this is a team that won 56 games and made the Western Conference Finals last season — this team should not be this bad. Maybe they tasted success, saw the addition of Ty Lawson, and thought they could snap their fingers and make it back to that level. Complacency has destroyed many a season. Maybe it is something else in the locker room.

Whatever it is, the Rockets need to figure it out sooner or later because the elite teams in the West are not going to wait around for them.