With or (most likely) without Dwight Howard, Coach Kevin McHale says the Rockets have adjustments to make in regards to their screens, ball movement, and execution before Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks come to town. “They are playing great. They’re playing downhill. Rick’s got them really playing well up there in Dallas. They come downhill on you, they got a bunch of guys that’ll attack the paint, they’re scoring in bunches, we gotta be ready to go.”

While the Mavs come to town on a hot streak, the Rockets have lost two straight. The second at the hands of the Lakers in a game that Howard sat out with a right knee injury. McHale did not comment on Howard’s injury or when he would return, but he expects the rest of the team to pick up the slack. He acknowledges that James Harden has more responsibility on his shoulders, but he and his point guard made it clear that being without Howard is no excuse for poor play.

“We gotta find a way. Everything’s not gonna be perfect. Everything’s not gonna go according to plan every single night. We gotta, you know, find a way to win. That’s the biggest thing. So, ah, Of course, we want our big horse riding with us, but we can’t control injuries, like I said, and it’s time for someone else to step up.”

Patrick Beverley added that the mindset did not change, but quickly realized that indeed it is different because Howard brings so much on the defensive side of the ball.

Tarik Black, though said, “My role doesn’t change just because Dwight is not in the game…It’s not any different. Just go out there and be an energy guy, rebound the ball, look for open spots, opportunity to score, and do what I have to do to help the team win. That’s what I’m all about- the team winning. It’s not about me. It’s about the Rockets.”

Black may not feel his role is different, but the Rockets, do rely on his presence inside much more without Howard than with him because, as Beverley pointed out, everyone else has to rebound more and play better defense when playing without one of the best big men in the league. Beverley also downplayed the Rockets versus Mavericks saying:

I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I’m a basketball player. I come out here to compete. Treat Dallas like I treat the Lakers. Treat the Lakers like I treat Memphis. Treat Memphis like I treat OKC. Our next opponent is the biggest opponent because they are the next team. That’s all that matters…Regardless of whose name is on the jersey we have to go out there and continue to play Rocket basketball.

Rocket basketball as planned is exactly what his coach wants to see Saturday night, but clearly was not happy with the brand he saw versus the Lakers. “The defense dictates what you do in the game of basketball. If they put two on the ball you pass it. If they play one on one, you know, you try to beat your man. You try to draw a guy. If they don’t come you score. If they do come, you through it out. It’s a very simple game.”

Howard himself said the decision will be made at game time, but considering he did not practice Friday and coach and teammates are focusing on playing without him, don’t expect to see him when Chandler Parsons comes to town in an opposing uniform this weekend.

Follow Leslie on Twitter @LK_Comm.


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