Los Angeles Lakers: The key to overcoming the Houston Rockets

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(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers must stop Houston’s James Harden from setting up his teammates

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but James Harden and the Houston Rockets are not the same team who lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs last season. The only way Houston stood a chance against the Lakers was to grow several inches overnight.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Houston’s micro ball experiment was over. It appeared their title window had closed, if it had ever been open in the first place.

Then they made some moves to grow the team, literally.

How Houston’s personnel changed this offseason:

Houston’s starting lineup grew several inches this offseason. New GM Rafael Stone traded 6’7” forward Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers for Trevor Ariza and a 2020 first-round draft pick, which was used to acquire Detroit Pistons center Christian Wood, a talented 6’10” center obscured by Detroit’s chronic mediocrity. The Blazers’ 2021 first-round pick was also in the package.

To challenge Wood in the starting lineup, Houston also signed former Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins (who sadly never played for the team) to yet another prove-it type contract. Cousins must have been excited when Stone traded for John Wall, his college teammate at Kentucky, in exchange for the disgruntled Russell Westbrook.

Harden’s trade demand soon followed. The trade rumors have overshadowed the fact that he is currently playing the best basketball of his career right now. Harden has every right to demand a trade if he feels as if his championship window in Houston has closed, but maybe he should pause to consider if his supporting cast would really be better on another team.

RELATED: How the Los Angeles Lakers could benefit from a James Harden trade

Because on paper, Harden’s supporting cast in Houston is already tremendous. Wall can attack scrambled defenses when they collapse on Harden better than Westbrook can because he is a threat to knock down catch and shoot three-pointers.

But John Wall was not the biggest impact on James Harden’s game. That honor goes to Christian Wood, a key free-agent acquisition who was cut from Houston’s summer league squad when he first tried to enter the league as an undrafted free agent.

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