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From pink slips to Stickum: Top-10 issues faced by Rockets this season

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Stephen A.: Dwight Howard has fallen off the map (0:36)

Stephen A. Smith offers his take on Dwight Howard's use of a sticky substance on his hands during Houston's loss to Atlanta. (0:36)

With the Houston Rockets, it seems as if there’s always some drama going on.

From the firing of coach Kevin McHale 11 games into the season to the Stickum controversy surrounding Dwight Howard, the Rockets just can’t stay away from it.

We look at the top-10 drama-filled issues with the Rockets:

1. McHale fired

In a surprising decision, owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey fired McHale after just 11 games and a 4-7 record. McHale talked about a disjointed training camp and failure to get the players to respond to him as part of the early-season struggles, which included a 0-3 start. "The team was not responding to Kevin," Morey said. "There is no time in the West." McHale was replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff.

2. Lawson seeks trade

Houston traded four backups and a first-round pick to acquire Ty Lawson over the summer. The thinking was to bring an additional ball handler onto the team to take pressure off James Harden. Things didn’t work well for Harden and Lawson, who both struggled together. Lawson’s agent sought a trade, but later the Rockets told Lawson he wouldn’t be going anywhere. However, after 53 games, the Rockets brought out Lawson’s contract.

3. Howard trade rumors

In December, the Rockets entered in discussions with several teams about trading their star center, trying to acquire a first-round pick and another premium player. When it didn’t occur, the team ended talks until the trade deadline in February. Houston talked with several teams again before the deadline and almost reached a deal with Milwaukee. Howard balked at that deal, because he didn’t want to commit to picking up his $23.3 million option for next season. "There's always going to be rumors. People are always going to say stuff,” he said. “At the end of the day, none of that stuff really matters. You're out there working hard, and hard work always pays off. That's my approach.”

4. Bickerstaff said Rockets disrespected the game

Following a 110-108 loss at New Orleans on the day after Christmas, Bickerstaff called out his team. "Over and over again, we've disrespected the game," Bickerstaff said. "Our priorities need to be clear, and I need to do a better job playing people whose priorities are clear. Winning is the only priority." With the loss, the Rockets fell to 16-16.

5. Bickerstaff said the team is broken

Once again, Bickerstaff voiced displeasure with his team. The Rockets finished the first half of the season with a three-game losing streak. After Portland defeated Houston 116-103 to drop the Rockets to a game under .500 (27-28), Bickerstaff went off. “We're broken," Bickerstaff said. "It's that simple. We're a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we're going to impact change. If we don't want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that too and we'll go in a different direction. We can't continue to go out and play this way. It's easy to see it's a fragmented bunch. You can't win that way."

6. Harden addresses rumors of a rift with Howard

With speculation swirling about a fissure between Howard and Harden, the Rockets' stars denied it.

"I don't know what the perception is; the reality is we get along and we want to win," Harden said in late February.

As Howard explained, "People are always going to say what they want to say. But there's no need for me and him to worry about that. Our job is to grow and get better as a team and get better as individuals.”

There are times when Harden appears irked with the joyful nature of how Howard plays the game and Howard has been frustrated with his lack of touches on the floor. Yet, both men say all is fine.

7. Failed trade with the Pistons

Morey traded power forward Donatas Motiejunas and reserve guard Marcus Thornton to the Pistons for a first-round pick. The Pistons in turn sent Joel Anthony to the Rockets, who sent him and a second-round pick to the 76ers for the rights to Nigerian forward Chukwudiebere Maduabum. Motiejunas failed several physicals with the Pistons, who claimed his back wasn’t healthy enough to participate in games. Houston cleared Motiejunas to play in games, and he was expected to play extensively with the team once the second half of the season started. The league voided the trade, and while Motiejunas is starting for the Rockets, Thornton was released and signed with Washington.

8. Howard suspended for flagrant fouls

In consecutive games in late January -- at Oklahoma City and against Washington -- Howard was ejected from both games. The league eventually suspended Howard for one game for swiping the arm of referee Mitchell Erwin in the game against the Wizards. Rockets players had told Howard he needed to keep his emotions in check going forward.

9. Rockets hold another team meeting after loss to Clippers

With a chance to make a dent in the standings, the Rockets lost 122-106 to the Clippers at home. The next day, the core group of Rockets players met, once again, in an attempt to solve what ails them. “This is fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth -- I don’t know which meeting it is,” Motiejunas said. “I think talking shouldn’t be the one thing that we do. We shouldn’t talk anymore; we should look at ourselves and try to change some things.”

10. Howard caught using Stickum, not punished but warned

In the first quarter of last Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, the Rockets were warned against using Stickum. Howard uses the substance for every game, but after using it upon entering the contest against the Hawks, Paul Millsap noted the ball was very sticky. The ball was taken out, and the league issued a warning to the Rockets on Monday against using the substance.