I published the Rockets’ updated weekly rankings to Twitter this morning, seen above. Here are some related thoughts along with my response to the query above:
- 19 games out of 82 is a pretty determinative sample size. At this point, the Rockets are who they appear to be – an elite team which would probably be the odds-on title favorite to win the whole damn thing in a non Golden State World. They lead the East leading Celtics by three points in net rating. The only thing that can slow down Houston is injury, a concern which shouldn’t be taken lightly given the history of several of their top players. Still, history has shown, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, that the floor for a team constructed around James Harden–ironically Houston’s most durable player–is around 55 wins. It’s possible that Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Clint Capela could all each miss extended periods of time, as they typically each do, with the Rockets still finishing amongst the top seeds on the strength of Harden alone.
It’s finally time. After the wildest summer possibly in NBA history, we’re just days away from tip-off when the Houston Rockets will get things going against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. I trust you guys won’t panic if the Rockets fail to spoil the ring ceremony as even after adding a future Hall of Famer, the gap between these two teams is considerable.
- I wrote that last season’s objective was simply removing the stench the 2016 campaign had left upon the franchise and changing its narrative. The Rockets resoundingly accomplished that feat, turning in perhaps the most improbable output in franchise history. They let Dwight Howard walk, using the savings on shooters for James Harden, hired an actual coach, and reinvented their identity by amplifying their strengths when everyone (myself included) said they should have been focusing upon their weaknesses. James Harden moved to point guard, got robbed of the MVP (due to the media’s simpleton fixation upon round numbers), and the team overall did enough to get Chris Paul’s attention. Like Daryl Morey, I too believe Kevin Durant would be wearing red had the team turned in the same year it just did but a season before. (He said this earlier in the summer on a Bill Simmons podcast).
Unless I’m forgetting someone, there are three people in Daryl Morey’s professional life who have continually managed to evade him, any one of whom could serve as his ‘white whale’ when and if a biopic is ever released depicting the Rockets’ general manager. Sergio Llull, who may not ever come over; Chris Bosh, who may not ever play again; and Carmelo Anthony, who might finally get caught. Recall that Morey was willing to trade for Anthony back when the Knicks forward was a Denver Nugget, even without the guarantee of an extension and then, in one of the greatest indignities ever suffered, pursued him again a few summers ago by photoshopping Melo’s body onto Jeremy Lin’s jersey. Anthony turned his nose up at the promise of a Harden and Howard super-team featuring himself, citing a trust in Phil Jackson’s leadership, and re-signed with the Knicks. The rest is history, and now, so too is Phillip.