Colin Ainsworth is a writer and researcher living in New York. Previously, he wrote about the Rockets for The Dream Shake, mostly about Dwight Howard, *whispers* Royce White, and where the team intersected with pop culture. He is extremely for hire, and his thoughts and takes and jokes (all of them correct and good) can be found on twitter @drainsworth.
During the final season of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, a single episode took place, primarily in flashbacks, over the course of one final slap to the face in slow motion. An over-investment in this show’s lore, this episode was excruciating, overwrought, and I would argue insulting to fans of the show who had devoted so much time and care into its story.
Allow me to submit that this is what we, Rockets fans, are being subjected to in Tilman Fertitta’s ownership. A long, drawn out, excruciating slap in the face.
This is the trouble of a new owner, and of fan service. Since the beginning of his tenure, Fertitta has wanted to get his hands on everything. He’s changed the court. He’s changed the uniforms. He’s added pregame traditions like the First Shot. All of which is fine at best, harmless at worst. But, of course, “everything” doesn’t stop there.
Rahat often discusses the lengths Fertitta went to in order to avoid the luxury tax last year. Danuel House’s presence and absence were more than noticeable last season, and that’s only been amplified with the Rockets hot start so far and House’s role in the starting lineup. Fertitta also gutted – or at the very least played a role in gutting – D’Antoni’s coaching staff this summer along with trading away Chris Paul for Russel Westbrook.
These moves all seem to have worked just fine – for now. As long as James Harden averages 40 points per night, it will be hard to see the effects of Fertitta’s moves reaching — or feeling like — a net-negative.
However, make no mistake. This run is ending. Slowly, then all at once.
If the Rockets win the Finals, call me out. Tell me this is dumb. But here’s what’s happening when they don’t:
– Mike D’Antoni will be fired as head coach.
– Daryl Morey will be fired as general manager.
– Russel Westbrook will be shopped.
– James Harden’s future in Houston will come into question.
This is speculation, sure. But speculation is based in reason, and often in reality. That is to say, if the Rockets come up short again, it would not be unreasonable to place the blame upon D’Antoni, in spite of all the good he’s done and the massive improvement he has been over Kevin McHale and J.B. Bickerstaff. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to let Morey go, in spite of his consistency with offseason improvements. Two things need to be understood when assessing these Rockets teams. For one, this style of play is an experiment, a certain extension of the scientific method. And two, this was not an experiment Tilman Fertitta started.
For an owner as unapologetically hands-on and generally clueless as Fertitta, close is not close enough, and very good won’t be good enough.
Why should we believe that Fertitta would stand pat? What has he done to prove that he wouldn’t try to fix something unbroken? We all watched this summer as Fertitta responded to Morey’s misstep by publicly notifying ESPN that he and the Rockets didn’t share his personal viewpoint.
This is how these things happen. Prolonged competence is less preferable to some than short bursts of excellence, and the problem of the situation is that this is not a faultless state of mind. A show like How I Met Your Mother was always fine and then when it had to stick the landing it swung for the fences and struck the hell out 24 episodes in a row.
Call me paranoid. Call me stupid. Call me pessimistic. I don’t care. I just don’t want to get to June and find out what the five fingers are saying to my face.