Houston Rockets @ Denver Nuggets on 2/1/19

A lot has happened in the NBA world this week leading up to next Thursday’s trade deadline. To kick things off, perennial MVP candidate Anthony Davis announced his desire to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans. #NBATwitter and its real-life manifestation, the NBA, were thrown in imbalance. Red94 writers opined on the situation, placing wagers on whether Davis would be traded before the deadline and if it would be to his supposed first choice, the Los Angeles Lakers. Davis was ultimately fined $50,000 by the NBA for tampering, a charge equivalent to an everyman finding three cents under the couch cushion. Much is clear: NBA players, more than ever, are looking to take charge of their destiny, which could result in an interesting debate in the next CBA. I honestly can’t think of any other professional team sport where the players have so much leverage.

Then, last night, the next shoe dropped, with the New York Knicks trading its supposed franchise cornerstone in Kristaps Porzingis after he announced his desire to leave the organization. The Knicks, along with Porzingis, sent Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks. As Houston fans, we all hate to say it, but in the pairing of Luka and Porzingis, it’s a very exciting time to be a Dallas Mavericks fan. The organization is at a moment equivalent to that fateful October 27th, 2012, when the Rockets traded for Harden:

I asked about a month ago if you should feel more excited right now as a Mavs fan or as a Rockets fan.

The answer just became very clear.— RedNinetyFour (@RedNinetyFour) January 31, 2019

In exchange, the Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two future first-round draft picks. In the process, the Knicks cleared enough salary cap space to sign two max players in the offseason. Rumors have been circulating for some time now the organization would try to sign both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in order to make the organization truly relevant for the first time in 20 years (don’t worry: the Rockets will be waiting for them once again if true). It is a gamble that has stoked the ire of Knicks fans who feel trapped by the organization’s endless ineptitude, but perhaps the team feels confident enough that they truly will be able to pull it off.

However this plays out, one thing is for sure: #NBATradeSeason is officially underway. Hopefully, Daryl and Co. can shake the Knicks’ player tree and grab Matthews and Jordan via buyout if the organization is truly looking to shed salary for the offseason. Separately, the Rockets feel confident they will be able to execute a trade before the deadline, according to Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen. Buckle up.

Back to tonight. The Rockets were thoroughly embarrassed by the New Orleans Pelicans this past Tuesday, losing to team that was without not only Anthony Davis but also three of its other starters. Along with Dallas, Brooklyn and Cleveland, this was one of the worst losses of the season. While the Rockets have been able to fix some of their rebounding issues with Kenneth Faried, the reality is when your tallest player is 6’8″, you are going to have problems on the boards. You can mitigate those issues to an extent with effort, but when the Rockets defense becomes a turnstile and such effort dissolves, the odds are against you. Harden said it best:

“Terrible loss for us. Terrible. Letdown.”

The Rockets are playing a difficult back-to-back on the road in high altitude against two of the West’s best teams in Denver and Utah, with Denver holding on to the #1 spot in the West. The Rockets seem to have Denver’s number, having won their last 9 in the row. Still, without Clint Capela and being on the road, this is going to be a difficult one to win. Star point center Nikola Jokic is having an MVP season and the team overall has gotten off to its best start in franchise history at 35-15. Unfortunately, the Rockets schedule doesn’t get much better, with the newly defiant Kings (I can’t believe I’m saying this), Thunder and Mavericks also coming up. It’s time to once again test this Rockets team’s resolve.

When/where: 9 p.m. CT Friday / Denver

TV/radio: ESPN, AT&T SportsNet/790-AM, 99.1-FM, 850-AM (Spanish)

About the author: Justin Levine is a commercial real estate investor and developer for Levcor, Inc., based in Houston, TX. Justin’s business career includes experiences in Wall Street, private equity, media and tech. He has a B.S. from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School. A lifelong Rockets fan since the team won it all, he regrets being too young to party on Richmond Avenue during that fateful eve in ’94. Twitter: @JustinLev

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I can’t believe we’ve won 9 in a row over them.

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