The Houston Rockets start the week out tomorrow with a game at Charlotte against the Bobcats regarding which, in normal times, I’d be very afraid. But while disappointing losses against the Thunder, Bulls, and Heat proved this team isn’t yet a legit, legit contender, the team’s overall dominance since the New Year has sufficed to indicate that at the least, they have turned a corner. They are no longer in the business of dropping games to inferior opponents. That in itself is a pretty big accomplishment (though these recent late-game collapses are rather disturbing.)
The team then comes back home on Thursday to face the 76ers in a game which should be over by the four minute mark of the first quarter. For all of the ridicule that Philly has endured this season regarding their season, I’d submit that apart from the top teams in basketball, no club has pursued a more rational course of action during the past twelve months than the 76ers. I haven’t kept up, but after widespread negativity and skepticism on behalf of the mainstream Philadelphia press following the Hinkie hire during the summer, I’d be curious to know if that tune has stayed consistent. Only a fool would prefer the hopeless mediocrity presented by the 76ers’ prior makeup to the prospect of adding two top selections in next summer’s draft with Nerlens Noel also in tow. But fools are abundant – as those reading this page are well aware, even Houston GM Daryl Morey didn’t start reaping praise here locally until Dwight Howard was secured, despite years and years of shrewd maneuvers leading up to the coup.
Finally, on Saturday, the Clippers will come to town in a game televised on NBAtv regarding which I’m not holding my breath. If they win, I’ll be pleasantly surprised and will take it from there; if they lose, it will be par for the course with this matchup.
A glance at the current standings reveals the eight teams sitting in the single, lone layout which stands as Houston’s best chance at reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets are presently at 4th, with Portland at 5th and the Spurs at 1st. Not only does that layout allow Houston to avoid the Thunder/Clippers for as long as possible, but it also delays potential matchups against Golden State, Memphis, and Dallas, all three of whom I consider far more dangerous than Portland, especially the former two. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m more scared of the Warriors and Grizzlies than I am of the Spurs.
I laid out last week why a deal for Carmelo Anthony this summer was a no-brainer and nothing would do more to plant the seed in his mind that the Rockets were just an inch away from the title than a trip to the WCF (other than a trip to the Finals, of course). If the current standings hold course, maybe Hell-week, which deflated so many hopes–including those of yours truly–wasn’t so bad after all. We can only hope.