Please note this post was written on April 10, 2016.

I wrote back in July that the second biggest key to Houston’s season would be keeping Dwight Howard healthy and fresh through a maintenance plan.  At the time of writing, Howard has appeared in 68 of Houston’s 79 games, averaging 32.3 minutes per contest.  The team sits at 38-41.  It appears availability was not the determinative factor on Howard.

Houston went 29-12 with Howard in the lineup last season.  Without him, they were 27-14.  This year, with Howard, they’ve gone 31-37.  Without him, the team is 7-4.

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in essays

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disappointment

Okay, that’s not totally true. I expected the Houston Rockets to come out angry and give the Phoenix Suns the lashing of a lifetime. And they did…for the first quarter.

Then the old problems asserted themselves. Turnovers. Getting the defensive rebound. An inability to produce on offense with Harden on the floor. Lack of hustle. Poor perimeter defense. Those things which have killed the Rockets in game after game showed up again tonight, and the Rockets lost despite a hot shooting night from the 3-point line.

It was a loss just like all the others this season, and I intend to keep this short. There will be plenty of time for recriminations and thoughts of what to do next over this long, miserable offseason. But there are two things which should be taken away from this loss.

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in game coverage

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On the monkey’s paw

The Houston Rockets fell to the cellar-dwelling Phoenix Suns, and they didn’t even seem to want to fight. They met their end against the Dallas Mavericks and the rest of this season is just another work week until summer break. The Rockets, the team, and their fans, got everything they wanted, and it destroyed them. The Rockets and James Harden and Dwight Howard gave their detractors everything they wanted, too. Everyone checked everything off their list and nobody is happy in the least. If there’s anything to be taken from the H&H Rockets, it’s not so much to be careful what you wish for, but that anything you want could be the wrong thing for any reason. Never expect anything, because anything could be a monkey’s paw.

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in game coverage

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With a grisly loss in a badly needed game against a less talented rival in the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets’ failure is complete. The tombstone has been delivered to the grave, and it reads as follows: “You earned nothing and deserved less than that. May your demise be a lesson to those who follow. You will not be missed. H&H Era Houston Rockets, 2013-2016.”

This was their last chance to gain some credibility, to make their way into the post-season, defeat a long-time rival and gun for at least the 6th seed and a puncher’s chance at the second round. Instead, they may miss the playoffs entirely, embarrassed themselves on national TV, and are clearly worse than the team they were clearly better than last playoffs… and the Mavs actually got worse since then. The Rockets are not just a fountain of shame, but a frustrating enigma. They’re so much worse than the sum of their parts that it’s hard to imagine this not being the result of concentrated effort. The Rockets had every opportunity to win, this game and this season. They accepted none, and now they lie buried.

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in game coverage

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Paul McGuire argued the contrary on these very pages last week, smartly concluding, “[e]very sound businessman knows that it is pointless to throw good money after bad, and this season is already lost.”  And today, The Dream Shake concurred with that sentiment.  I can’t explain why, but I disagree.  Despite hours of self reflection (okay, maybe not hours), I realized I don’t really know why it is that I hope the team makes it into the playoffs.  My thinking is completely irrational.  As Paul and The Dream Shake outlined, missing the postseason directly benefits the team by virtue of acquiring the lottery pick asset.  And my reasoning isn’t born from the same “only losers lay down!” faux bravado espoused by many Rockets fans in the pre-Harden days when the club was wandering in the doldrums of mediocrity.  Horrifically, I think I might have just grown apathetic.  Maybe I’m just burnt out, or in the midst of a mid-life crisis.  I’m 31 now.  Well, I’ll be 31 in a few months.  I started this thing in 2009 and have written through a lot of ups and downs.  I somehow lived through the Chris Bosh Crisis.  I’ve been a Rockets fan since I was nine years old.  I don’t think I care about team building at the moment, as I type this.  I know none of this is smart.  I’m actually sick of team building.  I came into this year expecting to be able to come home from a long day of work and watch a contender.  I didn’t get that.  So now it’s back to the drawing board.  I’m left a little jaded knowing the outcome from all of this is just going to be another Marcus Morris or Patrick Patterson.  I’d rather just watch my team get stomped by the Warriors, if only because it’s the playoffs.

All of that being said, I do think there is intangible “semantic” value to making the playoffs, although of course I have no quantifiable evidence on that point.  I think if hoping to pursue a free agent, whether it be Kevin Durant, or even just someone lower-tier like Harrison Barnes, there is an abstract distinction between the lottery and “making the playoffs” which seemingly constructs perception, even if in reality, there is little practical difference.  Words mean everything in the derivation of narratives, and narratives mean everything when making a pitch.  Derrick Rose in reality wasn’t any better than had the voters not hated Lebron, but society perceived him differently the following year because he was “the MVP.”  I don’t know.  But at the time of writing, I hope the Rockets get in.






in musings

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