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.
Just a quick thought: one of you compared Houston’s pairing of Chris Paul with James Harden to the Rockets’ mid 90’s super-teams featuring Olajuwon, Barkley, and either one of Clyde Drexler or Scottie Pippen. This is a pretty far-off comparison considering that while Olajuwon and Barkley were both still very good players (top-15?), Harden is top 5 and at his absolute peak, and Paul is still top 10 and possibly still in his physical prime albeit at the end of it. Contrary to popular belief, Clyde, while still an All-Star, was pretty washed up comparatively (18 points per game on 44% shooting), and Scottie was a total disaster. This current pairing joins forces at a far more favorable stage for our respective stars, and you can extend that to Carmelo Anthony, in the chance Houston is still able to swing a deal. Anthony, today, is a better player than Clyde Drexler was in 1996. (I mean, really, has anyone become more underrated in today’s NBA than Melo?)
Assuming the Rockets are able to come to terms with Paul again next summer, how long is his window? As a small guard who suffered multiple knee injuries early in his career, Paul has not relied upon his athleticism for quite some time now. I see him aging gracefully, utilizing his godly IQ and midrange shooting ability to stay elite for another two more years, and then still “very good” for yet another two. Good comps in this regard would be John Stockton and Steve Nash.