It’s time to buy in

I know you’ve been through a lot. I know what we all said at the beginning of the year. Meter your expectations. This takes time. Be happy with whatever happens. It’s different now. The season is different now. The Rockets are different now. The time for caution and trepidation is over. No more golf claps and hand-wringing. It doesn’t matter if you love Houston or hate Dwight Howard’s team. The time has come. It’s time to buy in on this Rockets team. It’s time to treat them like a real contender.

It’s time for the people of Houston to come to every game and completely lose their minds. It’s time for the commentariat to expect the Rockets to win against lesser opponents. It’s time for everyone to get on board with the place the players are already at. The standards and expectations have changed in the last month, and they know that they have to act like a real threat to win it all. Now you have to act like they are, too.

First things first. This doesn’t mean you need to expect them to win it all. This doesn’t even mean they’re particularly likely to win it all, or that they’re the best team in the league, conference, or even division. We’re not even 100% sure they’re a real, live, honest-to-goodness contender. But at this point, that doesn’t matter. At this point, with a terrifying playoff gauntlet ahead of them and an amazing stretch of games behind them, they’re standing toe to toe with the best in the league whether they belong there or not. This is about where they are, and where you are, not about what they are.

I know it’s a strange feeling. I know everyone has been expecting them to come apart, to need some work, to be a year too early. They still might do and need and be all those things. And it’s still such a huge departure from the norm of the last twenty years. Even during the best year of the Yao and T-Mac era Rockets, the best team since Olajuwon, it wasn’t the same. You’ve been burned before, and it’s easy to just assume you’ll get burned again. The bad news is that you probably will get burned again. The good news is that it doesn’t matter.

There’s a price to be paid when a team sets its sights all the way up, on a title run. There can be no hedging, no excusing, no equivocating. The goalposts can’t slide back and forth. A contender is culpable for winning, no matter what, no matter when. That sounds great, and it is great. But it’s also scary and usually disappointing. Just ask the city of San Antonio about Game Six. Ask the city of Phoenix about the entire 2000s. Heck, ask New York about the 1994 NBA finals. It looked a lot different from their angle.

There’s a lot on the line when you buy in to a team like this. It’s a lot to ask, I know. They’re putting themselves in the line of fire from all angles any time they stumble or swoon. Signing up for that is signing up to stand with them, to let the rotten tomatoes splash on you, too. It’s easier to stand to the side a bit, to say that you’ll get in that corner later, when things make more sense, when everything is going great. But that time won’t ever come. It’s never perfect. Just ask Oklahoma City about that. Even when it seemed that nothing could go wrong, they still ended up on the outside looking in. They’re still waiting for that destiny to come to pass. And they might keep waiting for a long time.

That’s what the Thunder have, the watchword, the identity that encompasses them as contenders. Destiny. Everything that happens, every change they make, every year they gel, every MVP Kevin Durant chases, it’s all a progression toward a glorious, predestined future. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. It just matters that we’ve accepted that as who they are, just like it doesn’t matter if the Heat aren’t really inevitable, if the Pacers aren’t really immovable, if the Spurs aren’t really eternal, if the Clippers aren’t truly relentless. These are identities and narratives, and now the Rockets are starting to establish theirs. The Rockets’ nascent identity is one of uncontainability, of explosions of passion and scoring and joy and, yes, turnovers. It’s time to accept it, to embrace it.

There’s no playoff story, no insane run, no greatest or worst moment in team history without that investment. The team is emotionally invested. They’re more invested than they’ve ever been this season. It’s time for you to do the same. You don’t get to pound the drum and walk in the parade without putting yourself, your emotions on the line. Patrick Beverley and James Harden and Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard all know this, and they’ve bought in. They’re better and more powerful and also more vulnerable because of it. You don’t get to be LeBron in the 2012 finals without running the risk of being Kevin Durant in the 2012 finals.

Even if you hate the Rockets, even if you curse the city of Houston, it’s time to go all in. Are the Rockets just pretenders trying to hold themselves up to the standards of contender? Then treat them like contenders. Hold those standards right to them. Let the skeptics and the critics tear them apart. That’s nothing less than they expect, nothing less than you should expect, nothing less than what the world expects of a title team.

The narrative is taking shape. The discussions are taking place. The numbers are coming in. It’s happening. We don’t know exactly what it is, not just yet, but that doesn’t matter. We know what it’s supposed to be, and we know what it’s going to be graded against. Whatever happens, greatness is the goal, the expectation, and the only passing score. It’s time to accept a new position and a new name for these Rockets. It’s time to stand by them as they sit down for their biggest test. Let’s buy in.

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Total comments: 13
  • SouthAustinDTH says 6 months ago

    I've been all in! I've watched every game of every season since 1991. Besides (occasionally) Longhorn football, there is nothing in sports that I'm more passionate about than my Rockets. Nobody thought, in the 'repeat' season, that that squad had the legs to get back, much less win it all again. Nothing is beyond the reach of this squad, they just have to stay in the zone and need to keep pushing tempo while starting to add more structured passing lanes and an 'eyes up' approach to the breaks to start minimizing the effect of turnovers.

    This team was awesome with Asik in the paint last year, they've become a force with D12 as the starter. Now that the chemistry is actually there and not just being microwaved for quick turnaround, you're seeing a TEAM form. That's pretty scary when you have team members like Dwight and Beard.

  • pretty pleaze parsons says 6 months ago

    Not yet. I'd like to see wins against OKC and Clippers first. And take down the Heat next week - this time on their home court.

    After that, all that remains is proving by doing.

  • painkiller says 6 months ago

    I haven't been able to say that I've unequivocally 'bought in' until after that game last night. As with every other Rockets fan, the last 20 years have been rough; year after year of disappointment, bad trades, bad chemistry, and other than the Adelman-led record win team, boring and predictable teams.

    The team we have now is one that can win it all, I firmly believe that. Bring on the playoffs.

  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    F that! I'm all in. Show hand.

  • Alituro says 6 months ago

    I'm not quite all in yet. I want to be, but I'm cautious about these things. The way I see it, the goal for the team this year is making the Conference Finals. And they are definitely capable of that, especially if they can hold on to a top-three seed, so I guess to that extent I believe in them. But I still don't quite see them as having more than an outside chance of winning the title this year and my expectations are not going to be that high until they get to the WCF and look like they're capable of beating whoever ends up facing them over 7 games.

    This stretch of games has been awesome and brilliant to watch. But I worry that it's unsustainable. Harden is great, but on a regular basis he has rarely been this great. It's going to take another couple of weeks at this level before I'm prepared to adjust this to be the new baseline by which his performance is judged.

    ST

    My name is Alituro, and I, too am a Houston professional sports fan.

  • Sir Thursday says 6 months ago

    I'm not quite all in yet. I want to be, but I'm cautious about these things. The way I see it, the goal for the team this year is making the Conference Finals. And they are definitely capable of that, especially if they can hold on to a top-three seed, so I guess to that extent I believe in them. But I still don't quite see them as having more than an outside chance of winning the title this year and my expectations are not going to be that high until they get to the WCF and look like they're capable of beating whoever ends up facing them over 7 games.

    This stretch of games has been awesome and brilliant to watch. But I worry that it's unsustainable. Harden is great, but on a regular basis he has rarely been this great. It's going to take another couple of weeks at this level before I'm prepared to adjust this to be the new baseline by which his performance is judged.

    ST

  • thenit says 6 months ago

    That was Lin's first playoff game, and the 2nd one he hurt his shoulder. So I agree its an uncertainty but we can't base that on the one game where most rockets didn't play well.

    Feigen posted on twitter that Lin had back issues and that before the game against Indiana that he finally felt good. I saw a noticeable difference in the way the first step was better and that he wasn't afraid to attack the rim.

    I'm all in. I think we are contenders no matter this discussion on Lin performance.I think the 4 position will determine our success, because everytime we play a team with a MAN PF we get killed on the boards and D. Both Dmo and T Jones get manhandled and I think they are a year or 2 away from being acceptable at defending the good PFs.

    Harden finally buys in and seems to play better D, not always making the best decision but he actually tries now and its night and day. He is showing signs of what I dreamt about him elevating himself. H&H are the key pieces for us to win.

  • QNoir says 6 months ago

    To be honest, I'm just not sure yet that Lin will show up in the playoffs the way he did last night. It seems in the playoffs that uncertainty gets in his way. Of course, I only have a small sample of 2 playoff games to reference, but those 2 games force me to keep my expectations low. That and the existence of the L.A. Clippers.

  • Alituro says 6 months ago

    Great article, just curious has anyone else experience their comment not posted when you post it at the blog itself, not the forum. I've experience this 2 or 3 times now in the last week.

    Happens to me intermittently too..

  • Buckko says 6 months ago Great article, just curious has anyone else experience their comment not posted when you post it at the blog itself, not the forum. I've experience this 2 or 3 times now in the last week.
  • Alituro says 6 months ago

    Yes it has been quite amazing so far, and nothing can take that away. It's also going to be an amazing next couple months and nothing can take that away, either.

    #1 in Stein's rankings and #2 per Hollinger. Listening to JVG's commentary in the Indy game, Red Nation aren't the only one's taking notice either.

    Slaying the defending camps, severely punishing the league's top defense in Indy, and pulling out a win against POR against all odds, it's been a good week.

  • John P says 6 months ago

    I hate to break it to you but most likely, if a reader is coming to this site, they are huge fans already.

    I appreciate the sentiment and look forward to more of the emotional rollercoaster...its fun. Last night's game was freaking amazing.

    Houston Rockets basketball...where freaking amazing just happened.

  • redfaithful says 6 months ago

    From the posts around seems like many members of this forum are deep inside for some time now, me included.