On being the bad guys

There’s a shadow at the edges of Houston’s awareness, close enough to make you glance in that direction, but fleeting enough that you can choose to ignore it. It’s a real concern that’s been largely ignored so far, but it’s about to hit another level in the coming weeks. The Rockets and their followers may not want to admit it, but soon they won’t have any choice. Acquiring Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love or, in the most extreme case imaginable, LeBron James will only kick this into hyperdrive. It’s time to be honest about an ongoing trend: the Rockets are becoming The Bad Guys.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the Rockets have been bad guys for a while. Maybe not capitalized, definite article “The Bad Guys” yet, but not on the white hat side of the common narrative. People, by and large, don’t like Dwight Howard after his repeated summers of indecision and throwing Stan van Gundy under the bus. That’s hardly a surprise for anyone, and the collective Rockets universe was ready for some blowback on that. The surprise was when the rest of the team began to take on this aspect as well. James Harden, in particular, fell from grace with a dull thud. His lackluster defense and cool, arrogant mien rubbed a nation the wrong way, headlining a group that found itself on the wrong side of narrative.

Valid or not, the world loves a scrappy underdog and hates an aloof favorite. The Rockets had been firmly in that first camp for a few years, beating the odds with hustle and youth, battling against superior teams with a high-flying style and finally making the playoffs in Harden’s first year in Houston. They were the up-and-coming “It” team of the future, and everything looked rosy on the public relations front.

Starting next season, the Rockets might be the most hated team in the league, if not all of sports.

In that fateful first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rockets got a taste of public disfavor. If it felt like the universe was aligned against Houston, that’s partially because the NBA world at large preferred the scrappy underdog Blazers to the indifferent “elite” team from Houston. Few hoped for Dwight Howard’s vindication and the Beard’s fan club outside of East Texas had dwindled to a small number indeed. With fan favorite Jeremy Lin shrinking in the spotlight and controversial defender Patrick Beverley playing even more, there was a lot to hate.

Well, if the Rockets sign LeBron James, that’s it. The Miami Heat instantly became The Bad Guys in the wake of “The Decision,” a moment when James and Chris Bosh changed teams that was punctuated by the supremely silly decision by LeBron to televise his choice in an hour-long special. He’s still not been forgiven by the general populace, and jumping ship yet again would only cement that sentiment.

The potential starting lineup for the 2014-2015 Houston Rockets would at once be both terrifying in its power and as hateable a group of players as you’re likely to find. Let’s break it down.

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley, a man known for playing dirty (sort of fair), hurting Russell Westbrook’s knee (not fair) and just generally being intense, defense-centric and an irritating pest out there (very fair). He’s the sort of player it’s hard to like unless you root for his team or love hard-nosed, all-out defense. (Or, as an aside, have ever seen him talk outside of the court. He’s as smart, accommodating and friendly as players come.)

Shooting Guard: James Harden, world-renowned flopper, abstainer from defense and sort of a showboater. He’s got a bad habit of not giving enough effort at the wrong times, of shrinking in important games and of making defensive plays so negligent that they warrant a highlight reel. He’s got a nasty iso-ball streak and reportedly isn’t a big fan of running the pick and roll, by far his best option. After calling Fran Blinbury a “weirdo” in an upsetting post-game presser, public opinion hasn’t moved back the other way. Unless he shows serious contrition and effort on defense, he’s the latest major villain in the NBA landscape.

Small Forward: Either Lebron James or Chandler Parsons, depending on factors. We know why people hate LeBron, and there’s literally an entire book about it, so we’ll just gloss over how much his inclusion would turn public opinion away from Houston. Parsons, for his part, is moderately well-liked, but has his own share of image problems. Where once was a hard-nosed defense-first swingman now resides an offensive swiss army knife. The fact that he has the tools to play good defense and has even done so in past makes his struggles on that end all the harder to swallow. He’s seem by some as preening, an image that his constant sneer on court (probably just due to how his face sits when he’s exerting himself, if we’re being honest), his endless hair-fixing during games and his budding modeling career. He’s sort of a sex object, one of few in the NBA, and he knows it. THis might make him popular with some segments of the population, but don’t be surprised that a lot of others hate him for it.

Power Forward: Again, LeBron, on the off chance he came to Houston, could play here. Otherwise, it’s likely to be Terrence Jones. Jones is an interesting case in that he’s not disliked by the general populace, nor, in fact, particularly well known to them. He’s quick and engaging in person and has a fun style of play with little not to like. On the other hand, he was accused of attacking a homeless man in Portland unprovoked. There was no resolution to that issue, so there’s nothing that can really be said to the ultimate veracity of that claim. Whatever the case, the incident did harm to his image amongst the more avid watchers and commentators of NBA basketball.

Center: Well, it’s Dwight Howard. The three latest major face-heel turns in the NBA have been LeBron James, Dwight Howard and James Harden, making this list three for three on newest, biggest, most hated Bad Guys. After his dissatisfaction with the Orlando Magic (which was reasonable), he waffled on whether or not he would force a trade for two summers, creating multiple “Dwightmares” for the league (not reasonable at all and pretty frustrating to follow). He eventually landed on the Lakers, only cementing opinions on loyalty, small vs large market dynamics, bias in the league and basically any negative conclusion you might want to draw. After a miserable year there in which he struggled to recover from a back injury, he bolted again, this time making the choice to move to Houston. Now, not even Lakers fans were in his corner.

It’s an ugly list from a PR perspective, and the potential loss of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik only hurts matter further. Lin is a crowd favorite, a hard worker and a charming person. He may have played poorly much of the last two months of the season, but trading him would do little to improve Houston’s image. Asik was a tough, defensive center, a quiet guy and always looked like he was giving it his all. Despite his handling of the Dwight Howard situation, he was still a play who was easy to like, especially for his effort on the defensive end, something that plays well in general.

What this all boils down to is the the Rockets and their fans have to prepare for the worst. LeBron or Carmelo would both kick up the ick factor for the general populace. To make matters worse, if the Rockets actually did step up and make it to the Finals, or even worse, win a ring? The level of public scorn would rise to intense levels. The good news, though? All the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the general public that would follow LeBron and Houston winning it all? The outcry of resentment and unfairness and hope that the big bad Rockets might lose the next one? Well, those are the perks of being The Bad Guy.

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Total comments: 11
  • Buckko says 1 month ago

    Agreed RBF, unfortunately for many the only interesting part of their lives are sports. Making them obsessions.

  • rockets best fan says 1 month ago


    Lebron didn't deserve all the hate poured out on him. simply because the public didn't agree with his decision he still had a right to make that decision. outside of the way it was announced he did nothing wrong. we can't force Lebron to live according to our opinions as long as he is within the laws of our republic. some people take sports overboard. I love sports, but if Carmelo goes to Chicago I don't think I willneed suicide watch or anything :lol:

    this reminds me of a small story...............I was a big S-Francis fan before he was traded to Orlando.....had a couple of Francis Rocketjerseys. a friend ask me if I was going to trash them after the trade and he fell out of favor in my eyes.......my response.....hell no these jerseys may have Francis name on them, but they are my jerseys (now I may look into getting his name peeled off :lol:). if sport mean so much to you that you feel the need to burn a players jersey you probably need a timeout to reassess life's real meaning

  • Buckko says 1 month ago

    It is ironic that the guy who allegedly drunk-stomped a homeless guy is more well-liked nationally than our other starters. I agree with the premise, though. Superteams are built to hate. Look how much undeserved hate Bosh gets. At least LeBron deserves it.

    I never really believed the entirely of that story and people love to exaggerate. If a 250 Ib 6'9" man stop on a normal person's leg, then they're going to the hospital for a broken leg.

    How the hell does lebron deserve it.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 month ago Lebron deserves it?
  • Brookaveli says 1 month ago

    It is ironic that the guy who allegedly drunk-stomped a homeless guy is more well-liked nationally than our other starters. I agree with the premise, though. Superteams are built to hate. Look how much undeserved hate Bosh gets. At least LeBron deserves it.

  • rockets best fan says 1 month ago

    I have no problem shaking off the haters. in the words of the late Al Davis.............."just win baby"

    NY, LA, Chicago and Boston have had their time in the spotlight. we are no longer the ugly duckling.................time to spread our wings. the mainstream media has overlooked us for years. soon we will give them no choice but to look at what we've done

  • Buckko says 1 month ago

    I know, just a good attention grabber, but it tends to be a true statement. You remember the bad guys more.

  • danny says 1 month ago @buckko I feel that's a bad example :/
    It's exciting to view us being the new generation of the bad boys
  • John P says 1 month ago

    its not like people really talk about Houston outside of the core NBA press anyway. It is always Chicago for Melo...lets talk about how great he fits in etc...no mention of how he also may fit in with Houston.

    The most likelihood is Melo to Houston...and yes, then we will be hated by NYC and LA, and all the press that comes with those cities, plus everyone else.

    Wow...it will be ugly. I will wear my ketchup and mustard with pride.

  • Buckko says 1 month ago It's good to be bad.
  • Buckko says 1 month ago Fame can be temporary and fickle, but infamy, one is immortal in infamy. Who do you remember better FDR, Eisenhower, Churchill, or Hitler? Plus nobody likes houston anyway so who cares what other people think.