Move over Los Angeles Lakers, there is a new sheriff of disfunctionality in town. I submit to you the present-day Houston Rockets. After a successful 2017-18 that saw them come within one game of a trip to the NBA Finals, expectations were so high heading into this season, as the thought around the team was that they could be the team to dethrone the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.
It was thought their defense would take a step back, namely because of the loss of wings Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. It was their defensive versatility, and them goading the Warriors, primarily Mr. Kevin Durant, into playing their style of isolation-heavy basketball.
The loss of the aforementioned wings and an early season injury, “forced” the Rockets to ramp up the James Harden System even more than usual and as much as it was lambasted, it kept their season afloat and helped propel the rockets all the way to the 4th seed. We know that their season was an overall disappointment, ending once at the hands of the Warriors, without KD for the last game and a half. If winning masks warts, then losing exposes every blemish and that is what is happening as we watch the Rockets unravel right before our eyes. James Harden and Chris Paul, it seems, can no longer be on the same team, with CP3 allegedly demanding a trade and Harden allegedly giving Rockets brass a “him or me” ultimatum. With Chris Paul being essentially unmovable and Harden not going anywhere, it is unclear how the Rockets can navigate their way through this widely publicized schism.
But the organizational caucophony is not just on the court but also in the front office. Uncertainty now swirls about the bench as current head coach Mike D’Antoni and the team were unable to come to terms on an extension and enters the upcoming season as a lame duck. It seems to be highly unlikely that he will finish the season and that will serve as nothing but another distraction, which is something this team needs like a hole in the head.
Unfortunately, the rockets have no one to blame but themselves for the quandary they fins themselves in. The over-relaiance on analytics has forced them into a style that will not lead to championships. They possess a coach that either will not or cannot gives the coaching their players needs which ultimately hinders how far this team could go. The Rockets have allowed their best player to play a style that features a usage rate that makes even Russell Westbrook and Lebron James look like offball players. The other Rockets players are not so much teammates but more like extras in a television show that happen to get reoccurring roles and the occasional line. They traded viable assests for a point guard who was on the other side of it, has trouble staying healthy, has a history of coming up short when needed the most and then decided to reward him with one of the the most over bloated contracts in the NBA, which has not only financially boxed in the franchise but has all but made Paul untraceable. The Rockets are headed for an epic implosion and they were the ones who started that demolition.