From a purely functional standpoint, the reconstruction of the Houston Rockets meant all new talent on the roster, and a better chance to win games and, hopefully, win NBA titles.
And make no mistake, this was a total rebuild.
By the time the trade deadline for 2013 rolled around, after Patrick Patterson was sent to Sacramento, the longest tenured Rocket on the roster was second year forward Chandler Parsons. As crazy as that revolving door sounds, it pales in comparison to the mind boggling accomplishment that the Rockets went from Chuck Hayes as their starting center just two calendar years ago to having a three-headed monster of Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, and Marcus Camby manning the paint.
Indeed, this is a new team and a new era, all that. But perhaps above all else, the Rockets' rebuild is a reconstruction of the team's relevance, and their stature in the NBA is reflected and validated in their 2013-2014 schedule.
Released Tuesday evening, the 82 game menu for 2013-2014 has a handful of nuances that are clear indicators the Rockets are fully back on the map as a serious NBA title contender and a television ratings draw, an allure baked partially in the James Harden-led return to the playoff radar last season and largely in the signing of Howard, who, when healthy, is one of the top five players in the league.
I know many of you are busy, so to save you the time of scouring the minutiae of the ledger for all the pertinent information, here are your Cliffs Notes (do they still make Cliffs Notes?) for the Rockets' 2013-2014 schedule:
1. The Rockets are on television A LOT. Think back to a couple years ago. The Rockets' best players were Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Kyle Lowry. All legitimate NBA players, none of them worth a damn to a national television viewing audience. Even though the Rockets were far more competitive than teams like, say, Minnesota and Washington, those teams had Kevin Love and John Wall, so they actually made it onto national television at least a few times. Last season, strengthened by the signing of Jeremy Lin (the TV schedule was set before the James Harden trade), the Rockets got bumped up to six nationally televised games. Now with Dwight Howard on the fold, the Rockets will be on national television 26 times! Put into context, LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be on 27 times. This prevalence of national TV games takes on even more significance here in Houston given the fact that 60 percent of the city can't see any of the games on Comcast Sports Net.
2. Not surprisingly, the Rockets cracked the Christmas game rotation. The laws of NBA programming for their five game slate Christmas are fairly easy to ascertain, and they go like this:
- If you're a team in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you have to be pretty shitty NOT to crack the lineup.
- If you're a team outside of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you have to be pretty damn good to crack the lineup.
That seems to hold true with this year's holiday hoops feast:
11:00 a.m. Chicago at Brooklyn 1:30 p.m. Oklahoma City at New York 4:00 p.m. Miami at LA Lakers 7:00 p.m. Houston at San Antonio 9:30 p.m. LA Clippers at Golden State
Basically, if you're a Rockets fan, I'd get used to explaining to your relatives that the Christmas Day schedule will require some flexibility for the next several years, as long as Howard and Harden are here.
3. What about the other games against Texas teams? Glad you asked! You won't have to wait long, young grasshopper!
Remember how Mark Cuban, shortly after trying to lure Dwight Howard to Houston using this ridiculous video (which will be Zapruder'd at some point, don't worry), said that the Mavericks were better off without Dwight, and that Monta Ellis, Sam Dalembert, and Jose Calderon was a better haul? Well, November 1 will be the first matchup between the Mavs and Rockets, so we will find out. (I think anyone not named Mark Cuban knows the answer.)
Here are the other Texas showdown dates:
November 1 vs Dallas November 20 @ Dallas November 30 @ San Antonio December 23 vs Dallas December 25 @ San Antonio January 28 vs San Antonio January 29 @ Dallas April 14 vs San Antonio
So yes, two back to backs against your in-state rivals, for what it's worth.
4. Dwight Howard won't have to wait long to face his former teammates. So when will Dwight Howard be taking on the city he jilted and left behind to come to our friendly little backwater town? Again, like taking on the Mavs, we won't have to wait long. Here are the games in the "Dwight Howard Exes" ticket package:
November 7 vs LA Lakers December 8 vs Orlando January 8 vs LA Lakers February 19 @ LA Lakers March 5 @ Orlando April 8 @ LA Lakers
(By the way, how awesome would it be if NBA ticket offices did mini packages centered around drama laden storylines like that? Heat fans, CALL NOW and order the "I did your mom" package! Come see your Miami Heat as they take on Boston, Cleveland, and Dallas...all the cities DELONTE WEST played in!!
I would totally buy a ticket package of the teams from all the cities where Dwight allegedly has kids, just sayin'.
5. When is LeBron coming?! When is LeBron coming?! This is the first question that any casual male basketball fan between the ages of 6 and 86 asks when the schedule comes out. The answer is they play the Heat at home on March 4 (a Tuesday) and away just 12 days later on March 16. The March 16 game is noteworthy because it's a big part of....
6. ...the potential tricky patches on the schedule. It's funny because now that the Rockets are equipped with NBA nuclear weapons, there aren't nearly as many daunting superpowers on the schedule. With Howard and Harden, the Rockets can legitimately puff their chest out and threaten 90 percent of the league by putting their finger near the figurative red button. (Yes, I'm making awkward nuclear war analogies. I'm in a hurry, what do you want?)
So in terms of spots on the schedule that could be tricky, those are dictated more by the "where and when" of games than the "who." For example, the 20 back to back's will all be tricky on the second night, especially when the second night is a road game. The five games in eight nights they'll play on the West Coast after the All Star break won't be easy. But probably the toughest patch of real estate on the schedule is this:
March 11 @ Oklahoma City March 13 @ Chicago March 16 @ Miami
Maybe the three best teams in the league (if Derrick Rose decides to play again) in six nights, all on the road. The good news is that by March, any chemistry kinks on the court should long have been worked out for the Rockets.
So there you go. Tickets are available (I think) at ticketmaster.com or through any number of high priced brokers. If you're thinking of seeing a game, you may want to get on that soon. Tickets will not last long.
In short, these are not the Kevin Martin Rockets.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.