It's been a long time since the Rockets were of any interest to most of Houston, but now that they've actually advanced past the first round of the playoffs, the bandwagon is getting full.
A Houstonian will now be expected to be able to talk confidently about the team in order to keep up with the rest of the people in the bar, at Pilates, at the PTO meeting or at a party.
You should, of course, be keeping up with matters by reading Ben DuBose's reports here on Hair Balls. But if even that minimum amount of effort seems too much, you can still squeeze by.
Here are five things you simply need to remember, things which will get you through any Rockets conversation without appearing a hopeless boob who hasn't been a Rocket fan all your life (like the person you're talking to, who actually could not have named three Rockets a month ago.)
5. The team is playing so much better without Tracy McGrady. McGrady was the high-priced superstar brought in by the Rockets to end their playoff drought. He didn't do so, despite being quite the drama queen about things. He's injured and out for the year -- something the Rockets found out about by reading his website (nice touch) -- and the team has been playing better without him. In conversation, you must chalk this up to the team ethic overcoming the superstar ethos, and call McGrady any name short of the actual Anti-Christ. (Note: If you're talking to a dedicated T-Mac hater, feel free to go with the Anti-Christ reference.)
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4. Ron Artest is a changed man. A year ago, if you mentioned Ron Artest to any casual NBA fan (assuming you could find one in Houston), you would have been told he was a thug who climbed into the stands one game as a
Detroit Piston Pacer to beat up a helpless fan. Mention him today, and you will discover that the fan in the stands that night was a beer-throwing, epithet-shouting coward who taunted Artest's wife, kids and beloved grandmother, and it's a good thing Ron has such a solid head on his shoulders or that guy could have really gotten hurt.
3. Use the words "fronting" and "Yao Ming" in the same sentence. A lot. This will show you are an astute and subtle student of basketball strategy, as apparently no one on the history of the league thought of putting a defender in front of the Rockets' huge center, to prevent him from getting passes close to the basket, until about a month ago. At least as far as we can determine from listening to sports-talk radio, where the idea suddenly popped out of nowhere and is now confidently and sagely expounded upon by every second caller as being the key to the game.
2. The corporate fans who fill the expensive seats in Toyota Center are too quiet. The real fans, the dedicated Rockets lovers, are in the upper bowl, screaming their heads off. Well, as of a couple of weeks ago. In March you could have had the whole place to yourself. Nevertheless, just be sure to note that the lower-bowl people arrive late, leave for the bar early, and have to be told by the scoreboard when to cheer. Not like you.
1. Shane Battier does so much great stuff on the court that never shows up in the box score. Repeat this ad nauseam. Hope that no one actually asks you to specify what it is he does; if they do, mumble something about "He throws his hand in front of Kobe's face." This, like fronting Yao, is apparently an utterly novel strategy.