The Rockets kick off the second half of the 2011-2012 season tonight. I'm not sure how many of you care about this. The acres of empty seats at Toyota Center lead me to believe that fewer of you care than Kevin McHale, Daryl Morey and Leslie Alexander would have hoped for. Television ratings indicate likewise. (More on this below.)
To take a quick look ahead at what's in store for these next 32 games (and hopefully into a trip to the postseason), let's preview the second half of the Rockets' season in a language I would hope we can all understand -- gamble-speak!
(NOTE: These are not actual wagers available for play in sports books, live or online. These are truly for recreational purposes only.)
Final TV Ratings on FSN Houston: OVER/UNDER 1.65 I don't know if it's the plethora of other programs to watch on television or a general disdain for the barrage of nightly "Cold blooded!"'s that Bill Worrell will unleash on an average broadcast, but for some reason the Rockets' winning is not translating into television ratings. In fact, according to Sports Business Daily, the Rockets are fourth from the bottom in local TV ratings in the entire league at 1.56 (ahead of only Charlotte, Washington and New Jersey).
That's some wretched company. On mere principle, I'm going to assume the ratings go up and take the OVER, but the low ratings and attendance are perplexing, to say the least. And before you invoke lockout backlash as an excuse, just know the league as a whole has seen local TV ratings rise by 19 percent. More likely, the indifference is probably due to the bland makeup of this team, with no one player on the roster who makes the average TV viewer more compelled to watch the Rockets than, say, Swamp People. Which is why this next wager feels like a layup...
Total Trades Made Before Deadline: OVER/UNDER 1 1/2 We all know Daryl Morey's track record when it comes to tinkering with his team. He's like the fantasy football owner from hell, the guy who flips his entire roster before Week 8 every year. We also know that he's not enamored with the roster as currently constructed, otherwise why would he have tried to flip nearly half of his eight-man rotation for Pau Gasol before the season began?
I'm going to play a cautious OVER on this one, thinking that we'll get one deal where the Rockets get roped in as third-team "lubricant" and another minor deal to get over the number. If a blockbuster presents itself, then we'll get there easily because one big trade will set off a bunch of small aftershock deals. Bottom line, there are certain things you just don't want to have the UNDER on -- Dennis Rodman piercings, Allen Iverson tattoos, Daryl Morey trades. Immutable laws. Besides, the only way Daryl Morey can distract himself from....
Total Media References to Jeremy Lin/Rockets in Same Sentence: OVER/UNDER 4,572 1/2 ....is to work the phones 24 hours a day and make more trades. (By the way, I'm taking the OVER on Lin references. Always go OVER on anything related to Lin -- TV ratings, turnovers, shoe sales, racially insensitive headlines, anything.)
Total Brushes with the Law: OVER/UNDER 1/2 If we are allowed to count the time during the lockout in September (and this is my blog post, so frankly, I can do whatever the hell I please), it's hard to believe that we had two legal dust-ups within a team that prides itself on character. In what might be the greatest fit of rage from a Rockets point guard that didn't involve a knife (Your record is intact, Rafer!), we had Kyle Lowry pegging a female referee with a ball after a pickup game in Las Vegas. And then this past weekend, Marcus Morris announced his call-up from the D League with authority by scrapping at a Lawrence, Kansas-area bar with a bar employee. I feel fairly confident that the Rockets have hit their quota on crime for the season and will take the UNDER, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't fearful of a Hasheem Thabeet citation for loitering at the food court in Memorial City Mall killing my wager.
Total Regular Season Wins: OVER/UNDER 35 1/2 Okay, I lied. This wager, revised season-win total, actually is available in some sports books. Having gone 20-14 through the first 34 games, it would seem that breaking even over the final 32 games would be a no-brainer for the Rockets, right? Well, I don't know that anything is a no-brainer with this Rockets team, but I feel confident in the OVER on this one.
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Key stretch will be seven games between March 27 and April 9, six of them against playoff-caliber teams, five of the seven on the road. (Hell, even the one game they play against a below-average team is a road trip to Sacramento to play the schizo Kings, who could either roll over and lose by 30 or rise up and win by 15.) The biggest impediment to success on this wager will be the difficulty of road games (which, by the way, outnumber home games 17-15 in the second half) -- trips to Oklahoma City, Los Angeles (Lakers AND Clippers), Dallas (twice), Chicago, Denver, Portland and Miami. YIKES!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.