Now, other than the Astros continuing to win at a high level, NONE of that holds anymore. While the Astros' title window remains wide open, the Rockets and Texans are both in full on rebuild mode. The Rockets just finished with the worst record in the NBA at 20-62, and the Texans are two weeks away from picking third in the NFL Draft for a reason —- they were bad at football in 2021.
So, two rebuilds, but two very different vibes surrounding each team's fan base right now. I thought John Crumpler of Texanswire summed it up best in a tweet over the weekend:
Now, there is nothing scientific behind what Crumpler declares above, nor in my agreeing with him. It's just a feel, but I do think there is something to that. In the Rockets' season finale last weekend against Atlanta, the home crowd was surprisingly juiced in a meaningless game in which the home team gave up over 120 points. In the Texans' season finale, it felt the end of a 17 week root canal.
The Rockets finished 20-62 with zero certainty to their draft position and the discussion around the team is overwhelmingly positive— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) April 10, 2022
The Texans finished 4-13 with 2 Top 15 picks coming up and the discussion around the team is cancerous
Difference in the two is fascinating
So why is that? Why are the feelings so different at this particular stage for these two teams, and when will things change — because they WILL change, they always do. Here are my thoughts:
The Rockets have more organizational credibility
While both teams are at or near the bottom of their respective sports, the Rockets have experienced far better results over the course of the last two decades. While they didn't win an NBA title, they did have two runs to the conference finals, in 2015 and 2018, and prior to the recent dip in the last two seasons, they were a virtual lock to make the postseason every year, and win at least a series. The Texans, meanwhile, have topped out four times with losses in the divisional round, and the last time they appeared in the postseason, they were blowing a 24-0 lead in the first half, en route to a 41-31 loss to the Chiefs.
The people Texan fans blame are still in the building
Rockets fans largely blame the demise on the James Harden Era running its course, if not blaming it on James Harden himself for forcing several questionable moves, culminating in shipping out Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. Harden is gone, Rocket fans hate him, and life goes on. With the Texans, sure, fans blame Bill O'Brien for so many suspect moves during his time as GM, but more than that, Texan fans blame owner Cal McNair for botching the team's relationship with Deshaun Watson, and they blame EVP Jack Easterby for everything else. McNair is NEVER going away, as he owns the team, and it feels like Easterby is never gong away, because he is very tight with the McNairs. Texan fans feel somewhat helpless, from that standpoint, although there is a quiet enthusiasm that Nick Caserio will do good things as the GM.
The future stars are ON the roster for the Rockets, unlike the Texans (for now)
This is the biggest reason for the enthusiasm disparity between the Rockets and Texans, if you ask me. Right now, the reasons for hope actually EXIST on the Rockets' roster. You can SEE Jalen Green scoring 30 points in each of the last six games. You can SEE Alpreren Sengun with another behind the back dime. You can SEE Kevin Porter, Jr. getting more and more comfortable running the point. With the Texans? The average fan barely recognizes anybody, and there are very few young players to get excited about:
That SHOULD change with the NFL Draft in a couple weeks, with the Texans currently holding seven of the top 108 selections, but until then, it's tough to hitch your wagon to a bunch of short time veteran journeymen.
Texans fans... Serious Case Study surrounding our conversation about Star Power in town: How many of these faces do you recognize? pic.twitter.com/txzt6ro0He— Landry Locker (@LandryLocker) April 11, 2022
The path to greatness is clearer in the NBA than it is in the NFL
For over a decade, you could pencil in, like clockwork, whichever team LeBron James was on and/or the Golden State Warriors for a spot in the NBA Finals, if not actually winning the title. There was very little margin for invading the dance. Now, the NBA is right on the cusp of the post-LeBron Era, and the Warriors have regressed to just a respectable NBA team. The door feels more open in the NBA than the NFL. Hell, even the Timberwolves are in the playoffs! Meanwhile, over in the NFL, the Texans' conference is an absolute QB gauntlet, with seven of the top ten quarterbacks in the league in the AFC. The stakes have been raised, and right now, it feels like forever until the Texans can be competitive again.
For now, Texan fans have to do what Nick Caserio does — take things one day at a time, and hope that the NFL Draft is the elixir that gets their favorite team back on track.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.