Your Houston Rockets just finished winning their fifth game in a row and it came against the best team in the Eastern Conference no less. But do you even care? It sure doesn't seem like it. As you read this, the local airwaves are probably still meticulously dissecting the Matt Schaub deal. When it's time for a change of pace, the talk may momentarily shift to the Aggies' choke job or Jason Lane vs. Luke Scott. But this isn't exactly a new development. Heck, even during the sports void that exists between the Super Bowl and March Madness, the Rockets generated a minimal amount of buzz. But once upon a time, they actually owned Houston. What happened?
The blunt answer is they got old and started sucking.
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The transition from local legends and championships to selfish stars and uninspired play isn't kind to even the most loyal of fan bases (the Bulls suffered through a similar malaise sans MJ). Yes, there's also the simple fact that Houston is, and always will be, a football town. And let's not forget, the NBA's image problem hasn't exactly helped matters either.
But doesn't everyone love a winner? This Rockets' team is the best we've seen in a decade. And this isn't merely a scrappy, starless bunch. In Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston hosts two of the game's most recognizable stars. Throw in all-world good guys, Dikembe Mutombo and Shane Battier, plus the most loveable loser on God's green earth (aka Jeff Van Gundy) and you have a group that should seemingly be fan favorites.
Maybe we're just too aware of this team's shortcomings. As I've mentioned before, the Rockets won't be winning a title this year. They can't match Dallas's depth, San Antonio's experience or Phoenix's frenetic pace. But you know what? They're more than capable of giving any of those teams a run for their money in a seven game series. And considering what we've put up with over the last ten years, that fact alone should be worth some legitimate excitement and enthusiasm.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my mock draft and spring training box scores. — Jason Friedman