There is a weird, empty feeling for Houston sports fans this spring. No, it's not the pending vacancy at starting quarterback that will inevitably be created by the trade of Deshaun Watson. No, it's not George Springer limping around as a Toronto Blue Jay. Oh, those things are painful, no doubt. But the void of which I speak is the lack of playoff basketball involving Rocket uniforms.
Since the arrival of James Harden in the 2012-2013 season, the Rockets have been a fixture in the NBA's postseason. Yes, some runs have gone deeper than others — shout out to 2015 and 2018, Western Conference Finals, yo! — but at the very least, we could count on some local rooting interest in the NBA postseason. Now, we are left with a bunch of former Rockets scattered about the NBA.
So, if you still fancy yourself a fan of basketball AND a fan of the Rockets, you probably want some sort of rooting interest in this postseason, maybe even rooting interest in one of the many former Rockets participating in the playoffs. Good news! I am here to help you! Without further ado, here is a Rocket fan's guide to rooting in the NBA playoffs. If you're not into this, then just go ahead and count down the days to the draft lottery on June 22. I get it. Here we go....
10. RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Washington Wizards
If you sit back and think about it, there are so many reasons to root against Russell Westbrook. Start with the fact that he is the king of the triple double, the single most overrated statistical "accomplishment" in NBA history. Is there anything more arbitrary than saying that a number matters merely because it is greater than nine? No, there isn't. However, for Rocket fans, buckle up — the Rockets traded multiple first round picks AND multiple pick swaps for Russ. One of those pick swaps might take them out of the lottery this summer. Oh yeah, AND they traded Chris Paul, who as it turns out, is markedly BETTER THAN Russell Westbrook, still. Also, once Russ got here, they gutted their team to accommodate all of his inefficiencies, including trading the very likable and reasonably priced Clint Capela. Finally, once they dumped Russ, he brought back John Wall in return. Wall's body, as it turns out, is made of porridge. Russell Westbrook is the single most destructive player to Houston's sports teams. (Well, the single most destructive player, NOT INVOLVING 22 civil lawsuits.)
9. BOOGIE COUSINS/PATRICK BEVERLY, LA Clippers
I really like both of these guys, but Beverly has been gone for four years, and Boogie was here for like four minutes. Also, rooting for the Clippers means rooting for Paul George, whose self-glossed nickname of "Playoff P" is as uncreative as it is inaccurate. Also, their owner, Steve Ballmer, is a billionaire spaz. Suck it, Clippers.
8. BEN McLEMORE, LA Lakers
I loved ol' Bennie Mac when he was a Rocket, even if he had only one discernible skill — getting streaky from three point range. However, like rooting for Boogie and Bev, rooting for Bennie Mac means rooting for an equally deplorable Los Angeles team, this one with the insufferable LeBron James as its best player. No thanks.
7. DWIGHT HOWARD, Philadelphia 76ers
I think Dwight got a bit of a bad rap when he was a Rocket. He was basically a gigantic kid, and the relationship with James Harden soured as a result. However, the Rockets knew what they were getting, maturity wise, with Howard, so I don't blame him for the fallout. Since then, he's played for roughly 52 different teams. He got a ring as a Laker, so no need to pile on anymore. Eat what's on your plate, Dwight.
6. JAMES HARDEN, Brooklyn Nets
Ok, now we get into some complex feelings. A few weeks ago, I would have Harden much higher up this list. I've gotten over the hurt feelings of Fat James showing up and weaseling his way out of town with two years left on his deal. However, after watching the national media FINALLY decide to fawn over Harden now that he is playing in New York, I’ve decided I no longer want Brooklyn to win — I want to see Harden fail again so I can watch the hypocritical national media reconcile their newfound love for him. Am I petty? Maybe, but James will get over it.
5. AUSTIN RIVERS, Denver Nuggets
This is a totally random one, and honestly, until my son reminded me Rivers was still in the league, I would have forgotten. However, against all odds, I really enjoyed Rivers as a Rocket, so if he can get a ring, good for him!
4. ROBERT COVINGTON, Portland Trailblazers
The man they traded for in the Capela deal, Covington was a good soldier in his brief time here, actually playing center for major minutes at times because the entire roster was dudes shorter than him. Also, if Portland wins a title and nobody cares, did it really happen?
3. CLINT CAPELA, Atlanta Hawks
If I am angry at Russ, then by definition, I have to be totally cool with Capela. We forget that Capela was a fun loving giant when he was here. And dammit, he couldn't shoot free throws to save his life, but he sure did try! GO CLINT!
2. CHRIS PAUL, Phoenix Suns
All of a sudden, the Suns have renewed life with this Anthony Davis groin injury. Of course, CP3 is dealing with maladies of his own — what else is new? — and when Paul isn't on your team, the general feeling is that he should be hated because he is a fountain of cheap shots and kicks to the junk, but dammit, I respect anybody who makes his team better no matter where he goes. That's CP3.
1. P.J. TUCKER, Milwaukee Bucks
So in Milwaukee's close out win over Miami in their first round sweep, Tucker had three key hustle offensive rebounds during the pivotal stretch of Game 4, and it made me incredibly sad. I miss Tucker's non stop hustle and moderately reliable corner three ball. Also, if the Bucks win the championship, there is literally nobody in my life — friends, listeners, people on the street — who will come up to me and brag about it. Thus, my top choice for a former Rocket to win an NBA title is one Anthony Leon "P.J." Tucker. FEAR THE DEER!
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.