It’s tough to be happy when your team goes down 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals, your best player sets the NBA record for turnovers in a single playoff game and you were clearly overmatched. But life speeds ahead and it’s time to move on into the hot, uneasy boredom of the summer (go Astros?).
All in all, it was a successful season for the Rockets, getting back to the WCF for the first time since 1997. The 20th anniversary of Clutch City was rather eventful and remarkable in its own ways even if it fell a bit short.
The good news is that there are reasons to be optimistic going forward.
The Rockets were in the Final Four of the NBA.
Ultimately, this is the best measure of a season. There were 26 teams worse than your Rockets – probably 27 when you consider the manner in which Atlanta was swept by the Cavs. That is elite company. It will be difficult to repeat that accomplishment, but just doing it in the first place is an indication the team is moving in the right direction, particularly after not making it out of the first round last season.
They won despite injuries.
No playoff team lost more rotation player games to injury than the Rockets. Two of their starters missed the entire postseason. Their second best player missed half of the regular season, as did a key contributing role player. Even with all those problems, they still won 56 games, landed the two seed in the difficult Western Conference and clawed their way to the conference finals.
Daryl Morey begins his regular season now.
Never mind who won GM of the year, in Houston we know that the Wizard is just now putting his game face on. I like to imagine him wearing actual war paint and getting ready to go Lord of the Flies on the rest of the league. Even though he was unable to land Chris Bosh last summer, he wound up with Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry, two key contributors. And by midseason, he added Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Pablo Prigioni. Morey’s real season is just getting started.
The team was only really assembled a few months ago.
In reality, this team only spent half a season together. Most teams need at least one full season if not two to gel. If the Rockets can retain Smith, Brewer or both, they will have an offseason and regular season to improve as a unit, which will hopefully make the team better, particularly in the playoffs.
The Rockets' style of play is trending upward.
Admittedly, I was skeptical. The idea that a team can win by taking loads of threes (the Rockets shot and made more than any team in NBA history this year), free throws and points in the paint seemed pretty ridiculous. Yet the four conference finals teams plus the Clippers are built around this offensive premise. With rule changes, it is becoming more and more clear this is the new trend in the NBA, and the Rockets are on the cutting edge.
James Harden is only 25.
If you take away nothing else from what you have read here, remember this one. We, as Houstonians, are blessed at the moment because we have a signature star in each of the major sports – Harden, JJ Watt and Jose Altuve – and none of them are over 26. Harden will hit 26 just before training camp opens, which means he has a lot of time to grow and mature, yet he was the runner-up for the MVP award this year (as was Watt). That’s great news if you are a Rockets fan…and a Houstonian.