The Rockets are really, really good this year. Expected to have a ho-hum season after an early exit from last year's playoffs, the Rockets find themselves third in the Western Conference and eyeing a deep postseason run. The team is setting NBA records for three-pointers as James Harden racks up triple-doubles (and making sportswriters' MVP short lists).
Sure, the Texans may have made the playoffs and may have won a game when they got there. But the Rockets are Houston's best team this year. Here's a recap of our most important Rockets stories since the end of last season, to get you caught up as the team heads toward the All-Star break.
Six Reasons the Rockets Are Dominating Opponents
At 30-9, the Rockets have the third best record in the conference and the best win-loss mark through 39 games in franchise history. Consider that they are two games from the midway point of the season and still in single digits in losses. They are second in the league in scoring, second in assists and fifth in field goal percentage. We won't even bother mentioning what they are doing from beyond the three point line...yet. But how are they doing it?
The Rockets Are Entering One of the Toughest Stretches of the Season
CBS Sports released its midseason power rankings on Monday and, not surprisingly, the Cavs, Warriors and Spurs were atop the leaderboard. However, following them was a curious selection: the Boston Celtics, one spot ahead of the hometown Rockets. It's curious because the Celtics have lost their only game against the Rockets, play in the much weaker Eastern Conference and would still be six games back of Houston were they in the West, where the big boys play.
The Rockets Are Counting on James Harden to Be the Leader This Year
On the surface, sports are a series of results, with winners and losers of in-game battles that all lead to a final score. The slew of final scores yield final standings, and eventually it all leads to one team as champion. However, sports are at their most engrossing when the human side bleeds into the box score, to the point where sports so mirrors life that we can’t look away, either in admiration or because it’s just a freaking train wreck.
Dwight Howard Opts Out of Contract With Rockets
When Dwight Howard arrived in Houston in July 2013, with dreams of championship runs dancing through the heads of Rockets fans everywhere, we all assumed he would opt out of his four-year contract after the third year, so his doing so today, unto itself, is not a surprise.
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Houston Rockets Agree to Terms With Free Agents Anderson, Gordon
For a while, during the first 24 hours of free agency, it looked like the Houston Rockets might get left at the free agency altar, with Kent Bazemore (their first meeting at 12:01 a.m. EDT Friday morning) opting to stay in Atlanta and their meeting with Al Horford not creating much outward steam. In between, Dwight Howard chose to take his talents to Atlanta, to which I say, "Good luck, Hawks! He likes post touches and wild snakes. Enjoy!"
Finally, the clouds broke Saturday night for the Rockets, with the offense getting a major boost after forward Ryan Anderson (four years, $80 million) and guard Eric Gordon (four years, $53 million) agreed to terms. Ah, progress!
James Harden Is Easily One of the NBA's Best Players. Why Isn't He Treated Like It?
It can be hard to shake an identity, especially in the world of social media. James Harden is, by virtually every empirical measure, one of the three or four best basketball players on the planet. But you wouldn't know it if comments about him by fans across the NBA were any indication. A recent fake rumor about a trade involving Harden and Boston was slammed by many Celtics fans who didn't think the All-Star guard was worth acquiring at any price.