The 2017-18 Houston Rockets: Are they for real?
The Houston Rockets have rocketed up the NBA standings (pardon the pun) in the early part of the 2017-18 season. Sunday's win against Indiana puts them half a game ahead of the mighty Golden State Warriors.
Remember this is without offseason trade acquisition Chris Paul who has not played since opening night against the Warriors. The seasoned point guard has been out of commission for 4 weeks while dealing with knee issues. Coach Mike D' Antoni will be glad to have his All-Star point guard back and relieve some of the ball-handling duties from ace James Harden. The Rockets have been doing just fine in Paul's absence though with veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon averaging 22.9 points per game and 3.0 assists per game helping out Harden's heroics. The 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year has been dominant on offense and has been a huge reason for the Rockets' current 11-3 record.
Chris Paul is widely expected to be the missing jigsaw piece in a Rockets team antsy for playoff success and rings.Chris Paul has had similar issues with the Clippers with admittedly a better frontcourt than the Rockets in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Paul left LA to arguably create his own super team with Harden, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela.
The Rockets have consistently made the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference for the past three years but have failed to get past the Warriors or its neighboring rivals the San Antonio Spurs. Last year's capitulation to the Spurs in 6 games in the Western Conference semi-finals will be fresh in the minds of Rockets fans. Paul's acquisition was a ploy by the Rockets management to remedy their playoff struggles and get a veteran backcourt presence for better clock management late in ball games.The Rockets also have a weaker bench with Eric Gordon expected to start most games for the Rockets
The Rockets, also have off-court matters to attend to. The team is being purchased for a record 2.2 billion $ by Houston restaurant billionaire Tillman Fertita from current owner Leslie Alexander. The acquisition makes it the most expensive in the league, beating the 2 billion $ acquisitions of the LA Clippers.
All-Star Guard James Harden who joined Houston in 2012 has been the Rockets' foundational player and teams have been built around him. The 28-year-old Los Angeles native has yet to deliver on the biggest stage for Houston after emerging from the shadows of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma. His attempts have been thwarted by the free shooting Golden State Warriors and the wily San Antonio Spurs.
Harden, along with Paul might go down as one of the greatest players ever to play NBA basketball without winning an NBA Championship. Not a legacy to be proud of. Harden has Paul at his side now, which he didn't have in earlier seasons. Will Harden get his chance this season to exorcise the demons of the past and get to the NBA Finals or will he once again falter in the loaded Western Conference playoffs?
Only time will tell.