After a mostly successful season, the Rockets enter the offseason with many questions. However, how should this season be evaluated?
While this was the best season, by record, for the Rockets, it ended in somewhat of a disappointing fashion. Nonetheless, the season was fun to watch. Chris Paul and James Harden worked like a charm. Clint Capela discovered just how good he can be and the role players found great success. Finally, a Mike D’Antoni team can say it played some stellar defense, with the Rockets ranking as high as 6th in defensive rating.
Other new guys such as P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Gerald Green came up big at different times this season. Unfortunately, other guys, such as Ryan Anderson, can’t say the same. As a matter of fact, Anderson did not even make D’Antoni’s playoff rotation towards the end. His streaky shooting ended up plaguing him once more. Another veteran who saw his minutes taken away was Joe Johnson. While the 7-time, all-star is known for his great iso play, he looked old this time around.
Regardless, it was a fun season to watch. Twice the Rockets went on 14-game winning streaks, and they took the defending champs to 7 games in the West Finals. James Harden will most likely win MVP, and CP3 enjoyed the most playoff success of his hall of fame career. Coach D’Antoni nearly beat some old demons, and as mentioned before, his squad was known for defense alongside a great offense. Indeed, Houston has much to be proud of.
However, there are some unfortunate matters to discuss also. Mbah a Moute suffered two shoulder injuries. Once towards the all-star break, and again towards the start of the playoffs. While he recovered, the dislocated shoulder took away his confidence and he didn’t make an impact during the playoffs. Aside from the importance of basketball, the next event hit close to home for me and the city. The Rockets played the remainder of the West finals for Sante Fe High School. For those who are not familiar with the area, SFHS is close to the Galveston area, about 45 minutes outside of Houston. The awful shooting took place a day or so prior to the Rockets playing in Game 4 while in Oakland.
In Game 4, Houston mounted an amazing comeback and won the game, dedicating it to those affected by the horrific shooting. After the game, CP3 gave an amazing post-game interview and it was awesome seeing his love for the city.
While Paul was amazing throughout the series, it would, unfortunately, end for him in Game 5. As Houston was preparing to take a 3-2 lead on the Warriors, CP3 goes down with a hamstring injury that would keep him on the sidelines for the remaining two games. The Rockets led by as many as 17 points in Games 6 and 7, but could not finish the job. Paul’s absence certainly hindered Houston. Nonetheless, the atmosphere in Games 5 and 7 felt magical. It’s been years since the crowd at Toyota Center caused that much of a raucous.
So what now? What do the Rockets do this offseason? Did CP3 and Harden choke? As far as the Rockets are concerned, nothing in my opinion. This team in Houston as currently constructed is good enough. With a healthy Paul, no doubt the Rockets would be playing in the finals. Trevor Ariza, even at 32, still has plenty to give, and Clint Capela earned himself a new deal alongside respect. The only change I would offer is for Coach D’Antoni to expand his rotations in the playoffs. Instead of 6 or 7 guys, try going 9 or 10 deep.
And in regard to CP3 and Harden, I’d have to answer no. As a matter of fact, CP3 played his heart out, and Harden had his moments. He wasn’t spectacular, but this loss isn’t “The Beard’s” fault. Why not run the whole thing back? However, Daryl Morey is a big swinger. With Paul George and LeBron James hitting the market, why not test the waters and go after one of them? Free agency will certainly be fun to watch.
In any case, however, Morey and the Rockets decide to do this, no one should hang their heads in shame. The future is bright in Houston. Whether CP3 can stay healthy remains a big question. But if he’s able to, this team can certainly make another deep run in the West. They proved to the NBA that this team is tough, can be lead by two stars, and is not afraid of getting in the Warriors “grill.” Next season should be just as fun. Houston, get some rest. We’ll be back next year.
Hardworking, loyal, and passionate. I love the people that surround me because they allow me to be who I am. A lover of sports, video games, and life itself. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and a person who holds nothing but love in his heart. I do this for Rosa Maria Magana and Edward Magana. A.k.a my folks in heaven. Music and sports keep me alive and well.