Daily Rocket Science: What could have been

Dec 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks to make a pass against Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the first half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks to make a pass against Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the first half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

The landscape of the Rockets would look much different today had decision makers in the recent past had the privilege of hindsight.

Living in the past usually doesn’t help the future be any better, but it’s hard sometimes not to think about what could have been. What would have happened with the Houston Rockets if Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady wouldn’t have missed so much time with injuries? How about if Royce White would have overcome his fear of flying? What if the Rockets hadn’t traded Kyle Lowry away?

Most recently, fans are wondering what would have happened if Dwight Howard and James Harden could have gotten along well enough on the court to live up to their expectations. Of course, hindsight lends clarity to a situation that wasn’t available at the time of decision.

One of Daryl Morey‘s biggest regrets as a GM is missing out on drafting DeAndre Jordan in 2008. Rahat Huq of Red94 writes on that missed opportunity, along with several other blunders that have plagued the Rockets’ over recent years.

"I started thinking about Morey’s biggest mistakes again, and the one that is always cited was the selection of Marcus Morris over Kawhi Leonard.  I’ll reiterate again that I still think that that decision was entirely defensible.  It’s easy to look back now, with the benefit of hindsight, after Leonard has developed into an MVP-caliber player, and criticize the decision.  But the rationale was sound."

The Rockets have had a myriad of great players come through their organization. However, they’ve only managed to win two titles for the city of Houston. Phil Watson of HoopsHabit compiled a list of the top 25 players ever to wear a Rockets jersey. If only the team had been able to make it work with the amount of talent they’ve had at their disposal.

When the Chinese Basketball Association opted to let young star Yao Ming try his hand in the NBA, it wanted certain assurances, among them being that the Houston Rockets would take him with the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft.

The Rockets did and Yao was an All-Rookie selection in 2002-03 while becoming an eighth-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection.

He finished third in the NBA in field-goal percentage in 2004-05, but a broken foot in the 2009 playoffs ultimately ended his career—he was only able to play in five more games after the injury and retired in July 2011.

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Speaking of all the talent in Houston over the years, Yao Ming is one of the top qualifiers. Despite a career riddled with injury, he revolutionized the center position and brought the NBA to China. In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, Yao wrote about how playing in the Olympics changed his perspective on how to understand the world around him.

At age 20, I looked at the photo and just wanted to find myself, one individual, in that galaxy.  All these years later, I see a different circle, a much bigger one — one that we’re all part of. Even at my height, I’m the same size as everyone else in that photo. It makes me realize just how small I was — how small we all are.

It may be naive to think a global sporting event for one month every four years will solve the world’s problems. But a change in how we perceive each other — like an overhead photograph of a stadium — is a good start.

The future in Houston looks bright at the moment. Perhaps this iteration of the team will be able to put the pieces together and be great. If not, we’ll look back at the James Harden era and wonder what could have been.

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