The Houston Rockets’ 2016-2017 campaign has been a season of comebacks, for the team itself and for many of its players as well.
Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson were washed up. Nene should’ve retired this past summer. Mike D’Antoni would never have the same success he had in Phoenix. After a great individual season on a subpar team, James Harden was seen as another Carmelo Anthony. The Houston Rockets were supposed to win about 40 games this season.
As we all know now, none of those things ended up being true. Daryl Morey’s summer acquisitions proved to be genius from top to bottom, and James Harden led the team to 55 wins. Nearly everybody on the team experienced some sort of renaissance this season. Today’s Daily Rocket Science will take a look at some of the specific comebacks in Houston this season.
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First, the team itself. The Rockets decided this summer, rather than bolster their defense, to go all the way to one end and push to be the best offensive team in basketball. Well, it worked pretty well. They finished the season with the second best offense in the league and one of the most proficient of all time. They won games by shooting opponents out of the building, but proved in the first round of the playoffs that they can win in other ways too.
Kevin Nye of HashtagBasketball.com wrote on how the league should be worried after watching Houston dismantle OKC. They shot poorly from three and didn’t move the ball well, but still won easily. For Red Nation, that’s great news. For anyone else, it’s not.
"Let that sink in. The Houston Rockets just won a series (in convincing fashion, no less) in which and combined to make the same number of three-pointers as James Harden, Ryan Anderson, and . Williams and Beverley played a combined 280 minutes. Harden, Anderson, and Ariza combined for over 500. Patrick Beverley Lou Williams Trevor Ariza"
Perhaps the most significant comeback story from this season was Eric Gordon’s. After playing at an elite level in the beginning of his career, he trailed off during his time in New Orleans. When he was offered a chance to reinvent himself in Houston, it jumped at the opportunity. According to NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen, his role this season has been his most effective since his Clippers days.
"“[Gordon]’s what we haven’t had since James has been here,’’ says Morey. “When a team really keys on James and says OK, no matter what happens we are not going to let James Harden beat us – we haven’t had that guy who can pick up that slack. One of the reasons James is having such a good year is you can’t key on James like that anymore, because Eric will take advantage.”"
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Last but not least, the player/coach career revivals that James Harden and Mike D’Antoni have helped each other accomplish. Both went from under-appreciated to competing for the highest awards possible for their positions. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked with D’Antoni about his career resurgence in Houston, and he was happy to praise Harden’s mindset.
"James is willing to try anything to win. He just wants to win, and that’s what he’s trying to do. Sometimes he would overpass, even during the season, just overpass because he wants guys to feel good and win. He wants to make sure that’s the No. 1 thing, and then the No. 2 thing is making sure he’s playing well."
Next, the Houston Rockets can further prove themselves in a second round battle with the Spurs. It’ll be their toughest challenge yet this season, but they’ve been overperforming all along. Shouldn’t be an issue, right?
Tune in to TNT on Monday at 8:30 CT to watch what’s sure to be some of the best basketball of the season. The Rockets had an extra few days to prepare, so they could steal game one.