Even with their continued success year after year, the media and fans alike continue to disrespect the Houston Rockets and their accomplishments.
The Houston Rockets are by far the most disrespected team in the league.
Over the past two seasons, they have played at an elite level, led by arguably the game’s best offensive player, and have been the biggest challenger to the Golden State Warriors’ throne. Yet, the media continues to hate on James Harden and the Rockets. As a result, they’re overlooking what this team has been able to accomplish.
When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the summer of 2016, he flipped the NBA world on its head. All of a sudden, the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t compete with Golden State, despite being led by LeBron James, and the rest of the Western Conference lacked the talent to even stand a chance.
The Rockets however, went all in for a ring in the summer of 2017 by trading for Chris Paul and pairing him with James Harden to create one of the most unique back courts in NBA history. In that 2017-18 season, Harden won his first MVP award and led Houston to a franchise record 65 wins.
Houston and Golden State eventually matched up in the Western Conference Finals and the Warriors took the series in seven games. As everyone knows, Houston once led the series 3-2, but an unfortunate hamstring injury left Chris Paul sidelined, and the Rockets just didn’t have enough talent to beat the Warriors without their star point guard.
In this past season, the Rockets got off to a terrible start, losing 14 of their first 25 games. However, the Rockets were able to turn it around behind another stellar season from James Harden, who led the league in scoring at 36.1 points per game, the highest scoring average by a player in more than three decades. The Rockets won 20 of their final 25 games after the All-Star break and entered the playoffs as the league’s hottest team.
Due to their slow start, the Rockets finished with just the fourth best record in the west, so their rematch with the Warriors came a bit early. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Rockets came up short again, this time losing the series in six games.
It was a disappointing end to the season for the Rockets because they worked hard all year for another shot at the Warriors, only to lose again. However, Houston put up a valiant effort and made Golden State earn their wins, as each game in the series was decided by six points or less.
Over the last three seasons, the Rockets have had more success against the defending champs than any other team in the league, as Golden State’s other opponents’ haven’t stood a chance.
vs the Warriors the last 3 years in the playoffs —
Rest of NBA: 5-34
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) May 18, 2019
Of course, there aren’t any moral victories in professional basketball, but the Rockets seem to get slandered more for their failures than any other team. Mike D’Antoni has been heavily criticized, as has James Harden along with the rest of the team, for coming up short against Golden State.
Even Scottie Pippen, a former Rocket, said he didn’t think Mike D’Antoni deserved his most recent contract extension and said Houston is easy to defend because of their style of play. He also said Houston’s style of play can’t win championships.
But if Houston’s style doesn’t work, why did they have the second best offensive rating in the league this year despite dealing with a number of injuries to key players? Why have they had more success in the Western Conference over the last two seasons than any team outside of the one in Oakland?
Why do people continue to criticize James Harden’s play in the postseason, even though he put up 34.8 points, 7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game against the Warriors in the Semifinals? Why does everyone like to poke fun at Harden’s defense even though he finished second in the league in steals per game and third in deflections?
You can even tell how much the Warriors respect the Rockets. Golden State looked more relieved after they defeated the Rockets in the Semifinals than they did after eliminating the Blazers in the Conference Finals. Even Curry pointed it out, telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “You saw the way we celebrated,” when asked how it felt to beat the Rockets in the highly anticipated rematch. At this point in their run, Golden State doesn’t get excited about advancing past the second round, but they knew the Rockets were the only team in the west that had a real chance to dethrone them.
If you’re an elite team and you don’t win it all, the media and fans won’t hesitate to criticize you. But the Rockets have fallen short against a dynasty and potentially the best team ever assembled these past two years, not just an above average basketball team. If the Rockets are chokers, every other elite team and player that has been decimated by the Warriors over the years should be labeled as chokers too.
The Rockets are the only team that has made the Western Conference playoff race even remotely interesting over the past two years, as no other team has had a shot at making the Finals. All I’m saying is that the NBA world at large should start showing the Houston Rockets a little more respect, because they’re a phenomenal team led by a phenomenal player.