How Pat Riley’s words apply to the Houston Rockets
To further this argument, look no forward than the current back court in Houston. Superstar guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden combine for two league MVP’s and four scoring titles. But yet in today’s NBA, it would be extremely difficult to find two players more scrutinized for their style of play than the Houston Rockets’ superstar duo.
Westbrook went on a three-year span of averaging a triple-double, yet still doesn’t receive his rightful praise. Westbrook had a stellar tenure in Oklahoma City, where he put up monstrous statistics and always had the Thunder in the playoffs, even after the departure of Kevin Durant.
But all the criticisms about Westbrook were that he was not a team player or that he was padding his stats. As we now know, Westbrook was eventually traded to Houston, where he would be reunited with James Harden, who suffers from the same treatment.
Since stepping foot in Houston, James Harden has been a franchise player, as he’s become an NBA All-Star every year he has put on a Rockets uniform, while also revolutionizing scoring. Harden also has an assist title to his name, but wasn’t granted a legitimate number two player until Chris Paul arrived in 2017-18. Despite all the accolades, Harden’s only topic of discussion remains his “lack of defense” and questions about his leadership.
The closest and most recent example regarding the skeptics of the Houston Rockets’ superstars would be LeBron James, who endured endless criticisms from the media, prior to winning his first championship with the Heat in 2012. James was always the topic of discussion among the national media, as they questioned whether he could win a championship, and if he was really the best player at the time. Ironically, a Pat Riley-constructed team helped LeBron shake off those narratives.
Harden and Westbrook are current day proof of Riley’s quote, as history will not be so kind to their accolades until they are able to win a NBA championship. Although their feats have been impressive, they’ll be overshadowed if they don’t capture a Larry O’Brien trophy, just like it has for so many other great NBA players.