One of the more discussed narratives regarding the Houston Rockets has been the spending of the current ownership. There’s a faction that believe that the Rockets would have won the title by now if Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta would have been willing to go into the luxury tax.
It’s also been pointed out that the Rockets would have had a better chance of winning a title if Fertitta would have paid the tax to keep Trevor Ariza in the summer of 2018. Granted, this assumes that Ariza would have been enough to overcome the injuries that the Rockets suffered that season, as they were without Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and Chris Paul for large stretches of that season, yet still ended up with the 4th seed in the Western Conference.
All in all, Fertitta’s scarlet letter has been repeatedly avoiding the luxury tax, which has created a permanent narrative of him being a “cheap owner”. This carried over into 2020-21, as many prominent NBA voices chalked up essentially every move made by the Rockets as Fertitta simply “being cheap”, and especially as it pertained to the James Harden trade.
As we all know by now, the Rockets turned down reported trade offers of Caris LeVert and Ben Simmons for sensical reasons, as LeVert didn’t fit the timeline for the Rockets’ rebuild and Simmons alone wasn’t going to drastically improve this Rockets group.
In spite of that, we’ve heard takes that the Rockets passed on both players simply for financial reasons. Case in point, ESPN senior writer Tim Bontemps, who made comments about Fertitta on ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective podcast.
“Let’s just talk plainly. They were going to have to pay them. They didn’t want to pay them.
Let’s just call it for what it is. They specifically targeted players and assets that wouldn’t cost them any money next year.”
Contrary to Bontemps’ comments, any talk about Fertitta being cheap in 2020-21 needs to end, and Fertitta deserves credit for how he handled the Houston Rockets’ 2020-21 season, which I’ll delve into.
Next: No. 3