Chris Paul and James Harden made the Houston Rockets a force
When Chris Paul came, it inspired a popular refrain I hadn’t heard so often beforehand (the Rockets, during this era, were always changing the discourse): there’s only one ball!
Rockets fans weren’t concerned. We’d seen what happened when there was only one ball handler.
2017-18 was blissful. The Rockets had already been fun for a few years, but fun in a way you’d only really understand if you were a fan. Fun in the sense that Montrezl Harrell’s rookie season was more exciting than outsiders cared to learn. Fun for the singular season where Chandler Parsons looked like a legitimate second fiddle. Fun for Ryan Anderson’s deep threes and the way you felt the swish before it happened. Fun because if you said, "Patrick Beverley, Patrick Beverley, Patrick Beverley," a demonic terror would haunt the opposition's point guard.
But 2017-18 was different. The Rockets weren’t fun anymore. They were dead serious.
65 wins. I had to look at the standings every day to confirm that I wasn’t living in some kind of Truman Show augmentation. The best record in the NBA? The second-best offense, sure, of course, but the sixth-best defense? This is a Mike D’Antoni team?
(I remember the following season when Jeff Bzdelik, Rockets assistant coach and the architect of that sixth best defense, left the team. I was devastated. I couldn’t pay a friend to care. Jeff who? How do you pronounce that? I wasn’t sure either).