The beginning of the end of the James Harden era
I remember the conversation vividly. It was at my best friend’s wedding. An outdoor wedding on a wonderfully temperate afternoon. A perfect moment compromised only by the restrictions of an ongoing pandemic. My best friend is a Lakers fan. One of his other groomsmen, also one of my best friends, is also a Lakers fan. The Rockets had just narrowly escaped a scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder, and game one of the Western Conference semifinals was looming.
“I don’t think the Rockets will win, but I think saying they can win might be less ridiculous than it sounds”
I didn’t realize how ridiculous I sounded.
Our five out spacing draws your big men out of the paint, I said. You’re not going to be able to run twin towers lineups, I said. We’ll kill you in transition, I said. I had said too much.
Neither of them seemed all too worried and Occam’s razor cut as deep as it typically does. Turns out, being able to get a rebound is a pretty important part of basketball. The Rockets, the NBA’s brilliant mad scientists (or, postmodern artists) had finally pushed the envelope one step too far. It was the difference between a minimalist painting and a blank canvas.
Now, Harden is in Brooklyn, and he brought Mike D’Antoni with him. Most of the league’s most successful teams this season featured at least one member of the 2017-18 Houston Rockets. The Rockets, meanwhile, rostered several players whose pictures did not appear in a google search of “Houston Rockets roster”.
The 2017-18 Rockets will be remembered as one of the greatest basketball teams not to win the NBA championship: only the 2002 Sacramento Kings really come close in the 25+ years I’ve followed the sport.
27 missed threes will be the legacy of the James Harden era.
We shouldn't forget the 15 made per game that came before.