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Monday, July 8, 2013

SDH Presents the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 10. Houston Rockets

Overall Win/Loss Record (At Season’s End):  : 45-37,  third place Southwest Division

At Season’s End:

Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)

  • Points Scored: 106.0 (2nd)
  • Points Allowed: 102.5 (28th)
  • Team FG%: .461 (9th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .454 (17th)
  • Team FT%: .754 (17th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .366 (9th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.4 (7th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.6 (11th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.8 (30th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.2 (13th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)

Scoring (ppg): James Harden (25.9)
Rebounds per game:  Omer Asik (11.7)
Minutes per game:  James Harden (38.3)
Assists per game:  Jeremy Lin (6.1)
Field Goal Percentage:  Omer Asik (.541)
Free Throw Percentage:   Carlos Delfino (.860)
Three Point FG Percentage: Chandler Parsons (.386)
Steals per game:  James Harden (1.8)
Blocked Shots per game:   Omer Asik (1.1)

Taking a Look Back at the Season that Once Was . . .

SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Change (+/-)
At Season’s End
SDH Player of the Year:
Chandler Parsons

He did not enter the regular season with as much fanfare as his higher profile teammates--namely James Harden and Jeremy Lin--yet Chandler Parsons still made a significant impact for the Houston Rockets.  Despite being virtually ignored by mainstream media, Chandler Parsons silently became one of the key factors in the Rockets' return to the post season since 2007.  He was second on the team in scoring and in minutes played averaging 15.5 points per game while have the most accurate range from beyond the arc on the team.  Parson's certainly showed his importance to his team in the playoffs where he help stave off a four game sweep stretching their first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  For a person received little if any recognition, Chandler still manage to play like an All Star averaging 18 per game in the six games the Rockets played making him certainly a player to keep an eye on in the near future.     

After three straight failed attempts of finishing so close but so far away, the Houston Rockets finally managed the make the postseason and even gave their fans something to cheer about upon entering the playoffs.  Down three game to none, many expected the Rockets to fold at the feet of the Oklahoma City Thunder; however Houston had other ideas as they fought back and managed to stretch their first round series to two more game before subsequently falling to the Thunder in game six.  Many credited Houston's come back to the fact that the Thunder lost their All Star point guard Russell Westbrook to injury; nonetheless, Houston still should be credited for continuing to fight even when the chips were down for them despite facing almost impossible odds.  Now the question for Houston Rockets fans is not whether they can make the playoffs or not, but where does their team go from here now that they finally climbed the mountain?  The euphoria of finally reaching the playoffs has been short lived as fans in Houston along with the sports media will be looking intently on what the Rockets will do in the off season as there remain plenty of question marks on whether they can take the next step to become a true contender or will they prove to disappoint once again.

Since winning their last NBA Title in 1995, the Rockets have been a marginal team at best either barely making the playoffs or at worst falling just short of the post season by one or two games.  Houston had a short four year run from 1996 to 1999 where they reached the post season, even a year that the team reached the Western Conference Finals; however, it had become quite apparent that the Rockets were no longer championship material.  Then came the four year Dark Age when the Rockets would fail to make the playoffs with two of them being the most depressing of all as Houston had winning records in two of those years--2001 and 2003-- better than some Eastern Conference teams that advanced to the post season.  Then came the Yao Ming era which was supposed to be a new golden age as the Rockets would be guided by reputable coach Jeff Van Gundy and be graced by the superstar presence of not only Yao Ming, but Tracy McGrady as well; however that proved to be quite a let down for Rockets fans as well.  Despite reaching the playoffs in three of four times from 2004 to 2007, the Rockets never made it past the first round resulting in Jeff Van Gundy to leave Houston in shame and it would not get any better with his replacement, Rick Adelman.

Adelman would have to endure recurring injuries of both the team's two stars--Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming--which resulted in one of the lowest points in Rockets history as fans were forced to watch their team fall short year after year.  Yao Ming would be forced to retire while Tracy McGrady simply faded away once his contract expired and the Rockets fell from being just a marginal playoff team to possibly one of the worst fates to ever befall a team.  For three straight years, the Rockets would head for the lottery, but due to their record being better than most teams heading into the draft, would get the short end of the stick as their record was simply to good to even get a chance of winning the number one overall pick in the draft.  So to add insult to injury, Houston fans received a double disappointment as they not only saw their team end their season early, but also endure the fact that it would never be in the position to attain a franchise caliber player in the draft. Adelman was then mercifully let go and Houston replaced him with a less than stellar option in Kevin McHale--a man who was run out of town in his previous post as GM and head of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

McHale would not fare any better than his predecessors as he would also come up short in his first season last year just two games short of the final playoff spot; however, this season his team was finally able to break their three year curse.  At first it did not look as if Houston would make it as the Rockets spent more than half the season just a shade over .500 and with the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz having the slight advantage over them, it looked as if Houston would have to endure another season heading into the lottery.  Fortunately for Houston, though, both the Jazz and the Blazers slipped at the end of the season and the Rockets finished strong winning fourteen of their last twenty three games thus earning the final open slot in the Western Conference playoffs.  Of course, they were predictably eliminated by the far superior Oklahoma City Thunder, but they did not fall with out a fight as Houston battled back from a three game to none deficit to stretch their first round series to six games.  Despite that noble and heroic comeback performance, many still remain skeptical on whether or not this is a step forward for Houston or just a bump in the road of an otherwise mediocre team.

To put it quite bluntly, Houston was not that spectacular as they were awful on the defensive end allowing their opponents to score close to 103 points per game and shoot better than .450 from the field.  Sure, they finished the season as one of the best rebounding teams in the league and were among the top teams in rebounds allowed, but that was primarily because their opponents shot so well that they did not have to rebound as much.  The Rockets had by far one of the league most potent offenses as they ranked among the top 10 teams in scoring and in field goal percentage, but that was overshadowed by their inability to hold onto the ball as they ranked last in the league in turnovers.  By all accounts, most would credit the Rockets qualifying for the playoffs more on the misfortunes of their rivals rather than the team's actual performance as they were barely able to surpass them by just a couple of games.  So with the relief of their team finally making the post season after countless years of coming up short, Rockets fans should still remain somewhat skeptical and doubtful about their team's chances because as of now, Houston at best looks like a marginal team at best and has yet to prove that they can be anything more than that.