The Rockets Are Back in the NBA Playoffs! Their Complete Rebuilding Anthology
With four games to go in the 2011-2012 season, the Rockets were coming off a 117-110 loss to Dallas, a loss in which Dirk Nowitzki provided a stark reminder to last season's Rockets team that they were devoid of a superstar-caliber player by dropping 21 points on them in the fourth quarter.
Photo by Daniel Kramer Good thing the Rockets don't pay GM Daryl Morey by the transaction.
To call that loss demoralizing for the Rockets would be a bit of a reach because, truth be told, a big chunk of the morale of that group had been sucked from it in the previous four games, all losses. A week and change later, the 2011-2012 NBA postseason would begin the same way it had the previous two postseasons -- Rocket-less.
Fast-forward to Tuesday night, and with four games to go in the 2012-2013 season, thanks to a timely brain fart from Phoenix's Jermaine O'Neal -- an inexplicable defensive goaltending of a James Harden three at the buzzer -- the Rockets now sit where they haven't been since 2009.
The Rockets are going to the playoffs!
By virtually every metric, the Rockets are historically an average to above-average NBA franchise, so to act like the postseason is some sort of birthright is a tad out of line, but still, three years with no postseason is a long time. Hell, it's not just a long time for the Rockets, it's a long time period in NBA terms when you consider the list of teams with longer postseason-less streaks heading into this season than this year's Rockets team goes as follows (last appearance in parentheses):
Minnesota Timberwolves (2004) Sacramento Kings (2006) Toronto Raptors (2008) Washington Wizards (2008)
Maybe things didn't feel quite as futile as they probably do for fans of those teams, because at least the Rockets were fielding competitive teams in those seasons, but who cares? As Gordon Gekko said, if you're not inside, you're outside. And the Rockets have been outside.
Those days are now over. The Rockets now have a weapon that can counter another team's superstar going off for 21 in the fourth quarter, a superstar of their own in James Harden. They have a young nucleus and a shitload of cap space to add to it this or some future offseason.
And perhaps most important, they have an owner who will use every resource available and allow his people to use every resource available to try and win champions, to change the perception of the Rockets as an historically above-average team to a perennial title contender.
And most certainly they have a general manager in Daryl Morey who will use those resources wisely, even if it means bloating the team's M&L budget ("moving and living" for those of you who've never been transferred in a job before) to where it's probably worthy of its own spinoff company considering how many players have been traded, waived, drafted and signed on Morey's watch.
In fact, in honor of those who served as a Rocket for anywhere from three minutes to three seasons from June 2009 to today, and as an homage to the tireless efforts of Daryl Morey, let's list every transaction that led to a rebuilt playoff team...
(WARNING: Get comfy. Also, you might want to grab some popcorn; this may take awhile.)