I was thinking this evening, Game 7 of the Lakers v. Rockets series marks the 14th time I've seen the Houston Rockets play basketball in the last 6 weeks (give or take a couple days). That's a Rocket game every 3 days or so — a pretty big chunk of my life.
I've seen plenty. I can tell you about them.
The Rockets lost Tracy McGrady early this year to microfracture surgery. He was long in the tooth to start with; now he's old and broken and there's only 1 more year to run on the big contract. It's rather doubtful that he's ever going to be a $20 Million-type superstar again.
Not the guy you want to be building your franchise around. I'm sure glad they're not my main NBA squeeze...
But Rick Adelman is a terrific coach and the Rockets remade and remodeled around their 7'6" Superstar Center, Yao Ming. The Rockets finished the season on a roll and beat my Blazers in Round 1 (and congratulations to them for winning in 6, because they would have lost in 7. Don't you forget it.).
Then came the Lakers. A big win on the road in Game 1 and Houston had a series victory in their sights...
But then came the big Game 3 loss at Toyota Center and all-important home court advantage was surrendered to Team Purple. Worse still for Houston's chances: Yao Ming's body broke down again — yet another stress fracture in his foot. Ming (that's his first name, $5 for the first TV interviewer that gets it right) is a good guy and a great player, but the human body really isn't made to carry 350 pounds back and forth, running and jumping around for 40 minute stints.
Probably not the guy you want to be building your franchise around. I'm sure glad they're not my main NBA squeeze...
With backup Center Dikembe Mutombo already wrecked in the Portland series, Houston was down to a 6'6" third string Power Forward with great technique and a heart as big as a whale's to get the job done at the low post. The longest of odds against a team as big and athletic as the Lakers — and they almost pulled it off.
The Rockets struggled mightily, but eventually nature took its course. There is a reason professional basketball players tend to be very, very tall.
And so you have it: the series was essentially won by the Lakers in Game 3, when they won on the road and regained the serve. Those of you who don't believe in the reality of home court advantage — MASSIVE, ALMOST INSURMOUNTABLE home court advantage — in the playoffs have simply not been paying attention.
And so the season of the gritty, defensively-oriented, thoroughly overmatched Houston Rockets has come to an end with a 19 point loss at Staples.
Remember: Mr. Balboa didn't beat Apollo Creed in the one good Rocky movie. He lost the big championship fight but he and his supporters were still triumphant. That's the point of the film. Overmatched and overpowered, the gritty journeyman challenger without a chance in hell took the champ's best shots, and was strong enough and tough enough to go the distance. In courageous defeat there was victory. Take a bow, 2008-09 Houston Rockys. And take a bow, fans who stuck with them.
Let's pay one more visit to Clutch City for final assessments, shall we?
More stuff after the jump...
Click on the headlines to read the complete stories...
Clock Strikes 12 for Rockets: Houston sees season end with loss to Lakers
by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
LOS ANGELES - The Rockets pushed that boulder as far up the mountain as it would go, somehow shoving it past numerous injury obstacles and even on a few occasions rolling it over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Finally, having gone farther than often seemed possible, they gave out as soon as Game 7 began Sunday, and their improbable run in the Western Conference semifinals ended with an 89-70 Lakers rout that sent the Rockets home with a reminder of how difficult it had been just to get this far.
"Good Lord, we were ecstatic to be here, pushing the Lakers to Game 7 short-handed, so I have nothing but pride," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "It would have been better if we played better and had a better showing, but we were running on fumes."
Having stunned the Lakers by taking the series to a seventh game, the Rockets virtually had nothing left. They missed their first 12 shots, trailed by 25 in the first half, and did not surpass 67 points - their all-time low in a playoff game - until the final two minutes, during which they scored their last 10 points.
"They got us on our heels the first two quarters, much like we did them at our place, and we just never recovered," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.
"I'm really proud or our team. I mean everybody - the way they responded. Losing Yao (Ming), we won two games after that. I'm very proud of these guys. They busted their tails. Some of those young guys really improved during the series. They had their ups and downs, like you'd expect. Today, more downs than ups. But overall, I'm really pleased with them." * * *
by Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
Assembled from various corners of the world, the cast of characters that forms the Houston Rockets has come together to display unity at its best.
Houston might not be the NBA's best basketball team, but it could be the best team.
Despite their wide-ranging backgrounds, there may not be an NBA squad with a closer bond than the Rockets. Almost certainly, not one is more relaxed and fun-loving.
Even as they prepared for a decisive, loser-goes-home playoff tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers today, they remained as unruffled, imperturbable and carefree as always.
"That's just the character of this team," forward Chuck Hayes said. "We're a really close group of guys. We laugh, we yell at each other and we get into arguments.
"On this team you really can't be sensitive, because we're going to let you have it."
They hail from all over the world — China, South America, Africa, the East Coast, the West Coast, the Midwest, Louisiana.
"Yeah, we're the United Colors of Benetton," Ron Artest joked.
They are very tall — Yao Ming stands 7-foot-6 and Dikembe Mutombo 7-2. And very short — Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks are each just 6-foot.
They are very heavy - Yao is over 300 pounds, Artest around 270 and Hayes probably weighs a little more than the 238 listed in your program. And very light — at 161 pounds (allegedly), Brooks is the lightest player in the NBA ... "and the WNBA," according to Mutombo.
They sport Mohawks — Von Wafer has forced Artest and many other Houstonians to join him with the outlandish 'do known as the Vonhawk. And shy style international mullets - word is four out of five beauticians surveyed say Luis Scola has the best coiffure in the NBA.
They dress like businessmen — the injured trio of Mutombo, Yao and Tracy McGrady vie for best dressed. They dress like teenagers — Lowry is a natural for the sporty casual look.
And they dress like their tailor accidentally put buttons on a bullfighter's cape — Shane Battier started this red jacket trend that is sweeping the city, but Brooks took it to a new level with the matching bow tie.
These individuals, who on the surface appear to have little in common other than basketball, have made fun of those differences, as much as they have embraced them. * * *
Artest Wants to Return in '09-10: Hurdles remain, but team would welcome him back
by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
LOS ANGELES - Ron Artest made his free-agent hopes clear in ways subtle and obvious.
He spoke about next season, about growing with the Rockets' young players and going farther in his second season with the Rockets than in his first.
Asked if he wants to be back with the Rockets, he said, "Yes, God willing. It's not up to me."
If that still did not spell out how he hopes things will go, he was asked if his preference is to return if things work out in contract negotiations.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," Artest said. "That is yes. I just know this team was so good, I think we'll grow together."
The Rockets have been just as clear about their hopes.
"He has a desire to come back," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "We have a desire to make it work. That's step one with a lot of steps from here."
The more difficult steps likely will be contract negotiations. Morey agreed with Artest's agent, David Bauman, to table negotiations until the offseason, with the maximum extension they can offer, based on his current contract, less than Artest will demand as a free agent.
Had the Rockets extended Artest's contract with maximum raises, they could offer only $37 million over four years. Artest's decision to play out the season and become a free agent is an indication he will seek a contract greater than that.
The Rockets have Bird rights on Artest to be able to exceed the salary cap to sign him. Only three teams — Memphis, Oklahoma City and Detroit - have salary cap room to offer more than that to on a deal that Bauman said would be "market value." * * *
The Houston Rockets season ends with a loud "thud"
by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake (lifted in full with apologies and thanks)
I have no answers.
Chuck Hayes shot too much.
Luis, Aaron and Von did not shoot enough.
The Rockets lacked size and talent........
Whatever the reason, the season is over.
But the Rockets 2009 season was not a failure. It is a stepping stone towards greatness. Next year will be amazing. Of this I have no doubts.
posted by "U Houston Fan" to The Dream Shake
Well it's over with, but I'm not sad at all.
Sure we could have played a lot better today and made Game 7 more competative but the fact of the matter is the better team finally showed up, made a statement and won the series. With that said, I can't WAIT to watch Denver mop the court with Sasha Vujacic's hair (amongst other things lol) but in all seriousness congrats to the Lakers, best of luck against the Nuggets because hey, you're going to need it :-)
Watch out for the 2009-2010 Houston Rockets. Brooks, Lowry, and Scola now have bigtime playoff experience and I guarantee that next year we're going to come back even stronger. I'm sure that Daryl Morey will make some great moves in the offseason to ensure our success next year. Guys, Girls, it's been real and it's been an awesome season!
Hats off to our Houston Rockets for inspiring us all to do great things!
by Clutch, front page of ClutchFans.com
The Rockets wrote an amazing story, setting up a Game 7 that very few expected, but Sunday afternoon they came out ridiculously flat and never got better, ending their season with an 89-70 loss in Los Angeles.
The Rockets played good enough defense to win, which makes it more frustrating, but they shot just 36.8% from the floor, missed 15 of 20 threes and were absolutely creamed on the glass (55-33).
Ron Artest again was off (3-10, 1-6 from long range) and missed an eye-opening 28 of his final 32 threes dating back to the first quarter of Game 3.
Just the same, the Rockets gave the city of Houston something to be very proud of. A very important offseason is on deck for Daryl Morey and the Rockets staff.
posted by "Baller4Life315" to ClutchFans.com
Ehhh, what can ya do? I think we all saw this coming. Luckily for us, this series won't be remembered for the outcome of Game 7. Our effort this series was downright inspirational and that's what people will remember.
Here's me tipping my hat to a feisty, gritty and resilient group that gave a big FU to the all the critics with their logic and odds.
posted by "BlueFox" to ClutchFans.com
This was good for the Rockets.
You can't blame Ron, he is not a leading scorer, he never was. He is a great contributor on both ends. The Rockets need to be ready for next season and try to end the regular season without injury problems. If that happens, the Rockets will have for next season:
2 young PGs with some explosiveness, with a lesson learned in the playoffs.
2 SGs (assuming that Wafer stays) that can do the scoring duties (Instead of expecting wafer to lead the team, you can expect him to provide a spark when T-Mac doesn't have it).
2 great SFs (assuming Ron stays) that can score and provide good defense on the other team' s players.
2 PFs, Scola's experience and no need to be athlethic and Landry's explosiveness to provide some more sparks off the bench.
1 of the best Centers in the game (please stay helathy?). Then a lot of Role players for those little minutes when everyone needs to rest or needs to take care of the fouls),
Just add a solid Center (some sort of Nesterovic or even LaFrentz) and this team is the most serious contender on the league.
That's what some haters here fail to see, this Rockets team, without his 2 best players and without a Center, is one of the top 8 teams in the league. The quality in each of the spots can't be equaled by any single team in the league. If they can push the lakers to a 7 games series without his 2 best players, imagine what they could do with them. * * *
posted by "HI Mana" to ClutchFans.com
The Rockets are a living Rocky story.
Being in Philly, I hate to give that label to any other team. But what they did this season, in this series; being short-handed, counted out, ridiculed, seen as a speed-bump and afterthought to a great upcoming series, (and this was when they were playing the Trail Blazers), and in the end, just didn't have the punches necessary to take down the defending conference champion.
But along the way, they turned an intensely hateful, dismissive media into one that was cheering for the upset. They showed both how to win the right way, with heart and guts in the face of a stomach punch that levels every other team in the league. They earned the respect of their friendly rivals (PDX) and their bitterest foes (San Antonio, Dallas, even Utah). They managed to participate in the highest rated basketball game in ESPN's history at 9:30 on a Thursday night, meaning they earned the hearts and minds of the nation.
In the end, truly, a Rocky story is one in which the final outcome doesn't matter. Instead, you see the victory in the media reaction, in the way that the Lakers finally showed some class and gave the Rockets respect, in the way that for a moment, there was cheering as Battier left through the tunnel with his hand in the air. It is in how they managed to get a true compliment out of the Zen Bastard, how we didn't hear a peep out of Kobe, or a single dirty 'bow after the first 3 games.
The Rockets played for respect this year, and they undoubtedly earned it. They have earned the right to be called contenders; shown the heart to compete for a championship. Now they need the talent to have the swagger. I saw it this year; the first time I've seen it since Barkley crumpled to the floor over a decade ago. I can only hope that 2010 will turn out for the Rockets like Rocky II did; and when Tracy "Adrian" McGrady finally comes out of his comatose state right before the big fight, he'll put the "people's champion" over the top.
Congratulations to the 2008-2009 Rockets.
You made me love the game more than I thought possible this playoffs, and perhaps fittingly, you end your season as I end my college career tomorrow. The team has improved every year I have been in college, and it has been a pleasure and an honor to call myself a fan of this team.
by Anup, Rockets Buzz
Rarely do I have these, but there was one point in the game where I knew this wasn't going to be the Rockets' afternoon. No, it wasn't when they didn't score a point for the first five minutes of the game. And it wasn't when they got their first field goal with a little over 4 minutes left in the first quarter.
It was with 3:46 left in the second quarter. Brent Barry's three pointer went 3/4 of the way down the rim and then came out. Scola came up for the tip in point blank range, and that too rimmed out, and my first thought was, ok, maybe it's just not in the stars for them.
From the outset, I noticed one move that Phil Jackson made that kept the Rockets from doing what they did in Game 6. He played off of Chuck Hayes. Andrew Bynum carefully hung out in the paint, giving Hayes as much room as he needed outside 8 feet. Everytime Brooks/Artest/ Scola brought it in the lane, Bynum was right there to get his hand on the ball and knock it out to one of his teammates. Now, it's no use crying over spilled milk, but the best bet would have been to put Landry in the game immediately, and force Bynum to actually have to move out to his defender on defense.
This momentum carried over smoothly for the Lakers on the offensive end, as they were able to get out on the break and get the shots they wanted, not the shots the Rockets wanted to make them take. Kobe Bryant found his way into the lane, Derek Fisher found his stroke, and Pau Gasol was there to clean up whatever mess was left behind.
The Lakers came out with heart today. I'm not sure why they keep directing the question about lack of heart towards Kobe, but honestly, as much as Kobe was despised by Rockets fans throughout this series, it needs to be directed at Pau, Bynum, and most evident to me - Trevor Ariza. Ariza, probably the most physically gifted played on the Lakers, has shown signs of not even caring. Never have I seen an NBA player turn it on and off the way he does on defense sometimes. If the Lakers are going to get past Denver, they need these guys to show that they care every night. * * *
More material will be added later. Please check back.
The Bottom Line:
1. Size does matter.
2. Home court does matter.
3. ROC - KEE!!! ROC - KEE!!! ROC - KEE!!! ROC - KEE!!! ROC - KEE!!!