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Can this Rockets team repeat what the '94-'95 team did?

Photo by Tim DeFrisco/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

We have lived watching an era of sports in which we've been blessed to have seen a ton of all-time greats. There have been some of the greatest individual, team, and league seasons that can be put up against any in history and argued to have been the greatest.

With that said, we have also seen history repeat itself. Kobe Bryant was the closest thing we've seen to Michael Jordan. Tom Brady has eclipsed anything we thought about Joe Montana and John Elway. Steroid Era aside, we have seen home run records fall, .400 has been remotely threatened a handful of times, and some of the most dominate pitching in a hitter-friendly era.

But have we ever seen a season in any sport, from any franchise come close to what this year's Rockets team may be able to mimic when it comes to the '94-'95 team did? Before you get started saying "Jermaine has lost his damn mind again," hear me out.

I know full well the '94-'95 team won back to back titles and this team has yet to win one. I know that team hold a special place in the city of Houston's collective hearts, and this one tends to hold a special place as a pain in the city's collective ass. But there are some similarities worth paying attention to.

Let's start with the obvious. Each of these teams featured a dominant alpha dog that was/is the centerpiece of everything. Hakeem Olajuwon and James Harden are the two greatest players in this team's history. Both will be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (Olajuwon already is). Both won league MVP the previous season. Olajuwon infamously lost out on back to back MVP awards to rival David Robinson of the Spurs and made him pay dearly in the playoffs. With the stretch Harden is currently on, he may win back to back MVP awards, but if another player's team finishes higher in the league standings, he may be given the award over Harden. In this regard, I'm specifically looking at Russell Westbrook as it refers to this article for historical parallels being that they have the possibility of meeting in the playoffs. The Thunder currently sit in third place in the Western Conference while the Rockets are fourth.

That '94-'95 team also made the key trade for Clyde Drexler two days after the All-Star game to help boost their run to a title. This year's Rockets team has been off kilter and desperately need to make a trade to help them down the stretch run. While much of this team's struggles are due to injury, the struggles are similar. This year's team is 25-18 through 43 games played, and the '94-'95 team was 28-15 at the same point in the season, finished 47-35 and won the NBA title from the sixth seed (lowest ever to win it all).

Am I saying that this year's Rockets will repeat what one of the most beloved teams in franchise history has done? It may not be likely, but it is possible. This year's Rockets are 9-8 against all current Western Conference playoff teams, including an impressive 6-3 against the four teams ahead or tied with them in the current standings. That 3-5 record versus the teams below them is bothersome, but not as off-putting as it could be. If this team doesn't get healthy, make a deal for reinforcements, and James Harden doesn't maintain his level of play throughout the playoffs, none of this will come true. Admit it; these two seasons do look eerily similar. How sweet would it be if they ended similarly?

Astros Red Sox rematch, Verlander on a roll and more

Harden is first team All-NBA, but is there a problem with Paul?

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

James Harden was named first team All-NBA Thursday. The vote for him was unanimous as it was for Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will likely wrest the NBA MVP Award from Harden. It's Harden's fifth first team selection. Hakeem Olajuwon was named first team six times. LeBron James is the all-time leader with 12 first team selections, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant each made it 11.

Sounds as though Chris Paul may not have sent Harden congratulatory flowers or candy. It seemed weak of the Rockets to not hold customary exit interviews and media availability soon after their season ended. Some light may have been shed on that if the report is accurate that Paul had done some chafing over the extent of Harden's ball dominance (maybe more so after Harden's four fourth quarter turnovers in the game six capitulation vs. the Warriors?) and stand around nature of Harden iso-ball. That style coupled with the relentless heaving of three point shots generally served the Rockets well, but has its flaws. For years Paul was a brilliant and low turnover orchestrator of offense so some frustration for him is understandable. But with that, Paul needs to understand that he's not the player he used to be. It's the Rockets' problem that over the next three seasons they'll be paying Paul as if he's better than ever.

On the Astros

The Astros are a loaded team but certainly not perfect. General Manager Jeff Luhnow has no need to act now but things may be moving in the direction of him looking hard for a starting pitcher addition between now and July 31. Collin McHugh failed and is now injured. Josh James has been wild and shaky, Corbin Martin the same two starts in a row. Framber Valdez isn't very highly regarded, and Forrest Whitley has been awful in four straight starts at AAA. Any one of those guys could wind up stabilizing the fifth spot in the rotation. Or maybe it's an acquisition like the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman.

After a disappointing series split with the White Sox the Astros spend a second consecutive weekend with the Boston Red Sox. Last weekend they took two of three at Fenway Park, without Justin Verlander pitching. If Tal's Hill still existed at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday night against the White Sox Verlander might have pitched his third career no-hitter. Verlander goes Sunday in pursuit of his ninth win already this season. He's 8-1 with a sparkling 2.24 earned run average. Verlander's career season to date is 2011 when as a Detroit Tiger he won 24 games (with just five losses) and posted a 2.40 ERA enroute to winning both the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. The Yankees Domingo German has come out of nowhere to be 9-1 with a sub-three ERA, but Verlander is well out front to win his second "Cy." That would go with his three second place finishes and one third place finish.

Verlander is now basically a surefire Hall of Famer on top of his game at age 36. Among the seven pitchers to win a "Cy" after turning 36, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is the "Wait. What is he is doing with these other names?" guy. The others are all 300 game winners, and except for Roger Clemens, all Hall of Famers. The Rocket won three Cy Young awards after turning 36, the last as an Astro when he was 43. Randy Johnson won four in a row STARTing when he was 36. The other golden relative oldies: Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, and Early Wynn.

Home run derby

The juiced baseballs are flying out of big league ballparks at a record rate this season. The Astros have certainly done their part, hitting 90 home runs in their 51 games. Their season homer pace is at 285. The 2017 World Series winning offensive juggernaut hit 238. The Yankees set the team season record last year with 267. The surprising Minnesota Twins belted eight homers Thursday in improving the best record in MLB to 33-16. The Twins have 98 dingers in 49 games. That's exactly two per game on average, meaning a season pace toward 324. The record for most homers allowed in a season is 258, by the Reds three years ago.The Orioles' atrocious pitching staff has already given up 107 home runs. That's on pace to give up 339. 339!

Boston common

The Stanley Cup Final starts Monday night with Boston against St. Louis. The Red Sox won the most recent World Series. The Patriots won the most recent Super Bowl. Go Blues! Um, that's St. Louis. Thank goodness the Celtics flamed out in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Buzzer beaters

1. Only a boob wouldn't have voted Harden first team All-NBA. 2.The two who voted Harden first All-Defensive team are no Rocket scientists. 3. Greatest scientists not named Einstein: Bronze-Pasteur Silver-Galileo Gold-Newton

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