ROCKETS WILL BE TESTED

How Rockets season can be salvaged by leaning into history

The Rockets can't afford to win. Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images.

NBA insiders, and anybody with two eyes, believe the Houston Rockets have thrown in the towel and will spend the rest of the season desperately clawing their way to the bottom of the NBA standings, hoping to land a top draft pick for next year.

Reportedly the Rockets are ready to part ways with Victor Oladipo, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and others in exchange for draft picks, expiring contracts or gift cards to Twin Peaks. An NBA official told Bleacher Report, "I keep hearing they're going to (have a) fire sale."

So they're going to break up a team on a 13-game losing streak and make it even worse on purpose?

Might as well. The Rockets currently own an 11-23 record and are shooting for their 14th consecutive loss Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings. Only two teams have a lousier record than the Rockets: the Pistons (10-26) and, God love 'em, the Timberwolves (7-29). Vegas oddsmakers pin the Rockets' chances of making the playoffs this year at less than 1 percent.

You wouldn't know from this year's squad, but the Rockets are one of the NBA's most consistent winning teams in recent history. Since the turn of the millennium, the Rockets have had only two losing seasons, 2001-02 and 2005-06. They've had 14 straight winning, at least non-losing seasons – there was a relative 41-41 clunker in 2015-16. A whole generation of fans has never seen the Rockets in rebuilding mode.

The Rockets' commitment to losing will be tested tonight. The Kings have an almost equally paltry 14-22 record and are gunning for a top lottery pick, too. The Rockets can't afford to get sloppy, make mental mistakes and win.

If the Rockets truly want to lose, and go on a record-breaking losing streak (current mark is 28 games by the '76ers between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons), they'll have to focus and keep their eye on the ball … as it clanks off the rim en route to another double-digit defeat. The Rockets have lost by 10 or more points in 10 of their last 13 defeats in a row.

I am qualified to help the Rockets on their journey of despair. Two times, I hit the hardwood for the Washington Generals, whose team photo should be next to the word "losers" in the dictionary. The nightly patsies for the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in 1952. Since then, their record against the Globies is three wins and something like 17,000 losses. But who's counting? The last time they beat the Globetrotters was in 1971. I imagine they got a tongue-lashing in the locker room after that game.

For a couple of years, the Generals had a gimmick. As they crisscrossed America, they'd ask a local media type in each city to play as their "secret weapon." Both times they played in Houston, I was the designated Washington General.

I met the Generals during the afternoon and practiced with the team on a portable hoop in the arena garage. They had a couple of plays designed for me. I remember coach Red Klotz saying, "Here's your uniform. You have to give it back after the game because we need it for tomorrow night in San Antonio."

There was no chance I was returning my authentic, game-worn Generals uniform either time. Let the record show that I scored in both games, including a 3-pointer.

OK, my 3-pointer never went through the hoop. They told me to shoot the ball as high as I could and a Globetrotter caught it mid-flight. He was standing on another Globetrotter's shoulders and the referee called goaltending. Hilarious. Count it.

I also made two free throws despite Globetrotter "Sweet Lou" Dunbar screaming at me and threatening to pull down my pants. I was warned that he might do that, so I had my pants tied tighter than a tourniquet.

During practice the second year, the Generals' center said he couldn't play that night because he ate too much fried chicken on the bus to Houston and felt nauseous.

Anyway, here are 5 tips for the Rockets if they want to lose out the rest of the season, Generals-style.

1. Trade the whole roster and sign a bunch of guys who couldn't beat a pickup team at Fonde Rec Center on Sabine Street in Houston.

2. If LeBron James starts chasing the referee with a pail of confetti, just stand to the side and let it happen.

3. If Luka Doncic suddenly thinks he's playing a football game and steps off a 5-yard penalty against the Rockets, do not challenge the call.

4. When James Harden covers the ball with enough Stickum to wallpaper Mar-a-Lago and does that dribbling between his legs bit, instruct the Rockets new 5 ft. 4-in. guard (he will be introduced to the crowd as "Shorty") to dive for the ball and miss it every time.

5. If Bradley Beal shoots a free throw and he's got a rubber band attached to the ball, it's a lane violation on the Rockets. Be careful, the next ball could be filled with helium.

OK Rockets, you know what to do. Now go out there and commit turnovers, shoot bricks, get T'd up, flop, violate COVID protocol. Do whatever it takes. Remember this is a team sport. Everybody has to do their share for the team to tank a season.

In other words, just keep doing what you're doing.

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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