Shooting stars

Joel Blank: It's time to sit back and enjoy the ride with the Rockets

James Harden and the Rockets are a joy to behold. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Your Rockets are off to the best start in franchise history, tied with the 1993-94 championship team. They have the second best record in the entire league and just waxed the Cavaliers in Cleveland with LeBron James and company by 32 points. You should be ecstatic! You should feel like your team is as close to the top of the basketball world as they have been in 27 years, yet Red Nation seems to be as worried and schizophrenic as ever when thinking about this team. Why is that? What gives? Where's the love?

Let me guess, is it because you’ve seen this movie before? Is it hard to trust a team that has tugged at your heartstrings only to deliver a soul crushing defeat year after year? Have you become so spoiled as a fanbase that nothing in the regular season seems to matter and even a division title has no value? Is the only gauge that registers for you how far this team goes in the playoffs, and if they can compete for and win a championship? It seems as though, as long as Daryl Morey is the DJ there is no way that Rockets fans will trust that this broken record will somehow find its groove—come April, May, and most importantly in June.

I get it Rockets fans;  you are hungry for another title, it’s been too long and you have been extremely patient. You have had to endure some of the toughest defeats in the franchises history in the last few postseason appearances. Who wants to remember 2014 and Damian Lillard's buzzer beater that sent the Rockets home from the Rose City? There was the improbable comeback in Los Angeles against the Clippers in game 6 and the blowout victory to clinch the series in Game 7, only to see the team blow a 16-point lead in Game 1 and never find the recipe for defeating the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Let us not forget that less than a year ago, the Rockets were rolling and everyone's sexy pick to get to the Western Conference finals and give that Golden State team a long hard-fought series. Instead of the Beard taking you to the promised land, James Harden and company found a way to grab the tackle box before they could even reel in a big fish and were sent home for the summer by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Yet another, early "gone fishing" vacation. I totally understand that the only way that this franchise and this team will be able to exorcise its demons and redeem themselves would be a trip to the Conference Finals, a hard fought battle against the Golden State Warriors and maybe, just maybe a trip to the NBA finals. Something inside of me says even that might not be good enough for a fan base that waits for the heartbreak instead of anticipating the incredible, if not the improbable.

It's your loss Rockets fans, if that's the way you choose to think. If those are the thoughts that run through your head as this team runs through the best of both conferences and puts on a show night in and night out, that's on you. If you are so caught up in waiting for the playoffs and another collapse that you can't appreciate what you have had in the last four regular seasons, then who am I to tell you to think any differently? Fact is, you've had your best player in contention for the MVP in three of the last four years including this very season. An offseason trade has given you the opportunity to see one of the best point guards of all time, still playing at an extremely high level and making this Rockets team better on a nightly basis. Speaking of team, who wouldn't want to root for, watch and see a team that leads the league in three point shots attempted and made, not to mention scoring at an all-time level as they strike fear in every scoreboard in every arena across the NBA. The team has even added role players that specifically addressed their biggest weakness of a year ago, by being known for their defense first and their offensive prowess after that fact. The simple truth is this team is good, really good. Regardless of how they finish the postseason, this team maybe the best regular-season team in the history of this storied franchise. Sure, we're all waiting to see what happens in the playoffs and we will judge and rate the year accordingly based on how it all plays out. But in the meantime and in between time, why not just appreciate how lucky you are to have a team that can entertain you and rack up wins seemingly every night? Don't you think fans in Brooklyn and Phoenix would love to have a squad to watch that played the way the Rockets play and win the way they throw up W's? At the end of the day the choice is really up to you, but I personally think you're missing the boat because this team is far different than any of those teams of the past.  In fact, this may be the only team that comes close to stacking up to those championship teams of the past and in the process may be the best regular season basketball team this city has ever witnessed. So before it's time for the Warriors to come out to play, take time to enjoy the ride and remember, the reality is, we're all day to day.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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