TIME TO BUY IN
Lance Zierlein: But this time it’s different with the Rockets
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s the old saying and it basically means that at a point, you are responsible for buying into something you know to be wrong or fraudulent. Unfortunately for the Houston Rockets, many local fans view James Harden (and by proxy the Rockets) as a “fool me twice” entity they are having a hard time completely buying in on.
And you know what? That’s fair. The Rockets have been a very competitive regular season team for most of the time that James Harden has been with them and he was a well-deserved MVP runner-up for two of those seasons. However, reputations and memories aren’t built on the first 82 games, they are built upon the the games and playoff series thereafter. Harden’s reputation has spawned the nickname “Elimination Game James” which acknowledges his continued shortcomings in the biggest situations come playoff time.
Harden’s talent is undeniable, but his ability to lead the organization through adversity and into greatness is something that has eluded him. James is a scorer. James is an elite scorer. James is an elite scorer with a willingness to get other teammates involved. These are facts, not opinions. However, as we saw with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in the playoffs, regular season greatness and postseason greatness can be mutually exclusive.
But this time, Rockets fans, it feels different.
The addition of Chris Paul has given the Rockets another player capable of scoring and creating for others, but it’s also shifted the potential dynamics of the team come playoff time. No longer is it a “Harden or Bust” scenario. If Harden is in the midst of one of his turnover sprees, Paul can not only take over the ball-handling duties, he can lead the team. I think we can all agree that leadership and overcoming adversity has been one of the areas where the Rockets have come up short in the playoffs.
This incarnation of the Rockets has three players in Harden, Paul and Eric Gordon who are capable of scoring thirty points per game. This Rockets team has better depth off the bench including better defenders. This team just looks and feels different. While they aren’t a great defensive team, they are better in the half-court and more capable of getting stops when needed.
I’m not here to tell you that the Rockets are the favorite to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I am here to tell you that they are built to match up with them better than they ever have been because it’s no longer James Harden vs. the world. Buy-in and enjoy the season, Rockets fans.