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ESPN host floats wild anti-Houston conspiracy about Rockets draft

Is this actually a thing? Composite image by Brandon Strange.

There are 99,999 reasons why the Houston Rockets are stupifyingly awful this season. Leave it to ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser to find the one reason why not.

Earlier this week on Pardon the Interruption, Kornheiser was pondering where sensational French teenager Victor Wembanyama might play next year in the NBA. Kornheiser said if NBA commissioner Adam Silver has his way, Wembanyama won’t be taking his talents to Houston.

“I don’t think he (Silver) wants him in a place like Houston where the owner doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing,” Kornheiser said.

Huh? Is Kornheiser suggesting that it’s Fertitta’s fault that the Rockets are a disastrous 13-45 and destined to finish with the worst record in the NBA for the third consecutive season?

If you’re looking for reasons why the Rockets are flopping, there are culprits a’plenty, starting with the roster. You want to know why the Rockets seem to lose night after night? You see when the Rockets take the court for the opening tip? The players in the other color uniform are better than the Rockets. That’s why the Rockets lose.

The Rockets are young – the second-youngest team in the league. Their average age is 23.58. The bad news is, the only younger team is the Thunder, which racks up points against the Rockets like they’re playing a video game set on “easy.” The Rockets three core players are Jalen Green (21, second year), Alperen Sengun (20, second year), and Jabari Smith Jr. (19, rookie).

It could be the coach. Now in his third season, Stephen Silas has one of the worst career won-loss records (50-162) in NBA history. His defenders will say, “he’s a young coach who can relate to young players, which is what this team needs.” Silas is not a young coach. Silas will be 50 years old in a few months. He is older than the coach of the Celtics, the Grizzlies, Jazz, Thunder, Pelicans, Blazers, Clippers, Nets, Wizards … I could go on.

You can blame NBA superstars who collude to demand trades so they can play amongst themselves and freeze out have-not teams in less desirable markets. The Rockets in their present state can’t attract big name stars. The idea that Texas teams are appealing to star players because of no state income tax simply isn’t true.

I asked a Rockets insider, does Kornheiser know something we don’t? Is Fertitta the reason the Rockets struggle? Is it true that Fertitta doesn’t know what he’s doing?

The insider said, “Tony Kornheiser doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’ll bet he hasn’t watched one Rockets game this year and couldn’t name three players on the team. It’s easy for these national guys to look at the standings and blame the owner.”

Fertitta has been somewhat successful in his careers (plural). His Landry’s restaurant empire is expanding like a kielbasa in a microwave. Forbes calls him the richest restaurateur in the world. He is chairman of the board of regents for the University of Houston, home of the No. 1-ranked college basketball team. His name is on the UH basketball arena. He was the star of Billion Dollar Buyer on CNBC. His net worth is estimated at $7.6 billion.

Yeah, I’d say that Fertitta knows what he’s doing.

The Rockets are in a down cycle, but the team is still drawing fans. The marketing department, under Fertitta’s guidance, has come up with some pretty creative promotions (Undertaker bobbleheads, bargain beer and tacos) to occupy the seats. Toyota Center is clean, the food is upscale, and Bruce Springsteen just rocked the roof off the place.

The insider: “Fertitta gives fans a quality experience. He can’t control the final score. The fact that the Rockets still have strong attendance shows that Fertitta is delivering an attractive product despite the team’s record. The NBA isn’t like the restaurant business, where you can turn a loser into a winner by changing the menu. Larry David thought he could run a successful restaurant simply by adding scones to the menu on Curb Your Enthusiasm. That’s a TV show. The NBA is real life.”

This isn’t the first time a national media type dumped on a Houston good guy and missed the target. Remember a couple of years ago when radio talk host Clay Travis went after Mattress Mack?

Travis said, “I find myself rooting for this Mattress Mack guy to lose all of his money because I’m tired of hearing about him. Marketing genius, but I want this guy to go bankrupt. I wish he would lose $100 million.”

Oops. First, and most important, Travis picked on the wrong guy in Houston. He heard from Mack’s supporters loud and clear. And while I don’t have access to Mack’s books, I’m pretty sure he could lose $100 million and not go bankrupt.

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