Ever since James Harden came over to the Houston Rockets before the 2012-2013 season, GM Daryl Morey has been looking for a second superstar to pair alongside him. And he hasn’t been without success.
He brought Dwight Howard over in the 2013 offseason as a free agent. They did reach the Western Conference Finals in 2015, where they lost in five games to the Warriors.
In the summer of 2016, the search for a Robin to Harden’s Batman continued, this time culminating in the trade for Chris Paul in the summer of 2017.
That relationship got off to smashing success, leading the Rockets to a franchise-best 65-17 record. Once again culminating with a high-water mark of the Western Conference Finals. They again ended up losing to the Warriors,
But with Paul looking every bit his age in the 2018-2019 season and also amidst some rumoured friction with Harden, Morey had another trick up his sleeve. It’s looking like it might be his best move yet.
On July 16, 2019, he sent Paul along with two first-round draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for former MVP Russell Westbrook. Initially, the Rockets fan base was disappointed with this trade. Rockets once again put two ball-dominant guards together on the floor.
It only got worse when Russ got off to an uneven start and the Rockets were still mostly relying on Harden. It was becoming a one-man show and we all know that it is not sustainable for the playoffs.
As Russ got healthier and the Rockets traded Clint Capela to open the floor more for Russ, he has been nothing short of great. Houston may finally have the second superstar to complement Harden that they’ve been searching for.
He’s been one of the best players in the NBA of late. He is averaging 30.6 points, 4.8 assists and 7.1 rebounds.
Westbrook’s energy and physical play have been the catalyst for the Rockets. Harden will lull you to sleep before either sneaking by you or cashing the step-back if you’re not uptight. Russ goes at you like a sledgehammer, over and over, until something finally breaks. He’s changed the very personality of this Houston team.
The Rockets have a lot of players with length and a lot of good defenders that can play physical. The catalyst for that part of the Rockets’ newfound personality is Russ. He’s brought the attitude, the snarl that the Rockets have lacked in the past.
It’s already too late for this team to better the 65 regular-season wins achieved during the Harden-Paul era. The Rockets coming together at the right time has put the league on notice. The Rockets are looking like legitimate title contenders as compared to the previous seasons. They are now mentioned in the same league with the Lakers and the Clippers. The West keeps getting more competitive and interesting.
The most important part of this team is that this pairing is of two guys who are true friends. Both of them have superstar ego’s but their desire to win and championship and their friendship brings out the best in the team.
And that, more than anything, might just be what could lead this newest version of the Houston Rockets to the promised land of greatness.
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