For the past two years, the Houston Rockets dominated the Texas-based teams in the NBA and kicked the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks to the curb. To say the least, Houston became the poster boy of Texas. James Harden literally caught fire each and every night and proved not only to the league, but the entire world that he is among the best shooters in basketball. But then again, fate did not favor The Beard. Instead, fate gave the Golden State Warriors another chance, but we all know where that ended.
As for the Spurs and the Mavs? At best, they struggled. Long gone are the seasons where Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and David Robinson lifted the Silver and Black banners to the stands, and when Dirk Nowitzki can still drain that one-legged fadeaway with ease. Those were good old times, and fans can only reminisce the golden years of their teams.
Houston, San Antonio and Dallas have nothing to prove to their fans, especially the loyal ones who have stuck with them through thick and thin. San Antonio won five titles; Dirk led Dallas to a 2011 championship, and Hakeem Olajuwon made the dream a reality twice in 1994 and 1995. And whether we like or not, these three teams are on the verge of rebuilding itself. And yes, even with Harden playing in his prime. They have seen some of the greatest players to ever play the sport go off in the sunset – a distinct yet honorable dismount to pave the way for others to take their mantle: Lamarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan for the Spurs, Luke Doncic and Kristapz Porzingis for the Mavericks and James Harden and newly acquired Russell Westbrook.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A BRODIE
In 2018, the Rockets was a game away to reach the NBA Finals when they lead the Warriors, 3-2. But then things fell apart and they can’t even maintain a lead in Game 7. The worst part is that the Rockets were playing in their home turf. It was a horrid turn of event that will haunt the locker room for the rest of their playing career as part of the Houston franchise.
If the Rockets want to erase the past, they must concentrate on the future. Former Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, defensive ace PJ Tucker and Clint Capella must work together to keep their core intact. Still, the ball will move and go to the direction of Harden.
The only question is can Harden and Westbrook play together. These two are notorious for demanding the ball and can light up the stat pad on any given Sunday. The thing about them is they like the ball in their hands. Coach Mike D’Antoni will have his hands full, especially when games are on the line. The Beard and Brodie are playing in their primes, both are former MVPs. Westbrook is more athletic, but Harden comes in with sniper-like accuracy. Who will lead the Rockets? Who will take the shot when the game is on the line? Can Harden and Westbrook play together and form an unbeatable back court? Only time will tell.
Basketball fans will agree that Dirk Nowitzki left Dallas in the more than capable hands of Luka Doncic. Even at a young age, Luka proved that he can play with the big boys and exhibited the flair and charisma of European basketball. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and fans of the team are promised with yet another standout that will follow the shadow and legacy left by the 2007 MVP.
The Mavericks have had their fair share of All-Stars. From Mark Aguirre to Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Michael Finley to Nowitzki, the franchise has contributed top-notch players as pillars to what the game is now, and how it is played. Now it’s time for Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and newly acquired giant Boban Marjanovic to make Dallas a serious contender in the West.
Porzingis will be coming back from his injury, Boban will dominate the paint and Luka will be at the point of the Dallas offense. Sounds good, right? But can the trio make it all the way to the Finals? There’s room for improvement and for them to be healthy the whole season. If they play their cards right, the Mavericks will be a serious competitor, even if the Western Conference is stacked with talent.
THE SERIOUS ONES
Let’s face the fact that the Spurs were once touted as a “boring,” “old” team because of how they play and how coach Gregg Popovich draws his play. Nothing fancy, no highlight reel dunks (except for DeRozan’s, of course), just straight to the point, basic basketball. In fact, this too have made the Spurs popular. Imagine the ball touching every player on the court and the last shot is always the closest to the basket or the wide open three.
Lamarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan aren’t exactly the All-Stars that you want to lead your team to contention. Yes, they are All-Stars, but they are low-key players who can dominate their positions without being the center of the hype or spotlight. So far, the Spurs have struggled, but they are doing it in their own way. San Antonio is known to have a deep bench, and it still proves to be true this season.
The Spurs will have to rely on a combination if veterans and neophytes if they want to have another championship run, or at least a Playoff berth this year. Dejounte Murray needs to be healthy; Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and the ever reliable Patty Mills will still continue to contribute on both ends. DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles, two of the latest free agent pickups by the Spurs, should be comfortable in Pop’s rotation. Lyles has raw potential, although he needs to add more mass to keep up with the pace and if he’s called to play the 5 position.
Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV make up most of the Spurs’ depth and talent. The team’s rookies are performing well in the Summer League, which will be a definite plus if they continue to do so in the regular season. The Spurs need fresh legs to help the vets. They need to get their groove back and rewind the glory days where their defense suffocate opponents.