Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta went on the record recently, endorsing the team’s small-ball concept but they reek of a desire to cut costs.
The Houston Rockets are climbing their way through the standings and are boasting an 8-2 record since the team committed to their small-ball concept. They’ve even climbed to the 4th-spot in the Western Conference standings.
Will they continue to soar higher? That remains to be seen but it’s quite impressive for the Houston Rockets to have such an impressive bump in their win-column total, directly attacking two teams that are in front, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
Those are two opponents that won’t seem to go away despite their respective challenges with injuries that have stricken both of them. But the fact the Houston Rockets are benefiting from their new strategy, they’re shooting more threes, they’re forcing more turnovers and they’re playing better defense goes to show that they refuse to go gentle into that good night. Yes, I’m channeling the words of infamous poet Dylan Thomas but it rings true with what the Houston Rockets want to do.
So are they closer to winning a chip than they were at the start of the season?
Houston Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta thinks so and although he seems to endorse the team’s concept, he seems to dismiss as if it’s not a huge deal when it’s compared to the team’s overall focus of winning as many games possible.
Here’s what he had to say:
"“We basically changed out a guy who’s 6-10 to a guy who’s 6-7, 6-8,” he said. “Are you really that much smaller? It makes the big guy for the other team go out on the perimeter. Did you see Rudy Gobert trying to keep up with Russell? Russell was running him around like crazy. It’s working.”"
Fertitta is right about that considering they’ve won eight of their last 10 games but there’s
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the skepticism that this concept will work in a seven-game series in the playoffs.
This type of lineup hasn’t been committed to in the last 50 years when the NBA had a bunch of short guys on their roster and top-end high six and seven-footers were still at a premium.
What I can’t shy away from is the fact that the Houston Rockets saved money by shipping Clint Capela, Gerald Green and this season’s first-round pick away. It also goes to show that Fertitta hasn’t seen a lineup yet that he’s willing to go across the line for either.
The Rox currently have $127.6 million ponied up for salary costs this season against a $132.6M luxury tax line. They’re about $5M under and as long as Fertitta can get the best value of a lower-cost, yet higher-quality product, there will be no change to his modus operandi.
This further leads me to believe that Fertitta won’t be gutting the roster any time soon with full backing of the Harden/Westbrook backcourt to lead the Houston Rockets at least for the next half-decade.
Here’s what he said about the dynamic duo amid the Chris Paul trade that happened this offseason:
"“Everything worked out,” he said. “I think Chris is having a great year at Oklahoma City. It worked out for both. James and Russell came in the league at the same time, and they can talk to each other differently. One can say, ‘Screw you,’ and it’s no big deal. Chris was four years older. Four years in basketball is like a normal 10 to 15 years in business life.”"
That sounds like a ringing endorsement to me and the world professional basketball in Houston will revolve around those two guys.
To say the least, this type of basketball has been fun to watch but I’m ready for the playoffs, where the stakes are higher and we’re going to see what this team is really made of, despite the two Hail Mary passes thrown by Daryl Morey this season by the way of trading away major pieces on the roster.
Let’s hope for the best.