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The Houston Rockets and the after-effects of Superstar Exit Syndrome

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After a twenty-game losing streak, the writing on the wall could not be clearer

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This season must be excruciating to be a Houston Rockets fan. For starters, you have the last eight seasons. From the time James Harden set foot in Houston, the Rockets have made the playoffs. But like the Los Angeles Clippers, the boys from H-Town faced a less-than-satisfying experience in the postseason. Three exits each during the first and second rounds of the playoffs as well as a pair of knockouts from the Western Conference Finals at the hands of the Golden State Warriors solidified Harden’s fate as the guy who just can’t pull the trigger.

The Rockets, undeterred by the past, went after some heavy hitters in John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to secure a core of All-Star caliber players for the 2018 MVP. Unfortunately, The Beard was having none of it. After all, they tried this with Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook to no avail. Beginning the season out of shape and uninterested in playing, Harden finally got his wish — being traded to a bonafide contender. He’s now in Brooklyn teaming up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

All was not lost in Houston as the Rockets acquired Victor Oladipo in the trade and landed a superstar in the making in Christian Wood. Unfortunately, Wood sustained a gruesome injury and missed a chunk of the season. As a result, the Rockets have imploded.

Oladipo has now been traded to the Miami Heat, who look to capitalize on last year’s postseason successes. He could be just what Jimmy Butler and company need to push an ailing Lakers into a seven-game series.In return, the Rockets picked up Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley (who is expected to be waived).

The Rockets already shed P. J. Tucker which admittedly turned out to be a bigger white flag than it first appeared. Tucker has been brilliant with the Rockets over these last three seasons doing everything asked of him. Seeing him traded to a contender was respectable to say the least.

Who’s left?

After a twenty-game losing streak (you read that right) the Rockets have gone into full rebuild. With the young Wood anchoring the paint, the Rockets feature a core of injured vets (Wall and Boogie), a hodge-podge of mid-level players (Bradley, Olynyk, Ben McLemore), some players slowly aging out (Eric Gordon, D. J. Augustin), and some possible diamonds in the rough (Kenyon Martin, Jr. and possibly Dante Exum).

So, a rebuild it is.

As for the rest of the season, the Rockets must figure out their identity as a team, or else suffer the unfortunate side-effect of the tank. In a league with so much fluidity, these men will be showing twenty-nine other teams their skill set, a nightly opportunity to apply for their next job.

In a league gone “me first,” it is hard to watch so many players seek out the non-existent “I” in team. Considering that’s how Harden started the season, it unfortunate the team may be ending with the same mentality.


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