Rockets Realizing Too Late That Patience Pays Off


First let me start off by apologizing to the diehard Houston Rockets fans for what I’m about to do.

Since winning back-to-back titles in the mid-90s, the Rockets are trapped in the dreaded what-if zone.

In the 90s: what if John Stockton wasn’t wearing short shorts in 1998?

In the 2000s: what if Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming and Ron Artest were healthy in 2009?

yao ming basketball GIF by NBA

How could we ever forget the 2010s: what if Chris Paul was healthy for the final two games against the Golden State Warriors in 2018?

Three different decades, three different painful what-if scenarios. Unfortunately, the 2020s seen the Rockets’ deeper descension into the what-if zone: what if Harden and the Rockets exercised patience with either the Paul/Harden pairing or the Russell Westbrook/Harden pairing?

The 2021 NBA playoffs has shown: patience is a virtue that the Rockets failed to use.

Patience Always Pays Off . . . Eventually

Look at the Denver Nuggets. Sadly Jamal Murray is injured, but the Nuggets’ continuity and buy-in from their star and MVP of the NBA, Nikola Jokic, kept the Nuggets competitive.

Didn’t like that example? Well, you’ll appreciate the Utah Jazz.

In the past three seasons, the Jazz endured multiple setbacks. In back-to-back seasons the Jazz were eliminated, rather unceremoniously by the Rockets. The Jazz also faced real locker-room dissension with Mr. Rudy “I got to touch it all” Gobert.

Additionally, the Jazz were bounced from the first-round of the 2020 NBA playoffs by those pesky Nuggets only after blowing a 3-1 series lead. After the 2020 playoff exit, it was surely time for the Jazz blow it up, right? Wrong. Instead, the Jazz exercised patience and it paid off.

Well, until Donovan Mitchell was injured. But the point is still valid.

First, the Rockets, a nemesis of the Jazz, blew it up. Second, the Lakers’ season imploded with injuries. And third, the Mike Conley who played for the Memphis Grizzlies made an appearance.

If only the Rockets exercised such patience.

Chris Paul Came Too Far to Give Up

Then there are the newly crowned Western Conference Champions: the Phoenix Suns.  Chris Paul has made a Finals appearance with a Suns team that certainly does not have the talent of those 2018 Rockets.

But that doesn’t matter! Paul put up 41 points to clinch the Finals for an organization that did not make the playoffs for 10 (ten!) straight seasons. Chris Paul’s motto after being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder: I can’t give up now, I’ve come too far.

My question to both Harden and the Rockets is: why didn’t  you trust the damn process?! You came too far.

trust the process GIF by NBA

Remember Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is that star player that did not run when things got difficult, rather, he trust the Dallas Mavericks organization to build a great team around him despite losing in the finals to the Miami Heat in 2006, and an embarrassing first-round exit to the “We Believe” Golden State Warriors.

The Mavs did not lose patience with Dirk. And Dirk did not lose patience with the Mavericks. Instead, the Mavericks retooled and marched to an impressive NBA title in 2011.

Don’t Let Up When You’re Almost At the Finish Line

I hate to insinuate that James Harden “ran” when things got tough in Houston, so I won’t. I will say that he and the Rockets may regret losing patience. From the Chris Paul iteration of Harden’s Rockets, Paul led the Suns to the Finals and Clint Capela is running the court like a mad man for the upstart Atlanta Hawks looking to upset the Milwaukee Bucks, which has P.J. Tucker who guarded the unguardable Kevin Durant in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

From the Russell Westbrook iteration of Harden’s Rockets, well Russ is still Russ, and that small-ball lineup doesn’t look so bad with the Lakers’ early elimination. The moral of this what-if scenario: patience is a virtue. Too bad the Rockets and Harden didn’t exercise patience when their championship window was still open.

What a shame.

Follow us on Twitter @RocketsLead for the latest Rockets news and insight. 

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About Chris Max

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