Cavs, Warriors. Spurs. The rest of us. – a Mavs fan
Texas knows BBQ. It is part of our culture, embedded deeply within the very roots of our fine state. When German and Czech settlers came to Texas in the 19th century, they brought with them a rich tradition of sausage-making and pit-style smoking. Not to mention they also brought some pretty dope beer recipes and techniques that will be discussed and exstolled another time. You see, the Germans and Czechs knew their meats. In mother Texas, Arby’s didn’t have the meats, these bros did. Coupled with the entrepernerial spirit, they opened grocery stores with retail meat markets. These markets did really well. So well in fact that some, like Patek’s, are still in business today. They sell Shiner beer infused smokehouse sausages, and they ship nationwide. You’re welcome.
From this rich history of BBQ, Texas has won over aficionados across the world. People make pilrimages to our beautiful state just to taste our ‘que. If you grew up eating Texas BBQ, you were spoiled in a way. You also scoff whenever anybody tries to argue that their state’s BBQ is better. They might say something like “but that Carolina sauce though,” to which you respond “GTFO.” We talking ‘bout BBQ, not sauce. The thing is, Texas BBQ is not great because of some secret sauce or special dry rub. In fact, there really isn’t any secret at all. Texas BBQ is great because fundmentally, Texas BBQ is all about the meat. The brillance is in the simplicity.
Take our brisket for example. Each cut of meat is carefully prepped, coated only with salt and pepper, and then smoked until a nice deep mahogany bark is formed. The slightest pressure from your knife will slice through the most moist morsel of meat that will ever grace your tastebuds. Through hard work, grit, and believing in their formula, Texas pittmasters have successfully been running the BBQ game. Hipsters and snobby “foodies” from other “competing” BBQ states, will desperately point to places like New York for actually hosting the “best” BBQ joints. An “if we can’t be the best, we sure as hell aren’t giving you credit” sentiment so salty we season our brisket with it.
Yeah, those nice fancy restuarants with big name investors get a ton of awards (these awards are sometimes a pay to play service. I mean Budwieser has won a ton of beer awards. Have you tasted one?) but Texans will line up around a block to get the satisfaction of being served amazing BBQ in a hole in the wall establishment. In Texas, we don’t care much about being fancy and getting credit, we just recognize what is good, and our stuff is good.
The Rockets this year have been good. Surprisingly so. The mix of D’Antoni and Morey is something like a partnership between mad scientists. D’Antoni was famous for introducing to the NBA the 7 seconds or less Phoenix Sun’s offense. That team never made it to the finals, and that style of play was considered a failure. Fast forward to today, and everybody is trying to replicate that style of offense. The name of the game is keeping it simple. There is no special sauce with what the Houston Rockets are doing this season. Just your basic pick and rolls and get either an easy bucket at the rim or kick it out for an open three. Like good Texas BBQ, the Rockets aren’t concerned with the extra fancy stuff, watching our games is like watching the same thing happen again and again on offense. We are like the movie Edge of Tomorrow and James Harden is our Tom Cruise, running this team. We didn’t add a bunch of options to the offense, we just fine-tuned the basics. Fans are starting to see, this team is good.
Morey, and his brand of analytics infused basketball, has been trying to get the Rockets to play like this way for years. We just had the wrong personel for that style of offense. We invested heavily at the center position, and lacked offensive production at the wings and power forward position. We corrected this mistake this off season, letting Howard walk, and signing two shooters in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Adding two shooters that would feature heavily in the rotation is a big part of the equation, but that isn’t all there is to it.
Say what you will about whether the Beard is the MVP, he has been unleashed. This is his game meeting its true potential and it is something special. Leading the league in assists, Harden is orchestrating this Rocket’s offense like seasoned conductor. The pick and roll concerto has been a nightmare for opposing defenses, unable to competently stop the rolling big or Harden as he drives to the hoop. If someone sags off to help, Harden finds the open man. His pick and pop game with Anderson is equally dangerous. Switch and Anderson gets a shot off over the shorter defender. Stay with your man and you give Harden an open look. For Rockets fans, the season has been a very pleasant surprise, but can it be sustained?
The quote at the beginning of the article is the sentiment of many fans across the league. The Rockets are not (Connor) for real. They don’t play defense. They depend on three point shooting too much. Golden State Warriors are greatness manifested. Bogut chose Dallas because he wanted to compete with a winning team. Where can I get my Mav’s Curry jersey and pretend its Steph… and so on and so forth.
Lets address a couple of these things because they are valid points. The Rockets were a bad defensive team last year. Adding Ryan “2 inch vertical” Anderson didn’t exactly instill fear in the rest of the league. Would it surprise you that the Rockets aren’t horrible on defense? In fact, we are rated right in the middle of the league. Of course, the saying isn’t “average defense wins championships,” and the Rockets will need to play better than average defense come playoff time. There is, however, some reason for optimism for Rockets fans.
The league average rating is really a combination of two strikingly different halves. The first month and a half of basketball, the Rockets were 26th in the league. The last month and half, with the return of Patrick Beverley, the Rockets have been 6th. This is combination of adding a former All-Defensive Team member, pushing out of the rotation a green Tyler Ennis, and the improvement of young players like Clint Capela, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell. Adjusted for pace, the Rockets are actually well rated defensive team. Coupled with the second highest offensive efficiency rating (Boston is number one) and you can see why the Rockets have been able to find success in the first half of the season.
Well, what about being 3 point shot dependent? Bros, the Golden State Warriors were a “jump shooting” team when they won the chip two years ago. They still are, because it works. The game has changed. Centers shoot threes regularly. The three-ball in general is being shot at an unprecedented rate. To say we are 3 point shot dependent is to say we’ve embraced the new brand of basketball wholeheartedly. It is still a fair arguement. Old school fundamental basketball taught us that you need to be able to reliably score in the paint to win a championship. When the jump shot stops falling, you need to be able to get buckets at the rim. The Rockets do. We are the 5th best team in league at scoring in the paint and are in fact one of the better equiped teams to deal with a cold spell. The thing about having players with a shooter’s reputation is that it keeps the defenses honest and spaced out. Even if Anderson is off, the defender will still stick with him on the perimeter, clearing more space in middle for Harden to operate.
The Rockets don’t follow a big three or big four blueprint that is all the rage for elite teams. The Rockets went all in on their one superstar, surrounding him with players that mesh with his playing style. They are competing hard and winning close games they would have lost last year. In my opinion, Harden is having an MVP season. I would like to address this real quick. The forth game between Thunder and Rockets was a great showcase of two deserving MVP candidates and their contrasting styles. Westbrook took six shots in the final minute going 1/6. Harden found a cutting Nene who got fouled and scored the winning free throws.
Russell Westbrook is a force of nature, seemingly getting to rim at will. Considering he is not a good 3 point shooter, and teams gameplan for this specifically, it is all the more impressive that he paces the league in scoring. It is hard for me to argue against Westbrook because to me, the MVP race is similar to the one Curry and Harden had two years ago. One guy is putting up slightly worse stats on a better team and the other is putting up slightly better stats for a lesser team. Westbrook is everything for the Thunder, but so is Harden for the Rockets. Let’s compare the numbers:
Westbrook: 43 FG% 31.4 PPG 10.5 RPG 10.3 APG
Harden: 45 FG% 28.3 PPG 8.2 RPG 11.9 APG
These are just ridiculous stats. They combine for 25 triple doubles. The NBA averages about 30 total a year. The argument I made when it was between Harden and Curry was that Harden on the Warriors wouldn’t make that team much worse, but Curry on the Rockets would make us a lesser team. The same can be said with Westbrook and Harden. Harden on the Thunder (they kept Ibaka instead of Harden, only to trade Ibaka away and have Durant leave) would probably produce the same if not better results. Westbrook on the Rockets… we are probably where the Thunder are now or worse. If Harden himself wasn’t putting up historic stats, I would agree that Oscar Westbrook should get the nod. The stats aren’t that far apart, but Harden’s crazy stats are converting into more wins. It should be fun, and I won’t be upset if Westbrook wins. I was rooting for the “Westbrook” between the two just two years ago.
Writing this article has made me realize two things. One, I really want some Texas BBQ right now (Hill Country time!). Two, I care about these Rockets games again. Last year was so miserable, so to see the Rockets turn things around this season, feels good breh. Granted it is not much to celebrate, but I’ll take it none the less. The quote at the beginning of the article is an opinion. One that he is rightfully allowed to have and not without some merit. I disagree with it. The West is a little different this year in the NBA. Utah is starting to capitalize on their potential. Grizzlies continue their slow decline. I think the 8th seed on down is basically interchangable doo-doo in the West. One team is going to dumb luck their miserable team into the playoffs. I do not think the Rockets can be accurately be lumped in with “the rest of us.” I am not saying we can beat those teams he mentioned in a series. We sure don’t have star power like a Zaza Pachulia on our team. I’m just saying that we are good and we belong.
I know this was long, but I’m pretty sure most of you just skimmed to the end. There will be more coming and they will be shorter, so don’t worry. We appreciate you stopping by, and for all of your Texas sports needs, keep it tuned right here at Texas Triangle Trio! Enjoy the first half of the season success Rockets fans, and to everyone, be excellent to one another and go enjoy some BBQ!