While the Rockets were not in contention for the 2021 NBA playoffs this year, for the first time in a long time, several former players are.
Chris Paul, who played with the Rockets briefly on a team that was the closest to going all the way, has made it to the Western Conference Finals with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are currently facing off against the Los Angeles Clippers to determine who will represent the West in the Finals. Paul unfortunately was ruled out for game 1 due to the COVID-19 protocol and he will be out indefinitely until it is safe for him to join the team again.
Most notably absent from Houston is James Harden who plays with the Brooklyn Nets. They were the easy favorite to win the East and the Title this year boasting a squad of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and of course Harden. Just like injuries took out the Lakers who had hoped to defend their title, the injury bug hit the Nets hard, taking out Irving with an ankle injury and Harden with a hamstring injury. Harden toughed it out and played on essentially one leg, but in the end, it was not enough. The Nets suffered a Game 7 OT loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Speaking of the Bucks, the last former Rocket to depart from Houston was P.J. Tucker who now plays for the Bucks. Tucker’s impact on the outcome of the series is undeniable as his assignment was guarding Durant. Durant was unbelievable at times, essentially carrying the Nets on his back to a Game 7. Tucker did not make that task any easier as he is a well-known defensive threat and clutch offensive weapon.
Dwight Howard, who had a stint in Houston, won a championship with the Lakers last year and was in pursuit of a second ring with the Philadelphia 76ers this year. Those dreams were cut short by a hungry Atlanta Hawks team that featured former Rocket Clint Capela. Capela was a force in Houston and has been just as impactful, if not more, in helping the Hawks reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Like the Joni Mitchell song goes, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Best of luck to all of the players, this has been an unpredictable season and there is no telling who will emerge victorious.