Hoops Hype

The Rockets Are One of the NBA’s Best Teams, and the Media Has Noticed

James Harden and Chris Paul are a mighty combo.

By Jeff Balke December 18, 2017

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Image: Jeff Balke

Rockets fans have an inherent dislike and mistrust of the media when it comes to their team. It’s at least somewhat understandable. In the '90s, the Rockets' two title runs were discounted by many as less than relevant, because Michael Jordan was not in the league for a season-and-a-half. Even now, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal continue their almost relentless criticism of the Rockets on their Emmy-winning pre- and postgame TNT show, Inside the NBA.

But, much like Houston itself, which has seen its national prominence (along with media coverage outside the city) rise substantially in recent years, the Rockets are getting noticed.

A quick search on Google pulls up dozens of stories related to the team and their marquee stars, James Harden and Chris Paul. The record through a third of the season helps (they're currently tops in the NBA), as does Harden’s early MVP candidacy. And the duo of Harden and Paul belongs in the conversation for best backcourt duo ever, according to one writer at UPROXX.

This all comes as sweet redemption for long-suffering fans, particularly given how quick NBA experts had been to suggest that Harden and Paul would be a bust together. It also doesn’t hurt that the mega-team assembled to our north in Oklahoma City—which includes Carmelo Anthony, whom the Rockets tried to land this past summer—has faltered while the Rockets have dominated, as pointed out by the Toronto Star.

But there are numerous stories about Harden and Paul like this from Sports Illustrated’s Fansided blog or this from noted hoops writer Sam Amick at USA Today or this from SB Nation. Even the Wall Street Journal got in on the action calling the duo “staggering.”

ESPN dissected Harden’s step-back jumper and called Paul getting minutes with the second team “the most dangerous weapon in basketball.” Deadspin wrote about Paul having fun, while SI wonders if playing for Houston has improved Paul’s reputation (it has).

Even center Clint Capela got some love in a long read from Bleacher Report, which referred to the young big man as the Rockets' secret weapon against reigning champions Golden State. And the team’s much improved defense—thanks in no small part to Paul’s presence—was lauded by The Ringer.

It would be one thing if all the praise was more hyperbole than fact, but many of the stories include intricate basketball nerdery that only real fans and close followers of the game could appreciate. This love is based in fact. Now, if only we could get Sir Charles and Shaq on the bandwagon.

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