The Houston Rockets have been a rival of the San Antonio Spurs for decades, and their disastrous offseason can only help the Silver and Black going forward.
The San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets have frequently been a pain in each others’ sides. Since 1980, Houston has knocked San Antonio out of the playoffs three times, with the Spurs’ lone playoff series win coming in 2017 while shorthanded against a Rockets team that completely collapsed. Now, the division rival Rockets appear to be in the midst of another, more severe collapse.
The Interstate-10 rivals have each gotten the best of the other throughout the years. Hakeem Olajuwon’s famous MVP-snubbed performance over David Robinson in 1995 led to an NBA title while the Spurs have won 110 of the total 200 total regular season showdowns. The Spurs also have five NBA titles to H-Town’s two and took two of three against Houston last season.
After making the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Rockets didn’t seem to be in a bad spot going into the upcoming season — until everyone decided to jump ship. There’s a lot to break down when it comes to how much has gone wrong in Houston over the break, but I don’t want to spend multiple paragraphs doing so on a Spurs page. Instead, here is a bulleted list:
- Head Coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey depart the team and find other NBA jobs.
- Russell Westbrook states he’s unhappy with the team’s culture and is later traded for John Wall.
- The Rockets trade Robert Covington (who I consider their best defender) for 35-year-old Trevor Ariza, draft rights to Isaiah Stewart II, and a 2021 conditional first round pick.
- James Harden also reportedly says he’s unhappy in Houston, preferring to play for the Brooklyn Nets.
- Harden is seen violating NBA pre-training camp protocols the day before Rockets’ training camp. New head coach Stephen Silas says there is no timetable for his return, also saying, “He’s not here, and he has a reason, and it’s on him to tell whoever.”
- P.J. Tucker is reportedly irate (subscription required) about not receiving a contract extension, then answers a media question on Monday about his contract with a blunt, “next question.”
These were just the headlines, but there’s even more to the terrible offseason the Rockets have had, including reports that Eric Gordon is also upset with his diminished role on the team. The bottom line is quite clear: the Rockets are bound to have serious chemistry issues this season.
Houston gave away the farm when they traded Chris Paul and multiple picks for Westbrook, who already found himself out of town after just one shortened season. With their other former MVP now disgruntled as well, it’s hard to see the Rockets improving upon last year.
So how does the Rockets’ meltdown help the San Antonio Spurs?
Obviously, any time a division rival is having issues, it’s directly beneficial to the other teams in the division. Houston has won the Southwest Division the last three years straight after the Spurs surrounded the crown in 2017-18. With so many changes happening in a short time period, I’d be surprised if the Rockets didn’t take a while to get things going this season, if they even do so.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have their own questions to answer. The difference is, none of the questions surrounding San Antonio have to do with team chemistry or the behavior of particular players. This is where the high standard of character Gregg Popovich has instilled in his roster for decades pays off.
After their own rumors of potentially trading one or both of their stars, the Spurs will have to navigate how to keep them happy while also blending them in with the budding youth movement. Unlike Houston’s media days, everyone from the coaching staff to the players has been saying all the right things so far, saying they’ll all have to make adjustments to keep up with the ever-changing NBA.
With so many Western Conference teams getting better, it can only help the Spurs to see one worsen. By the looks of it, the Rockets are on their way to doing just that.