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The heartbreaking failure of the Houston Rockets



HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets started this season.

Her superstar pair playmaker came together phenomenally when James Harden and Chris Paul shared the reins of one of NBA history's most powerful offenses. Paul had no problem getting into a co-star role after deciding to leave the LA Clippers for Houston. Harden had the best year of his career and will most likely be honored with his first MVP Trophy [194559002]

Center Clint Capela, who turned 24 this month, continued to develop into the third star of the Rockets, a real title threat had to be. He became one of the NBA's best players and led the league in field goal percentage (.652). He is an elite rebounder (10.8 per game). And its ability to both protect the rim (1.9 blocks per game) and defend it on the edge is a crucial element for the dramatically improved defense of the Rockets.

Forward PJ Tucker, whose four-year contract of $ 32 million was signed last summer as a bargain, has in many ways emerged as the soul of the Rockets. He is the growling face of the Rockets – all defensive scheme, which Houston rose from the 18th one year ago to the sixth this season in league defensive efficiency rankings. The Rockets became a good enough defensive team to become a threat to the Golden State Warriors as soon as they signed Tucker.

The Rockets proved themselves right. They were good enough to win a championship.

However, with the Rockets a victory away from the extermination of the Warriors, the Rockets got a cruel turn of fate when Paul suffered a Class 2 strain on his right hamstring. In the Houston locker room, you'll never convince anyone that they did not go to the NBA finals with a healthy Paul.

Chris Paul has missed Games 6 and 7 with a hamstring injury in the last minute of Houston Game 5 wins. AP Photo / Eric Christian Smith

It's a "wannabe, Could, Solla" who will haunt Houston forever, or at least until the Rockets celebrate their first title since the Clutch City days over two decades ago.

But the Rockets have no question that they've found a championship caliber formula with two future Hall of Fame playmakers, a towering tall man who complements them perfectly, and role-players who fit like perfect puzzle pieces.

Aside from the unlikely scenario of winning the LeBron James Summer Sweepstakes – and that would require an amazing salary-GAP gymnastics by Houston CEO Daryl Morey – there's no reason the Rockets did not with the same core should return next season

However, the price of this team will rise this summer.

Three starters – Paul, Capela and Leimkerl Trevor Ariza – will be free agents. Thus, a few important reserves, wing Gerald Green and defensive stopper Luc Mbah becomes a moute.

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Paul hesitated for a year as a freelance agent, opting for the final season of his contract and forcing a deal from Clippers. This allowed the Rockets to maintain the midlevel exception they used to sign Tucker. Paul's Potential Reward: A five-year, $ 205 million contract that would bring him $ 46.6 million last season, when he'll be 37 years old.

Capela, who has just finished the last season of his rookie deal, has a limited free agent. Morey has made it clear that Capela can not buy his way out of Houston, but a rebuilding team with Cap space (the Phoenix Suns or Dallas Mavericks?) Could call his bluff and make the Rockets make a maximum deal.

It's a win for the Rockets when they can hold Capela with a deal in the area of ​​the Oklahoma City Center Steven Adams' contract (four years, $ 100 million).

Ariza will not be nearly as expensive, especially in a market that is not expected to be suitable for older role-players. The same applies to Mbah a Moute and Green. They could all return to the Rockets with relatively team-friendly offers.

However, new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is likely to face a large luxury tax bill that could potentially exceed $ 70 million. After purchasing the team, Fertitta stated that he was willing to pay what needed to hold a contender together. The Rockets have eliminated any doubt that they fit into this category.

Houston's front office will be focusing on the price, continuing to fight for NBA titles this summer. Right now the Rockets are experiencing the excruciating pain of coming so close.


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