Despite missing the playoffs being a forgone conclusion, the Rockets still came out and played hard against the young LA Clippers. Houston blew this game open in the first half and never looked back. Air Bud, K-Mart, and Brad Miller scored 16 a piece, while Goran Dragic had his best game as a Rocket in his first start going for 14 points, seven assists, and a career-high 10 rebounds. The Chuckwagon continued his dominant defense on Blake Griffin, forcing the Clipper star to shoot 6 for 18 from the field. Griffin had this to say about Chuck:
He is extremely smart and he knows exactly what to do and what angles he takes away from you. He doesn’t look like the typical shutdown big man. But he is so strong and he gets the job done.
One thing that stood out to me was a comment made by Chuck Hayes after the game. He said, “If we win out and go 44-38, that would be a great achievement. That would show the character of this team.” Yes the Rockets have great character, and I commend Morey on bringing in class acts through the draft to the organization, but the team is also missing the swagger factor. Julian wrote about it in an article a while back, but after Shane left at the trade deadline, Houston has no voices/personas that reach out to a national audience.
I love Chuck, Bud, The Bulldog, and the rest of this team as much as any other fan, but the Rockets desperately need a player who will get on his teammates when they mess up. I can’t see Luis getting in anyone’s grill after a turnover. That is why I was shaking with excitement when the team went out and got Ron Artest. Yes his defense was slipping and he was a complete offensive liability, but the Rockets had confidence. They wouldn’t back down to any team which ultimately led them to getting out of the 1st Round for the first time in 12 years and taking the Lakers to 7 Games. I see it a little in Chuck’s play on the court, but aside from that the Rockets are a clean-nosed squad.
Unfortunately for Rockets fans, the Summer of 2010 Free Agents is headlined by Skip to My Lou, Devean George, and Brian Skinner. Houston will have to improve through a draft with mediocre talent and/or trades. I don’t know the next time we will see the team take the court with the NBA’s murky future because of ongoing labor disputes. What’s sad is for the first time in a long time, I feel the Rockets future is just as murky.