What if the Houston Rockets lose Game 7?
Entering the NBA’s restart bubble, many viewed the Houston Rockets as one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference. James Harden and Russell Westbrook would both be well-rested and the restart was set up perfectly for a potentially deep playoff run.
However, in Game 6 of their first-round playoff matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, we saw more of what has plagued the Rockets in the NBA playoffs over the last few seasons.
Houston’s offense suddenly stalled in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, James Harden struggled to score and wasn’t assertive, and the team stood idly by as their opponent’s best player – ironically, this time, a former Rocket, Chris Paul – slammed the door shut in the waning moments of a big game.
More from Sir Charles In Charge
- Portland Trail Blazers: Depth will be tested after injuries to McCollum, Nurkic
- Golden State Warriors: Steve Kerr is an early COY award candidate
- The Milwaukee Bucks’ late-game closer isn’t who it should be
- Brooklyn Nets: 5 free-agent targets to add depth to the roster
- Memphis Grizzlies are shaking off slow start, led by Ja Morant
After a back and forth first six games between the Rockets and Thunder, the series will be decided in a Game 7 that is slated for Wednesday night. For James Harden and the Rockets, however, there could be much more at stake just than just a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals.
What if Harden and the Rockets lose to the player that they worked so hard to get off their team? And in the first round of the playoffs. This would be the second-straight season in which Houston takes a big step back.
Two years ago, the Rockets were in the Western Conference Finals. Last season they lost in the conference semifinals. This season, they’re on the verge of losing in the first round of the playoffs. This season would automatically be considered a disappointment and many would quickly question their offseason move of trading Paul for Westbrook.
Harden, on the other hand, would also see his overall legacy take a hit. More importantly, however, it could leave his future with the Rockets in peril. Harden has three years on his contract remaining but could opt-out and hit the free agency market after the 2021-22 season.
At age 31, the clock is ticking on Harden and if he feels his championship window with the Rockets has closed perhaps he could be thinking about a change of scenery. Or perhaps the Rockets will beat him to that thinking and try to get ahead of the curve and potentially think about moving Harden before he hits his mid-30s?
Or perhaps the Rockets will just try and shuffle the roster around Harden, which could prove to be difficult with Westbrook’s downright unmovable contract (he’s due $85 million over the next two seasons and has a $47 player option for 2022-23). When Houston acquired Westbrook, there’s no question that there was a sense of desperation.
However, you’d also have to assume that the team believed they would have a better shot at winning with this roster than with last years. That could still be true, but that hasn’t been clear through the first few games in the playoffs.
With Daryl Morey’s track record, change will likely be on the horizon – and probably more than just moving on from Mike D’Antoni – should the Rockets lose to the Thunder in Game 7. As is almost always the case, a Game 7 result will greatly impact the future of two franchises. More so for the Houston Rockets, this Game 7 could shape the next five years for the franchise.