Nine Games, Four Goals for the Young Rockets

Hard to believe, but the NBA season (regular season anyway) is winding down, and if you have a look at the standings, your Houston Rockets are dead last in the entire NBA. That means no playoffs and a long offseason to hopefully improve a talented, but very young roster.

But there are still a few things to play for in the final nine games of the season. Depending on how you feel about this year’s draft, these could be some of the most important games the Rockets play over the next few seasons. And they should have a few goals in mind as they wind down.

Stay in last place.

Currently, the Rockets are two games up (down?) in the race for the worst record in the league. The team that finishes last has not only the best shot at the first pick, but is guaranteed to pick no lower than fifth in the first round. Experts feel this is a solid if not spectacular draft, particularly after about pick number…five. So, staying put in the standings will certainly help their cause. Were they to slip to second worst, they couldn’t go lower than sixth, but this is a team that needs more star power on the roster and now has some legitimate holes to fill in the long term (big man, for example).

If you agree with this scenario, you aren’t going to like the fact that the Rockets have a pretty soft schedule in the last three weeks of the season, facing the Blazers and the Kings twice each. Still, there is at least one game they will want to win.

Beat Brooklyn.

This isn’t for payback or just to make Kyrie Irving feel dumber than he already should for missing half the season because he wouldn’t get vaccinated. This is because the Rockets own the Nets’ first round pick this season thanks to the James Harden deal. Any loss for the Nets is a net-positive (pun intended) for the Rockets. Doling one of those losses out themselves would seem some very poetic justice indeed. If you get to punk Irving in the process, all the better.

Stay healthy.

Above all else, there can be no serious injuries in the last nine games. In fact, this stretch feels about what we imagine it’s like to be the last man pulled from the ocean after a shipwreck and half your crew was already eaten by the sharks circling below you. It’s dangerous. To think of one of these young guys suffering a bad injury during a bunch of meaningless (well, sort of) games to end the season is sickening. So, whatever the scoreboard says and whatever the situation, there is nothing more important than keeping everyone off the trainer’s table before the offseason.

Keep improving.

It may seem a bit counterintuitive to say, “Look, guys, you probably should lose every game on your way out, but keep playing hard.” But, the fact is they will likely lose most of these games playing hard or not. This is just not a very good basketball team, which is why they are currently sitting dead last. And it isn’t as if they haven’t tried. This is not a team that dogs it at all. But, when you are this short on experienced talent, losing is the result. That doesn’t mean they cannot continue to improve and learn from the end of the season. Getting these young guys a bunch of experience and having them play well while losing wouldn’t be the worst thing in the wo

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