I ask you to leave this current Rockets team full of youth, life, and energy and join me as I go back 4 years to a playoff series that firmly locked the door to eternal NBA glory and sprung the lock on the one to a #NewAge.
May 4, 2009 Game 1 Western Conference Semi Finals Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets are traveling into the Staples Center after coming off an impressive series win over the Portland Trailblazers, the first time this team has been out of the first round in what seemed like an eternity of broken hopes. The Rocket were ready for lift off, all lights were go, and Captain Yao Ming and his teammates were waiting for the countdown.
The countdown never happened.
May 8, 2009 all the hopes and dreams ended of venturing to a place where we knew we belonged. The Rocket never lifted off, never got to its destination, never lived up to the high expectations placed on it. All due to an injury to its captain and driver. Yao Ming. Who did it doesn't matter, when it happened doesn't matter, what matters is that it happened.
When Yao went down with the foot injury and watching him limp into the locker room, you heard the silence from the crowd, you felt everybody stop breathing. You knew it was over.
I remember that this was the point when I was finally getting into and loving basketball, and in particular the Rockets team that was built, to only have to watch the foundation break from underneath and know nothing anyone could do would fix it. I felt broken. I knew the team couldn't do anything, the front office couldn't do anything, and the array of the best doctors out there couldn't do anything. I knew this meant the end to the career of one of the most humble and kind superstars that has ever played in the NBA. And it's a shame.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
Yao Ming wasn't supposed to have his career abruptly ended. Tracy Mcgrady wasn't supposed to fight through countless injuries. The Rockets weren't supposed to lose Game 7 after being completely dominant in Game 6.
We weren't supposed to feel the way we did. That feeling of knowing it's over.
Would the Rockets ever get back to the top of Mount Olympus like they did in the 90s? Were the new fans this decade ever going to experience what the lucky lifelong ones felt in 1994 and 1995? Or were the Rockets going to forever be stuck in mediocrity?
Wherever the Rockets were headed, it wasn't supposed to happen like this. We were
Three straight years of being stuck between mediocrity and being a playoff team.
All because of a plan which was destined to fail. No team had ever broken through the barrier separating the NBA's elite teams from the rest by competing and rebuilding at the same time. It defied logic. It was a waste of time. It was supposed to be impossible. It wasn't meant to happen.
Player after player joined the Rockets, all bringing false hope to a fan base which needed to believe in something, for there was nothing left to believe in. We clung to the ideas that these players would become what we naively thought they would be.
We believed that Aaron Brooks was going to be as explosive as NBA point guards come, Kyle Lowry was going to be a top point guard in the NBA, Patrick Patterson was going to be a force in the league for a long time, Marcus Morris was going to be a matchup nightmare, Chase Budinger was only going to get better, Goran Dragic was going to evolve into Steve Nash Lite, Pau Gasol was going to be a Houston Rocket, and don't get me started on Terrence Williams.
It wasn't meant to happen. The Rockets weren't going anywhere. They were stuck.
Or so we thought.
Fast forward to the present, only two players are left from the previous year's team, and none from the year before that.
Led by a plethora of young talent, the Rockets only can go up. James Harden is a bonafide superstar in the league in his first year starting, Jeremy Lin is starting to play like Jeremy Lin of New York, Chandler Parsons is looking great on the court and off the court, and Omer Asik has to be the steal of free agency.
We all know how this happened, Daryl Morey did what no other General Manager had ever dared to do, he flipped a whole NBA team upside down, making trade after trade, and eventually put a winning product on the court.
The real question is why this happened.
Why? Because of that empty feeling we had when Yao got hurt. Why? Because of that feeling of sorrow and letdown. Why? Because 2009 Lakers - Rockets Western Conference Semi-Finals happened.
That series marked an end to an era, a perceived dynasty that wasn't actually a dynasty of Rockets basketball. To be where we are now?
It had to happen the way it did.
If we win that series, we never start this rebuild and acquire James Harden, we never get Thomas Robinson, we probably never draft Chandler Parsons or sign Omer Asik. This team has so much potential, and the only way to go is up. The team we have now can be as good if not better than the 1994 and 1995 teams! Think about that for a minute. Imagine the feeling, the experience, being beside yourself in shock and excitement as this team we have now wins championships. That can happen with this team! It will take some more years, but It's most definitely a possibility and I'm looking forward to it!
May 8, 2009 Game 3 Rockets - Lakers Western Conference Semi-Finals. That's the game we can remember in two lights, the first remembering only the injury, but I refuse to look at it that way.
I look at it as the game that got us to where we are now. I look at it as the game that marked the new beginning, I look at it as the game where the door leading to a new age of abundant potential was opened.
If you haven't gone through the door yet, I ask you to do so and come with me as we enjoy the endless possibilities on the other side.