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Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game preview

The Rockets look to avoid getting swept by the OKC Thunder this season tonight in Houston.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Summer, 2013-New York City

"Sir, we've been trying to solve that problem you wanted."

David Stern looked up from his desk. The new schedule for the 2013-2014 season would be released tomorrow, and he was looking at several possible plans and contingencies. Mostly, things were looking up. The league's popularity was at an all-time high, and the returns of Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant would make even more teams competitive. Stern had little doubt that the 50 nationally televised games for both the Bulls and Lakers would be well received.

There was only one problem.

"Yes?" asked Stern, trying to look stern, which was easy. In his worn-out white button up dress shirt, he had rolled up his sleeves. The lack of sleep was immediately visible in his sunken eyes, and the sweat pouring off his forehead made for an intimidating sight.

Standing at the entrance to his luxurious power office in downtown New York City stood Adam Silver. The Deputy Commissioner was taking control of the schedule-making this season. It was yet another task Stern wouldn't envy when he stepped down in February.

Silver fidgeted. "Um, it doesn't look good sir."

Stern: "What does that mean?"

The ever-nervous Silver hated letting down his boss. The wrath of Stern was legendary, and Silver was about to incur it.

It would be best not to mess around. Rip it off like a band-aid. "We couldn't move the game," Silver stated.

Stern took a deep breath. His therapist said to count to 10, but Stern usually counted to 5. It was the number of rings Kobe had, and thus it was Stern's favorite number. It usually worked, but not this time. Maybe he should count to 5 five times next time, he mused.

"I thought you were ready for this job Adam. Looks like I was wrong."

Silver had the decency to look embarrassed.

"Look, Mr. Stern, we tried. There's a concert there the night before and the following night. We tried to move the first game the night before but then we would hurt the Lakers if we moved it back and the Knicks if we moved it forward."

"OUT OF THE QUESTION!" Stern barked. His deputy knew how he hated to screw over his favorite teams.

Silver looked deflated. "I looked at it every which-way, and there's no way out of this."

Stern didn't understand how it could have happened. He thought this would be the year where he finally completed the hat trick of the scheduling screw over. The "Stern Screw Job," he called it privately. Earlier this year, the object of his wrath had committed the ultimate sin. Stern had almost broken the phone when he had called and said the deal was done. It had broken him. He couldn't eat. He couldn't sleep. His wife was worried. He even stopped his normal routine of watching "Kobe Doin' Work" every night before bed.

But instead of letting himself be defeated by him, Stern turned around and redoubled his efforts at the office. After all, he only had a few months left on the job. People credited him for saving the NBA and expanding it globally, but David Stern only wanted his legacy to be this schedule. It was to be his Mona Lisa, his Sistine Chapel.

Alas, he would have to go 3-4. It was par for the course, and consistency would have to trump the extraordinary tonight. Napoleon was still remembered for his failure at Waterloo, and this would be Stern's failure. He took a deep breath and readied himself for the inevitable question from the snivelling Silver. Adam didn't disappoint.

"So what do you want to do, Mr. Stern?"

Stern sighed.

"I guess we'll have to actually let the Rockets play the Thunder with OKC on a back-to-back and Houston with a whole day of rest."

Tip-off is at 8:30pm CST on ESPN.

Programming note: Patrick will be taking the Sunday preview against the Nuggets, so look for that later this weekend.

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