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Second-place Rockets are demanding respect

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The Rockets have the slightest of edges for their first division title in two decades

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies have spent the past week trading the Western Conference's second seed. There's a lot on the table.

Barring an Indiana Pacers-style, end-of-year collapse both teams are positioned for home court in the playoffs. The second place sparring will determine if the Rockets play the Spurs, Mavericks or Clippers.

The hallmark of the Houston Rockets 2014-2015 season is the chip on their shoulder. James Harden doesn't get enough MVP respect. Dwight Howard is soft, everyone should fight him. Donatas Motiejunas is a trade chip, ready to be shipped off like the dozen Rockets power forwards who came before him. Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry are all discarded pieces of middling NBA franchises.

What happens when the league finally begins to respect the Rockets? In the past month Houston has proven they belong at the top of the conference with or without injuries while defeating future playoff foes and steadily building reasons for Adam Silver to give James Harden a trophy.

The Rockets thrive with an irked attitude fueled by the national impression of a gimmick offense that overvalues James Harden. Fans shouldn't expect the team to lose this attitude, but someone has to ask the question of how the team will deal with a respect-filled change of perception.

Meanwhile the Rockets have gone from the most annoying and hated franchise in the NBA to top-of-the-table power. The LA Clippers supplanted the Rockets halfway through Dwight Howard's injury, I was keeping track.

Here's what respect looks like according to the national rankings:

Source

Rank

Change

Date

ESPN 5 +1 3/30
SB Nation 3 +2 3/30
Yahoo! 3 +4 3/30
USA Today 3 +2 3/29
CBS Sports 4 +2 3/30
SI 5 +3 3/30

Here's the Southwest Division Standings:

TEAM RECORD GB Last 10
Houston Rockets 52-24 0 8-2
Memphis Grizzlies 51-24 0.5 6-4
San Antonio Spurs 49-26 2.5 8-2
Dallas Mavericks 46-30 6.0 5-5
New Orleans Pelicans 40-34 11.0 5-5