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Rockets Blasts from the Past: Carl Herrera was a key title cog

Our Blasts From the Past series continues with another favorite from the title years you don't hear much about: Carl Herrera.

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Carl Herrera, the NBA's first-ever Venezuelan player, started his NBA career with the Houston Rockets, playing his initial season under faltering and soon-to-be fired head coach Don Cheney. But the University of Houston product came of age during the Clutch City years, and his contributions to the Rockets, especially during the first title run, were as important as just about any ancillary player in Houston.

He was never a guy to put up huge numbers. His best year statistically came in the '92-'93 season, when he finished with 7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but his most memorable time as a Rocket occurred during the 1994 NBA Finals.

It was Game 6 at The Summit, and the Rockets were down 3-2 to the bruising New York Knicks. The game would eventually go to the Rockets in the famous "Tip Game" finish, where Hakeem Olajuwon diverted a last-second three attempt by John Starks that would have won the title for New York. But before that dramatic conclusion, the Rockets were locked in a tooth-and-nails battle with the equally motivated Knicks.

Rockets forwards Otis Thorpe and Robert Horry were having trouble handling the physicality of Knicks forwards Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, and the Houston duo finished Game 6 with just 14 combined points on 4-13 from the field.

Enter Herrera. The big man used his athleticism to match the Knicks' front line and give Olajuwon some breathing room, and he scored 12 points and snagged 5 rebounds on a perfect 6-6 shooting from the field. It was Herrera's spark off the bench in Game 6 that is often mistakenly overlooked when remembering the '94 run. He was the second-leading scorer that game behind Dream's 30 points, and the chance to (successfully) close out the series in Game 7 absolutely doesn't happen without Herrera.

Herrera played one more season with the Rockets, where he was once again slated to play a key role in a title run, but he tore his shoulder in the first game of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. He would never play another minute for the Rockets.

He played the next three seasons with the Spurs and also later spent some time with the Denver Nuggets and the then Vancouver Grizzlies.

He was also shot and seriously injured in an apparent robbery attempt in his home country of Venezuela two years ago, but has since thankfully made a full recovery.