This week’s TDS Tuesday brings us another very special guest as we discuss Houston’s hot 3-1 start as well as how the Rockets can impact the city of Houston.
With this week’s topic, we felt that there would be no guest more perfect than Mayor Sylvester Turner. Mayor Turner is a big Rockets fan and has worked with some of the Rockets closely in relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey.
Thank you Mayor Turner for participating in this week’s TDS Tuesday 5-on-5.
This week’s panelists include Jeremy Brener (JB), Max Croes (MC), Armin Khansari (AK), Ethan Rothstein (ER), and Mayor Sylvester Turner (ST).
Join the discussion in the comments below.
1. Can the Rockets keep the momentum going from their hot start?
Jeremy Brener (@Jeremy_Brener): As long as the team does not hit the injury bug more than they already have, they’ll be fine. It’s unfortunate because CP3’s absence from the floor takes away time in which they can adjust to playing James and Chris together. That time is going to come later in the season, and that could be the team’s growing pains. Hopefully the team finds a way to play well without CP3, so that when he comes back, they can afford to go through those growing pains.
Max Croes (@CroesFire): Without Chris Paul the Rockets are last season's team with better defensive contributors in PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. With a an upcoming soft schedule of Memphis, Philadelphia (x2), Charlotte and New York it's conceivable the Rockets could win through the World Series.
Armin Khansari (@ak2themax): Beating the Warriors is always a huge boost for a team's morale. It gives them belief that they can beat anyone. I think the biggest deterrent to sustained success would normally be Chris Paul's injury. However, the Rockets can basically just fall back on last year's strategy (give the ball to James Harden and let him be a superstar) and know that they can get 50 wins on that alone. So yes, the momentum continues.
Ethan Rothstein (@ethanrothstein): Yes. As I wrote last week, it's not like the Rockets' play against the Warriors was unsustainably good. In fact, it was pretty mediocre, save for that unreal fourth quarter defense. Against the Kings, once again, the Rockets did not play that well overall, but still came away with the win. Will they go undefeated on all their road back-to-backs? No, of course not. But they'll have games where they play even better than they did last Tuesday, and they'll probably have games where they play worse. But the Rockets showed they can win at less than their A-game, which means there's no reason they can't keep winning, regardless of situation or opponent.
Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner): Of course. They have the talent with Chris Paul, with Harden and with the supporting cast. Then of course, Tilman [Fertitta] is a terrific owner and the players will feed off of Tilman, Tilman will feed off of them and Houston will feed off of all of them.
2. Should the Rockets have a bigger target on their back after beating the Warriors opening night? If so, why?
JB: It should but it won’t. The Warriors also lost to Memphis, but the Grizzlies won’t be seen as a bigger target. It does not matter how a team starts, but how they finish. If by the end of the season, that one game puts the Rockets closer or possibly ahead of Golden State, then they will be a threat. It is a small October win, but it is not something that should be overlooked. It showed that the Rockets aren’t going to just let the Warriors win the west.
MC: The league doesn't want to take the Rockets seriously. Beating the Warriors means they must.
AK: Should they? Sure. Will they? Nope. The media turned the Warriors game narrative into "Draymond was hurt" rather than "Houston has asserted itself as contenders" or "Houston beat the Warriors on their court on Ring Night with CP3 at 70%." As Houston wins more games and possibly separates itself from the next tier of West teams (OKC, Minnesota), they will start to garner the proper respect they deserve.
ER: The Rockets always have a target on their back. They traded for Chris Paul, they have one of the 10 best players in the league and they're poised to win more than 50 games. The only team that now is lasered in more on the Rockets than they were before is the Warriors, who will probably come out even more aggressive in their next game in Houston than they did on opening night.
ST: The Rockets had a big target on their back before beating Golden State. They're a contender for the championship and when you're a contender people are going to come after you. You gotta go through the best to be the best.
3. What kind of impact can the Rockets have for the city?
JB: The Rockets bring the community together. Houston is an entertaining team to watch and it is a uniting factor for the city. It brings the city together unlike anything can and it is special to watch.
MC: Houston needs sports. Recovering from Hurricane Harvey will take years. The impact of the storm didn't disappear with the flood waters. Professional sports can provide inspiration and keep a national spotlight on a city on the road to recovery.
AK: We've already seen how the Astros and Texans have helped unite the city after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The Rockets spent time in the offseason giving back and helping the community, which is huge. Mostly, the Rockets can be a distraction for the millions of Houstonians still dealing with the fallout of the worst US hurricane in a decade.
ER: As a non-Houstonian, I don't feel fully comfortable answering this question, but I will say this: Houston is a football/baseball town, just like Texas is a football/baseball state. If the Astros win the World Series, and I really, really hope they do, I think that'll have a much bigger impact than the Rockets winning a third championship. If they lose, the Rockets can have a greater importance lifting the spirits of the city with a winner after what would probably be a heartbreaking defeat. (Go 'Stros!)
ST: It's about branding the city's name. That's what's important. When people think about Houston they have to think it is a sporting city and the Rockets help to build that brand name. Houston is a sporting town, Rockets win, Astros win, Texans win, Dynamo win. It helps our city.
4. Which player has surprised you the most so far?
JB: I’m should not be surprised, but I did not expect Eric Gordon to pick up right where he left off from last year. A lot of this may have to do with him having the ball more in his hands due to CP3’s injury, but even against Golden State he delivered. He’s rebuilding his case to repeat as Sixth Man of the Year and he’s doing it in style. Last night against Memphis, he could not miss and he might be the most important player on this team outside of Harden.
MC: PJ Tucker. His defense is no joke and he is making the most of his wide open three point looks by shooting 50% (as of Monday afternoon). What?!? Ya. That's one out of every two.
AK: PJ Tucker. I liked the move in the offseason and I was intrigued by the ability to play him at the 5 in super small lineups that would allow Houston to switch everything. That worked incredibly well against Golden State and was undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons why Houston lavished him with such a large contract in the offseason. So far (small sample size alert!), Tucker is outperforming his contract. If he keeps this up, he'll be a steal.
ER: Luc Mbah a Moute. He's much more athletic, at 31, than I had realized. He's got better handles than I thought and is a better slasher than I realized. I thought, at the veteran's minimum, the Rockets were getting a poor man's Trevor Ariza. He might be better than Ariza right now! He's better at guarding up a position, and while he's not quite the shooter Ariza is, he's fine and is much more reliable attacking the hoop, where Ariza is... well he's not good at it. Clippers fans have been dragging me on Twitter for this surprise — apparently they thought highly of him last year, and I don't follow many Clippers fans, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
ST: I'm not going to get in trouble. I love them all.
5. How important is this season for the fans affected by Hurricane Harvey?
JB: On the court, the team has to continue what they do best: win. The better they play, the more it takes away from the destruction Harvey brought. But they could go 81-1 and the destruction will still remain. Off the court, continue to give back to the community like they have already done and continue to maintain a positive relationship with the city of Houston. The team does not know how much power they have to uplift the community, so hopefully they continue to use their platform to do the best they possibly can.
MC: The hope is the team will do everything in its power to provide those impacted with something to draw inspiration from. Recognize the first responders, host events and provide volunteer and financial support for those who lost their homes.
AK: Again, look at what the Astros are doing. The idiom in sports is that winning heals all wounds. That cannot possibly apply here, but the Rockets can provide hope and a distraction for a few months. That alone is worth a ton. I think the city of Houston has suffered in their sports fandom for a while now. The Oilers, Texans, Rockets, and Astros have all had devastating playoff disappointments over the past 30+ years. A championship wouldn't make up for the destruction of Harvey, but it can still be a positive sports moment in a city that has only had 2 MLS championships and nothing else since 1995.
ER: See Answer 3 for the requisite disclaimer about my place to comment on this. Sports is a wonderful unifier, even if it does reduce us to tribalism in a disconcerting way at times. In moments of hardship for a city, a great season from a sports team, like the Saints after Katrina and the Yankees' run to the 2001 World Series after 9/11, can be an honest-to-god vehicle for healing. Coupled with the Astros' great run, a big Rockets season can be a big lift for the city. Hopefully everyone is making progress in their personal recoveries, and hopefully the rebuilding effort continues to go smoothly and quickly.
ST: This season is important. We are in the recovery phase. When you go through a storm like we have, people in the city need something to cheer for. That why what the Astros are doing is a big big plus. And now here comes the Rockets and they beat Golden State. It helps everybody to move from a state of despair. Now people have something to cheer for as we all seek to rebuild and recover.