The move, of course, brought up a question of ethics and respect - one that the Rockets addressed early and for which they made a logical excuse.
Rockets will travel to the Bay Area on Friday to give themselves the best chance to be prepared for a potential Game 1 vs. Warriors on Sunday. Rockets intend no disrespect to Clippers, but they want to make sure they adjust to Pacific time and will practice Saturday at Oracle.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 25, 2019
Still, with the Los Angeles Clippers very much alive in a 3-2 series at the time, it was hard to say there was no disrespect there. It’s an evident decision to fly to Oakland; essentially an assured bet. If the Clippers won out, the Rockets would have to fly nearly two thousand miles back east to Houston after spending about two days in the Bay. They were willing to take their chances.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s right to believe that no disrespect was intended at all. I would say 95% percent of teams in the NBA don’t want to belittle their opponent. That still doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a disrespectful situation - they just meant no disrespect.
But now, with the Clippers eliminated and the Warriors moving on, it seems very apparent that the Rockets’ foresight and hindsight was 20/20.
The Rockets are arguably the most analytical team in the league. Weighing the costs and looking at the numbers is more than just what’s on the court. If Houston waited on the series to end, they’d be flying out to Oakland sometime Saturday and having about, give or take, 24 hours to prepare for a game on Sunday at 12:30 Pacific.
With the decision to leave early, the players no longer have to worry about packing, traveling, resting, etc. Now all they had/have to do is watch the game on Friday, practice Saturday, and play on Sunday. Coupled with the fact that the Warriors have less than 48 hours between Game 6 and Game 1, and the Rockets made the best move for themselves. And if they take the first game in Oakland, they’ll get plenty of praise for the tactic.
Sorry if there was ever a feeling of disrespect, but after watching the way the Jazz guarded James Harden for five games, one thing is very clear: it’s not about respect, it’s about winning.