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Rockets vs. Hawks game preview: a cursed season comes to an end

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When the season began, there was cautious optimism.

Maybe James Harden would stay. (He didn’t.)

Maybe Christian Wood was the real deal. (He is!)

Maybe DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall would regain their pre-injury form. (Ehhhh.)

Maybe the Rockets could get into the playoffs. (Uh, yeah...)

Obviously, the team that ends the cursed 2020-21 season looks quite different than the one that started it. Gone are several recent fixtures, and in their place have come temporary replacements and some young players with potential. The verdict is still out on how well Houston will move on from the James Harden Era, but for now they are lost at sea.

There’s a faint glimmer of light on the horizon. Jae’Sean Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr. have proven they can be real deal NBA players. Tate has even shown he belongs on the floor at the end of games, a rarity among non-lottery rookies. The aforementioned Wood, when not injured, has announced his presence to the league and demonstrated time and again that his run at the end of last year in Detroit was no fluke.

John Wall and Eric Gordon will once again search for that elusive healthy season. Unfortunately, those two are the most expensive players on the team, and neither of their contracts end anytime soon. Yes, I know Wall liked some post on Instagram or whatever, but there’s no way that Rafael Stone can unload the remaining 2 years, $92 million on Wall’s contract. If he does, give that man the Heisman.

Kelly Olynyk has been a revelation for the Rockets, but he’s a 30-year-old who put up big stats on a bad team while being in a contract year. Do the Rockets shell out big money to keep him, or do they let him go, knowing that he’s unlikely to be a part of their next great team.

The jury is still out on Stephen Silas, who has been given a pass this season because of the situation he was dumped into. He has done what was expected of him, which is developing the young talent while losing as many games as possible. We’ll have to wait a few years to see how good of a coach he really is.

We now turn our attention to June 22, which is the NBA Draft Lottery. That’s a huge night for the future of Houston Rockets basketball. And make sure you stick around The Dream Shake during the offseason, as we’ll have plenty of features on potential draft picks, player season reviews, and more.

I appreciate all the readers who made it this far with us. It’s been a difficult season for everyone, and it’s been easy to tune the Rockets out. But we’re still here and the lights are still on. These previews have been a way to keep me sane over the years when I was in some unstable situations, and I’m happy to return the favor now that I’m more situated. You guys are the best, and none of us could be doing this without you.

I want to thank my TDS family. I wouldn’t be doing this if Darren wasn’t so cool and Xiane wasn’t still cranking out incredible pieces. Jeremy, Coty, Conrad, and Raymond continue to be awesome dudes who are awesome writers and excellent follows on Twitter. I am overshadowed at every turn, and that’s the way I like it.

Oh, and Atlanta is trying tonight so they’re winning by 100.

Update: Atlanta is now locked into the 5th seed so they are no longer trying to win.

Tip-off is at 6pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest