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Smith: Rockets have become NBA's worst team

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 4/22/2021 Brian T. Smith, Staff writer
Christian Wood, John Wall are posing for a picture: Christian Wood and John Wall each scored in double figures in the 15-44 Rockets' latest loss.  © Mark Mulligan, Staff Photographer

Christian Wood and John Wall each scored in double figures in the 15-44 Rockets' latest loss. 

Nothing is shocking for the NBA's worst team.

A 36-point deficit inside Toyota Center is normal.

John Wall shooting 8-of-19 from the floor is expected.

The Rockets holding a 15-44 record that officially places Houston's NBA team in last place in The Association?

Of course.

If you click here, it will tell you that the Rockets will be officially eliminated from playoff contention Thursday if San Antonio beats Detroit.

That's laugh-out-loud funny, especially considering that the Rockets' 2020-21 season has been a disaster since the offseason and it's only gotten worse for a misguided franchise that is becoming better and better at avoiding responsibility for its self-created problems. 

Technically, there's no link between the Rockets' 2020 Florida bubble mess — James Harden coolly arriving late, Danuel House being kicked out of the bubble during the playoffs — and something called the Booby Trap on the River in Miami. But as scary as Sterling Brown's reported assault was, the follow-up reports were also troubling and the fact that Kevin Porter Jr., the Rockets' best hope this season, has now been placed in the "NBA and NBPA health and safety protocols" — if that's what they're calling it nowadays — because he was reportedly hanging out with Brown at the Booby Trap should also be concerning for the Rockets. 

This isn't how you create a new contender or build a true team-first culture.

All these lingering issues — and the soft denials that often follow — keep hitting at the fact that Rockets just don't seem to get it. 

They're not the Texans. But they're catching up and keep hurting their image locally and nationally.

Publicly, the Rockets insist that they're too high-minded to tank. But their on-court play has been abysmal for months and they created this roster mess, after giving James Harden way too much power for years, then failing to hold Harden accountable.

Does the 20-year-old Porter have the right support system around him — veteran teammates, coaches, etc. — to keep him focused on improving nightly on the hardwood? There are several reasons the Rockets acquired him for the NBA equivalent of nothing and now he is being kept off the court because of another misstep. These late April blowouts don't matter for the 2020-21 Rockets, but they are essential for Porter's hardwood evolution.

There's a reason that Sacramento, Cleveland, Orlando, Detroit and Minnesota are stuck at the bottom of the NBA. Talent and depth are missing, and several of the organizations have excelled at becoming annual losers.

It's been a bad, bad year for the Rockets.

But they keep making it harder on themselves and worse than it should be. 

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