I was asked by a certain basketball publication (online version) which I won’t name (yet) to provide my prediction for the Rockets-Blazers series. I was flattered they asked, and I sent it to them yesterday.
Well, I just found they posted it…but guess what? They changed alot of my words around to fit what they think I SHOULD have wrote to fit the theme of their article! WTF? Unbelievable! So just in case you’re coming over from that site (which I won’t reveal because I don’t want to give them ANY pub until they fix it), here’s what I wrote ORIGINALLY:
Before the Rockets blew their 14-point 3rd quarter lead to Dallas in the regular season finale, Houston was headed for a dream setup in the playoffs as the #3 seed: Home court advantage, a series against the Hornets/Spurs/Blazers, and they were out of the Lakers bracket for the next playoff round. Under that scenario, I predicted the Rockets would go all the way to the Western Conference finals.
That all changed with their choke job Wednesday night against the Mavs.
Now after dropping all the way to the 5th seed, no home court advantage, and having to play against a tough and athletic Portland team, the Rockets are psychologically damaged, dreaming about what could have been.
Meanwhile, they are also still trying to figure out how to win tough games on the road against good teams, and will continue to fail to exploit the defense when Yao is fronted, for some dumb reason.
As a result, I predict they’ll make a series of it against the Blazers, but will ultimately lose once again in the first round. The monkey will still be on their back for not winning a playoff series in over a decade.
After that, the off-season will be interesting with major changes expected. Except for Yao who is still untouchable, I expect Artest will not be signed, and Shane Battier, and maybe even Aaron Brooks, will be traded. They’ll do that in pursuit of trying to acquire a scorer who can complement Yao, and who can deliver with clutch performances late in games to put them over the top.
So there you go, my official prediction. [UPDATE: to their credit, the publication ended up updating my post to my original version right here. One of the commenters criticized the incorrect version posted because it didn’t make sense]. It ain’t pretty, but in order for the Rockets to get to the next level, they will have to go through a little more pain on their way to finding the right players. I really think they’re only 1 or 2 players away.
The only way I see Artest coming back is if there is NOT enough money for him to make elsewhere through free agency (in this economy, the $ may not be there), and he accepts a mid-range offer from the Rockets that doesn’t bust their bank so they can sign that big-time scorer I mentioned earlier. The decision for Ron to come back to the Rockets will be on him, but only at the right price for the Rockets.
Enough of the off-season talk: let’s see if the Rockets can go out there and prove me wrong!