The Houston Rockets lost by two points at home Sunday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder. On its own, not a huge deal! Yes, the Rockets came into this season with playoff expectations, and no, the Thunder extremely did not, but it’s a long season, shit happens, and sometimes a higher-end team drops a game to a doormat in the forgettable early stages of a tanking project. Live to fight another day, and so on. But then you check the standings and note that the Rockets are a whopping 6.5 games below the rebuilding Thunder in the standings and … yeesh.
The game itself would’ve been particularly joyless for first-year Rockets head coach Stephen Silas. For one thing, his team gave up 19 offensive rebounds—the fourth-highest total in a game this season—leading directly to 22 points for the Thunder. It’s miserable to watch possibly made-up guys like Moses Brown and Isaiah Roby play volleyball on the offensive glass while your own, inescapably corporeal players play spectator. For another, the Thunder played without anything even remotely resembling an established NBA veteran, and also without ascending young gun Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and gave 29 minutes to the dreaded Aleksej Pokuševski, while the Rockets finally had the services of all of John Wall, Victor Oladipo, and Christian Wood. At full strength these Rockets are a long way from excellent, but with those three in the lineup they shouldn’t have too much trouble beating a team that quite literally wants to be beaten.
But for all the night’s passing frustrations, what made the result especially painful for Silas and the Rockets is that it extended Houston’s active losing streak to an almost unfathomable 20 games. When Silas took this job, the Rockets were coming off a 44-win season, and had not finished below .500 in any of the last eight seasons, and had perhaps the most unstoppable offensive engine since Wilt Chamberlain under contract. Now, 41 games later—or precisely half of a normal NBA season—the Rockets are a total hell-hole. James Harden is gone, replaced by an alarmingly busted-seeming Victor Oladipo; the deficiencies of the roster, intended to be obscured behind Harden’s towering brilliance, are laid excruciatingly bare; and Silas is left to navigate the the worst, most soul-crushing and humiliating teardown stages following the welding shut of the last era’s contending window.
And Silas waited literal decades for this opportunity. He’s been working toward a head coaching gig for 20 years, in assistant jobs and as an advanced scout, kicking around seven different organizations before taking the reins in Houston following the departure of Mike D’Antoni. It was a good job when Silas took it, and now it is a sewer, and he will carry the stink of it forever. So you can understand when the mood in his post-game presser following his team’s 20th consecutive loss was downright apocalyptic. This is a man at the end of his rope:
Oof. Rockets owner and fake-rich bozo Tilman Fertitta started steering the Rockets toward this moment almost the very instant he took control of the team back in 2017, when he signaled at every pass that he would not pay what it takes to push a contender over the final hump. Those responsible for the team’s run of success—Harden, D’Antoni, and longtime architect Daryl Morey—escaped just in time, and those left managing the wreckage are in for a career’s worth of suffering.