For the past three years, the Houston Rockets have finished ninth in the Western Conference. There's a special frustration that comes with having a team that isn't dwelling in the basement but isn't good enough to be a playoff lock.
That feeling of being just another team isn't present this offseason. Rather, there is a sense of optimism and excitement.
Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, has changed the team so much that Kevin Martin has the longest current tenure with the team at just three years. Jeremy Lin has replaced Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry at point guard.
The dynamic guard will bring with him an intense media spotlight not seen in Houston since the days of Yao Ming.
In New York, when Anthony and Stoudemire came back on the roster, Lin became the third option. In Houston, he'll be their main scoring option, heralding back the days of Linsanity when the offense ran through him.
What makes Lin so special is his desire for chemistry and team play. Lin can make his teammates better, and that's what makes him so valuable. He led the Knicks' starters last season in plus/minus per game and was able to highlight the abilities of teammates like Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak, turning them into crowd favorites.
That chemistry and camaraderie will be there for Lin in Houston, where he is already good friends with Chandler Parsons. They became friends during Lin's previous brief stint in Houston.
Despite it being the offseason, Parsons was there to greet Lin in Houston. As reported by Ultimate Rockets, the two immediately got some dinner, and Parsons joked about Lin being back:
“I was a little insulted, because we were at dinner (at Katsuya’s on Kirby), and they all came up and said, ‘Hey, we’re huge Rockets fans,’ and they just completely ignored me and looked at him. Like, come on. What am I, chopped liver? It was ridiculous, probably like 10-20 people while we were eating, like no shame to anything.”
Jeremy Lamb is also expected to connect well with Lin. Like Landry Fields in New York, Lamb is a devout Christian, and there should be good chemistry between him and Lin. Lamb was stellar during his time with UConn, and he was remarkable in the NBA Summer League, averaging 20 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Another rookie, Royce White, is expected to make a similar impact on the upcoming season as well. A solid power forward with great court vision and soft passing hands. He may be utilized as a point-forward, which is evident by his 3.8 assists and his 7.2 rebounds in the Summer League.
White missed his first two years of collegiate play but was able to lead Iowa State in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks—the only player this year in the NCAA Division I to do so. He has the abilities to excel in the NBA and, if developed properly, can quickly become a star in the league.
Then, there's Terrence Jones, a sophomore from the esteemed University of Kentucky.
During his time at UK, Terrence grew six inches from his 6'3'' freshmen height. As a result, he's able to play defense from the one to four position. Jones averaged 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds during his last season at Kentucky, so I have every reason to believe that he will be the versatile player that Houston needs.
Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert are gone, and to replace them are two young players in Donatas Motiejunas and Omer Asik.
Motiejunas was drafted by the Rockets last season, but he opted to play another season in Europe to develop himself. That time away appears to have paid off, as he has shown glimpses of dominance, seemingly a threat to get a double-double each game during the Summer League.
With all the possibilities of offensive rookie flash, it only seems appropriate that the Rockets acquired defensive stopper Omer Asik this summer.
Asik, if he lives up to his potential, can be a threat to lead the league in rebounds and blocks. Asik is great at help-defense, and with so many young players on the roster, that added defense will be needed.
Kevin Martin will return to the Rockets and is expected to be the second scoring option behind Lin. Martin is coming off his lowest production season since being a sophomore in the league, but with a passer like Lin as a teammate, it's not too wild an assumption to presume that he can go back to elite scoring form.
Patrick Patterson during an interview with the Associated Press stated, "the things that are going on right now in the Houston Rockets' organization are definitely positive, positive moves in the right direction."
It's very much a possibility that the Rockets will end up ninth once again in the tough Western conference. Houston fans may once again feel the anger of missing the playoffs, but there is definitely a sense of possibility and excitement. If everything clicks, the Rockets may end up making the playoffs.
But it's more than that. The Rockets are heading in the right direction.
For the next few years starting now, Houston will have a progressively better basketball team.