The Most Embarrassing Players in Houston Rockets' Past 20 Years
The Houston Rockets have a storied history of great players, but what often gets overlooked is the fact that the franchise has had to endure some tough tenures from players who were simply embarrassing in a a Houston uniform.
Players qualifying for this list either underperformed severely while in a Rockets uniform or were a part of embarrassing on-court situations that will forever live on in infamy.
The past 20 years hasn't actually been all that successful for Houston. The teams of the 1990s did deliver two consecutive NBA championships, but that's really the extent of the team's success. There have been several losing seasons and heartbreak playoff losses since.
Naturally, players come and go over the years. Some personnel decisions work out and others backfire. Sometimes, they can be just plain embarrassing.
Maurice Taylor, Forward (2002-05)
So maybe the embarrassing part in this situation was that Houston refused to give up on forward Maurice Taylor and his limited offensive skill set—instead offering him a contract worth upwards of $32 million over five seasons.
Regardless, Taylor wasn't the most gifted player for the Rockets. He certainly wasn't worth the contract they gave him. At 6'10", the power forward struggled to grab rebounds. He averaged just 5.5 per game during his best year with the team (2000-01), while continually being outworked and out-hustled on the glass.
That's not the only place he was mismatched. Offensively, Taylor struggled to fine-tune his game. The only weapon he really possessed was a decent mid-range jumper. For a big man, having some sort of post game is obviously optimal.
All in all, he wasn't a miserable performer for the Rockets. They paid him like he'd be a valuable member of the starting lineup, though, which is certainly something he was not.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Guard (2006-07)
Vassilis Spanoulis, a second-round draft choice of the Rockets in 2004, was a disappointment from the onset of his career—not-so-ironically, one that only lasted a single season.
Spanoulis didn't receive a ton of playing time from Jeff Van Gundy, but he also did nothing to earn the playing time. After starring overseas in Europe, Spanoulis expected to play well in the States and didn't work hard enough to earn a role in the regular rotation.
He butted heads with Van Gundy as a result. That's obviously not a great combination for earning more playing time. To make matters worse, he was terrible when actually on the court.
He shot a putrid 31.9 percent from the floor, 17.2 percent from three and scored just 2.7 points in 8.8 minutes per game (31 games).
Spanoulis took his game back overseas after one disappointing season. Instead of being a 12th man on an NBA roster, Spanoulis figured it would be more beneficial for him to be a top guy on a European team.
Scottie Pippen, Forward (1998-99)
Scottie Pippen, remembered almost entirely for his years teaming up with Michael Jordan in Chicago, was not at all worth what the Rockets paid in a sign-and-trade worth $67 million over five years.
The Rockets figured they were acquiring a topnotch teammate to go along with Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Instead, Pippen was a terrible teammate. He whined constantly, failed to make decisions with the ball in his hands and just wasn't a great performer in his lone season with the team.
Sure, he put up 14.5 points per game, but that's mostly because of the high volume of minutes he played (40.2 per game). If you play enough minutes, you'll get your points.
Oh yeah, and he said that Barkley should apologize to him for bringing his "sorry fat butt" onto the court.
Steve Francis, Guard (1999-04, 2007-08)
The 1999-04 Steve Francis was far from embarrassing. Yeah, so his teams weren't always the greatest. Regardless, he was a consistent performer who was exciting to watch and put fans in the seats.
It was the 2007-08 version of Francis that was a complete train wreck.
He signed for $2.4 million prior to that season, but barely earned a penny of that contract. An injury ended his season after just 10 games but, more importantly, effectively ended his career. After his poor showing and injury history, teams simply were not willing to take a chance on him.
He only shot 33.3 percent from the floor in his 10 games. This definitely was detrimental to the play of the Rockets, as he was playing nearly 20 minutes per game.
The idea of making a valiant comeback to the city that gave him his shot seemed great at first, but the results and injury simply made it embarrassing.
Kelvin Cato, Center (1999-04)
Kelvin Cato was yet another case of the Rockets overpaying for a guy who really gave the franchise nothing during his tenure there. His big contract resulted in not a single season of double-figure points or rebounds, nor did it ever result in a completely healthy season.
"Tell Kelvin Cato, we want our money back," was even a popular lyric from a rap song during the early 2000s.
Embarrassing is the best way to describe Cato's career in general—let alone his tenure with the Rockets. Never once did he play in a full 82-game season after being taken 15th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1997 draft, and he put up poor per-game totals of 5.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
What the Rockets saw in Cato is unbeknownst to me, but there's no way he was worth a big-time contract.
Hasheem Thabeet, Center (2010-12)
Hasheem Thabeet played a total of 27 minutes for the Rockets over seven games. He scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and committed five personal fouls.
At 7'3", Thabeet made the Memphis Grizzlies confident in taking him No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft. A body that large, with the shot-blocking skills he possessed, would most assuredly translate into the NBA, right?
The Grizzlies weren't the only team to find that out. The Rockets definitely did, as he never became an integral part of the rotation and was traded with Jonny Flynn and a draft pick for Marcus Camby. Camby, then, went on to play significant minutes.
A player with Thabeet's potential coming out of the University of Connecticut rarely flops like he has in the NBA. He flopped for Memphis; he flopped for Houston; and he's still flopping to this day.
Bostjan Nochbar, Forward (2002-05)
Bostjan Nochbar wasn't a totally useless player during his NBA career, but what made his tenure with the Rockets so embarrassing was his tendency to get dunked on. And by dunked, I mean posterized.
Gerald Wallace absolutely destroyed Nochbar with this dunk in 2003. Notice Nochbar's facial expression (it's a little hard to see) when Wallace's hip and his face make contact—it's a look of defeat.
Then, there was this dunk many years later while he was with the New Jersey Nets. Amar'e Stoudemire is much less emphatic with this throw down, but you can see by watching the clip that it looks like Stoudemire simply pushes Nochbar out of his way.
Nochbar may not be remembered for much, by his willingness to get dunked on could be his lasting legacy.
Scott Padgett, Forward (2003-05, 2006-07)
Scott Padgett was essentially useless from 2003 to 2005 with the Rockets. He could stroke the three with some regularity, but that consistency didn't help the Rockets all that much. Padgett only attempted 1.5 threes per game during those two seasons, so even making 40 percent of those didn't result in many points.
He was let go after the 2004-05 season and signed with the Nets. After his season away from Houston, Padgett decided to return to the Rockets again for the following season. Whatever compelled the team to re-sign him still baffles many to this day.
He played 24 games for the Rockets that season before being sent to the Grizzlies to play seven games. After that, his career was over.
For some reason, Padgett seemed to stick around in Houston.
Charles Jones, Forward (1994-98)
Charles Jones did win a championship with the Rockets in the 1994-95 season, but his journeyman career never really amounted to much. He played for five teams in 15 seasons, with his four years in Houston representing his second-longest stop.
The Rockets kept bringing Jones back year after year, much to the confusion of nearly everyone. He played a total of 85 games in four seasons, averaging 1.0 points per game or less each time. His high-water mark in terms of rebounding was just 2.3.
Jones was an essentially useless piece who didn't have much of an NBA career. His continuous role as the last man off the bench in Houston can definitely be considered embarrassing.
Matt Maloney, Guard (1996-99) and Brent Price, Guard (1996-99)
A team with Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley would seem fitting to be in line for an NBA championship. When Matt Maloney and Brent Price came to town, those aspirations were put to rest.
The two guards routinely got outplayed by the likes of John Stockton and Gary Payton, along with nearly every other backcourt in the league. Without strong guard play, it's difficult for even a "Big Three" like Olajuwon, Drexler and Barkley to win a title.
Maloney and Price will forever be remembered in Houston lore for their inability to win with such a talented team, and that alone is embarrassing enough. Throw in the fact that neither had much of an NBA career after they left Houston, and that's just the icing on the cake.
Luckily for both guards, the Rockets were not far removed from back-to-back championships. With this still fresh in their minds, moving on from Price and Maloney was likely much easier.