Chuck Klosterman, a pop culture critic and writer made an insightful comment in one of his books (I forgot which one) about how die-hard fans essentially cheer for a team’s uniform color and design. He argues that when you stick with cheering for one team no matter what, this is essentially what you’re doing. Yet teams are made up of players, owners, managers. In a word: people. So wouldn’t it make more sense to cheer for a team that is composed of the people you actually want to root for?
I understand the importance of the history that comes from rooting for the team that your dad roots for or the team that you rooted for when you were just a kid. I get that. But wouldn’t it make more sense to root for a group of guys who you really want to succeed? I group of guys that make a team interesting?
This is why I’m excited to root for the Rockets this upcoming season. Of course, the addition of Jeremy Lin has made this Rockets team very interesting, but in addition to Jeremy Lin, the Rockets are composed of a group of people who I really want to see succeed.
The Rockets are full of guys who have something to prove, who have been given a second chance or been given the chance of their life. Young guys who are humble with no egos. Young guys who are given the opportunity to play bigger roles. I want to just highlight a few individuals that make this Rockets one very interesting team.
Lin: I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Lin, here, since there’s been plenty of talk about Lin. The points about how Lin makes this Rockets team very interesting is obvious. He received a lot of attention last year and people will be watching to see how he does now that he has the keys to the rocket, if I may. Lin is the type of player that does well when he is the offensive leader on the court. With the Rockets, he gets to assume this role. I was very excited when I found out that Lin was leaving the Knicks. Lin went from a situation that would have been disastrous for him to one that couldn’t be more ideal. The Rockets are full of young guys who have no egos and will play the brand of basketball that Lin excels at: team basketball. It will be very exciting to see how Lin does in an ideal situation for him.
Omer Asik (pronounced “Ah-Shick”, I believe): I don’t want to go into too much background, except to say that he’s the center that the Rockets took from the Bulls with the same (or almost the same) contract they offered Lin. He was a backup center for the bulls and didn’t play more than 14 minutes a game or something like that. He’s a defensive and rebounding powerhouse and has put up mind-blowing stats. Problem is, he has never been a starter in the NBA. From what I’ve seen and read about him, he’s also a very humble and hardworking guy, who you want to see succeed. His goal was to be a starter in the NBA, so he’s also in an ideal situation for him with the Rockets. He’ll essentially be the Rockets’ only true Center. I’m curious to see how he’s going to be able to handle playing a full game. Is he going to be able to make the necessary adjustments, such as not picking up too many fouls too quickly? Will he be able to sustain a similar level of energy and go after every ball for an entire game? Is he going to develop any sort of offensive aspect to his game and be more of a complete center?
Royce White: White is, perhaps, the most interesting NBA player I’ve seen, yet. This is saying a lot, after we’ve all witnessed Linsanity. Of course, Linsanity is still the most interesting phenomenon in sports. But White is an interesting person. Before I talk more about this, here’s just some quick info. White was drafted in the first round at No. 16. Here’s a great video of his draft day:
He’s a Power Forward who is built like Lebron James and has the skills of a Point Guard. So he’s a very interesting player, in that he doesn’t fit into any specific roles. He can pretty much play any role, except he’s not such a proficient shooter. He’s more of a play maker. But that’s not the only thing that makes White interesting. He also suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and is very public about it. In fact, that’s the main reason why he wasn’t picked higher in the draft, even though he outplayed the number 1 pick, Anthony Davis, during March Madness. A lot of owners weren’t willing to take a chance on him. Even the Rockets had hesitation. If it weren’t for Kevin McHale’s (coach of the Rockets, for those who still aren’t familiar with the Rockets) persistence. He was the one who was really high on White. It’ll be interesting to see if this risk pays off. He’s an extremely talented basketball player, but will his anxiety cut his career in the NBA short? Already, he is a no-show at the Rockets training camp, which started on Tuesday October 2nd. The Rockets won’t say exactly why White hasn’t joined them at training camp, but it has something to do with him needing more time to get everything ready on his end in order to endure the training without letting it affecting his anxiety disorder. He also has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), so it takes him a long time to get everything in place. I read an article about him getting settled down in Houston and it sounded like it was a huge ordeal for him to just move and get settled in and have everything in place and in order. If he succeeds at one of the highest levels of competition, then that will be a great inspiration for others who suffer from anxiety disorder. And he’ll serve as a voice of encouragement to sufferers to not be ashamed of their disorder.
In addition to his anxiety disorder, he’s got an interesting past that speaks to redemption. In college, White got into some trouble and was accused of theft. As a result, he dropped out and enrolled in Iowa State, because the coach there was willing to give him a second chance. White was extremely grateful for this second chance and quickly matured during this period. He also got really into music and it even seems as if he cares about music even more than basketball. He’s got a very noticeable beard, which he dedicates to John Lennon. I can go on and on about how interesting White is, but I don’t have to, because here’s a great article on White: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8096247/on-road-nba-draft-prospect-royce-white. There’s definitely a lot going on inside his mind. It’s hard to root against a guy like this. You really want him to succeed, because it would mean a lot not just for himself, but for a lot of other people.
Daryl Morey: I know, he’s not a player. He’s the General Manager of the Rockets, for those who don’t know. To me, he’s the most interesting GM there is. He’s a big nerd, who graduated from Northwestern and MIT. He’s not a former basketball player or anything. He comes from purely an academic background and you get the sense that he thinks like no other GM. He thinks like an analyst and has a track record of discovering players who are under the radar. He has an unquenchable thirst for collecting unconventional data, which he talks about in this article: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/08/success_comes_from_better_data.html. He’s also big on social media and communicates through that medium. In fact, he recently held a reddit chat session: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/10mrkx/iam_the_houston_rockets_gm_ama/?sort=old. I mean, what GM would hold a reddit chat session?
It appears that Morey is a pretty divisive figure among Rockets fans. Some think he’s a genius who is five moves ahead of everyone and others think he is in way over his head and has no clue about the game of basketball. From what I’ve read and from the Interviews that I’ve heard of him, I really like the guy. He’s more open and honest than most GMs and he’s extremely strategic. He’s a very clear thinker who takes very calculated risks. I’m not surprised that he would be the GM to bring Jeremy Lin in, since he would be exactly the type of GM to fully appreciate what Jeremy Lin does.
Overall, the Rockets is probably one of the most unconventional NBA teams I have ever seen. They’re composed of a very interesting mix of people who don’t quite “belong” in the league. It’s like a very interesting experiment. If I were to make a basketball movie, these would be the exact characters I would have as the underdog team. This is how interesting the Rockets are.
I’m curious to see how they will actually do this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up nearly dead last, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they make the playoffs and do quite well. If all the key players stay healthy, I think they will surprise a lot of skeptics. The problem is that they’re one injury away from becoming the worst team in the NBA. For example, if they lose Asik or Lin, they are pretty much done, since they don’t really have a viable back up center or point guard. No one expects a lot out of this team, but if they succeed (i.e., make the playoffs), then there’s a lot to be said for team chemistry and hard work, because I think that will be the identity of this team. They’re going to be a blue collar team that is going to hustle for every ball and try to outwork their opponents every night. There’s going to be no egos. They’re going to play as a unit. They’re gonna play together and they’re going to play hard. A lot of people say this is the key to winning. I can’t wait to find out how true this is and I think it is something worthy to root for. Don’t you?
If the Rockets succeed this season, then it will be like we’re living inside a movie. It’ll be like Linsanity 1.0 all over again, except it will last for a longer period of time. And that would be a special thing to be a part of.