Despite captivating the modern era with their high-octane offense and defensive versatility that were indeed championship-level in style, the James Harden era of the Houston Rockets wasn’t able to hoist even a single Larry O’Brien trophy for nearly a decade of its existence.
As sad as it is, Eric Gordon, a prominent cast member of the franchise that time, believes that if they were able to get over the hump, their elite and special band would have been able to stick around for a much longer time and contend.
“I think things would have been changed. I think the team would have been together. Definitely more years,” Gordon said on his recent appearance on The IkoSystem podcast hosted by Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I mean, winning a championship—that’s a big time thing. There’s no doubt the guys would have been together.”
The previous generation of Rockets basketball heavily revolved around Harden and his offensive mastery.
Surrounded by complementing units of shooters and versatile defenders, Houston came up big every single year as a title-contending heavyweight in the late 2010s, only to come up short multiple times against a Golden State Warriors team bannered by four future hall of famers of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
As such, they were an inch closer in fulfilling the ultimate dream of outlasting the dynastic Dubs back in the 2017-18 season, but failed to deliver that finishing haymaker. In a highly competitive, seven-game Conference Finals showdown, the bold Rockets team suffered from the series-altering absence of Chris Paul due to a hamstring injury starting in the pivotal Game 6.
In the do-or-die Game 7, when it mattered the most, Houston devastatingly sank themselves and missed 27-straight threes en route to a painful crumbling.
Looking back, Gordon admitted that he still dwells from the horrors of their past shortcomings most especially on that epic 2018 West Finals, considering the roster impact and the golden narrative that will favor them should they have managed to pull it off successfully at the flipped side.
“It does,” the veteran responded if the 2018 loss sticks around to him. “You only get so many chances to win a championship. And to have the chance to beat a [Durant-Curry Warriors] team like that, I mean, you just never know. And sometimes when you win, you just don’t know how much that attracts other players around the league because we had a good thing going.
“Like I said, year in and year out, you just never know.”
At the end of the day, legitimate fans will still appreciate the potential and bravery of that Harden-led Rockets in putting the best challenge ever against the greatest collection of talents in the entire history of the NBA.