Rockets ‘Have as Good a Chance as Anybody’ to Win NBA Title, Says Owner

New Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta before the start of an NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Michael Wyke/Associated Press

The NBA is set to resume its suspended 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, on July 30.

The 22 winningest teams from both conferences will finish out the rest of this season, and the six best teams in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference respectively have already qualified for the playoffs. 

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A reminder of how the standings look and who’s heading to Orlando 👀

The 40-24 Houston Rockets are the sixth seed in the Western Conference, but team owner Tilman Fertitta doesn’t care about where the Rockets are positioned because of how confident he feels in the roster spearheaded by James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

“We have as good a chance as anybody,” Fertitta told SportsTalk790 (h/t The Athletic’s Alykhan Bijani). “You have Russ and James, who want this, and P.J. [Tucker], and Eric [Gordon] and [Robert] Covington, it’s just a really good team. And then [Danuel] House and [Austin] Rivers. When you start looking at our 8-man rotation, you just go ‘wow’, this is pretty darn good.”

The NBA announced it was suspending this season March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, Houston had gone 1-4 in March. The only four teams to clinch a playoff berth were the 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks, 46-18 Toronto Raptors and 43-21 Boston Celtics in the East as well as the 49-14 Los Angeles Lakers in the West.

The Rockets are guaranteed now to make the postseason, but their position could still improve, according to the NBA’s official release announcing the return-to-play plan:

“The season restart would begin with eight ‘seeding games’ for each returning team and include the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12.”

Houston has made the playoffs the last seven seasons, losing three times in the first round (2013, ’14, ’16), twice in the semifinals (’17, ’19) and twice in the Western Conference Finals (’15, ’18). The Rockets have had their title hopes squashed twice by the Golden State Warriors, including last year, with the most heartbreaking exit coming in the 2018 seven-game conference finals series.

It stands to reason that Houston will go as far as Harden and Westbrook can take them. Harden is the league’s leading scorer at 34.4 points per game, while Westbrook’s 27.5 points per game ranks seventh among all scorers.

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