Photo via Getty

The Houston Rockets are so obviously talented. They have a genuine superstar scorer, and they’ve surrounded him with a point guard who just wants to pass the ball and injure dudes, a rangy, athletic crop of combo forwards, and one of the most dominant defensive centers of the past decade. Last year, they lost a closer-than-it-looked five gamer to the Warriors in the conference finals.

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This year, they turned into a self-loathing pile of shit, and after another exit in five games to the Warriors, they’re finally free of the obvious curse of playing basketball with each other. Good for them.

What made the Rockets uniquely frustrating this season was their incredible ability to make nothing out of something. I’ve never seen a presumptive playoff team exhibit such terrible chemistry throughout the course of the season, and vacillate between extreme indifference and active self-sabotage. They mutinied against their head coach and got him fired just 11 games into the regular season and both stars reportedly asked for the other to be traded before the season started. Here is a one-play summary of their season. The only player worth a damn this year was Michael Beasley and I hope he sticks in the league this time around.

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Tonight, the Steph Curry-less Warriors came out with the intensity you’d expect from the team down 3-1 and jumped on the Rockets early. Klay Thompson had 27 points and Draymond Green looked really comfortable as a point forward, dropping 15 points, nine boards, and eight assists. Houston’s players looked as mopey and expressionless as they’ve been all year, and tonight they seemed to be at one with their fate from the jump. Nobody besides Harden seemed to give a shit about basketball tonight:

My favorite sequence was in the early third quarter, right at the end of a short-lived Rockets comeback: Andrew Bogut swatted the daylights out of Donatas Motiejunas, the Rockets then somehow missed five shots and pair of free throws before the Warriors finally got the ball back on their end, where Thompson quickly buried three deep threes to put an abrupt end to the comeback and, effectively, the game. Nobody enjoyed it more than Steph Curry.

The Warriors will have the winner of Blazers-Clips, and they’ll be without Curry for at least the first four games. Their whole playoffs are so up in the air, that it’s almost useless to speculate. The Rockets, however, are in a fascinating position.

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The Howard-Harden partnership is completely unsustainable, and there’s almost no chance they’ll both be Rockets when next season tips off. Harden has shown that when he’s engaged and focused, he can be an MVP-level player, but he’s also shown that he’s never going to be engaged and focused when he has to share the court with Howard. The big man has a player option for next season, which he can opt into and make himself $23 million next year. If he does that, Houston will try to find a trade, and if he doesn’t, they’ll happily lose him for free.

The Rockets have a big pile of youngish players that they can try and package to bring in a more suitable partner for Harden, or they can try and make a serious run at Al Horford or Andre Drummond (who they won’t get). They also (maybe) have the looming start of the second Jeff Van Gundy era, and he’ll want to shuffle the pieces a fair bit. Van Gundy or not, this roster is going to look different next year, and I’m fascinated to see who lines up aside Harden next year. But for now this toxic Rockets team is finally, mercifully, gone.