After averaging nearly 58 wins over the past three seasons, Houston is on a slightly more modest 53-win pace in 2019/20. However, after winning eight of their last 10 games, the Rockets are once again in position to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, having moved up to No. 4 in the Western Conference.
That recent strong play – along with the success of a new-look lineup that leans heavier than ever on small-ball – has Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta expressing confidence about the club’s outlook going forward. Speaking to Kirk Bohls of The Austin American-Statesman, Fertitta said he thinks the Rockets could be the No. 2 seed if not for a handful of hard-luck losses, adding that he’s “not worried about anybody in the West.”
As Fertitta explained, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s counting on the Rockets to make it to the NBA Finals, but he’s confident that the team is capable of beating any Western club in a seven-game series.
“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” Fertitta said. “We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”
Here are a few more of Fertitta’s thoughts on how the Rockets stack up in the West, the blockbuster trade the team made last summer, and the extreme small-ball look:
On the Western Conference playoff picture:
“None of us fear L.A. (the Lakers) or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State. It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”
“Everything worked out. I think Chris is having a great year at Oklahoma City. It worked out for both (teams). James and Russell came in the league at the same time, and they can talk to each other differently. One can say, ‘Screw you,’ and it’s no big deal. Chris was four years older. Four years in basketball is like a normal 10 to 15 years in business life.”
On the Rockets going all-in on small-ball:
“We basically changed out a guy who’s 6’10” to a guy who’s 6’7″, 6’8″. Are you really that much smaller? It makes the big guy for the other team go out on the perimeter. Did you see Rudy Gobert trying to keep up with Russell? Russell was running him around like crazy. It’s working.”