The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team based in Houston, Texas. They play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). They won two consecutive championships in 1994 and 1995. Their 2008 22-game winning streak is the second-longest winning streak in NBA history behind the Los Angeles Lakers. It ended at 22 games on March 18, 2008 against the Boston Celtics, who went on to win the finals. They are the brother team of the WNBA's Houston Comets, although the Comets now play at the Reliant Arena.
San Diego RocketsEdit
The Rockets were founded in 1967 in San Diego, and after being bought by Robert Breitbard for 1.75 million dollars, and during their time in San Diego, the Rockets played in the San Diego Sports Arena. Jack McMahon was named the Rockets' coach, and the team's first draft pick, in 1967, was the future Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. However, the Rockets went on to lose 67 games in their inaugural season, which was then an NBA record for losses in a season.
In 1968, the Rockets had won a coin toss against the Baltimore Bullets to determine who would have the first overall pick in the 1968. The Rockets had selected Elvin Hayes from the University of Houston, who led the team to the franchise's first ever playoff appearance in 1969. However, the Rockets lost in the semi-finals of the Western Division to the Atlanta Hawks, four games to two.
Because the Rockets did not have their own arena in Houston, they were playing their first two years at various venues in Houston, including the Astrodome, AstroHall, and Hofheinz Pavilion. They also had to play "home" game in other cities such as San Antonio, Waco, Albuquerque, and even San Diego. However, Winter, who said that Hayes had "the worst fundamentals of any player" he had ever coached, applied a system that contrasted with the offensive style to which Hayes was accustomed. Because of the differences between Winter and Hayes, Houston traded Hayes, who had led the Rockets in scoring for four straight years, to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin at the end of the 1971-72 season. Winter left soon after, in the spring of 1973, following the Rockets 10th straight loss, who had previously become the first player to go straight from the high school to the professional level. After Malone led the Rockets in rebounding for the first of six straight times, The Rockets defeated the Spurs two games to one in their first-round playoff series, they were swept by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.. This was the last season of the coin-flip process as the NBA installed the Draft Lottery for the next draft to prevent teams from deliberately losing. Ralph Sampson came away with the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
With the first pick of the 1984 NBA Draft the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon from the University of Houston. The same season, Olajuwon finished second to Michael Jordan in NBA Rookie of the Year balloting. With two dynamic All-Star big men, the Rockets enjoyed great success in the 1986 season, winning the Western Conference Championship in five games over the Los Angeles Lakers and competing in the 1986 NBA Finals for only the second time in team history. However, the Celtics defeated the Rockets four games to two.
In the 1987-88 NBA season, the Rockets lost in the first round of the playoffs. Don Chaney replaced Fitch as head coach. The 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons saw the addition of Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell, but two more first-round exits from the playoffs.
Between 1987 and 1992, the Rockets had winning records, but they never got past the 2nd round of the playoffs. With new coach Rudy Tomjanovich leading the way, the Rockets won 55 games in 1992-93, but the Seattle SuperSonics knocked them off in the Conference Semifinals. It has often been noted that the end of the hard-fought Western Conference semi-final match, which ended in a stirring Game 7, marked the beginning of the championship years to follow. Local sports news channels commented after the loss that while team members were naturally upset at the end of their season, they appeared inspired by the quality of play they had exhibited in the two playoff rounds and were ready to take their place as an elite NBA team. In particular, a conversation on the plane ride home from Seattle between Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets team owner is said to have led to greater resolve and a commitment to team leadership on the part of Olajuwon; this leadership is widely credited for the championship runs that followed.
The championship yearsEdit
On July 30, 1993, Leslie Alexander purchased the Rockets. In Tomjanovich's second full year as head coach, the Rockets began the 1993-94 season with an NBA record start of 15-0. With Hakeem Olajuwon as their center, the Rockets defeated the New York Knicks in seven games to win the championship. After being down three games to two in the 1994, the Rockets won the last two games on their home court, thanks to a clutch play by Olajuwon. In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter of game 6 the Rockets clung to a 2-point lead when hot shooting guard John Starks, who had scored 27 points in the game until then, pulled up for a potentially game-winning shot. Olajuwon had been blocked by a screen but recovered to block the shot and preserve the lead as time expired. This is often considered one of the greatest clutch defensive plays in NBA history. By winning Game 7, the Rockets not only denied New York from having both an NBA and an NHL title, but also another seventh heaven for a New York team when winning a major sports championship, as the championship was won in a Game 7. During the NBA finals, the New York Rangers went to seventh heaven by winning the Stanley Cup, defeating Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, which took place on the Knicks' home court and was attended by some of the Rockets players, according to The Houston Chronicle.
The Rockets struggled in the first half of the 1994-95 season. In a midseason trade with Portland, the Rockets obtained star guard Clyde Drexler, who had played alongside Olajuwon at the University of Houston, in exchange for Otis Thorpe. Houston entered the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference and were underdogs against the 60-22 Utah Jazz in the first round, the 59-23 Phoenix Suns in the second round (who led the Rockets 3-1 before losing three straight), and the 62-20 San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals. In the second game of the San Antonio series, Olajuwon gave a career performance. After a pregame MVP award ceremony honoring David Robinson, Olajuwon dominated the game, outscoring Robinson 41-32 in a Rockets win. Houston won all three series to reach 1995 against the Orlando Magic, whose headline players were Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. Houston swept the series in four straight games. The Rockets became the first team in NBA history to win the championship as a sixth seed. They also became only the second team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit without homecourt advantage. In addition, the team became the first in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason en route to the championship.
After an injury riddled 1995-96 campaign, the Rockets beat the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs but were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round. Houston's aging roster and the reemergence of the Chicago Bulls after Michael Jordan's return the previous season drove the Rockets to make a dramatic trade with the Phoenix Suns that swapped Sam Cassell, Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant and Robert Horry for Charles Barkley. The resulting "Big Three" of Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley led the Rockets to a 57-25 record, with a franchise-best 27 road wins. Houston swept Minnesota in the first round and, in a heated 7-game battle, defeated Seattle. The Rockets then fell in the Western Conference Finals to the Utah Jazz, a team they had beaten on their way to championships in 1994 and 1995.
The 1997-98 season was also marked by injuries, and the team finished 41-41 with the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Houston once again faced the Jazz and lost the series 3-2. Drexler retired after the season and the Rockets made another bold trade to bring in Scottie Pippen to take his place in the Big Three. While Pippen continued to play good defense, he struggled to fit into Houston's offensive system, which was dominated by Barkley and Olajuwon. As a result, the Rockets often struggled. The Rockets lost to the Lakers in the first round 3-1 of the 1999 NBA Playoffs, and during the summer Barkley and Pippen publicly displayed their dislike for each other.
Throughout the post-championship years one of the Rockets main weaknesses was the point guard position. The Rockets had signed Brent Price as the answer at the 1, but he had been severely limited by injuries. That summer the Rockets attempted to address their point guard situation by trading Price, Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, and a future first-round pick to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Steve Francis and Tony Massenburg. Two months later the Rockets dealt the disgruntled Pippen to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Walt Williams, Stacey Augmon, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers, Brian Shaw, and Kelvin Cato. The trade replenished the depth given up to obtain Francis from Vancouver.
Early in the 2000 season Barkley ruptured the quadriceps tendon in his left knee in a game against Philadelphia. When considering his career-ending injury, Barkley displayed his trademark wit by observing, "I'm just what America needs - another unemployed black man." Barkley would go on to rehab and make a token appearance towards the end of the season. With injuries to Barkley and Olajuwon, the rebuilt Rockets went 34-48 and missed the playoffs.
In 2001, the Rockets worked their way to a 45-37 record and swept every Central Division team, but still did not make the playoffs. An older, waning Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2001 which left Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley to fill leadership roles. The following season was unremarkable, as the team was mostly made up of rookies and journeymen. Injuries to star player Steve Francis forced him to miss many games. The first season without Hakeem in almost 20 years was a disappointing 28-54.
The abysmal 2002 season had its silver lining, as the Rockets were awarded the first overall pick in the 2002. The Rockets selected Yao Ming, a 7 foot and 6 inch Chinese center, who played for the Shanghai Sharks. The 2002 basketball season saw marked improvement for the Rockets, with the trio of Yao, Francis, and Mobley leading the team to a 43-39 record but still didn't make the playoffs. Tomjanovich retired as Rockets coach after being diagnosed with cancer and was replaced by Jeff Van Gundy.
With a 2003-04 the Rockets began playing in their new arena the Toyota Center, and finished the regular season record of 45-37, the Rockets earned their first playoff berth since their first round exit to the Lakers in 1999. However, the Lakers again handed the Rockets a loss in the first round. The offseason saw major changes in the roster and dynamic of the team as Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato were traded to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines.
The 2004-05 season saw McGrady and Yao lead the Rockets to their best record in 10 years, finishing at 51-31 and seeded 5th in the Western Conference Playoffs. Their season ended in the first round of the playoffs as they lost to their in-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks four games to three. During the 2005 offseason the Rockets obtained Stromile Swift and Derek Anderson. They also traded Mike James to the Toronto Raptors for Rafer Alston.
Injuries plagued the 2005-06 season. Bob Sura had surgery on his knee the summer prior, Tracy McGrady fought an injured back throughout the season, Yao Ming required surgery to treat an infection in his toe, and David Wesley even fractured a rib falling into a courtside cameraman near the end of the season. With Yao and McGrady rarely on the court at the same time, the Rockets floundered. The team was much more successful during the few portions of the season when its players were relatively healthy. However Jeff Van Gundy and his team frequently expressed the need to play beyond injuries and to not use bad luck as an excuse for losing. By the end of the season, the Rockets led the league in most games missed by players on the roster. The team finished with a 34-48 record.
The Rockets drafted Rudy Gay from the University of Connecticut with the 8th pick of the first round in the 2006 but then traded him and Stromile Swift for Shane Battier who played for the Memphis Grizzlies.The team had a good season led by Tracy McGrady and veteran support from Dikembe Mutombo and Juwan Howard. The Rockets finished that season with a 52-30 record despite injuries; finishing 5th in the Western Conference and claiming the seed from the Utah Jazz. However, once again, Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets were unable to pull out of the first round, losing in Game 7 to Utah 103-99. Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy was fired on May 18, 2007. Assistant Coach Tom Thibodeau left the Houston Rockets after Jeff Van Gundy's dismissal. He went to the Boston Celtics as an assistant coach and was instrumental in their 2007–2008 season and playoff successes.
Houston began the 2007-08 season with recently hired Rick Adelman as the team's 11th head coach.
In the 2007, with the 26th pick, the Houston Rockets selected PG Aaron Brooks, from Oregon, traded with the SuperSonics to receive Pick #31 PF Carl Landry from Purdue, and with the 54th overall pick selected SG Brad Newley from Australia.
On July 12, guard Vassilis Spanoulis was traded to the San Antonio Spurs along with the rights for the 2009 second-round draft pick. In return, the Rockets received center Jackie Butler and the rights to Luis Scola, a 2002 second-round draft pick yet to play in the NBA. 24 hours after this deal was made, Scola came to a "Basic Agreement" which could see him playing for the Rockets next season. Less than a week later, Scola signed with the Rockets. Scola started the season coming off the bench but performed well when given the minutes. Scola eventually earned the starting PF job by mid-season, replacing Chuck Hayes.
On July 20 guard Steve Francis signed a 2 year deal with the Rockets, ten days after he accepted a buyout of the last two seasons of his $30 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was expected to compete for a starting job with Mike James and Rafer Alston. However, throughout the season, the point guard issues have been inconsistent and difficult to work with, because the Rockets have five point guards fighting for playing time. Francis actually did not play for the first several games of the season and many fans began to wonder if head coach Rick Adelman would ever play him and if bringing Francis back to Houston was the right move. However, Francis's playing time has steadily increased as the season has progressed, but knee injuries sidelined him again.
On September 7, it was also announced that the Rockets will debut a new court design for the 2007-08 season. The court design includes a lighter varnished wood inside the three point area, similar to the Seattle SuperSonics, while the rest are dark varnished wood. The color red will remain on the Rockets logo, and the script. This court design is similar to the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets, in which most of the hardwood is exposed.
On March 16, the Rockets achieved a 22-game winning streak, setting a franchise record and notching the 2nd longest winning streak in NBA history. The last 10 games were won despite the absence of star center Yao Ming who suffered a season-ending foot injury. On March 18, the streak came to an end at the hands of the Boston Celtics with 94-74 loss.
The Rockets finished their season 55-27.
The Rockets were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, 4 games to 2, to end the Rockets 2007–2008 season.
The slogan for the 2008–2009 Rockets is "Get Red."
On May 7, Steve Francis exercised his player option with the Rockets letting him play for the Rockets this season, after he suffered injuries the previous year.
In the 2008 held on June 30, the Rockets drafted Nicolas Batum with the 25th pick, and Maarty Leunen with the 54th pick, but in a three-way draft day trade with the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. The Rockets traded Batum to the Trail Blazers for the draft rights to Darrell Arthur the 27th pick and Joey Dorsey the 33rd pick. They traded the draft rights of Arthur to the Grizzlies for Donte Greene the 28th pick in the draft.
On August 14, the Rockets traded Bobby Jackson and Donte Greene and a first round draft pick for 2009 to the Sacramento Kings for Ron Artest, Patrick Ewing Jr. and Sean Singletary. Artest reunite with coach Rick Adelman as he played under Adelman in Sacramento for half a year. Artest brings offensive scoring to the team, and strengthens the already strong Rockets defense.
On August 25, the Rockets traded Sean Singletary to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for guard D.J. Strawberry, the 59th overall pick in 2007 by the Suns. This move helps bring some added depth to the SG position for the Rockets.
On August 29, the Rockets traded Patrick Ewing, Jr. to the New York Knicks in exchange for the rights to French center Frederic Weis, a 1999 first-round draft pick that has yet to make his NBA debut. There has been no news indicating if Weis will give up playing basketball overseas to move to the NBA.
San Diego Rockets
- San Diego Sports Arena (1967–1971)
- Hofheinz Pavilion (1971–1975)
- HemisFair Arena (San Antonio) (1972–1973)
- The Summit (later "Compaq Center") (1975–2003)
- Toyota Center (2003–present)
Logos and uniformsEdit
Upon the opening of the Toyota Center arena in 2003, the Rockets decided to re-brand themselves with a new uniform. The Rockets changed from the authentic blue shooting star striped uniform to a modern red and white that accommodated their new logo.
Players of SignificanceEdit
- For the complete list of Houston Rockets players see: Houston Rockets all-time roster.
- For the players drafted by Houston Rockets, see: List of Houston Rockets first and second round draft picks.
Unsigned Overseas Draft PicksEdit
|Name||Current Team||League(s)||NBA Position||Height||Weight||Born|
|Frédéric Weis||Iurbentia Bilbao||Spanish League / ULEB Cup||C||7'2"||260 lbs.|
|Sergei Lishchuk||Azovmash Mariupol||Ukrainian League / ULEB Cup||PF/C||6'11"||245 lbs.|
|Venson Hamilton||Real Madrid||Spanish League / Euroleague||PF/C||6'9"||255 lbs.|
|Maarty Leunen||Darüşşafaka||Turkish League||PF||6'9"||220 lbs.|
|Lior Eliyahu||Maccabi Tel Aviv||Israeli League / Euroleague||SF/PF||6'9"||225 lbs.|
|Brad Newley||Panellinios||Greek League / ULEB Cup||SG/SF||6'7"||205 lbs.|
|Kyle Hill||Lucentum Alicante||Spanish 2nd Division||PG/SG||6'3"||185 lbs.|
Hall of FamersEdit
- Charles Barkley (2006)
- Rick Barry (1987)
- Clyde Drexler (2004)
- Elvin Hayes (1990)
- Moses Malone (2001)
- Calvin Murphy (1993)
- Hakeem Olajuwon (2008)
- 22 Clyde Drexler, G, 1995-98; also Houston native and University of Houston star and former head coach, currently Houston Rockets broadcaster
- 23 Calvin Murphy, G, 1970-83 (including last season in San Diego); also Broadcaster
- 24 Moses Malone, C, 1976-82
- 34 Hakeem Olajuwon, C, 1984–2001
- 45 Rudy Tomjanovich, F, 1970-81; Head Coach, 1991–2003
- CD Carroll Dawson Assistant coach, General Manager 1979–2007. As Dawson did not play for the Rockets, the team used his initials in memoriam.
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1994, 1995
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1993, 1994
NBA Player ESPY Award
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1995, 1996
- Ray Patterson - 1977
- Moses Malone - 1980, 1981
- Ralph Sampson - 1984
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1986, 1990, 1996
- Yao Ming - 2007
- Tracy McGrady - 2007
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1991, 1995, 1999
- Clyde Drexler - 1995
- Yao Ming - 2004, 2006, 2008
- Tracy McGrady - 2005, 2008
- Moses Malone - 1979
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1985, 1991, 1996, 1997
- Rodney McCray - 1987
- Shane Battier - 2008
- Elvin Hayes - 1969
- Calvin Murphy - 1971
- Joe Meriweather - 1976
- John Lucas - 1977
- Ralph Sampson - 1984
- Hakeem Olajuwon - 1985
- Steve Francis - 2000
- Yao Ming - 2003
- Luis Scola - 2008
- Robert Horry - 1993
- Matt Maloney - 1997
- Cuttino Mobley - 1999
- Michael Dickerson - 1999
- Eddie Griffin - 2002
- Luther Head - 2006
- Carl Landry - 2008