HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Look at it any way you want! While the Houston Rockets themselves are not participating in the NBA playoffs, there’s an argument to be made that their influence is being felt during the post-season.
When counting the number of former Rockets coaches and players, there are several. All but seven of the sixteen NBA playoff teams currently employ former Rockets. Some of those players and coaches may have slipped the memory a bit. Yet, they are former Rockets.
The teams that currently employ these former alums are the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics.
Let’s examine and check your memory banks.
NEW YORK KNICKS
We begin with New York Knicks and interim head coach Mike Woodson who took over on March 14 following the resignation of Mike D’Antoni. The former Rockets guard was also one of the leaders running the show under former Rockets head coach Don Chaney from 1988-89 to 1990-91.
However, his Knicks team is down 1-3 to Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat. It will be up to Woodson to devise a game plan for Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks to avoid losing in 5 games.
Woodson will also look to former Rockets 6-foot, 10-inch forward Steve Novak, whose sizzling 47-percent shooting from 3-point range ranked eighth in the league during the regular season. He’s still knocking down 3-pointers but at a 50-percent clip.
However, so far, that has not kept the Heat from taking a commanding three-games-to-one lead.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Oklahoma City has swept the Dallas Mavericks and will advance to the next round. The Thunder are led by Superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but coached by former Rocket’s guard Scott Brooks.
The 4th year head coach, referred to as Scotty during his playing days, spent eleven 11 seasons in the NBA. However it was in 1994 and 1995, Brooks struck gold as a member of the Houston Rockets winning back-to-back World Championships. So, it’s pretty safe to assume Brooks understands championship fire.
Durant, Westbrook, and the rest of the Thunder look to continue their playoff run and they have a head coach who knows how to call the right plays.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
There’s no question that the NBA is a fraternity as the Lakers employ two-time Rocket’s Championship Head Coach, Rudy Tomjanovich who served 12 seasons as head coach. Some could argue eleven as he took over for Chaney as interim in 1992. Rudy T., as he is affectionately called, currently serves as a scout for the Lakers.
In addition to Tomjanovich, former Rocket center Jordan Hill is experiencing a playoff run as Los Angeles leads Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets three games to one.
Hill is averaging 8 points and 10 rebounds per game during the post-season.
Former players turning to coaches in the NBA is a trend and the Atlanta Hawks are continuing the trend as they employ a former Rockets’ guard as coach. Lester Conner now sits as an assistant with the team located in the Deep South.
An Oakland, California native and 14th overall selection of the Golden State Warriors from Oregon State in 1982, Connor is in his first season with the Hawks, his 15th overall as a coach.
Another former Houston Rocket with the Hawks is probably one of the most recognizable, but could be the most controversial figure in Houston Rockets basketball history. Due to potential hoped for but never realized, veteran small forward Tracy McGrady is now in his 14th season in the NBA.
During his 6 seasons with the Rockets, McGrady averaged 19.2 ppg. The Rockets advanced to the playoffs three times with the 6’8” McGrady on the roster. The smooth and supremely talented small forward averaged 30.7, 25.3, and 27 points per game during the 2004-05, 2006-07, and 2007-08 playoffs.
The Rockets never advanced past the first round in any of those seasons losing to the Lakers, Dallas, and Utah twice. But the question up for debate is and always has been did the Rockets failures lie strictly with Tracy McGrady?
Regardless, the Hawks are down to the Boston Celtics three games to one in the best of seven.
Now, we go back into time with the name of John Lucas – well almost. We’re referring to Bulls point guard John Lucas III who is the son of former Rocket’s great and former point guard John Lucas of those Rocket’s teams of the 80’s.
John Lucas III is averaging 26 minutes and 15 points per game during the playoffs due in part to the season-ending knee injury to Bulls’star point guard Derrick Rose.
One other Bulls’ point guard of note is nine-year veteran Mike James. The former Rocket made Houston his home during the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons.
The series between the Bulls and Philadelphia 76er’s would have been a more competitive matchup with Rose. However, the Bulls without Rose have given Philadelphia new life as they take 3-1 lead in the series.
Shane Battier is a name etched in the minds of most Rockets fans as the 10-year NBA veteran and Duke Blue Devil played half of his career in Rockets’ red.
Battier was traded by the Rockets with Ish Smith to Memphis in exchange for Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and a future protected first-round draft pick on Feb. 24, 2011.
Battier has a shot at a ring as he along with NBA superstars Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh could be on their way to the next round leading the New York Knicks three games to one.
The list of coaches continues as the spotlight now hits former Rockets’ assistant Jim Boylen.
Prior to joining the Pacers, a young Jim Boylen spent 11 seasons as a member of the Houston Rockets. During two of those seasons, Boylin and the Rockets claimed the 1994 and 1995 NBA Championships, the only two of the organization’s history.
The Pacers own a 3-1 lead over a Dwight Howard-less Orlando team.
Speaking of the Magic, they also boast a former Rockets’ guard in six-year veteran Von Wafer. Wafer, who spent the 2008-09 season with the Rockets, is averaging 6 points and 6 minutes per game during the playoffs.
Former Rockets coaches are also being represented in Orlando. Patrick Ewing who served as an assistant from 2004-06 and who also contributed to the development of former Rocket’s center, Yao Ming, is now in his fifth season with the Magic.
The Magic are down a center in Dwight Howard and will look to guards Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson to prevent sliding completely out of the playoffs down 1-3.
This storied franchise employs a former Rockets’ player as an assistant. Tyronn Lue, who spent the 2004-05 season with the Rocket’s is now on the bench alongside Celtics Head Coach, Doc Rivers.
Lue’s last season as a player was 2008-09.