The Spurs used last year to reveal how motivating a bitter defeat could be; they plowed throughout the group to win their fifth ring, avenging the catastrophic loss to the Heat at 2013.
On a smaller scale, perhaps that same storyline will play out to the Houston Rockets, who bowed out of the postseason against a Blazers club few expected would offer immunity.
The Rockets will expect to do more this season. They’ll have less to work with than they did. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are elsewhere, thinning a spinning that didn’t have a lot of depth to lose. And, of course, Parsons has changed his Texas address.
James Harden and Dwight Howard stay, and they will be tested more rigorously than before.
If Trevor Ariza averts the post-contract letdown so many anticipate and if Terrence Jones takes yet another step forward, Houston might be more harmful than it was a year ago.
However, when measured against Dallas and Golden State, whose name chances are exactly the same as Houston’s–and whose rosters improved after decidedly more impressive playoff runs last year–the Rockets look like the group least likely to deliver those 20-1 odds.
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