October 28 - November 1, 2019
When Oklahoma City meets Houston this season, the once-unthinkable will happen: Russell Westbrook will play against the Thunder. During Westbrook Week, Daily Thunder will be covering the player who means more to the franchise and fanbase than any other: the memories, the joy, the frustrations, and the place he'll continue to hold in Thunderdom. We invite you to process with us.
Day 3: How to Watch the Rockets
It's a weird time for Thunder fans right now: most of our favorite players are on rival Western Conference teams, we're being forced to pretend like we haven't despised Chris Paul's flopping/complaining for our entire lives, and we don't know if we're supposed to be winning or tanking. It's going to take some time to get used to our new reality. In the meantime, we might as well enjoy rooting for two of our favorite players– Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Here's your guide to rooting for the Rockets this season, while maintaining your ultimate loyalty to the Thunder:
1. Don't Die on Westbrook Hill
Ten years of rooting for Russell Westbrook was the best experience we ever had, but it was also exhausting. Tell me you've never been in this situation: You're enjoying a perfectly boring Wednesday at work when Kyle from the group chat says, "Y'all see this Russ stat line last night? 1-7 from three and 7-21 from the field... but at least he got his triple-double! #StatChaser" As a lifelong Russ fan, you have no choice but to launch into a two-hour rant on the Thunder's win record when Russ gets a triple-double, find no fewer than four YouTube videos that prove Russ doesn't steal rebounds from Steven Adams, and defend Russ's MVP season against this slander. You don't have to do this anymore. You can enjoy all the best parts of Russell Westbrook without having to defend all the not-so-good parts. It's the best of both worlds.
2. Don't Let Rockets Fans Get to You
Not gonna lie, hearing Rockets fans chant "BRO-DIE! BRO-DIE!" made me want to break things. For years, especially during Russ's MVP season, Rockets fans have slandered Russell Westbrook's good name in every possible way. Now, once the Brodie is posting 17 rebounds for them, they love him. It sucks. But, we're all doing the same thing. Are we not rooting for Chris Paul? When Paul leans into the defender, jacks up a 3, and draws the foul, we call it a "veteran move" now instead of shouting obscenities at our televisions. Sports are weird like that. But, rooting for the Rockets doesn't have to mean liking their fans. In fact, you should absolutely call out Rockets fans for their hypocrisy even if you're just as much of a hypocrite. That's your right as an American. But, in the end, this is about you and Russell Westbrook and no one else. Don't let Rockets fans get to you.
3. Don't Spend June Watching Baseball
Come June, the Thunder will be preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft and you're going to need a playoff team to root for. You can't root for the Warriors, Blazers, Lakers, or Clippers for obvious reasons, and the Rockets have three former Thunder players we love– Russ, Harden, and Thabo Sefolosha. Last year, it was awesome seeing former Thunder favorite Serge Ibaka win his first championship and I, personally, would love to see Russ and Harden win one together. Of course, I wish it was for the Thunder, but that's not happening. If you're a true Russ fan, then you want him to get the championship that eluded him in OKC– even if it means dealing with insufferable Rockets fans for the next year.
4. Don't Worry About the Draft Picks (For Now)
It's true that the Thunder have the potential rights to several of the Rockets future picks as a result of the Russell Westbrook trade. In 2021, the Thunder have the right to swap either theirs or Miami’s first-round pick with Houston in 2021. In 2025, they will have the right to swap theirs or the Clippers’ first-round pick with Houston. In 2024 and 2026, the Thunder get the Rockets' pick if it falls below 4th. Let's just focus on the 2021 pick for now because there are so many unknowns with the other picks and we're only talking about rooting for the Rockets this season. It's going to take a few years for the Thunder to get back to being competitive while the Rockets are looking to compete now. Therefore, it's pretty likely that in 2021, the Thunder will have a better pick than the Rockets and will choose not to swap picks. It's also very unlikely that the Rockets will be worse than the Thunder over the next two years even if the Russ/Harden experiment doesn't win them a championship. In the future, I'm down for rooting against the Rockets; but right now, the Rockets' record doesn't really affect the Thunder's 2020 or 2021 draft picks. Also, who even knows if the Thunder hold on to those picks? It's entirely possible that OKC packages some combination of these picks for a player that complements Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and accelerates the Thunder's win-now timeline.
5. Don't Forget Who We Are
Even if they win a championship together, Rockets fans will never have what we had with Russ. Oklahoma City raised Russell Westbrook and saw him through every major milestone. He broke the triple-double record with us. He won his MVP with us. He cemented his place in NBA history with us. When he retires, his jersey will hang in our rafters. Rockets fans will never have what we have with Russell Westbrook and they probably won't even win a championship.