OAKLAND, Calif. -- While the defending champs were hosting a ceremony Tuesday afternoon to honor Steve Kerr for being named NBA Coach of the Year, the team down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets, were commanding attention of their own.
During the team’s media session at Oracle Arena, Rockets center Dwight Howard wondered aloud if former teammate Chandler Parsons was a prophet. And then Jason Terry, the oldest player on the team, guaranteed a victory in Game 5.
Welcome to the world of the Rockets, who are faced with an elimination game on Wednesday night when they must defeat the Warriors, who will be without reigning MVP Stephen Curry for the remainder of the series.
It will be the fourth time this season the Rockets (1-2) face the Warriors minus Curry.
Will they win?
“I’m guaranteeing it,” said the 38-year-old Terry. “If I don’t, then what? It’s a loss, right. I guarantee victory -- that’s what it’s going to take. I believe in my group. I know we can get a win here and send this thing back to Houston.”
Terry even went so far as to say he’ll get a new tattoo of the Larry O’Brien trophy if the Rockets win the title. Terry already has a tat of the trophy, getting one before the 2010-11 season, when the Dallas Mavericks won the title.
“I’m saying right here in front of everybody, I’m getting a tattoo of a Rockets trophy if we pull this thing out,” he said smiling. “You [heard] it here first.”
There were few smiles from Howard. If anything he was shooting down speculation of what he might do this summer. Howard is expected to become a free agent once the season ends and old buddy Parsons said he wants the two to play together with the Dallas Mavericks.
"I think he can still dominate the game,” Parsons said from Dallas. “I think he can still be a great player in this league. And I think he's going to leave Houston. So why not come here?"
Howard, standing just outside the tunnel following Tuesday’s practice, didn’t seem happy discussing future plans.
“Is he a prophet?” Howard said stoically. “My focus is this basketball game. It doesn’t matter what nobody on the outside says, we are friends, we are close, but none of that stuff matters right now. It’s about this team and what we’re trying to accomplish, and who cares what anybody else says?”
This has been a nondescript postseason for Howard. He’s averaging a career-low 14.5 points per game and despite leading the league in postseason rebounding the previous two seasons, he’s averaging 12.3 boards a game. In his career Howard averages 11.6 shots per game, but in four postseason games this year, he’s at 8.8.
His frustration with not getting touches is apparent and when you add Parsons’ comments regarding his future, it appears Howard has some issues on his mind.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “It’s he said, she said. My job is to focus on being great [Wednesday] and helping this team win, not what anybody else has to say. Chandler is a close friend, but it’s not about what he thinks or what he wants right now. It’s about this team and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
There was some good news from Rockets camp: Point guard Patrick Beverley said he’ll start on Wednesday after missing the second half of Game 4 with a strained hamstring.
Beverley’s defense and playmaking ability was missed particularly during the third quarter when the Warriors put the game away with 41 points. James Harden called the quarter a “blur” but added that Beverley could settle down potential long runs by the Warriors.
Harden has been everything for the Rockets' offense. He has averaged 24.5 points in 39.1 minutes per game. Yes, Harden needs help.
Starting small forward Trevor Ariza is shooting a dreadful 27.9 percent from the field, and Beverley has made just nine field goals in the series, shooting 28.1 percent. Backup forward Corey Brewer has missed 14 of 19 shot attempts, power forward Josh Smith is shooting well -- 60 percent on 10 field goal attempts -- but his minutes have been inconsistent (10.6).
Starting power forward Donatas Motiejunas is shooting 43.3 percent from the floor, but then there’s Michael Beasley, who has been a bright spot off the bench. He has averaged 10.3 points per game, third on the team behind Harden and Howard.
If the Rockets can provide more scoring, curtail the turnovers (19.3 a game) and defend -- they've allowed 109 points per game to the Warriors -- then maybe, just maybe, we might have a series.
“Break their spirit,” Terry said.
That might be hard to do.