Why this season is a win for the Rockets - play-in or not | Devine Intervention

Yahoo Sports NBA writer Dan Devine is joined by Frank Madden to discuss Houston's hot run in March and what it means for the team moving forward. Hear the full conversation on “Devine Intervention” - part of the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast - and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

DAN DEVINE: Everyone knows what the situation is by late March, early April. Yes, there are races to decide. And there's seeding battles and stuff like that. But it's been really nice to have the rockets over the last month just sort of assert themselves in the discourse in a way that they have not been since James Harden was there.

And, granted, it was a March schedule that was laden with cupcakes, and I think they had a couple of games against each of the Spurs, Jazz, Wizards, and Blazers-- that's helpful. But even so, like, 11-game winning streak late in the season for a bunch of young guys, especially after they lose maybe their best player, that's, like, a fun story to pay attention to.

All of a sudden, meaningful April basketball, a chance to play for something-- maybe a couple of different pathways to an identity. Again, they haven't really had one of those since James Harden wanted to get out of town. There's the version of the team that plays through their mini-Jokic. There's the version of the team that is five out with wings and athletes all over the place and bombs threes and plays fast.

They have the ability to go in whichever direction they want to there-- more young talent on board with-- we haven't seen Tari Eason in a while. We haven't seen Cam Whitmore very much. There's a ton of draft equity coming from the Brooklyn Nets, including an unprotected pick in this year's draft, which is going to be, at worst, a high lottery pick probably.

There's just a lot of reason to actually pay attention to what's happening in Houston, which there haven't been many of those for the last couple of years. And I think that's a welcome change. So whether this ends in tears or not, whether this ends in catching the Golden State Warriors or not, even if they wind up losing out the rest of the way, I kind of feel like the Rockets have won in some grander sense than they've won in the last few years. You can tell me if you think that that's ridiculous, Frank. I'm willing to be poked fun at.

FRANK MADDEN: So the fact that the rockets are now legitimately fun, and interesting, and are not featuring James Harden-- thank god they didn't resign him last summer, which feels like a million years ago--

DAN DEVINE: Wow, yeah.

FRANK MADDEN: I'm very much all in on this next version of the Rockets. And one of my biggest kind of "what-ifs" of the summer was what if Ime Udoka doesn't take the rockets job immediately at the beginning of May? I think he took that job maybe a couple days before the Bucks officially fired Mike Budenholzer.

We'll never know, but I think he would have been a great fit in Milwaukee. And instead, we had a much more eventful summer, and fall, and winter than we probably bargained for in Milwaukee.