Texas businessman Tilman Fertitta recently purchased the Houston Rockets for a cool $2.2 billion, the highest price tag ever for an American sports franchise.
Speaking to reporters at his introductory press conference on Tuesday, the new owner didn’t waste any time making his expectations crystal-clear for this season.
"To walk into this situation with James Harden and Chris Paul is unbelievable," Fertitta explained, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "You've got to remember the name of the game is to get to the playoffs, and this is a superstar league. You are not going to get to the playoffs every year and likely make it to the second round if you don't have a James Harden playing for you. You add a guy like Chris Paul, and you should get to the Western Conference finals.”
He continued, ”That's the way the league's going is two or three stars per team. And you know what? If we don't get where we need to be this year with two superstars ... we're going to make good decisions, and we're going to do whatever it takes to win. I can promise you that.”
This summer, Chris Paul was added to an already-dominant offensive team that won 55 games last season. However, the Rockets ended their playoff run in an ugly 114-75 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Not only did the Spurs blow them out, but they also played the game without their best player Kawhi Leonard. The contest was also played in Houston, making the loss sting even more.
While he’s on track to make the Hall of Fame someday, Paul has famously not been a part of any real contending team in the playoffs, which has haunted his legacy.
Despite the history of the team, their new star and coach Mike D’Antoni, it seems as though the new owner is setting his sights high, as a possible matchup with the Golden State Warriors would likely be an offensive explosion.
However, since an influx in All-Star talent moved to the Western Conference this offseason, it will be far from a clear path to the Semifinals. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers, the perennially-dominant Spurs and the new-look Los Angeles Clippers will all likely make some noise.
Other squads like the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans also have talented rosters and could certainly be better than expected.
Therefore, the road for Houston won’t be easy at all.