The Houston Rockets weren't great before they traded James Harden.
But since then? They're teetering on the edge of NBA history. Not in a good way.
The Oklahoma City Thunder dealt the Rockets a 114-112 defeat on Sunday. The loss was Houston's 20th straight, extending the worst losing streak in team history. It also puts the Rockets in orbit of the longest losing streak in league history.
'Process' Sixers set the standard — twice
They still have a way to go. The "Process" Philadelphia 76ers have the dubious honor of posting the two longest losing streaks in league history — 28 games across the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons and 26 games in 2013-14. The pre/post-LeBron 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers also posted a 26-game losing streak.
So the Rockets stand six losses from the single-season record and eight losses from the all-time record. They've still got some work to do. But does anybody believe this team isn't capable of approaching or breaking the notorious record?
Painful start for rookie head coach
The streak is taking its toll on rookie head coach Stephen Silas, who was visibly upset in his postgame news conference Sunday.
Silas, 47, took the Rockets job this offseason after two decades as an NBA assistant coach. He inherited a roster that featured Harden and Russell Westbrook and has undergone a transformation in the months since he was hired.
Injuries have piled up in Houston
The Rockets have been battling attrition since the Jan. 13 deal that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. Rising star Christian Wood missed 17 straight games with an ankle injury. John Wall missed five straight with a knee injury. Victor Oladipo missed nine games during the losing streak. The Rockets have been forced to mix and match lineups with a roster that's looked little like the one they started with this season.
This is a team that posted a winning record past the quarter-mark of the season. The Rockets started 3-5 before trading Harden and actually ran off a six-game winning streak after the trade en route to an 11-10 record. But on Feb. 6, they lost to the San Antonio Spurs. And they haven't won since.
Houston's best hope to fend off history is that Wood, Wall and Oladipo have all returned to a Rockets lineup that almost eked out a win over a bad Thunder team playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on Sunday.
They were a Lu Dort block of Wall away from taking a late lead.
Will Wolves save Rockets from history?
They also have two upcoming games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have managed to post a worse record than Houston. The NBA-worst 10-32 Timberwolves are 1.5 games behind the now 11-30 Rockets.
So there's hope in Houston. Of avoiding dubious history, that is. Fielding a competitive basketball team anytime soon is a different story.
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