Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has heaped pressure on the team by insisting that they are more than capable of winning a championship this year.
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The Rockets are currently the No.2 seed in the Western Conference with nine games remaining in the regular season, and they have achieved it without center Dwight Howard for a significant part of the year.
Guard James Harden has stepped up in his absence and established himself as an MVP candidate, but Houston are still suffering from various health concerns ahead of the playoffs.
Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas have been out recently, Patrick Beverley has a torn ligament in his wrist and could require surgery while Howard is still working his way back to full fitness and fitting in with the team again.
However, that has done little to curb Morey’s enthusiasm as he is confident that this team has what it takes to cause any team trouble in the post-season.
“We think we can win the title with or without Beverley,” Morey said on ESPN Radio’s Basketball Insiders show.
“Obviously it gets more challenging without Beverley; he’s the key to our ability to guard a lot of these very good point guards in the West.”
Morey conceded that the Golden State Warriors will rightly go in to the playoffs as favourites given their form and consistency over the course of the season, while they have benefited from having a healthy roster for the majority of the campaign.
However, the focus is in-house for Morey and the Rockets as they will be bitterly disappointed if they do not improve on their recent post-season record which has seen them advance beyond the first round just three times since they last won a title back in 1995.
Houston certainly look better equipped and more experienced this time round to ensure that happens, but it remains to be seen whether or not they are able to live up to their general manager’s expectations.