Sorry, James Harden: These former Houston Rockets are still in hunt for NBA title

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021
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PREVIOUS STORY: If you still aren't convinced the Rockets this season is different from the team from the previous seasons, this latest departure should be reason to change your mind.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Editor's note: A push notification unrelated to this story was sent in error Wednesday through the ABC13 News App with the incorrect messaging. The story can be found here.

As the Houston Rockets ponder about their long-term future, which now includes picking up a talented prospect with the No. 2 pick in July's NBA Draft, some of their former players are still alive in the hunt for an NBA championship.

The rosters of the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks - the final four teams in contention - boast talent that were once part of the Rockets in the last decade, which included a run of eight consecutive playoff appearances.

Clutch City fans can wonder with strong opinion whether the Rockets should have let these stars go, which is a discussion to be had for another day.

The video above is from April 2021 that covers a key departure within the Rockets.

But there are two things that all of these NBA veterans all have in common: they are all seeking their first ring, and none of them is named James Harden.

Chris Paul is the lone former Rocket actively playing for the Phoenix Suns, a team which won all of its games inside last season's NBA bubble but missed the postseason. Paul is starting off his second-ever career appearance in the conference finals sidelined due to the league's COVID protocol, but he has been instrumental in Phoenix's first playoff run in 14 seasons. CP3's path to the "Valley of the Sun" from H-Town has been a winding one. Paul spent only one season in Oklahoma City after he was traded away from Houston for Russell Westbrook, another former Rocket who went on to compete in this postseason. "The Point God," who is in his 16th year in the league, came over to Phoenix before this current season.

SEE ALSO: Chris Paul thanks the Rockets and Houston in heartfelt post

The Los Angeles Clippers, the team other than Phoenix competing for the Western Conference crown, have three former Rockets on the roster: Patrick Beverley, Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. Beverley facing off with Paul is a full circle moment for both. "Pat Bev," a popular point guard during his days in Houston, was among the players that came over to LA in the 2017 trade that brought CP3 to Houston. Cousins, just like another player who will be mentioned later in this story, was actually a member of the Rockets to begin the 2020-2021 season. He was waived mid-season and later picked up by the Clips as a backup center. As for Patterson, the Clippers are the journeyman forward's fifth team since he was drafted in 2010 by the Rockets.

SEE ALSO: Patrick Beverley part of trade to bring CP3 to Houston

The surprising Atlanta Hawks eliminated the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to get to the Eastern Conference finals, thanks in part to Clint Capela, who has averaged at least 10 rebounds a game in the playoffs. The 27-year-old wound up with the Hawks in a four-team deal last season that landed Robert Covington in Houston. In regards to former Rockets in the A-T-L, Capela isn't alone. Lou Williams, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers by the Rockets for a stretch run in 2017, has become a reliable rotation guard for the Hawks.

SEE ALSO: Rockets' Gerald Green, Clint Capela, Nene traded in blockbuster deal

Atlanta's opponent in the East finals is the Milwaukee Bucks, who overcame a superstar "big three" in the Brooklyn Nets that included Harden. (Remember when we said none of the remaining former Rockets is named James Harden?) And one of the players standing out in Milwaukee's run is P.J. Tucker, whose defensive duties in Game 7, especially against Kevin Durant, made him a hero for the team that's seeing its second conference finals in three seasons. Tucker, like Cousins, started this current season in Houston. The Rockets sent him and Rodions Kurucs, a player who appeared in just 11 games for Houston after coming over in the James Harden trade, to the Bucks mid-season.

SEE ALSO: Rockets trade PJ Tucker to Milwaukee, ending 4-season run in Houston

While the outcome of a top team remains uncertain right now, there's one guarantee by the time the NBA Finals is complete - at least one former Rocket will win a title.

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