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Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers game preview

NBA: Houston Rockets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets open their 2023-24 preseason tonight in Indianapolis.

For the last couple of seasons, the preseason felt like a time of desperation for Rockets fans. Bereft of a superstar, the games turned into something more than they deserved. The preseason itself means quite little. That’s an indisputable fact. However, when you need someone, anyone, to step up and show that they can be the leader of a team, you lose sight of the facts. The same phenomenon occurs during Summer League, where fans use a couple of scrimmages between undrafted rookies and top picks to project a player’s career path for the next 15 years.

And yet, things feel different in Houston these days. Sure, we’re still likely to see the wild reactions to made and missed shots, but the Rockets aren’t as distressed in their search for a superstar. The journey through the desert of irrelevancy is nearing its end, even if the trek to contendership (contenderdom?) feels impossible. Houston made it from the Shire to Rivendell. But Mordor’s still a long ways off.

Barring major injuries and distractions, the Rockets are probably done being a 20-win team. That feels like a step in the right direction. There are now veterans on the team that are respected around the league. Ime Udoka brings a fresh start, for both him and the franchise. And there’s enough depth and talent to start dreaming a little. I’ve repeated many times in this space that expectations get people fired. The expectations are still low, but the hope has rarely been higher.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on Space City Home Network