The Houston Rockets are, at the time of writing this, 3-16. While they have a 2-game win streak, that is very bad. Truthfully, I’m not sure that there’s another word to describe how the Rockets’ season has started.
It’s not that the Rockets had title aspirations for the 2021-22 season. But after the rough season, to say Houston fans are dismayed would be an understatement. The Houston Rockets have great young pieces, but the sum of those parts is not what anyone expected.
Less than a calendar year ago, the Houston Rockets were beginning to blow it up and start over. They traded Russell Westbrook for John Wall on December 2nd, 2020. Then the Rockets traded James Harden in mid-January of 2021. PJ Tucker went to the to-be-champion Bucks in March. The title aspirations of the 2020 season, and the “hamstring away” NBA Championship run of 2018, were instantly a thing of the past.
The precipitous fall from grace is wearing, but a handful of Rockets Twitter personalities decided to fix that. Over the summer, Rockets fan “Zeke” had the idea to start a “Safe Space” twitter space with Rockets Twitter aggregator Don Knock. Zeke had shot Knock the idea in a DM, arguing that a town hall-style assembly would help Rockets Fans through the struggle. They shared the idea with super fan ProdiGNBA and young writer and fan Braddeaux. In the town hall, which became the “Safe Space,” fans could discuss potential trades, state of the franchise, and more. Throughout the off-season, pre-season, and season’s beginning, these “Safe Spaces” found more and more followers. Coaching critiques arose, as did questions about rotations and lineups. The Twitter space became a place for simultaneous high-level conversation and fandom’s wishful thinking.
After Houston lost to the Oklahoma City thunder team they’d beaten weeks earlier, it exploded.
That night, the Rockets’ “safe space” hit nearly 1,000 people. It featured professional media, a number of blog presences, prominent “#RocketsTwitter” voices, and (potentially) native-Houstonian and Rocket Danuel House… Some reported in the space that they’d seen him logged in earlier, while he’d been getting dogged by some fans. But, bluntly,
Losing to the Thunder, who Houston beat earlier in the year, brought the losing streak to 13. The “we’re in this together” process had a number of responses. Some were angry. Some were confused. Even others were sad. The space featured fans that are 16 and only know an NBA with the Rockets near the top of the league as well as 40+-year-old fans who’ve never seen twitter spaces. Even fans from other fan bases found their way into the Rockets’ Safe Space and made comments feeling Houston’s pain. Sixers fans reminded us of their dog-days, and commented that things can turn around.
The intent of the Space, per Knock, was not necessarily to be a “vent session.” Don Knock commented that it was a chance to “have some bigger Rockets accounts on there to help blend audiences and let regular people get a shot to make their voices heard too.” What has been fascinating in this blending has been where the voices have found common ground. Media members and die-hard fans alike have more similar sentiments than either could have realized beforehand. In the Safe Space, “@Rocket_Wicked” and Kelly Iko of The Athletic can both find common ground in their frustration during losses even if they see the bigger picture differently. It’s been a place for the unprofessional fans young and old to share commentary with the likes of Ben Dubose and Alykhan Bijani.
But the fan-favorite of the post-Thunder loss? Salman Ali, who covers the Rockets for Clutch Points. Ali went on and began professionally with his insight, but quickly began airing the same grievances as the fans. Passionately, Ali offered professional insight that mirrored that of the fans. That’s the strength of these town halls. Ali, Dubose, and Iko can share the mic with @mike_inago, @NickjoNJ, and @HustleTownSZN
“I feel like above all people need somewhere to get their feelings validated. The space provides a really good place for that, a lot of notables come in, share their unfiltered opinion,” commented ProdiGNBA.”
“To be honest, I think it’s therapeutic! These ‘town halls’ bring the community together,” said Zeke.
That community has expanded exponentially. ProdiGNBA points out that “we were happily doing this stuff for 20-30 people a month ago, [but] it’s been surprising how much it’s grown but it’s also awesome that people can come in, have a good time, and share their thoughts. Hopefully it’s somewhat sustainable.”
Most recently? The Safe Space after the Thunder loss hit nearly 1,000 people and included writers for major publications, radio voices, and more.
“We had about 230 for our lottery stream and I thought it would take months to even get close to that ever again,” Knock said. “We knew Houston would be bad so we thought fans might be apathetic,” added Zeke.
The power of social media is palpable. It can be a cruel place where hate begets hate, dominated by swear words and negative commentary. But sometimes, when certain eyes see the potential, it can provide a space for healing, conversation, consoling, and even celebration. Even for something as “insignificant” as fandom, the Rockets’ safe space provided a place of solace for hundreds of people after a Wednesday night loss.
Since the super-sized Safe Space Zeke, Knock, ProdiG, and Braddeaux have kept the train running. After each game they’re moderating a town hall online for instant reactions from a wide spectrum of Houston Rockets Twitter. And yes, the Houston Rockets did beat the Chicago Bulls 118 -113 on November 24th. Yes, they followed that with another win on Saturday night over the Charlotte Hornets.
While some of the fun from the Spaces needs to stay in the Spaces, the celebratory mood was tempered with calls for optimism, constructive criticism, redemption, and more. Houston Fans now rejoice, but the town hall-style conversations remain brilliantly analytical, decisively passionate, and powerfully grass-roots.
If another losing streak begins, or the Houston Rockets really do turn it around, be sure you’re following @itzjustzeke, @ProdiGNBA, @DonKnock, and @BraddeauxNBA for information on the Houston Rockets Safe Space. If the last Rockets vs. Thunder game was any indication, be sure to tune in November 29th and December 1st (twice in a week!). By the end of the week, the Safe Space could be firing Silas and blowing it all up again… or, the Rockets could be riding high following four-game win-streak.
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