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After a smart summer, the Rockets are still the Mavericks' key rival

While the Mavs battle some injury questions to start the season, the Rockets got better in every area.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to tear the band-aid off, Mavericks fans. It's time we talk about the Houston Rockets, the same team that ended Dallas' long-shot playoff hopes last spring. In an alarmingly short period of time, Houston has jumped from pesky, almost there fringe playoff contender, to an outright juggernaut. Somehow, they managed to get even better in the offseason after having lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Here's the questions we have about the Rockets, how they match-up with Dallas and where we go from here.

Key Dates

  • Saturday, Nov. 14 at Houston: For the fifth straight time in regular season play, the Mavs will play the Rockets on the second night of a back to back.
  • Friday, Dec. 4 in Dallas: Getting to play the Rockets on two days of rest should help their cause.
  • Sunday, Jan. 24 at Houston
  • Wednesday, April 6 in Dallas: Knowing how the regular season has played out recently, this could be a big game for playoff seeding.

How have the Rockets changed over the summer?

They got better, through a strong gamble at point guard, solid drafting and reasonable extensions around the fringes of their roster. While trading for oft-troubled point guard Ty Lawson may be a bold move off the court, on it Lawson should be able to relieve some of the immense pressure MVP candidate James Harden faced last season being the primary ball handler and scorer for Houston. Lawson should come off the bench with Patrick Beverley, freshly inked on a multi-year deal, remaining the starter.

Houston also re-signed Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, and K.J. McDaniels while also nabbing spark plug scoring guard Marcus Thornton on a cheap contract. Pair those deals with the drafting of Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell and the Rockets managed to upgrade or improve depth at all positions of weakness during the off-season.

What are the Mavericks biggest challenges against the Rockets?

The Rockets are an athletic monster compared to the Mavericks. Stopping Houston at the rim and on the boards is going to be a nightmare for Dallas. Rebounding will be a consistent problem for the Mavericks this year but Houston is one team that should cause the Mavericks consistent trouble in every match-up.

What are the Rockets biggest challenges against the Mavericks?

Stopping the scoring. Despite having top-notch defenders at both center in Dwight Howard and point guard in Patrick Beverly, the Mavericks should give the Rockets problems on defense. The Mavs' ability to spread the floor and get good looks should be beneficial against a Rockets team that had some weak spots on defense. This is predicated on each line-up being healthy, though, and with two early season match-ups on the schedule, the Rockets biggest challenge against Dallas might be simple focus.

Why should I keep calm this season when Dallas plays Houston?

Social media allowed what was a rather tepid rivalry to heat up to ridiculous temperatures during the playoffs. Heck, things even got out of hand between us and our friends at The Dream Shake. Fans are always going to be passionate and crazy. That's part of sports. But this season, if you see something that's below what you consider acceptable behavior for a Mavericks fan, call them out on it.

This is just sports. It's worth the emotion and the passion, but it's not worth hate and rage. Enjoy the rivalry with Houston. Feel the intensity of every game. And be good to your fellow humans.