In 2019 I talked with former Houston Rockets player, two-time NBA Finalist (1981, 1986), Robert Reid. We discussed his time in Houston, playing with Moses Malone, and playing in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
Who was your idol when you were young?
No idols back then. I grew up in a military family and traveled the world. So, the only basketball I saw was the base teams. Eventually Walt Frazier, Dr. J. & George Gervin.
You were picked by the Rockets with 40th pick. Did you expect to be drafted with higher pick?
I played the way I played in college and I did not worry about it. There were 30 rounds and 19 teams and 11 on a team. I just wanted a chance.
In your rookie season you already joined a team with two Hall of Famers, Calvin Murphy, and Moses Malone. How do you remember your first year?
They were not Hall of Famers then, but those two – Mike Newlin and Rudy Tomjanovich. Those were the guys who took me under their wings. The Hall of Famers came later. We were a real team.
Despite having a record of 40-42, Rockets reached the NBA Finals in 1981. How important was for you the victory against the defending champion, Los Angeles Lakers?
As you see how these college kids play today. That is what we had in our locker room. We made it this far, lets finish the job.
During the 1981 NBA Finals you were the second-best player on the Rockets team, after Moses Malone. Was it a huge responsibility for you?
There again. I never did know then, I just played. I played my best every night. We were about the team, not individual stats.
Do you think that Moses Malone was one of the most underrated players in NBA history?
In the beginning. After 1981 and his first MVP, Moses Malone made a name, and the big guys from the other teams had to really keep in shape all summer like he did. They could not wait to play their way into shape during the season.
Retirement and comeback
Can you tell a little bit more about your absence from the NBA during 1982-83 season?
Moses was going to Philly, and the Rockets did not want to match him. All the Rockets were interested in was getting the first pick in Ralph. I do not play to lose, so I left. I do not think I missed anything.
How did you feel in the coaching system of Bill Fitch?
Bill was a good coach, but at times he tried to control veteran players to much. A lot of times we saw what was going on the floor, but he insisted on a tight grip.
Did you have any problems with becoming a sixth man for the Rockets?
No. I enjoyed being the 6th man. Now I am playing the bench players not only the starter every night.
1986 NBA Finals
In 1986 playoffs you eliminated the Lakers. What did you feel when you won such important series against Kareem and Magic for the second time?
It was a tough series, but we could match up with them, so they were the ones that were worried. It was a great win for the city.
When you got the information that you will face the Celtics in the Finals again, did you feel that Rockets had a better chance to win than in 1981?
Yes, I felt we had a good chance, but Bird was playing at a higher level in 1986, and then they also had the late great Dennis Johnson. Those two could take their team anywhere, and we had lost John Lucas.
In Game 5 of the 1986 Finals, you recorded 13 points and 17 assists, helping the Rockets to keep the series alive. How do you remember playing under much bigger pressure?
As I told the players at that game, in 1981 we lost the championship on our home court, and I had no intention in losing the game on our home court. Even with Ralph being ejected, Jim Peterson came in and brought 100% and the win.
Time with the Rockets
Did you think that Hakeem Olajuwon will become one of the best centers to ever play the game?
You saw greatness in him from the beginning, with Moses working him out in the summer. The coaches after us let him play and he came into his own.
For few seasons you had a chance to play with Rudy Tomjanovich. Did you feel that he could become such successful coach with the Rockets during 1990s?
During that time, he was a scout for the Rockets, and he was able to watch other teams coaches. He used that to become a good coach.
What in your opinion would be the highlight of your career?
To be able to say that after my 14 years of playing, to still have fans that still think I look like I can play and am the same nice guy they remembered.