Where do the Rockets go now?

The Rockets proved themselves right. They were good enough to win a championship.

However, with the Rockets a win away from knocking out the Warriors, they received a cruel twist of fate when Paul suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. You will never be able to convince anyone in the Houston locker room that they wouldn’t have headed to the NBA Finals with a healthy Paul.

Aside from the unlikely scenario of winning the LeBron James summer sweepstakes — and that would require some amazing salary-cap gymnastics by Houston general manager Daryl Morey — there’s no reason the Rockets shouldn’t run it back with the same core next season.

However, the price for keeping this team together will soar this summer.

Three starters — Paul, Capela and glue guy Trevor Ariza — will be free agents. So will a couple of key reserves, wing Gerald Green and defensive stopper Luc Mbah a Moute.

Paul delayed becoming a free agent for a year, opting into the final season of his contract and forcing a trade from the Clippers. That allowed the Rockets to keep the midlevel exception they used to sign Tucker. Paul’s potential reward: a five-year, $205 million maximum contract that would pay him $46.6 million in the final season, when he will be 37 years old.

Capela, who just finished the final season of his rookie deal, will be a restricted free agent. Morey has made it clear that Capela can’t price his way out of Houston, but a rebuilding team with cap space (the Phoenix Suns or Dallas Mavericks?) might call his bluff and dare the Rockets to match a max deal.

It’s a win for the Rockets if they can keep Capela with a deal in the range of Oklahoma City center Steven Adams’ contract (four years, $100 million).

Ariza won’t be nearly as expensive, especially in a market that isn’t expected to be kind to older role players. The same applies to Mbah a Moute and Green. They could all return to the Rockets on deals that are relatively team-friendly.

But new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is likely to find himself looking at a large luxury tax bill, potentially in excess of $70 million. Fertitta declared after buying the team that he’d be willing to pay what it takes to keep a contender together. The Rockets have eliminated any doubt that they fit into that category.

“I feel like this team is going to hold that championship up soon,” Green said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t this year, but we’re on the right path.”

Houston’s front office will deal with the price of continuing to contend for NBA titles this summer. Right now, the Rockets are experiencing the agonizing pain of coming so close.