Saturday, October 20, 2007
ROCK La Familia - Houston Rockets Season Preview
Imagine going out on your first date with a chick, thinking you have everything you have to make it a happy ending at the end of the night. You have the big car, flashy crib, and a few other amenities to be successful...and the farthest you get is a first base kiss. Sucks, right?
Then, the next date goes horribly wrong. Car breaks down, the food you were cooking in the kitchen burns, and she leaves inexplicably early without you even getting out of the batter's box. Even worse.
Then, on the third date, the same scenario as the first date rears its ugly head, you only getting to first base despite expecting more.
Are you imagining? Well, welcome to life as a Rockets fan in the McGrady/Yao Era.
When T-Mac arrived in H-town in 2004, Yao was the big car and Mac was the flashy crib. We lost in the first round to Dallas despite winning the first two games of the series in D-town, partly because the role players (the amenities) didn't show up (outside of Mike James).
The next year, everyone got hurt and we missed the playoffs completely. A true disaster season. Then, in '06-'07, we couldn't get out of the first round, despite A) having the home-court advantage against Utah; and B) being up 2-0 heading to Salt Lake City. We lost Game 7 at home, even though we were up by as many as six with under 2 minutes left. This hurt worse than being blown out by 40 in Game 7 vs. the Mavs in '05.
But this is 2007, and thangs are different. Out with Jeff Van Grouchy and his lethargic offense and mid-90s defense and in with Rick Adelman and his high-paced motion offense and his playoff-collapsing defense, or lack thereof. Out with old-school legend Carroll Dawson, who was probably the most underrated GM of his generation, and in with Daryl Morey, he of Moneyball fame and numbers-crunching stylistics. Morey spent the first three months on the job only dramatically improving the roster and adding much-needed depth to a top-6 NBA squad.
Out with Chuck Hayes (at least as a starter) and in with Luis Scola, the Argentinian MVP who couldn't find room on the deep Spurs roster. Scola brings with him a wide-body of experience, considering that although he's a rookie, he's 27 years old and has been playing professionally almost as long as tennis players.
Out with Rafer Alston (as a big-minute starter), in with Mike James, Steve Francis, and Aaron Brooks. Last year, Skip to my Lou averaged over 32 minutes a game, a position he wasn't really ready to do on a playoff team. There was no good backup last year, so Morey went out and got James (traded for Juwan Howard), Francis (signed as a free agent after being bought out by Portland, and Brooks (drafted 26th overall out of Oregon).
Skip will most likely start the season as the starter (until the inconsistency kicks in), while James or Francis will end games. Stevie, who won over the hearts of young, brash guards in the Houston area from '99-'04, may not be the Franchise he once was, but he's still a talented NBA player capable of putting up big numbers in the league and on this team. James is a bullish guard who can knock down shots, get to the lane if needed, and is a good defender. Plus, he's a leader, something sorely lacking in this franchise. Brooks, the speedy rookie, can penetrate the lane with his superior quickness and ball-handling, but won't see much of the floor until the later half of the year due to his inexperience and the depth at his position.
John Lucas. Luther Head. Steve Novak. They probably go bye-bye.
Dikembe Mutombo is back for his rocking chair year. Kirk Snyder is teetering the line between being an impact role player in Houston or the wrong side of a pink slip. (Related note: That 2004 Draft is starting to look worse and worse everyday. The number 2 pick, Emeka Okafor --Houston's own--- hasn't even gotten a contract extension from the Bobcats. THE BOBCATS!!)
More good news is the return, and suspected reemergence, of the enigma formerly known as Bonzi Wells. Obviously inspired by Adelman's presence, Wells has looked good in the motion offense and is showing some much-needed effort.
Of course, it all comes down to the Escalade (Yao) and the penthouse suite (McGrady). Yao was a legit MVP candidate before the toe injury that sat him for months and vaulted T-Mac into MVP consideration. In last year's first round, McGrady and the Great Wall left it up to the washer and dryer, the swimming pool, and the free parking, all of which weren't equipped to get it done. At least this year, we have better role players to shoulder the load in case Mac decides to take the last minute and a half of a Game 7 off. I'm just saying...
All in all, the Rockets have the tools to storm through the regular season. They have depth at every position and will be ready for any injury outside of Yao Ming and, to a slightly extent, McGrady (who has Bonzi, Francis, and Snyder to step in, just in case).
And if we only get to first base this year, well, maybe this chick just doesn't like us.
Regular Season Prediction: 58-24, first in Southwest Division.
Playoff Prediction: No. 2 Seed in Western Conference; lose in Western Conf. Finals
Posted by Trey Jones