Things Looking Up For Rockets
It was hard to believe when the Rockets ripped off that winning streak last year. It was basically Tracy McGrady and a bunch of no-names tearing through the Western Conference. Unfortunately the season again ended in the first round of the playoffs for Houston. Sensing their window was beginning to close, the Rockets rolled the dice and brought in forward Ron Artest. At least last night, it looked like a brilliant move.
Artest racked up 29 points and 7 rebounds, while providing his usual brand of top-notch defense. With an aching Tracy McGrady far from 100 percent, Artest carried the load in the 4th quarter in what was a big win for the Rockets over the Dallas Mavericks.
If McGrady gets healthy, Yao Ming stays on the court, and Artest keeps his composure the Rockets may make a strong run at the #1 seed in the loaded Western Confernce. They have three guys in their starting line-up who can take over a game at any given time. McGrady will benefit from not having the constant pressure of being the go-to guy, as Artest can step up on nights he is struggling. More importantly, Artest gives them a big-time defender on the perimeter and brings some toughness, which was lacking from last year’s Rockets team.
The Rockets go beyond their big three however. Luis Scola had a coming-out party in the playoffs last year, and provides great energy around the basket at the power forward position. Rafer Alston is a capable point guard, who can catch fire and kill teams with his outside shooting. Off the bench, Chuck Hayes is an excellent defender as he showed last night when guarding Dirk Nowitzki down the stretch. Brent Barry can score in bunches and provides valuable experience, while Aaron Brooks is turning into the one the best backup point guards in the league. He provided 14 points in only 20 minutes of action last night. Also don’t forget they still have Shane Battier coming back from injury, who is also one of the better defenders in the league.
With Artest on the board, the Rockets are one of the deepest teams in the West. They just might prevent the Lakers or Hornets from sailing to that #1 overall seed.