Friday , Dec , 28 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Rethinking Houston: Should The Rockets Keep Yao Ming Or Tracy McGrady?

Like Magic, I’m starting to doubt these Rockets, too. After their off-season makeover I believed they were destined to secure home-court advantage and win a couple of playoff rounds. Instead of contending, Houston sits at 13-15, a disappointing tenth in the Western Conference. Over Christmas, the Rockets’ front office must have considered breaking up the Yao-McGrady partnership …

Rethinking Houston: Should The Rockets Keep Yao Ming Or Tracy McGrady?I have always respected Magic Johnson. As a rookie, in game six of the NBA Finals, he filled in at center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, posting an epic 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists. Of course, his fine play led those 1980 Lakers and four other purple-and-gold squads to championships.

In retirement, Magic has exhibited CEO leadership, developing a diverse set of businesses worth a billion dollars. However, as a TNT broadcaster, he’s taken some hits. Until now …

Last week, the no-look publicly declared what many have been privately thinking.

"[The Rockets have] got to trade [Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady]; it’s not working out," Johnson said. "We’ve seen it for all these years; they get eliminated from the first round [of the playoffs]. I thought they were going to play well together, but it’s not working.

"[Against Denver], the ball [was] moving more than it ever does watching a Houston game, and the same when Tracy McGrady was out. But the ball doesn’t move when they’re together. One of them has to go because it’s not working."

Like Magic, I’m starting to doubt these Rockets, too. After their off-season makeover I believed they were destined to secure home-court advantage and win a couple of playoff rounds.

Instead of contending, Houston sits at 13-15, a disappointing tenth in the Western Conference. Over Christmas, the Rockets’ front office must have considered breaking up the Yao-McGrady partnership.  

Of course, this is a perfect opportunity for the HoopsVibe masses to weigh-in. Who should Houston keep: Yao or T-Mac? Read the case for both players, form an opinion, and get at us in the comment box on whether you stick with Ming or McGrady?

Why Houston should keep Yao:

  • Size matters: All things equal, teams typically prefer building around centers instead of wings. Yao and T-Mac both have baggage, so keeping a post makes more sense.
  • High-low game: Yao’s post skills can draw double-teams, allowing the Rockets to play high-low basketball. The Rockets could enjoy success if they surround Yao with shooters who make the initial entry pass and, when they get the ball back off double-teams, nail the open shot or wait to reset the ball back down-low.
  • Fountain of youth: Yao is one year younger than McGrady, but he has significantly less wear-and-tear on his body.
  • Marketing machine: Yao is a global icon. He sells jerseys and, most importantly, makes Houston an international brand instead of just another NBA team.

Why Houston should keep McGrady:

  • Greatness is near: Eventually, McGrady will fulfill his destiny and breakthrough in the playoffs like many of his talented peers. After all, he’s too great to keep losing in the first round, right?
  • Already the franchise: Houston’s players recognize McGrady, not Yao, as their leader. On offense, the Rockets often watch McGrady isolate against a defender or fire away from the outside instead of pounding the ball inside to Yao.
  • Too talented to trade: McGrady, when healthy, is a superstar. He can do it all: score, pass, rebound, and defend.

Verdict: Keep Yao, trade McGrady

Why: Teams have paid the price for trading or losing an elite center. Milwaukee never recovered from dealing Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers; Orlando is still viewed as a Mickey Mouse franchise for failing to re-sign Shaquille O’Neal.

While teams have also been rewarded for staying patient with posts. Years ago, after several playoff failures, the Rockets were on the verge of trading Hakeem Olajuwon. Instead of making a rash decision, they surrounded their center with a plethora of outside gunners and won back-to-back NBA Titles. In San Antonio, the Spurs stuck with David Robinson and The Admiral eventually won two championships.

Yao can also win. Surround him with the right supporting cast-a modern day Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, and, hell with it, Vernon Maxwell-and the Rockets once again contend.

Nothing in McGrady’s game suggests he alone is capable of lifting the Rockets to such heights. To me, the talented wing would excel as a blending star on another team.

So I would rebuild around Yao and trade McGrady.

Who do you keep Yao or McGrady? Get at us in the comment box below or hit us up in HoopsVibe’s revamped fan forum.

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