Wednesday , Nov , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Year two of McGrady/Yao experiment

(Sports Network) – Year two of the Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming experiment starts
tonight, as the Houston Rockets open the 2005-06 campaign against the
Sacramento Kings at the Toyota Center.

The Rockets, who last won a playoff series in 1997, finished 51-31 in the
2004-05 regular season and were the fifth seed in the postseason. In the first
round of the playoffs, they won the first two games of the best-of-seven
series at Dallas, but lost the next three to the Mavericks and would
eventually fall on the road in the decisive Game 7.

McGrady completed his first season with the Rockets, after being acquired in a
blockbuster trade in the 2004 offseason. He had an excellent first campaign
with Houston, as he led the team in scoring (25.7 ppg) and assists (5.7 apg).
He scored in double-digits in 77 of the 78 games he played during season.

In the postseason, McGrady averaged 30.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, McGrady’s impressive statistics were not enough
to get them into the conference semifinals.

Yao teamed with McGrady to give the Rockets a deadly inside-outside
combination. Yao averaged 18.4 points and a team-high 8.4 boards in 80 games
in 2004-05.

McGrady and Yao are the key ingredients to the Rockets’ success. With two All-
Stars on the roster, Houston’s management needed to try and surround the pair
with some quality role players who can be part of a winning formula.

Houston signed free agent forward Stromile Swift and guard Derek Anderson, who
recorded 9.2 points per game in 47 contests for Portland in 2004-05, while
Scott Padgett ended his two-year tenure with the club and inked a deal with
the New Jersey Nets. The Rockets also managed to re-sign veterans Jon Barry
and Dikembe Mutombo.

Swift, who will turn 26 on November 21, will be entering his sixth season in
the league. Originally selected out of Louisiana State by the Vancouver
Grizzlies in the first round (second pick overall) of the 2000 NBA Draft,
Swift averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 60 games for Memphis in
2004-05. The 6-9 Swift gives the Rockets a physical presence down low.

The Rockets acquired point guard Rafer Alston from Toronto for journeyman Mike
James. Alston netted 14.2 points and dished out 6.4 assists for the Raptors in
2004-05. The 6-2 Alston will be playing for his fourth different organization
and is entering his seventh season in the league.

Jeff Van Gundy is back for his third season as the general of the Rockets, who
have lost to the Lakers and Mavericks in the postseason during his first two
years as head coach. Prior to landing in Houston, Van Gundy led the New York
Knicks to six straight postseason appearances to go along with a berth in the
1998-99 NBA Finals. He will continue to stress defense, but will give McGrady
creative freedom on offense.

Van Gundy must figure out a way to get the Rockets to advance past the first
round of the playoffs. He is 4-8 in the postseason as the Rockets’ general.

The Kings are playing their second game of the season, as they start the new
campaign with three straight road contests. They will visit Phoenix on Sunday,
before returning home to host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, P.J. Brown scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, as the
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets opened the regular season and their new home
with a 93-67 victory over the Kings at the Ford Center. Peja Stojakovic had 18
points and Shareef Abdur-Rahim chipped in 14 for the Kings, who shot a dismal
31.3 percent from the field.

Swingman Bonzi Wells, who was acquired from Memphis during the offseason, had
just six points on 2-of-11 shooting in his first game for Sacramento, which
was just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc in the loss to the Hornets.

Last season, the Kings and Rockets split four contests as each club picked up
a win at home and on the road. Overall, Sacramento has won three of its last
four at Houston and has won seven of the last nine meetings in this series.