A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
A Preview Of The ’08-09 Houston Rockets
HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets surprised some people last season accomplishing a 22-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history. They claimed the best record in the West, with center Yao Ming missing the final 26 games and playoffs after needing surgery to correct a stress fracture in his left foot.<
No one took them seriously, especially after dropping its first two games at home and never recovering in a six-game elimination by the Utah Jazz. However, Yao is back and the Rockets have a 55-win season, as well as a storied winning streak to build on.
But Houston isn’t about to rest on their laurels after acquiring talented forward Ron Artest from Sacramento in late July. Adding Artest to the mix with rookie Joey Dorsey and the resigning of Carl Landry, Yao, Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston and company may now be able to give Coach Rick Adelman the ingredients needed to dethrone Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics this season.
Houston learned to win last season without a 7-foot-6, 310-pound center, who averaged 22.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. With the addition of Artest, it brings another fearless defender, who can also score and rebound.
One thing working in the Rockets favor is that they pose matchup problems for opposing teams. Houston can score in a variety of ways , both inside and out, while at the same time shut down teams on the defensive end and pounding the glass.
The fans and team are excited about the prospects of this seasson;however, the Celtics won’t go away quietly. Boston’s Big Three, and the rest of their teammates, aren’t satisfied with one championship. Anybody who wants to take the title from the Celtics won’t get it without a fight.
Plenty of teams will be ready to start one, including the Rockets, but they will have to tangle with the best in the West in the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, and the Dallas Mavericks.
MVP Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have center Andrew Bynum back to join Pau Gasol in their front courts, hoping that will make the difference if they get another shot at the Celtics.
The New Orleans Hornets led by guard Chris Paul followed their breakthrough season by signing former Celtics reserve James Posey.
Even Tracy McGrady, who has never won a playoff series is thinking big now that Ron Artest has joined the Rockets.
“This is the first time I’ve felt good about going into the season that something really special is going to come out of this season, if we all just put it together and just understand our roles,” McGrady said.
WESTERN CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK
– The Rockets are one of five teams that represent the NBA’s Western Conference Southwest Division. The other teams include: the New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Maverics, and Memphis Grizzlies.
– Along with father Rick and brother John, offseason acquisition Brent Barry became the third member of his family to join the Rockets franchise.
– Houston have ranked in the top two in field-goal percentage defensie in each of the last five seasons.
– The top four scorers for the New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul (21.1), David West (20.6), Peja Stojakovic (16.4) and Tyson Chandler (11.8), Stojakovic and Chandler are all under contract through the 2009-2010 season.
– The San Antonio Spurs won each of their championships in odd years: 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007.
– Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki became the Mavericks franchise’s leading scorer last season with 16,990 career points. He is one of seven players that currently leads a franchise in scoring while having played his entire career with that organization.
– The Memphis Grizzlies, the Rockets opponent for their season opener, had the league’s worst record in games decided by three points or fewer last season, going 2-11 in those contests.
– Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay was the only player in the NBA to finish the 2007-08 season with at least 1,500 points , 400 rebounds, 100 steals, 75 blocked shots and 125 three-pointers.
– Dallas is one of five teams to win at least 50 games in eight consecutive seasons.
– Houston has ranked in the top two in field-goal percentage defense in each of the last five seasons.
– Last season, Hornets guard Chris Paul became the fifth player to lead the league in assists (11.6) and steals (2.7) per game in the same season.
– Western Conference key additions include the following players: Gerald Green (Mavericks), O.J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur (Grizzlies), and James Posey (Hornets).
– Among the top five players in the Western Conference include Chris Paul, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.
ROCKETS’ KEY HOME GAMES
Wednesday vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Tues., Nov. 4th vs. Boston Celtics
Sat., Nov. 15th vs. New Orleans Hornets
Wed., Nov. 19th vs. Dallas Mavericks
Sat., Nov. 29th vs. San Antonio Spurs
Tues.,Dec. 9th vs. Atlanta Hawks
Sat., Dec. 27th vs. Utah Jazz
Tues, Jan. 13th vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Mon., Jan 19th vs. Denver Nuggets
Tues.,Feb. 24th vs. Portland Trailblazers
Thurs.,Feb.26th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Friday,Mar. 6th vs. Phoenix Suns
Wed., Mar. 11th vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Wed., Mar. 18th vs. Detroit Pistons
Sun., April 5th vs. Portland Trailblazers
Tues.,April 7th vs. Orlando Magic
Mon.,April 13th vs. New Orleans Hornets