AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons begin
the defense of their NBA title Tuesday against the new-look
Houston Rockets at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Boosted by mid-season acquisition Rasheed Wallace, Detroit
defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games to become the
first Eastern Conference team to win the NBA championship since
the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
Most of the main contributors from that team return this season,
with only reserve forwards Mehmet Okur and Corliss Williamson
on different squads. Derrick Coleman - who was traded for
Williamson - and new signee Antonio McDyess should more than
offset those losses.
Houston, on the other hand, made one of the biggest moves in the
offseason, trading guards Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and
center Kelvin Cato to the Orlando Magic for two-time NBA scoring
champion Tracy McGrady and Juwan Howard, after making its first
postseason appearance in five seasons.
The Rockets set franchise records in both scoring defense and
field-goal percentage in their first season under coach Jeff Van
Gundy. Yao Ming continued his improvement in his second
campaign, leading the team with 17.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and
Ming had one of his best performances last season against the
Pistons, scoring 22 points and pulling down 20 rebounds - his
first career 20-20 game - in Houston's 86-80 win December 6.
The Rockets did not fare as well in their second meeting, losing
at The Palace, 85-66. The 66 points tied a franchise-low.
The Pistons, who will receive their championship rings before
the game, have split their last 10 season openers, but have lost
both times they have faced a Western Conference opponent
(Lakers in 1994 and at Dallas in 2001).