The Houston Rockets were one
of the busiest teams during the offseason. The team changed coaches, front
office personnel, and a multitude of players in hopes of improving a club
that won 52 games last season but hasn't
advanced past the first round of the NBA playoffs since 1997. With
their two All-Star players, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, missing a combined
45 games last season because of injury, the Rockets have taken steps to assemble
a team stocked with talent and depth.
The Rockets began work in the offseason by hiring Rick Adelman as the
franchise's new coach and have backed him by acquiring Steve Francis, re-signing
Mike James, and trading for Jackie Butler and Argentine team standout Luis
Scola. The team also retained Bonzi Wells and added a promising rookie
– Aaron Brooks – with the 26th pick in the NBA Draft. The
moves have created a buzz among Houston's fan base and ESPN.com recently
called the Rockets' roster the most upgraded of any NBA team.
While the Rockets will have tough competition in the Western Conference
from the usual powerhouse teams, Houston is hopeful that they've put together
enough talent to take a shot at their first conference title since 1995.
The Rockets find themselves with an extremely deep backcourt. Coach
Rick Adelman and GM Daryl Morey certainly found a number of guards capable
of creating their own offense, as the team brought back two former Rockets
in Francis and James. Francis, a three-time All-Star, is returning to the
Rockets where he was once a marquee player and James is a tough veteran
who has solid range and can also get by his defender. Both can play either
guard position. "We needed more penetration guys who could
get to the basket and I think we found that," Morey told rockets.com
Bonzi Wells, meanwhile, adds a bigger option at the shooting guard position.
While he never had consistent playing time last season, the swingman should
see more minutes under Adelman, whom Wells played for in Sacramento
during the 2005-06 season.
In addition to those acquisitions, the Rockets selected point guard Aaron
Brooks from Oregon with the 26th overall pick in the draft. Brooks
weighed in as the lightest player (161 lbs.) at the NBA's 2007 pre-draft
camp, but was selected the top rookie at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Luis Scola is perhaps the most significant addition to the Rockets' lineup. Scola,
the 2007 FIBA Americas MVP,
has championship experience playing with the Argentinean National Team
which took Olympic gold in 2004. With his toughness and smooth offensive
game, the 6-9, 230-lb. power forward could be a perfect fit next to Yao. He's
an active big man with athleticism and passing skills and has been considered
by many scouts to be the best player in Europe for several years.
Of course, Houston still has literally the biggest player in the game,
Yao Ming, and one of the most exciting in Tracy McGrady. Combined,
these players contribute nearly 50 PPG and 16 RPG. If Yao and McGrady
can stay healthy with the addition of Scola, the Rockets will present a
dominant lineup that few teams will be able to match.
Backup center Dikembe Mutombo is expected to sign for one more year with the
Rockets before retiring at the end of the season. Forward Shane Battier
is an excellent defender and timely three-point shooter. Jackie Butler,
who came to Houston in the Scola trade with San Antonio, has impressed many but has
yet to find a consistent role.
-- Jeff Brody
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Five years after being drafted by an NBA team, Luis Scola finally
will play in the NBA, though not for the team that drafted him. Sound confusing?
In 2002, the Spurs drafted the rights to Scola, but his dual citizenship in
Argentina and Spain allowed him to keep playing for Tau Ceramica of the Spanish
league. The Spurs and Tau were never able to work out a buyout of his contract,
and so in July, San Antonio traded Scola and center Jackie Butler to the
Rockets for a second round pick and Vassilis Spanoulis.
Scola, who helped the Argentinean National Team win gold in the 2004 Olympics
and was MVP of the Spanish league in 2005 and 2006, has the toughness and skills
to help the Rockets immediately. "I looked at a lot of tape on Luis and
how he plays and I think he's going to be a great attribute to Yao," Coach
Adelman told ESPN.com. "He's very active."
For his part, Scola is excited to be playing with superstars in Yao Ming and
Tracy McGrady. "It's great to be with them," he told ESPN. "I'm
sure they're going to help me much more than I'm going to help them."
With Scola now in place, the Rockets hope they have found a missing
piece to their postseason puzzle.
-- Jeff Brody
||Twenty-nine percent of the Rockets' field goal attempts in 2006-07 were three pointers, the highest rate in the NBA.
Seventeenth season, First with Houston
Career Record: 756-477 (.613)
Playoff Record: Fourteen times, 70-68 (.507)
Adelman comes to Houston with 16 years of coaching experience and his offensive
background should open things up for McGrady and Yao.
Owner Leslie Alexander speaks highly of Adelman on his rockets.com blog. "He's
very smart and analytical. He has a very even temperament...(his) job is to
get all this great talent to play as one."
Indeed, with at least eight new players on the squad, Adelman will have
quite a challenge. But if he can get the group to commit to
his philosophy, look for the Rockets to push Dallas and San Antonio for
tops in the West.
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR ROCKETS
Shane Battier wears a size 16 shoe.
You would think that with the addition of Steve Francis and Mike James, they would have gotten better, but I think they have a crowded backcourt.
Any time you have Tracy and Yao, two of the top 10 players in the game, they're going to win their fair share of games.
Until they figure out their backcourt situation I'm not sure how far they can go in the playoffs.
It's strange: Adelman wants to run up and down but Tracy doesn't run anymore like that and Yao certainly doesn't. I don't know how they're going to play. It will be interesting to see.
Bonzi Wells is the x-factor. If they can get a full season out of Bonzi Wells and figure out their backcourt, they could be really tough.
I think they'll try to give Mike James a shot at point first. I don't think he's the best fit, but I think it's his job to lose.
-- Western Conference Scout