A Look Back at 2005-2006
A injury laden year has Houston looking forward
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Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming played in just 31 games together this season, leading the Rockets to a 21-10 (.677) record in those contests. Eight of those wins came against teams headed for the 2005-06 NBA Playoffs.
Yao Ming averaged 22.3 points and 10.2 rebounds in 57 games this season, setting career bests in scoring and rebounding averages. The last Rockets player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in a season was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995-96 (26.9 points, 10.9 rebounds). Yao is one of only four players in the NBA to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season.
Yao Ming finished with 643 points (25.7 ppg), 291 rebounds (11.6 rpg) and 19 double-doubles over his final 25 contests played, which ranks him 10th in scoring and sixth in rebounding in the NBA since the All-Star Game in Houston.
Rafer Alston registered all 12 of his double-digit assist games after Jan. 1. He actually owned 12 of the 13 double-digit assist games for the Rockets on the year (other: 11 assists by Tracy McGrady vs. Toronto, 12/21). Houston was 8-4 when Alston had a 10-plus assists game. Alston ranked tied for 10th in the NBA in assists per game (6.7). He also ranked 18th in the NBA in assists-per-turnover ratio (2.70, 410 assists, 152 turnovers).
The Houston Rockets began the 2005-2006 season with the highest of expectations. After sustaining unparalleled injuries, including significant ailments to their two biggest stars, those expectations were quickly calmed and Houston finished with a 34-48 record on the year.
For the second straight season Houston crawled out of the gate, going 15-26 during the first half of the season. Unlike last year’s magical second half, the Rockets never fully recovered from their first 41 games, despite a slightly more respectable 19-22 record over the second half of the season.
Considering that no one in the NBA had a tougher remaining schedule based on opponent’s winning percentage than Houston, there is certainly hope for next year. But that is all the Rockets are left with after this season – hope that a campaign like 2005-06 doesn’t repeat itself in 2006-07.
With Bob Sura out to begin the season, Houston pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Mike James to the Toronto Raptors for Rafer Alston shortly before preseason camp began. After going 6-2 during the preseason, Houston opened up at Toyota Center Nov. 2 with a 98-89 win over the Sacramento Kings. In an ironic twist of fate, Jon Barry led the way with 24 points. Ironic, because Barry would end the season not on the floor, but at the broadcast table after sustaining a calf injury that he could never fully recover from.
The Rockets might have traded that win on opening night if they were able to swap it with the loss they sustained on the same day. Tracy McGrady injured his back, an ailment that would plague the Rockets’ superstar for the entirety of the season. Houston won just 14 more games at Toyota Center the rest of the season and started the season an abysmal 3-10 at home. It would take until March 9 for Houston to even come close to the .500 mark, peaking at 29-33 after defeating the Pacers at home.
That was following a near perfect February, the only month when Yao and McGrady were together for every game, in which the Rockets went 10-3, falling mere percentage points behind the franchise’s all-time best record in February at 11-3 during the 1981-82 season.
That month was probably fools gold. Houston was relatively healthy in that month for the first time and last time of the season. Derek Anderson, Rafer Alston, David Wesley, and Stromile Swift joined McGrady and Yao on the inactive list at different points in the season, and the Rockets never had a chance to create the type of team chemistry that was so instrumental to their success last season.
With McGrady and Yao in the lineup, Houston was 21-10 on the season. Unfortunately, injuries not only de-railed much of T-Mac’s season, but Yao’s as well.
After playing through a painful left big toe for much of the first half of the season, Yao finally went under the knife in December to remove an infection that had been brought on by a lost toenail during the preseason.
When Yao returned at the end of January, so did the winning. Aside from the aforementioned February windfall, Yao was a monster on the court, especially after the All-Star break. In 25 games after taking the floor as the starting center for the Western Conference, Yao averaged 25.7 points and 11.6 rebounds, by far the best numbers by any center in the league.
However, the success was short lived as Yao went down again on April 10 against the Utah Jazz, this time with a broken bone in his left foot. McGrady was already lost for the remainder of the season, having gone out with back problems again against the Blazers on March 5, so with Yao sidelined, Houston crawled to the finish line with only seven active players that were on the roster to start the year.