Monday, September 29, 2008

NBA Pre-Hibachi: Houston Rockets

EDIT: For those of you who already read this post, I had to correct the injury status on Francis and added 2 more videos .

So y'all know this preview has to be more in depth than the rest, is it because they're gonna blow your minds this season? Well maybe. Is it because they're gonna be at the top of the west? Perhaps. Is it because they're probably the deepest team in the L? Probably. But mainly because we've got 2 die hard Rocket fans on this site so we've got extra info to dish out..

THE OLD: We all know about the 22 wins, but of course they don't mean much without a ring, so lets get over the streak. Its gone, old news. Bonzi and Mike james left mid-year to New Orleans and Houston received Bobby Jax. Jax was shipped out this summer to Sacramento, along with '08 draft pick Donte Greene in the Artest deal. Steve "Sureshot" Novak was also traded to Cali, going to the Clippers for the rights to switch 2nd rounders.

THE NEW : Greene was only new for about a month. Joey Dorsey, however, is here to stay, as the '08 secound round pick signed on the dotted line this past weekend. His deal is worth right under 4 mil for 4 yrs, the last two being team options. Of course Artest is also a newcomer, and he brought along a couple Juniors and Sean Singletary, but Singletary didn't make the cut. Ewing Jr. was sent to NYC, but Strawberry Jr. gets a shot to make the team. Maarty Leunen was also drafted in the secound round this summer and he actually impressed Houston during the summer league, but they'll have to stash him away for now. Let's not forget the addition of Brent Barry, who they managed to steal away from San Antonio.

THE TRUTH: Injuries. It has been the problem ever since Tmac arrived and it still is.. This year is already off to a rough start with several injuries. Lets go through them all:

Battier: is sidelined until opening day because of inflammation in his foot. He had surgery in the offseason to remove bone spurs from his ankle and basically pushed the recovering foot too much, causing the inflammation. The good thing is the surgery was succesful and he just needs extra rest for now.

Rafer: also had surgery this summer, but looks good to right now. He had a scare a few weeks ago when it was reported he had a possible heart condition, but has since undergone more tests and has been cleared.

Francis: also had a foot injury that plagued him all of last year and has been going through rehabilitation since and he still is only going through light drills. He has slimmed down a lot though, which is good since that's less weight coming down on those legs, but may have lost some strength in the process. He says he should be ready for full contact activities in about 3 weeks.

Hayes: Broke his nose earlier this summer, but is also ready to go.

Landry: His knee was acting up last season due to an old college injury. He didn't let Houston examine it prior to him re-signing this summer, so that worried many. However, the Rockets game him a physical after re-signing him this past week and have announced he has no symptoms and the knee looks good.

Yao: Another guy who had surgery, but of course he's recovered from it as he showed in Beijing. During the Olympics his timing and conditioning weren't 100%, but his foot pretty much was. Should be at full force by opening night.

Tmac: The big question mark is here. Tracy had a bothersome knee and bum shoulder towards the end of the season. He's had knee surgery, but during media day yesterday he stated his knee is only 80% right now, should be almost 100% by the start of the season and 100% about a month in. That doesn't sound too bad, but the real question is his shoulder. He also had surgery on the shoulder, but it kept bothering him. An MRI revealed it was arthritis, so he'll need surgery again next year. He says it won't force him to miss games, but will bother him while playing. The only positive is it's not his shooting arm.

Let's take a look at their projected depth:

Rafer - Aaron Brooks - Francis

Tmac- Barry - Head

Artest -Battier- Mike Harris

Scola - Hayes - Landry

Yao - Deke - Dorsey

Deke is still technically not signed, but the rocket needed to sign Landry and Dorsey before knowing how much they can offer Deke. Those 2 were just signed, so look for Mutombo to resign very soon. Harris is not a lock to make the team since he won't see much PT at the 4 spot, there's just too many solid players ahead of him, BUT he's good enough to be in the NBA and could be a solid back up on many teams. He's been working hard this summer, improving his shot and handle, which would allow him to play some 3 as well. That should make him valuable to Houston. There's a possibility Head may be traded to make room for Strawberry Jr. Head just hasn't shown much growth the last year and a half and isn't providing more than a 3point shot, which he has trouble getting off at times. Barry can easily replace that, and Strawberry would bring even more defense to this squad. Other possiblities, if Head is traded, are bringing in Maarty Leunen or another big man to back up the center position, but either moves aren't likely.
I'm not even going to get into Artest and his past issues because that's been beating to death all over the web. I'll just say that I've been following him all summer and he truly seems to have grown up and has his mind straight. Since being traded, he hasn't given a reason to believe he won't come in and give it 100% towards making this work for both him and Houston. Adelman will start the same 5 at the beginning and start shuffling lineups for a while, so don't be surprised if they have a rough start. There's way too many combinations possible, so its going to be awhile before they set a new rotation. Personally I think this one would work best:

Rafer - Francis - Brooks

Tmac - Barry -Head

Artest - Battier -Harris

Landry - Scola -Hayes

Yao - Dorsey - Deke

Of course this would be different depending on game situations, but on average I think this is a good rotation to have. The starting 5 can compete with anyone and the second team is very solid. I'd use this more or less to "get by" during the season and keep a solid 5 on the court at all times. By "getting by" I don't mean not trying, but rather not having any let downs, playing safe, and keeping the minutes down for everyone to avoid injuries that happen during fatigue. In the playoffs you can give Scola the starting spot and tighten up the rotation. During the season I'm not sure it would be wise to load up the starting 5 though, unless they're simply blowing out teams and resting by the 3rd qrtr like the Celtics did most of last year. I don't believe Francis is done yet either. He's not, and won't be Stevie Franchise, but he's still a vet, still has a handle, has heart, and he's got all-stars around him. That should allow him to get by opponents, even with worn down legs. Once he gets inside, he's great at drawing contact. Assuming everyone stays healthy and Tmac's shoulder pain is controlled for the most part, expect them to get lost in the standings early on, but they should make a very strong push to finish the season with a top playoff seed. As competitive as the west is, a slow start shouldn't dig them too deep of a hole. I definitely expect a first AND second round playoff win, but a possible dogfight in the conf finals. After that its a toss up for me. If the Lakers mesh and don't bitch they could rep the west in the finals again, but Houston has the talent to stop them.
Here's some extras from media day(thanks to for the videos):
Dorsey tries to avoid rookie hazing
Yao conference, plus Yao greeting steve and Rafer, Ron also speaks
Ron's press conference
Francis' injury:
and incase anyone is wondering, the black uni on the pciture is not a new alternate color. Its a photoshop done by a fan i believe, but personally I think it would be great to have. Way better than the new WNBA-type uniforms...


B. Long said...

I know I'm gonna get hated on for saying this and I'm just being a Kobe jockriding Laker fan but with T-Mac's constant injuries and the possible double/double or UFC match question that Ron Artest brings every night this is gonna be Rick Adleman's toughest job yet. I still got the Rockets as my 6th seed though. Good preview fellas.

RV said...

I really need to start proofreading my posts, this preview was hard to read! I corrected as much as possible for the Rockets, even if Tmac goes down or plays limited minutes, they should be higher than a 5 seed. The lakers are the only other team to add a big piece and they were already a #1 seed. I actually think this might be a vacation for Adelman once he get his rotation set.

Moose said...

B. Long, sixth seed? Who you got before the Rockets, other than the Hornets and your LA boys? I see no other team in the NBA better than these guys except for NO and LA.

B. Long said...

The West will go as follows:
Lakers, Hornets, Jazz, Spurs, Suns, Rockets, Clippers, Blazers. Dallas will be in the fight for the 8th seed and will pull sometype of longshot blockbuster trade after playing 500 ball until the ASG that will probably fail miserably.

B. Long said...

P.S. everyone should check the Mass Exodus article on SKO. It may change the way you look at basketball.

Hursty said...

Hmmmm...... Well, I would like to think that RV is correct here, but unfortunately, b.long has a very good point (which has already been discussed at length). We will wait and see.
I wonder how you can have them at 6 though? They were a 4 seed last year and '07 playoffs without Scola, Landry.
'08 Those guys were rookies, Francis was injured, Yao was out. Rafer missed the first two games (going down 0-2 at HOME).
Its tough man. Flat out they should be top 3. I think Boozer may have a statistical decline, but Ronnie Brewer could be in line for MIP (and Brandon Bass).
If they finish lower than 3 I will be disappointed.
The Spurs win in off years too people....

RV said...

There's no way they finish that low Hursty, unless the whole team goes down with injuries throughout the season or if two of the big 4 go down for an extended period of time. Even if tmac went down I wouldn't freak out. Thats why they brought in Artest, so that incase Yao or tmac went down there wouldn't be a huge let down. I'd go as far as saying if they play the first round minus tmac, but everyone else healthy, they still win it. The spurs lost Barry's leadership and experience, they won't have Manu until december, TD is older and so is finley. The Jazz didn't do anything this offseason, just like the hornets (the Posey acquisition cancels out to me since Pargo and Bonzi are both gone), the suns got older too... I also think people forget how deep this team really is. While other teams are looking for scrubs to complete 15 spots, Houston can't figure out who to cut.

DP said...

I'm officialy stepping my game up fellas. Sorry RV, Hurst, and everyone on Hibachi. No excuses. I got the Pre-Hibaci with RV locked down my friend. Give me the Lakers, Cavs, Wizards, and Heat RV. great posts guys. I'll start as soon as I can in homeroom tomorrow. play wit it.

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