The Other Side: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are in first place in the Southwest Division, as some expected after they acquired Ron Artest last summer. But the reason the Rockets are on top has as much to do with division rivals New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas stumbling out of the gate as it does anything they've done on the court.
The Rockets have been far from overwhelming at 7-5, and they have been dealing with injuries and inconsistency much of the season. They are 4-5 after starting the season 3-0. Defensive ace Shane Battier has been out all season with inflammation in his left foot, but he has begun practicing recently. Yao Ming skipped Wednesday's loss to Dallas with a sore left foot and Tracy McGrady has been playing all season with a troublesome left knee. Artest is also playing through an ankle injury.
But the Wizards are the last team to be concerned about another team's injury woes, and the Rockets are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. They have five players averaging at least 10 points per game, and Rafer Alston is close to making it six at 9.7 points per game.
Here is what you need to know about the Rockets heading into tonight's game at Verizon Center:
1. Yao Ming Is Playing
With Yao missing the second half of the regular season and the playoffs with a broken left ankle and then playing for China in the Olympics this summer, the Rockets are being especially cautious with their all-star center this center. Yao is leading the Rockets in scoring (16.9 points) and rebounding (9.5 rebounds) this season, with the team spreading the wealth around offensively. He said he was able to play on his sore foot, but the team still sat him out against Dallas. He will be back on the floor against the Wizards.
Yao is also starring in a new commercial with Dwyane Wade and Charles Barkley that you can check out here:
2. Steve Francis Is Out, Aaron Brooks Is In
Remember when he was the Franchise? Now he is just the inactive player. Former Maryland star Steve Francis has yet to play this season because of chronic knee and quad problems. His reunion in Houston has been far from harmonious. After signing a two-year deal with the Rockets last season, he has played just 10 games and missed most of last season with a torn quadriceps muscle. There is a chance the 31-year-old, former all-star guard has played his last game, but even if he were healthy, he'd have trouble cracking the guard rotation. He has kept himself in the news only through colorful sportcoats while sitting the bench.
At least the Rockets can turn to second year guard Aaron Brooks. The speedy, undersized guard has been a surprise this season, averaging 11.5 points off the bench. He scored 20 points in a loss to the Lakers, and came back the next game to score 19 in a win over Phoenix. He is averaging 13.6 points in his last six games.
3. Brent Barry Is Hooking People Up
Barry is proving his generosity this season by providing two tickets to random fans at every road game. Barry is basically finding fans that wait outside of the Rockets team hotels and giving them the chance to see the game for free. You can read about the fans who have benefited from Barry here.
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