The Other Side: Houston Rockets
It's been more than a month since the Washington Wizards last saw the Houston Rockets. When the teams met at Verizon Center on Nov. 21, the Wizards were outscored 27-6 in the final 8 ½ minutes, with the Rockets scoring the final 13 points in their 103-91 victory. It was also Eddie Jordan's last home game as coach of his hometown team.
The Wizards have made some significant changes since then, replacing Eddie with Ed, trading Antonio Daniels and benching DeShawn Stevenson -- but they remain the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Rockets (20-11) are no longer in first place in the Southwest Division -- they trail San Antonio by a half game -- but they are dealing with the same problems they did a month ago. Houston Coach Rick Adelman has been constantly shuffling his lineup, unaware which players would be available from game-to-game.
Fortunately for the Rockets, Yao Ming has been able to carry the team even with Tracy McGrady having a down year, Ron Artest battling a bum right ankle, Shane Battier struggling with a sore left foot and Rafer Alston missing four games with a strained left hamstring. Yao is averaging 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds, but he'll need somebody to get healthy soon if the Rockets are going to get out of the first round of the playoffs this spring.
Here's what else you need to know about the Rockets:
1. Tracy McGrady Is Hurting - Again
The Chinese must really love Tracy McGrady, because there is no reason he ranks second at the guard position -- ahead of Chris Paul and Tony Parker -- in All Star balloting. McGrady has missed eight games this season because of a sore left knee, but he hasn't moved or shot well in the 23 games he has played. McGrady is averaging just 15.9 points -- the lowest since his last season in Toronto in 1999-2000 -- and shooting a career-low 40 percent.
He missed the Rockets' 120-115 double-overtime win over Utah on Saturday, and in his previous two games, McGrady scored just 15 points and missed 14 of his 18 shot attempts. He is expected to return tonight. At least the Houston Chronicle no longer runs the T-Mac Injury Ticker . That had to hurt.
2. Ron Artest Plays Well Hurt
Ron Artest hasn't had many memorable moments as a member of the Rockets, but he delivered in a major way Saturday night. Artest scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in the second overtime of the Rockets' win over Utah, but his performance was more impressive when you consider that Artest wasn't supposed to play. Artest missed Friday's game to get treatment on his ankle, but when he suited up when he found out McGrady wasn't going to be able to play.
3. They Have a Secret Weapon
The Rockets traded Steve Francis to the Memphis Grizzlies last week -- forcing Francis to finally play for the franchise he jilted in 1999 -- because there was no room for him in Houston's rotation. The player who helped make Francis expendable was the smallest player on Houston's roster, Aaron Brooks.
Brooks, the 26th pick of the 2007 draft, ranks sixth in scoring on the Rockets at 11.1 points per game. He started in place of Rafer Alston this month and averaged 17 points and 5.5 assists as the Rockets won all four games. Brooks scored a career-high 22 points in Houston's win Monday night against New Jersey.
December 29, 2008; 3:16 PM ET
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