Archive for the ‘Houston Rockets’ Category

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now

July 18, 2009

Not surprisingly, it was announced today that Yao Ming will probably miss all of next season after undergoing foot surgery. Not surprising, but still disappointing news for Rockets fans and the millions of Yao supporters worldwide.

I called for the Rockets to cut ties with Yao and Tracy McGrady ages ago (well, maybe not ages), and this certainly hasn’t changed my stance. Yao still has $34 million left on his contract when you include the player option he has for 2010/11 and the Rockets should do all they can to get out from under his enormous shadow. While the Rockets won’t appear to be very compassionate buying a guy out of his contract while he is injured, they need to worry about fixing their franchise. McGrady and Yao are two huge albatrosses weighing the franchise down, and they must do all that they can to rid themselves of them. Yao wasn’t reliable enough even before this latest setback and even if he is able to get back on the court, it may only be a matter of time before the other shoe drops (in this case, the other foot breaks).

This is eerily similar to what happened to another legendary NBA big man, Bill Walton. The Big Redhead was one of the greatest college players of all-time and was on his way to being the same in the pros until fragile feet zapped him of his powers. Basketball is so demanding on your feet it’s surprising more players don’t have problems with their puppies (maybe today’s high tech shoes really are worth their money). In Yao’s case, his size probably compounds the problem, as each time he leaves the floor his feet take the brunt of the impact of his 300-plus pounds as he lands again.

While I’m no doctor, I have serious doubts whether Yao’s feet will ever be trustworthy enough for him to be a considered a franchise player. The Rockets can’t afford to wait around a year or even two to see if he is able to make it back. Its more than just a burden on their salary cap – it is also an emotional burden for everyone involved in the organization, including Yao. The waiting and hoping that he will be healthy again puts too much pressure on both the player and the organization. They weren’t winning any titles with Yao anyhow, so the time is now to cut ties and start rebuilding their franchise.

And on more cheerful note, if you haven’t heard the stories of the adventures of Mike Miller and his pet monkey, then you need to right now.

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Donkey Games

May 16, 2009

Now is not the time to be messing about. If you want to take games off, do it in November or December, not in May and June when the outcomes really matter. Yet the Lakers of Los Angeles think it is ok to only show up every other game, and wave off lax performances with a shrug and a “we’ll get ’em next game”. Sorry, in the playoffs, THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

The Houston-Lakers series should have been over games ago, after Yao went down with his injury. Instead Houston has won two games since then – with a lineup that wouldn’t have even come close to making the playoffs, even if they played in the (L)Eastern Conference. Yes, somehow the Lakers are allowing the Rockets to fulfill the prophecy of another bunch of Houston’s finest.

The Lakers 40-point blowout win in Game 5 shows that they think that they can just turn it on and off whenever they like. And against a decimated Houston team they probably can get away with it and win Game 7 on their home court. But if they think that they can show up only when the spirit moves them in the next round against Denver, they are in for a rude awakening.
Denver has a legit leader and champion running their team, and a scoring machine star holding it down on the wing. Throw in some athletic bigs and energy guys off the bench, and the Lakers will have their hands full. That is assuming they can even get past Houston tomorrow.

Now Cleveland, on the other hand, know what time it is. They are going about their business like it is just that – business, not fun and games. Get in and out as quick as possible then chill at home and wait for their next victim. As well as Houston is playing, there is no way the Cavs would be letting them hang around for seven games. Despite the Lakers having more talent than LeBron’s squad, and having a “genius” coach, Cleveland has to be considered the heavy favourite to grab the title this year. And if the Lakers don’t get their act together in time for Game 7 on Sunday, all this “we’ll get ’em next game” talk will be fruitless – eventually there is no next game.

Houston, We Have a Problem (Again)

May 10, 2009

Houston fans will have to get used to seeing these two sitting on the bench beside each other again. With it being announced that Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the playoffs due to a broken foot, the Rockets dream of a championship this season has crashed and burned. And a playoff series that was just recently hyped in this space as must-see-TV has become about as compelling as a Friends rerun.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise though. Yao hasn’t played a full 82 since 03/04. McGrady has never. The thing I’ve always wondered is why? Why are certain players always injured? Why was Bill Walton’s playing career AND broadcasting career cut short by injury?

My knee-jerk reaction is to chalk it up to toughness, or rather, the lack thereof. While that is probably the case with many players with minor injuries, you can’t really fake a broken bone or a knee requiring microfracture surgery. Is it due to a player’s style of play? For players like Gerald Wallace and Dwyane Wade, who use their bodies as wrecking balls, probably. His physical makeup? Big guys like Walton and Yao tend to have the foot problems, so possibly. Or are some guys just snakebitten, like McGrady, doomed for eternity to the injury list and the first round of the playoffs?

Whatever the reasons for the injuries, Houston finds themselves with a dynamic, damaged duo in Yao and T-Mac. And they need to get rid of one – or both – of them to improve their championship odds. After five seasons together, and only one appearance in the second round of the playoffs, Yao and McGrady have proven that they aren’t capable of carrying a team to a championship, alone or together. And considering they will make a combined $40 million next season, expecting a championship as a return on that investment isn’t an unreasonable demand.

They probably won’t want to get rid of Yao, because even if he isn’t going to win you a championship, he does bring a financial windfall to the team. But they really should consider shipping him out. If the man can’t stay healthy while in his 20s, there is no way he’s going to when he hits 30. Despite his injury concerns, quality big men are at such a premium that Houston should find plenty of suitors for him.

McGrady, on the other hand, is definitely expendable and will be coveted by some teams this offseason. This isn’t due to his skills – oft-injured 30-year-olds coming off microfracture surgery aren’t in high demand – but rather his expiring $23 million contract. Coming off the books just in time for the much-hyped 2010 free agent class, McGrady should be a very popular guy next season. If Houston can’t find suitable compensation for him, they may decide to write off next season, keep McGrady and take their chances on landing one of the 2010 big fish free agents once T-Mac is off their payroll.

Either way, the YaoMcGrady experiment has to come to an end.

Rolling and Tumbling

May 8, 2009

There is nothing better than some rough stuff to make a series interesting. I was only moderately interested in the Houston-Lakers series until the mayhem that ensued in Game 2. Now this series has become must-see-TV.

It comes as no surprise that Ron Artest found himself in the middle of the bro ha ha. What is surprising is that he isn’t being portrayed as the villain for once. There is perhaps only one player in the League that is capable of taking the villain role away from Artest, and that would be one Kobe Bean Bryant.

Kobe has been known to throw some ‘bows, but the talk that he wasn’t suspended after Game 2 because he is a superstar is just silly. The elbow he laid on Artest was hardly blatant or malicious. However, the fact that he wasn’t punished and Artest was kicked out of the game for getting into his face about it does cater to the belief that superstars are treated differently. Now Bryant knows that he can get away with throwing elbows without any action from the League or from opposing players. If a player can’t even get into Kobe’s smug face to challenge him after a hard foul without getting tossed., there is not much risk that anyone is going to be willing to retaliate physically to a Bryant cheap shot (with the exception being Raja Bell).

Which brings me back to reminiscing of the good old days, where frontier justice ruled the NBA. A time where players like Laimbeer, Mahorn, Oakley and the X-Man weren’t afraid to dish out the punishment (and cheap shots) to opponents. A time where players could stand up for themselves without getting lengthily suspensions. The way things are now, you can’t even foul someone relatively hard without getting a flagrant foul and/or fine and suspension. The Kenyon Martin foul on Dirk being the prime example.

But, going back to Artest again, after what he did in Detroit (aka the Malice in the Palace) we will never get back to those good old days again. The NBA is so sanitized now that a player can’t even take a step away from the bench during an altercation without being suspended. But, what the powers-that-be should realize is that violence sells – why do you think hockey still allows fighting. And a little rough stuff is the best way to create an intriguing, emotional, intense playoff rivalry. And, because of it, I’m more interested than ever in Rockets/Lakers proceedings.