Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Now what?

Well, for the second year in a row, the Rockets were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Utah Jazz. It is painfully obvious that the Jazz was simply a better team - but only temporarily.

Is it time for the Rockets to break up the team and re-tool? The answer is a resounding no! Regardless of his past history of never winning a playoff series, Tracy McGrady performed admirably against the Jazz. The problem was that injuries depleted the roster at the worst possible time of the year. The loss of Yao Ming alone would have been devastating to a lesser team. Add to that Carl Landry, Steve Francis, Rafer Alston and Tracy's shoulder problems and that is 60% of the starting lineup and some of the best reserves either missing or below par.

The Rockets need only to add a few pieces, mostly for depth. Mutombo is too old to be effective, especially for a team that is geared to get scoring from their center. Get a new back-up center. The point guard position is under control. Rafer will be back at full speed, Bobby Jackson is a capable backup, Steve Francis should recover from surgery better than ever and Aaron Brooks will have a year's experience on which to build. Tracy will be a great shooting guard for a few more years and Francis can help out there too. The small forward position is capably manned by Shane Battier, a consumate pro. They say that defensive specialists cannot carry a team, but all great teams have one. Tracy can also slide over to small forward whenever the need arises. Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry make a fine combo at power forward and should continue to improve.

The Rockets will have a low first-round draft choice and a mid-level exemption available to sign a free agent. Beyond their core players, they have little of value to trade. Mike Harris and Loren Wood were both out of the league when the Rockets came calling. Steve Novak may bring a draft choice just because all GM's love a shooter, but nobody will give up a useful player for a defensive liability.

This part is strictly personal. I don't care if they make a single move. I love these guys. This team was more fun to watch this year than any team they've ever had, even in the championship years. A happier, more over-achieving bunch of guys never took the court. Especially after the first of the year, they never quit trying. Not once. It was a team of courage and effort, and that comes from the top. Coach Rick Adelman and his staff did a magnificent job this year of keeping the team on an even keel - loose and confident. So I say give them all another shot. They have the system down now and I look for a banner year next year. Go Rockets!

No comments: