Houston Rockets ’07-’08: 1st Weekend
While everyone else in the American sports world was gearing up for Pats-Colts/Brady-Manning, most of us in Houston are gearing up for the early gauntlet the Rockets will run this second week of the season: Monday night at Dallas followed by Tuesday at home against the world champion Spurs.
The Rockets are 3-0 for the first time since the 96-97 season, a season shortly after their two back to back NBA championships in ’94 and ’95. I had season tickets for those seasons, and for every season that Hakeem Olajuwon was a Rocket. Not since Hakeem left, not during the Stevie Franchise years nor the first few Yao-McGrady years has their been a cause for optimism like there is this year. With Hakeem, the fans knew the team always had a chance. But it wasn’t until he had a good supporting cast that he broke through to the only player in history to win the National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Award, NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, and Finals MVP in the same season (1993-94). (If you want to watch a true facial, watch the game Hakeem had against David Robinson the night Robinson was awarded the league MVP in 1994-95!!!).
Last season, many people thought the Rockets choked in game 7 against Utah…but it was really the Jazz pulling back the curtain and revealing the Rockets’ weakness – no depth past Yao and T-Mac.
Now, even though McGrady has come out firing (and is 2nd in the stats at 32.3 points per game after three games), the real reason Rockets fans are “cautiously optimistic” is Mike James, Luis Scola and a no-longer head-case Bonzi Wells off the bench. James and Bonzi are providing instant offense and Scola is providing the rebounding and muscle.
It’s early, but the games this week against the team with the best record in the league last year (Mavs) and the winners of 3 of the last five championship banners (Spurs) will give a great marker of where the home team is in their progress. Dallas stumbled against the lowly Atlanta Hawks this weekend, but the Spurs have been taking care of business. The Rockets are still learning Adelman’s system, but are 3-0 with two wins on the road against the Lakers and Jazz.
Wednesday morning will be a time for higher optimism or retrenchment.