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Guide to Houston Rockets off-season
By CHRIS BELHORN, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Jul 3, 2004 - 3:15:00 PM

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The Houston Rockets haven?t come close to being a championship franchise since the height of Hakeem Olajuwon?s career. They will look to change that this off-season.

The Rockets have already made the biggest move this off-season with the addition of scoring champion and perennial all-star Tracy McGrady. McGrady will look to form the next dynamic duo in the NBA with emerging all-star center Yao Ming.

The Rockets also acquired Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, and Reece Gaines in the trade from the Orlando Magic. Howard will step right into the starting power forward role for the Rockets, and for now Gaines and Lue provide a nice point guard rotation.

But as with all blockbuster trades, the Rockets had to give up a superstar to get one, and that superstar was Steve Francis. The Rockets sent back to Orlando Francis, sharpshooter Cuttino Mobley and big man Kelvin Cato.

Francis was reluctant at first to join the team with the worst record in the NBA last season, but was convinced that the team was heading in the right direction after talking to general manager John Weisbrod.

But the key to the deal for Houston was obviously McGrady. McGrady is only the fourth player to be traded the season after leading the NBA in scoring average. He averaged 28.0 points per game in 67 games last year. The Magic were willing to trade McGrady after he suggested that he would not resign with the team next summer when he becomes a free agent.

Even so, the Rockets still have some work to do if they want to challenge for a NBA championship in the tough western conference.

The Rockets have been linked to several free agents capable of giving the Rockets a huge lift towards a NBA title. The most serious of these names are swingman Brent Barry and point guard Derek Fisher.

Brent Barry, last year a Seattle Supersonic, is one of the most versatile players in basketball. He is an exceptional three point shooter and a former slam dunk champion that can handle the ball and play three positions.

Derek Fisher has the heart of a champion and is exactly what Coach Jeff Van Gundy is looking for in a point guard. He has three titles with the Lakers and is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA.

Another pressing need for the Rockets is a center to come in and back up Yao Ming. Yao is still far from being a well conditioned player, and the Rockets need someone to come in, play defense, and get rebounds for 10-15 minutes a night.

Some players available that may be reasonable for the Rockets are Adonal Foyle, Joel Pryzbilla, and Jarron Collins.

However, for this team to work, the most important part is the relationship between Van Gundy and McGrady.

Last year, Francis and Van Gundy had a very tenuous relationship. Francis was struggling because of Van Gundy?s insistence to run the offense through Yao Ming and because of Van Gundy?s infamous style of slowing down the game.

There is no question there will have to be an adjustment on McGrady?s part. Van Gundy has never coached a player that has averaged 20 points per game. McGrady will undoubtedly see his scoring average drop this year.

McGrady has also never played with a big man as skilled as Yao Ming. Van Gundy will continue to expect the offense to flow through the 7-5 feet Chinese center.

Furthermore, one thing is clear: the two things Van Gundy stresses the most from his players are attitude and defense. These are two things McGrady has had problems with, especially when the Magic struggled last year.

But there are major differences between the Magic of last year and the Rockets of this coming year. The Rockets expect to be a championship contender, something that the Rockets hope will turn McGrady around and turn the Rockets into NBA champions next June.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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