Wednesday May 29, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 142



Rockets look to the next Ming dynasty

Sports Opinion 
Richard Whitrock

With the first pick in the next NBA draft, the doors are wide open for the Houston Rockets franchise to turn itself around and actually put together
a team that will finish at or (gasp) even above .500.

There are many highly coveted players in this draft, giving Houston widely varied options. Some options are far-fetched gambles, while others
are more down to earth. Whichever option head coach Rudy Tomjanovich and the rest of the organization chooses to go with, one thing is
obvious after three seasons in the armpit of the NBA, something must be done.

The media has been drooling over the most recent import, China's Yao Ming. Duke's Jay Williams has been eagerly awaited, and Maryland's
Chris Wilcox is expected by most to go early in the draft as well.

Despite being so lucky, the Rockets have a tough decision ahead of them in their first pick, and whether they should trade that pick for an
existing player and a lower spot on the draft.

What the Rockets really need is a solid defender with real intensity and leadership skills. During the championship years, that man was Mario
Elie. Elie's greatest strengths were his defense and his raw desire. Always an inspiration on the court, it was Elie's bulldog defense and
fire-breathing passion that allowed him to make great plays and force his team to match his intensity. Today's Rockets are streaky, flashy
scorers who don't play defense. A player like Elie is what it will take to turn the team around.

The Rockets also need a truly powerful big man, someone who can bang down low and force players to change their shots and games. While
Kelvin Cato has made immense improvements, he doesn't make other big men respect him. Even though he is a great shot blocker, Eddie
Griffin isn't as much power as finesse.

Let's examine the Rockets' options. Aside from having to deal with the Chinese government, Ming has many other drawbacks for the Rockets to
consider. Namely, he is extremely undeveloped defensively. 

Frankly, the Rockets have enough offensive weapons and scorers they need someone who can play defense, lead and hang with the
powerful big men. Kato fills this role better than Ming ever could. Ming would only be valuable to the Rockets as a trade commodity.

Next, there is Jay Williams. Unfortunately, as great a player as Williams is, he doesn't have a place on the team. The Rockets have enough
point guards, and unless the Rockets are willing to get rid of Francis, Williams will serve the Rockets best as trade fodder.

Finally, there is Wilcox. This promising power forward offers many solutions to the Rockets' problems. He is a strong defensive presence with
the size and strength to be a dominant big man in the league. Whether he has enough fire in his personality to lead the Rockets to fulfill their
potential remains to be seen. With so many options, the Rockets are sitting pretty. Let's hope they don't do something stupid.

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