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Volume 71, Issue 61, Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Rockets get off to slow start

Sports Guy

Eli Jabbe

The Rockets had an exciting off-season where they made several important acquisitions. They were ranked as high as No. 2 in the Western Conference by many sports "experts." Some of those acquisitions have led to decent results so far, while some of them have been disappointing 

One of the main players that the Rockets acquired was Rafer "Skip to my Lou" Alston. Apparently, Alston's crazy dribbling skills haven't helped much as he's averaging a triple-single -- 7 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds -- per game. He's also been bothered by a right-leg bruise, which has forced him to sit out two consecutive games. On the other hand, power forward Stromile Swift hasn't exactly gotten off to a good start; at the beginning of the season, he was in Coach Jeff Van Gundy's doghouse and started off coming off the bench. But recently he's played better, specifically in Houston's loss to Boston, with a 17-point performance on 7-10 shooting in just 25 minutes. Even if he never improves, he can always look back on a proud accomplishment from last season: dunking on Yao Ming, who is the favorite target of (insert any NBA player who can dunk). It's still way too early to judge statistics; players with unusually good numbers will eventually come back down to earth, and players who are off to a slow start will eventually perform the way people expect them to.

As far as the rookies are concerned, Luther Head has been a pleasant surprise. The most impressive thing about the first-year Head is his three-point shooting, particularly in the Rockets win over New Jersey. Head has recently started games in place of the injured Alston. He is shooting a stellar 46 percent from 3-point range this season, a much-needed boost for a team that will create plenty of 3-point opportunities with Yao and Tracy McGrady, demanding double teams constantly. Having a guard who can actually hit a 3-pointer consistently is almost a shock after years of watching Stevie Franchise jack up missed 3 after missed 3.

Fans also will notice how the Rockets look like two different teams when star guard T-Mac is on the floor and when he is not. He is slowly working his way back into shape after a pre-season knee injury. It's definitely been frustrating for T-Mac and the fans -- his chronic back spasms, which have plagued him in the past, have re-emerged this season, forcing the team's leading scorer to miss two games in a row. T-Mac has looked downright depressed recently and said he pretty much doesn't know where he's going to go from here. Yao has also been solid, averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. 

The Rockets have gotten off to a 3-7 start and have lost three games in a row. Rockets fans shouldn't be too disappointed about the slow start -- it could be worse. At least we're not in Atlanta, where the Hawks have gotten off to a 0-9 start. The Hawks could stick Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy in the starting lineup and would have a better team -- that's how bad they are. Even if the most Jeezy can do to help the Hawks is distract the other team's players by making them laugh at his adlibs, it would help out. 

But it's still disappointing that the trend of Houston teams playing really bad is continuing: first the ‘stros got swept in the World Series, then the Texans apparently forgot how to play football and now the Rockets have stumbled out of the gate.

The Rockets recently lost to the Indiana Pacers, who were led to victory by the NBA version of Mike Tyson -- Ron Artest. Houston will try to bounce back tonight against the despicable Dallas Mavericks. The last time these two teams faced off was in last season's playoffs, where T-Mac embarrassed Shawn Bradley, but tonight will be different -- neither McGrady nor Bradley will play in this game.

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