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Are the Rockets Serious title Contenders?

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by thacabbage, Dec 19, 2002.

  1. thacabbage

    thacabbage Contributing Member

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    It seems silly to ponder this question because this is the same team that laid eggs against Memphis and Los Angelos, but at their current rate of growth and improvement and looking at their peices, the Rockets figure to be in the mix as a legitimate title contender. They won't be in the finals this year simply because they are too inexperienced and prone to bad decision making but I wouldn't be shocked to see this team in the Western Conference Finals.

    <b>What the Thomas Trade Does</b>

    With all due respect to Kenny, who started the rumor that he is an elite defender? At 6'7, he's below average at best. Thomas was a hard worker who wasn't afraid to mix it up inside and draw contact. He was an ideal fit for this team last season because he offered an inside option. In this Yao Ming offense, he is a horrible match for simple reasons. Too often, Thomas was taking away from Yao Ming's inside touches. We would be dumping the ball into Kenny Thomas in the post when Yao is a much better option. As witnessed last night, if Francis and Mobley weren't slashing, that ball was going straight into Yao Ming. At the season's start, the best we could hope for was for Yao to be a contributor to the offense and atleast present another scoring option. At this point, he is a premiere inside threat and must command superstar touches. Having Kenny Thomas on the court at the same time as Yao presents the same dilemma that we had when Barkley and Hakeem both needed the left block. Only problem is that KT was obviously nowhere near as effective as those hall of famers.


    Right now, if the Rockets run their offense through Yao, they should be able to hang with any team in the league. Outside of Kobe and Shaq, I can't honestly think of a better duo in the league than Yao and Francis. They are both versatile and have the ability to take over a game. We have already seen Yao completely obliterate the top 2 frontcourts in the league (San Antonio, Indiana) as well as the best team in the league. The Rockets can then come off the bench with Kelvin Cato who is playing like the best backup big man in the league. James Posey adds a tenacious defender who can atleast slow down Kobe, Peja, and Michael Finley, keeping Mobley fresh.


    Honestly, what do the Rockets not have to be considered an elite team? They pound the glass, have 2 great shotblockers in the starting lineup, great depth, 2 superstars, and an excellent 3rd option in Mobley. If the Rockets play smart and run the offense through Yao, what keeps them from being considered a contender?
     
  2. BigSexy

    BigSexy Member

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    Excellent post thacabbage, i totally agree with you on this. I have had this feeling for a while now, and has been rekindled with the jasme posey trade...Rockets have just needed time to get adjusted as a team, and i believe that as the season wears on, they will be more comfortable with the offense and be playing great team ball.
    I am excited about the acquisition of james posey, as i believe his hard-nosed approach will be crucial to this team..i believe he is a team player. I mean if you can get 10 assists on a nuggets team, it just goes to show what he is capapble of when he will only be the 5th or 6th option at best on this team. The sky is the limit for this team. I am excited as can be and look forward for a very succesful and entertaining season...
     
  3. derrock

    derrock Member

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    You already answered your question Mr. Cabbage,

    Assuming Posey is a good fit, this team just needs experience. They're gonna have to continue perfecting their "money" plays and improving on their team D. Then, they'll have to learn the hard knocks of the playoffs. Maybe they can pull a Ralph&Hakeem and make the finals in Yao's second year. Of course, there are little adjustments here and there that everyone has an opinion on. But the main pieces are in place for a championship contender.
     
  4. Jeff

    Jeff Clutch Crew

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    Not this year, but they will be. The real reason they aren't ready for a leap to the finals is their lack of playoff experience. They only have one guy who has legit playoff experience in Rice.

    I think, like the Rockets of the early 90's, they need a couple years to really understand how the game is played in the second season. By their second go round, they'll be a threat. After that, barring major injuries, they will be a contender every season.
     
  5. Desert Scar

    Desert Scar Member

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    I actually think they are a threat this year. The Rockets have a legitimate chance to beat any team in the league in a 5 or 7 games series. We create a lot of mismatches against anyone--whether it is in the C, PG or SG. Playoff basketball also goes defensive--we have two guys that should be able to score and set others up. I do agree it is doubtfull we could put togther 4 consistently excellent series together so soon and we should be very happy if we get to the 2nd round in the West (at the start of this year I thought that was completely unrealistic)--but I think this team should aim high.

    Let me put it this way--I would handicap the league as follows: the Kings, Lakers (odds slipping though), & Mavs have the best odds to win--maybe around 1-4 or 1-5 for each.

    Next are the Nets (say 1-8) & Spurs (1-10)

    I would put us (Rockets) with Indiana, Orlando, Charlotte, Phily all in the sub 1-25 range--all like us could have the talent but have more new additions and/or are young. Of these, we are the most talented of the group, but also the youngest/newest.

    I honestly think no one else has a snowballs chance. Detriot is an overachiever w/o enough talent to play deep in the playoff. Boston and Minn have big time missing role player needs they can't possibly address this year. Portland and LAC have no go to guys good enough.

    So in sum, I think we are one of the 10 teams that can and should think championship, even this year. Of course we should not be dissappointed in a playoff exit regardless of the round (2nd or even 1st) as long as we play well and sow some positive seeds, but there is no reason not to aim high.

    Look at Boris Becker, look at the Rams, Ravens, & Angels--the ultimate victory can come out of nowhere if the talent and timing is just right.
     
  6. glynch

    glynch Member

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    Logic and much history would say Jeff's right.

    However, we are Rockets fans! Don't you remember the run to the finals in Hakeem's first year? 1984? We had no business doing it, but we caught fire before losing to Bird and the Celtics. It then took us years to get back there, after we endured and grew during the early 1990's.

    I'm sure Rudy will bring it up for those Rockets too young to remember.

    Let's don't count on the magic of Hakeem's first year, however. I say this because I can just anticipate the trade everyone but Yao threads that will rage if we are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. I can almost anticipate the trade Yao threads if we don't win it in his second or third year.
     
  7. Behad

    Behad Member

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    The memory is the first to go, huh glynch? It was Akeem's second year, and it was '86.


    Excellent post, cabbageman.
     
  8. Sane

    Sane Member

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    Here's how I feel about the Rockets in a nutshell:

    They can win the East. Against the West, they're probably 4th behind Dallas, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.

    Duncan is getting NO help and is carrying the whole team more than ever. I seriously doubt how effective he'll be when the playoffs arrive if no one is helping.

    Who, in the East, would finish ahead of us? Maybe New Jersey, but only because of Kidd and Mutombo (neutralizing Francis and Ming). But then, personally, I think we have a better supporting cast. Kittles, Jefferson, and K-Mart Vs Mobley, Posey, and Griffin? Rice, Cato, and MoT on the bench? Fugghetabout it.


    This was a small trade in size, but it was a HUGE step for the Rockets. The Lake show will have to win around 75% of their games to catch up to us, so all we ahve to do, is make sure we stay ahead of San Antonio. If not, then we're 4th seed.
     
  9. Jeff

    Jeff Clutch Crew

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    I'm not saying they won't or can't just that it is highly unlikely. If you really respect the game of basketball and know the history, you know that really young teams are not often legitimate contenders. The Rockets of the early 80's were an odd team to make it that far and, ultimately, were no match for the Celtics.

    This team has ZERO playoff experience and it is a different game that time of year. Despite my love for the team, I also want to be a realist here. Going from one of the worst teams in the league to championship contender would be great. I just think, like most other teams, we have to pay our dues.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with getting into the playoffs, making a little noise, gaining experience and getting knocked out early when you are young. Next year, the goal should be the semi's with an eye on the conference finals. The following year, they should be in contention and they will likely stay that way.

    While I hope that I'm wrong and they advance directly to the top of the heap and stay there, I also know how difficult it is to get there in the first place. It just takes time and patience. With our team being this young, we can afford to wait.
     
  10. RocDreamer

    RocDreamer Member

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    I dont think that we are this year. I think that we have all the pieces necessary to be a contender, but dont think we have those pieces in complete place yet. The one word that jumps out at me regarding this team is CONSISTENCY. I have not seen any yet. Not in the offense or the defense. Once everyone understands their roles and starts to execute night in and night out, then we will be with the elite and contending every year.

    Yao still needs to understand the defense a little more. SF and the rest of the team need to better understand how to run the offense through Yao. These things will come and then look out.
     
  11. chievous minniefield

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    this, for me, says it all. both parts.

    the reason the Rockets probably won't be able to advance past the second round of the playoffs is because of the sustained, mental focus that it takes to do so.

    the team they'll be facing in the second round [thinking optimistically] will be a team that more than likely has spent every waking moment since last season's conclusion focusing on one goal: winning the title.

    that's not where the Rockets are yet. as much as they might protest otherwise, every single person on the Rockets team [with the possible exception of Glen Rice] will be THRILLED just to make it to the second round.

    that's a huge disadvantage in a playoff series.

    I think the reason that the team who starts the season off best ['02 Mavs, '93 Rockets, '95 Bulls] often wins the title is because I think there's a correlation centered on which team is most focused from the very beginning of the season on accomplishing one goal: be the best team in the league.

    when a team starts off with a long undefeated streak, I think that shows that team came ready to play. they had their proverbial game faces on.

    I think this year's Rockets are still having "too much" fun just proving to themselves and the rest of the league that they can play and win.

    but then, when they play a team like the Grizz or the Clip, they don't play as urgently like they have something to prove. and I think that kind of NBADD would hurt them against a veteran team desperately trying to win a title [mavs, kings, lakers, spurs].

    by that rationale, I actually think we'd have the best chance against a team like the Lakers, a team much more likely to be complacent and a team we'd really be motivated to show out against.

    I would FRICKING LOVE IT if we could get past that mental hurdle and be a precocious team of phenoms.

    when I think back over my 20 years of watching sports, I think some of the funnest teams to watch are the quintessential Too Young To Know They Shouldn't Be This Good Yet teams: the '86 Rockets, the '95 Magic, the '92 Cowboys even.

    those are fun, fun teams to watch, and I think this current Rockets squad has the potential to be a team like that.

    but it takes a unique mental makeup to be one of those teams. it's not a talent issue. it's a between-the-ears issue.

    the way we play against the dregs of the league shows me--for the time being--that we don't have that burning-in-the-gut desire to prove to EVERYONE that we are for real and we're here RIGHT NOW.

    that's why I wouldn't bet on us winning the West or the NBA this year.

    but I guarantee you no one will be anxious to play us in the playoffs.

    I liken us currently to the '00-'01 Mavs. that was a team that was just beginning to feel its oats as far as realizing "hey, we're a good team". I think the Mavs are about 2 years ahead of us on the normal NBA learning curve.

    but, HOPEFULLY, the rest of the Rockets will be able to emulate Yao Ming's approach to the learning curve, and they'll arrive in the playoffs with a take-no-prisoners, the-time-is-now-the-time-is-mother-F'in-Yao attitude.

    they can do it, but they'll have to develop that attitude first.
     
  12. verse

    verse Member

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    i haven't even read your post yet. i just wanna say it's good to see ya on here again, brah! i was going to start a thread soon asking where you, oeilpere, and others have been. i'll check your name off the list!



    ...ok, now it's time to read the thread...

    :cool:
     
  13. rafeco

    rafeco New Member

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    Even if we don't contend this year, I think that the Rockets are doing the right things to contend in the next few years. We have Yao and Francis, who can take on the bulk of scoring responsibilities and more importantly can create many opportunities for the lesser threats to score. On offense what we really need are guys who can make good cuts and guys who can hit open jumpers. More passing would be nice as well. Having more scoring threats is always nice, but we didn't need a guy like Kenny Thomas whose game seems to revolve around getting the ball, wasting some shot clock, and putting up the midrange jumper. Yao is going to be drawing double teams for the next 15 years, and Francis is going to keep collapsing the defense by taking the ball inside, we need the people who can exploit those kinds of opportunities.

    What we really need are defensive players who can slow down power forwards and shooting guards. It seems like over the past few seasons (and this one), the Rockets get used by the Chris Webbers, Jermaine O'Neals, and Kevin Garnetts of the world, as well as the Kobe Bryants, Tracy McGradys, and Michael Finleys. Those guys beat up on almost everybody -- they're superstars, but even so they seem to raise their gaudy scoring averages whenever they play against the Rockets.

    To me, it looks like the Rockets made the KT/Posey trade to pick up a guy who might provide better D against those great swingmen. By the same token, it's much more likely that Eddie Griffin is going to be a top flight defender of power forwards than Kenny Thomas could ever hope to be. Griffin needs a lot of work (on offense and defense), but he's a great athlete and has great instincts for shot blocking.

    I like what I see from the Rockets, which is that the first big post-Yao move was to fill an obvious need. Posey can score a little (he'll probably shoot a higher percentage now that there will be no reason for him to force shots), rebound well for a guard/SF, and passes the ball pretty well, too. Most importantly, he's a tall guy who can D up some of the players who normally kill the Rockets. He may not turn out to be the solution, but I think that the experiment is worthwhile.
     
  14. PhiSlammaJamma

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    I too think we can make the finals. Rudy has proven that he can make adjustments in a 7 game series that lead to victory. Once in the finals, who can stop us.
     
  15. RedHonda76

    RedHonda76 Member

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    Let me put it this way, although i dont think the Rockets can make it to the Finals, no teams wants to play them in the playoffs.
     
  16. verse

    verse Member

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    ok, imo,

    jeff, t-cab, & chievous minnifield (talk about two terrible ex-rockets :mad: ) hit the nail on the head. we are lacking in the experience and mental toughness necessary to win it all this year.

    we also have to figure out who are the "robert horrys" and "hakeem olajuwons" on our team - guys who literally step it up a notch or two come playoff time. at the same time we have to find out who the "kevin willises" of our team are - guys who crawl into their shells come playoff time.

    once we get the experience, i'm 100% convinced that we have a dynasty on our hands.
     
  17. dwmyers

    dwmyers Member

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    Unless Shaq's toe heals, LA will not even make the playoffs. I don't see the Rockets now as a threat to go deep into the playoffs, but if they keep improving as much as they have in the first 24 games of the season, then by the end of this year they could easily be playoff contenders.

    If Ming gets better and better, Griff grows into the PF position, Francis calms down at the point, Mobes keeps his shooting touch and develops a better handle on assists, if Posey comes in and gives valuable minutes at the 2 and 3, yeah.

    I don't think these improvements are outside the realm of possibility. They're quite doable if this team learns more and more to play like a team.

    Dave
     
  18. TxCowboy96

    TxCowboy96 Member

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    I agree with the above posts, but then again physically I think the Rockets can match up with ANY team in the NBA going into the play-offs. But what will matter is how the Rockets can handle the pressure of the play-offs. Because we all know how BAD Francis wants to play the play-offs and some who try too hard would end up misplaying. I pray it doesnt happen. But if Rudy can keep their heads straight and keep them in line, I think we honestly can go to the Finals. But another factor that will play here is Ming, because he has been playing all year then playing a tough 82 game season in the NBA which is torture compared to the CBA. It will also show if he can keep up physically. If he can hold his own all season long, then I think we will be fine. But if he starts to tire out we will be in trouble. I mean even after the Indiana game - he indicated he was hoping for no practice the next day. It goes to show how tired he is. His body has taken alot of beating and banging which he is not used to. But I think he will be fine. But if Ming can hang in there tough then I wouldnt be surprised to make it as far as the Western Conference Finals. But only time will tell!
     
  19. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!
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    Too borrow a phrase from Shaq's Magic team.

    "Why not us, why not now?"


    The Rocks could do it, but only if they learn that Ming is the key to winning it all.

    If Ming can become the focal point of the team by playoff time, then they can make a run.

    Seriously though, I expect it to be a couple of years before they are serious contenders.

    DaDakota
     
  20. Rudyball

    Rudyball Member

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    We need some consistent shooting from 12' out and another low-post threat besides Yao.

    We could have built a house from all the bricks they put up that game.

    MoT is going to have to get back his game from two years ago if we are going to have any chance at a Finals series.
     

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