Growing up as a Chicago Bulls fan, I was able to witness the importance of teamwork and role players. Sure MJ was one of the greatest competitors of all time, but without contributions from players like John Paxson, Bill Cartwright, Steve Kerr, Scott Williams and even Craig Hansen, the Bulls wouldn't have won six titles.
The Houston Rockets,on their recent winning streak, have seemed to understand that.
After the reports of their demise stemming from yet another injury to Yao Ming, the Rockets just keep winning. In the tough Western conference, most experts predicted that the Rockets playoff hopes would fade away.
Instead, the Rockets have climbed up the conference standings and have set their sights on home court. The new look Suns and Mav's have fallen while, the Rockets keep flying high. So how does the team keep it up: they play their roles, they play defense and they play as a team.
Tracy McGrady has taken heat for his early playoff loses, but no one can question his talent. McGrady can score at will and is an outstanding passer who seems to enjoy getting his other players involved.
Tracy has raised his game to a levels he showed back in Orlando. With Yao out, this is unquestionably his team. His all around game and athleticism make him a tough match up for any team, much less player.
When Tracy is focused and in attack mode, he can dominate an entire game himself. If he can stay healthy and hungry he carry this Rockets team for extended periods of time. The rest of the team feeds off his game and the attention he commands.
Players like Carl Landry and Lois Scola have stepped up their games since the injury to Yao. Landry a rookie from Purdue, seems to know how to fill up the spots left open when teams over play McGrady. He gets easy layups, dunks and 10 foot jumpers by just playing smart aware offense.
Scola another rookie and former MVP of Brazilian National Team, does the dirty work. Setting picks, grabbing rebounds and giving maximum effort is what he does best. Scola has some nice moves around the basket and a soft touch on the base line. Off the pick and roll he and Landry make a living flashing to the basket.
The entire Rockets team seems to be a collection of role players outside of McGrady. Shane Battier is the perfect role player: a guy who can do a little of everything and play several positions.
Dikembe Mutombo is the defensive stopper, clogging the paint and rebounding. Chuck Hayes provides energy, Luther Head an outside stoke and Bobby Jackson the veteran leadership off the bench.
Finally there is Rafer Alston, known to many as Skip 2 My Lou. The former playground legend has stepped up his game. Alston hits the big three's, attacks the basket and keeps the offense moving. Alston's play, along with Scola and Landry, appear to be the key components in the winning streak.
Usually role players are known for providing effort, energy and good defense. When you watch the Rockets you see a team that plays with effort, energy and good defense.
The Rockets are second in the league in opponents field goal percentage for the year and are shooting over 49% themselves on the streak. They have seemed to take the defense taught by Jeff VanGundy and infused the ball movement on offense of Rick Adelman. What you get is a balanced team that can compete every night.
Are the Rockets without flaws? No, they look out of sync on offense, whenever McGrady leaves the floor. They have no true second option and have injury plagued players like T-Mac, Battier and Jackson.
They may miss a scorer like Bonzi Wells in the playoffs. If Tracey were to get hurt, or if he gets into foul trouble, the team is in serious trouble. Having said that, this team reminds me a lot of the Cav's team last year, that made a push to the finals.
It has been refreshing to watch the Rockets on this current winning streak. They play good fundamental basketball. Team basketball, a concept that won the Pistons a championship a few years ago.
A brand of ball that helped give Michael Jordan all those rings. So give the Rockets their credit and appreciate what you are witnessing. And when it comes to all these MVP debates, don't forget about the much maligned Tracey McGrady, the orchestrator of this basketball symphony.
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