After a promising offseason acquisition, the Houston Rockets looked as though they could be a prime contender heading into 2009. With a roster that is highlighted by Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, regardless of who the rest of the players are, you've got a solid base to build around.
Now, throw in defensive swingmen Ron Artest and Shane Battier, power forwards Luis Scola and Carl Landry, and a young, determined point guard in Aaron Brooks, and you've got yourself quite a roster.
However, not all was perfect in Houston.
In mid-November, Tracy McGrady injured his left knee—the knee that has plagued him for much of his career. It was determined that he would have to miss the entire season to fully rehabilitate the knee.
Yet, the Rockets kept firing on all cylinders and finished the regular season with a 53-29 record.
After a six-game defeat of the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the playoffs, numerous NBA analysts believed that the Rockets would give the Lakers all that they could handle and possibly even defeat them.
Nevertheless, the Rockets would be bitten by the injury bug once again when Yao Ming went down with yet another broken foot in Game Four of the conference semifinals.
It seemed as though the Rockets' time in this year's postseason was all but over.
However, the Rockets persevered through games five and six and forced a Game Seven in which they were defeated by the Lakers. And that's where the story ends.
Now, there is no doubt that this Rockets' team needs a boost. They need to make a move or moves that will put them over the top.
There's no question that the talent is there, but the Rockets need to put together a polished product that can carry its regular season success into the playoffs and come out with something to show for their efforts.
But, what can be done to bolster this Houston lineup?
1. Trade Tracy McGrady
The team has shown that they can win without him. There are multiple teams out there with large expiring contracts that would be willing to deal for a good player.
Specifically, the New York Knicks are suitors for the guard. They can dangle both Larry Hughes' and Cuttino Mobley's expiring contracts and snag McGrady to go with Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, David Lee, and whoever else the Knicks are able to procure; potentially LeBron James?
2. Re-sign Ron Artest
There's no doubt that Artest is talented. Aside from his carnival haircuts and his often evident attitude, he's actually a very good player. He was one of, if not the reason the Rockets' success continued after McGrady went down, and if the Rockets want to remain competitive they need to lock him up.
3. Consider signing Allen Iverson
Now, being a Pistons fan, it's extremely hard to support Iverson. He came into Detroit and did absolutely none of what he said he would do and even ended up being banned from local establishments.
However, for the money that he's going to be offered, Houston could use his scoring if they were to trade McGrady. I'm not suggesting that he receive a starting role, but something similar to a sixth man role would be adequate and could potentially be the signing that takes them further than the conference semifinals.
While there are other moves that can be made, these seem like the most realistic. Odds are they're not going to build around T-Mac or let Artest walk without a good fight.
Yao's the only untouchable player in the organization and his contract is locked up in the jungles of Vietnam. The team will continue to put the pieces around Yao in order to remain the perennial playoff team that they are.
But until then, we wait.