You have to feel for Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and the rest of the Rockets.
The Houston Rockets' front office put together a phenomenal team for the 08-09 NBA season.
T-Mac's offensive skills are off the chart. His combination of ball-handling, play-making, athleticism, clutch-ness, and shooting easily made him a top-5 player in the league.
Yao started the game becasue of his god-given height, but his hard work and determination gave him all sorts of skill. The 7'1 center is a superb mid-range shooter and shoots 83.2% from the FT line for his career.
Artest gave the team an elite defender and a talented offensive player.
Other than their big three, the team also had great role-players in Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Von Wafer, Brent Barry, and the ultimate "glue-guy", Shane Battier.
Also, they had a great coach in Rick Adelman.
The team was loaded.
They were the definition of "playing both sides of the floor".
They could outgun you on one end and shut you down on the other.
There is no doubt in my mind that team could have won the Western Conference, and maybe the NBA Finals if fate had let it.
Proof can be taken from the 08-00 playoffs. We all witnessed the Rockets go head to head against the eventual champion Lakers without their two best players.
Artest and the supreme role-players led a resilient offensive attack and an immense defensive effort to take the Lakers to seven games.
If they had a healthy Yao and T-Mac their is no doubt in my mind the Rockets could have gotten past Kobe's Lakers.
With the combination of Artest/Battier, the Rockets could have noticeably neutralized 'Melo and hindered the Nuggets attack.
Instead, JR Smith, 'Melo, and Nene would have been wondering how to stop McGrady, Artest, and Yao.
Later, at the Finals, the Artest/Battier combo would again have halted the mismatch creating combo of Turkoglu and Lewis.
We would have seen a competitive series with Howard and Yao going head to head, but in the end I see Houston pulling out.
But alas, it was not to be.
Fate had other plans.