Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Ron Artest, and the Houston Rockets: The Time Is Now

Dimitri KontopidisCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2008

They say be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it all—and then some.


Well for Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, that wish comes in the form of Ron Artest, whose ability on the court is unquestioned, but whose attitude and problems off the court has lead to a myriad of headaches.


“I’ll be like a kid in a candy store,” said Artest upon hearing the news that he had been dealt to the Rockets for a 2009 first-round draft pick, aging shooting guard Bobby Jackson, rookie prospect Donte Green, and $1 million in cash considerations.


But the peace didn’t last long.


Already Yao Ming has questioned Artest’s character and behavior, prompting Artest to remind us of how “ghetto” he is, and how he needs to be sure the Rockets are committed to him.


(You know the Rockets’ front-office was gulping with that one.)


And while Artest should probably take a page out of Dave Chappelle’s book and realize at what point “keeping it real” goes wrong (especially in the Stern-ruled NBA), recent history has shown us that the right situation can help even the baddest of seeds to bloom.


Hell, if T.O. can become a model citizen in Dallas, anything is possible. In a lot of ways, the neighboring city of Houston presents a similar situation for Artest. There, he will be able to win right away (the elixir for all ills in the world of sports) and play an instrumental role in what looks to be a prolific offense.


But if the situation in Houston parallels that of Dallas, so does T.O.’s character to that of Artest. They’re both proud, strong, arrogant, damn good at what they do and…oh yeah…ticking time bombs.


For players like Artest, T.O., and some might even say Randy Moss, things can seem damn-near perfect at one moment, and then spiral out of control the next. It doesn’t take much to ignite the fuse.


This highlights the bigger issue that goes beyond the gigantic egos of these professional prima donnas. That issue is the window of opportunity that this Houston Rockets team has to compete for a championship.


As currently assembled, this team has the star-power (McGrady, Yao, Artest), role players (Alston, Battier, Scola), and attitude it takes to win (a formula Boston used all the way to the championship). Artest and his gritty style of play could be the final piece to the championship puzzle.


But as strong as this team looks on paper, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (no pun intended) to see how fragile it is internally. If drama is already brewing between two-thirds of the Rockets’ mini-Texas Triangle then maybe that window has already started to close.


If Tracy McGrady ever wants to get out of the first round of the playoffs, he’s going to have to do it this season. There is absolutely no guarantee that this team will be able to stay intact for any extended amount of time.


One player can make a team, and one player can break a team. Ron Artest has the ability to do both, but only time will tell which action he decides to pursue.