Houston Is attempting to round the team into form for a deep playoff run and that means not wasting a lot of effort on the pre-season. Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and the rest of the Rockets main contributors are not playing serious minutes yet as they are veterans who know what is expected of them. What has been interesting is to see how the bench battles have been shaping up. Carl Landry, with a fresh contract in hand, has been the 2nd leading scorer on the Rockets during the pre-season. Of course that is just 13 ppg and in only 21 mpg a night. No one on the Rockets team is averaging over 25 mpg in fact. Houston played in Oklahoma City on Monday night so jet lag won't be an excuse. Despite not playing much of their regulars expect Houston to be competitive. Their bench is that good.
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Alston has struggled in the pre-season but that should be expected a bit from the veteran. His shooting percentage can't be expected however. Below 30% from the field and the arc has to be distressing a bit to Adelman but that doesn't mean people should expect backup Aaron Brooks to challenge for minutes yet. Conley has been red hot shooting the ball and seems to have won the starting PG role despite a strong challenge from Kyle Lowry. With Alston struggling and Conley still competing it should be a surprise outcome tonight.
Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady may not play tonight as Adelman rests his main players a lot during pre-season. Technically it is a knee issue keeping T-Mac down but I hear it is more mental than physical with the knee. T-Mac has never been one to push himself when the need isn't present. O J Mayo had a red-hot shooting night Monday against Indiana and seems to be gaining confidence in his shot as well as his role on the team. If McGrady can't go then expect Von Wafer to start and Mayo to continue to build his confidence.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Ron Artest
With Shane Battier sidelined for at least the pre-season, Artest has been getting the lions minutes at SF and responded well. His shooting is off but he still leads the team in scoring and steals. Artest is truly a two way player excelling offensively and defensively. What is a bit surprising is his lack of rebounding but again it is only pre-season. Rudy Gay seems capable of turning it on at any moment to lead the Grizzlies. What he needs to do is leave it on. Rudy is starting to do that but when you average 28 mpg that should tell you that the team is going to be counting on you a lot in the regular season.
Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Luis Scola
Darko started for the 2nd consecutive game and is starting to show a bit more muscle at the PF position than Warrick was able to muster. His 10 pt and 7 boards against Indiana was nice until you consider that he did it against a team without a true PF at the moment. Scola will be a tougher test. Scola is older, more experienced and more grounded mentally than Darko. However Darko can give Scola difficulty matching his size. Should be an interesting test.
Centers: Marc Gasol vs Yao Ming
Gasol has looked a step slow against quicker centers...like Rasho Nesterovic! No one is saying Yao Ming is fast but he is starting to round into form (15 pts and 16 boards in the last game) and should give Marc Gasol all he wants. The amazing thing so far is that Gasol, despite his bruising style, hasn't gotten into much foul trouble yet. That is very promising since most rookies struggle to get respect from refs. If Gasol can stay on the court for 30+ minutes and contribute then the prospects for the Grizzlies is looking much brighter.
Benches: Memphis vs Houston
Hakim Warrick is apparently on the bench for a while. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Warrick's always seemed to be a better instant offense type of player than a grind it out big man. Lowry has been struggling but that may have more to do with Quinton Ross and Greg Buckner being on the court than Lowry not playing well. Jaric's return to the lineup should take some of that pressure off of Lowry. Houston's bench has been playing very well lately. Landry, Brooks, Von Wafer, Brent Barry and Luther Head all have looked good at times and softened the blow of not having T-Mac and Shane in the pre-season. Former Tiger Joey Dorsey has been erratic at best but is starting to get some regular minutes.