Year after year the Rockets start the season with signs of life and glimmers of hope, but year after year the Rockets find themselves leaving the playoffs in the first round.
With the addition of Artest and the hope of a healthy year from their stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, are the Rockets ready for the next level?
Absolutely! Despite going under the radar thus far, the Rockets are easily one of the biggest threats in the West. However, they have not really received the kind of respect they truly deserve.
With fans and analysts going on and on about how great the Lakers, Hornets, and Jazz are, the Rockets have managed to avoid a great deal of the spotlight. But, could this work to their advantage?
Again, absolutely! While press and hype is always a motivating factor to perform at a high level, so is the lack of hype. This year, more than any other, the Rockets have something that they need to show the rest of the NBA. That message is plain and simple and it is: "We are no longer a season team! We are ready to win in the playoffs!"
But this season, unlike the past few years, the Rockets can be considered a complete team thanks to their new depth on the bench.
With the addition of Brent Barry and Ron Artest the Rockets have risen from a team with great players to a great team. Anytime you have a squad that has guys like Shane Battier and Brent Barry coming off the bench, you know you have depth.
Barry and Battier could easily start for many other teams in the NBA and it is important to talk about what this means to the Rockets. For the last few seasons the Rockets have been essentially nullified without McGrady or Yao on the court.
With bench players, who not only play great defense but can also sink the long ball, the team gains another dimension. The Rockets, for the first time in a long time, have the potential to provide results off the bench and adequately relieve their all-stars.
So how will this effect the play of Yao and McGrady?
Well, you are going to start seeing a lot more assists for starters. Also, now that some of the weight of the world has been lifted off of these two players you can expect some better shot percentages.
With capable teammates they will be able to be more selective with their shots and ultimately you will see a large increase in offensive production. These factors will lead to Yao and McGrady putting up bigger numbers with more assists and a large increase in shot percentage come the end of the season.
So getting back to the point at hand; The Rockets are the real deal. They are not only going to take a top seed in the playoffs, but I believe that you can expect to see them in the Western Conference Finals barring an injury to one of their superstars.
Also, I think you are going to see a huge improvement in the play of Yao and T-Mac. The Rockets for the first time in a great while are poised to make a run at the Finals.
Despite the talent and expectations of teams like the Lakers and Hornets, I would not sleep on the Rockets. They not only have the talent to make the playoffs, they also have the talent to make a run at the title.
I know that it is easy to talk about the failures of recent years and those arguments certainly have some level of merit. But, you have to remember that this is not the same team anymore.
The changes have been made and the improvements are vast, and the Houston Rockets are coming into the 08-09 season with championship potential and a whole lot to prove.
So when the dust settles and the smoke clears you can take it to the bank. The Houston Rockets are the real deal and they won't be out of the spotlight for long.