Just 12 days after David Stern declared the NBA had entered a nuclear winter due to a snag in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA and its Players Association announced there would be a season after all.
With games set to tip off on Christmas Day, time is not a friend of the 30 teams. The Houston Rockets may have an early edge over most because if Chuck Hayes is re-signed, as most believe he will be, every player from last year's roster will be back other than the now-retired Yao Ming.
Houston boasts one of the league's youngest teams, with Luis Scola being the only player over the age of 30. That can be a gift and a curse, but there were more of the former following the February trade deadline. The Rockets finished 15-8 in their final 23 games, just missing the playoffs at 43-39.
In a media session Wednesday afternoon, general manager Daryl Morey and new head coach Kevin McHale stated the goal for this team is to make the playoffs. It's likely the roster will experience some turnover, but assume for now that it stays the same. McHale knows what he's getting in Scola and Kevin Martin, but he'll need more from the Rockets' stable of youth in order to reach their goal.
Here's a list of five players who will be under the microscope in Houston this season.