I have been on record for a few months now in saying that the 2009/10 Rockets will win no more than 35 games this year. And I'm sticking by that statement for the moment. I'm also sticking to my proclaimation that Luis Scola will be a 20/10 player this year and a borderline all-star. For he's a badass, you see. No matter how rough the season might get, I will always have a reason to attend games, watch them on TV and generally root for the Rockets simply because of guys like Scola (and Battier, and Brooks, and Landry and... well... you get the idea). I just don't see how the Rockets will compete for 82 games over a long grueling season without the services of Yao Ming or the 2003 version of McGrady.
Now, in contrast, Lee thinks the Rockets finish 41-41 (which may sneak them into the playoffs in any other year/conference). I just don't see how that will happen given that most of the teams in the West are rather tall in the frontcourt, while we may be starting Chuck freakin' Hayes at center. 6'5" on a good day Chuck Hayes. Same guy. Hey, I like Chuck. He plays hard. I just like winning more -- and by that I mean I wish we had a legit 7' player on our roster to at least be a reasonable facsimile of a center.
Cue David Andersen? He had quite the 12 minutes on the court last night. He could score; he could rebound; he even blocked a shot (though since it was against Candace Parker's husband, I'm not sure that really counts)!
I watched most of the game against the Spurs and some of the fourth quarter last night against the Celtics (hey, South Park was on, leave me alone!) If the Rockets can play a similar up-tempo style, pass the ball well and make open layups - the 41-41 idea may not be so far-fetched. Then again, "making open layups" while a simple concept, has never been a strong suit of any Rockets team for the last 15 years. Or do I need to link to McGrady's attempt in Milwaukee... or Luther Head's inability to make a layup in warmups (true story)... or any Rafer Alston highlight?
So, yes, while it's just pre-season -- the effort and results of the first two pre-season games have been rather inspiring. Jermaine Taylor looks like a legit NBA player. Chase Budinger (however it's pronounced) might be able to fill the Matt Bullard role that Steve Novak never quite got a handle on. Sorry, Tom. Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry remain one hell of a good 1-2 punch at point guard. Lowry can even rebound a little bit, which is going to be HUGE for the Rockets. The team has been one of the league's best defensive rebounding squads in the NBA for years - mostly thanks to JVG - but this year will likely be a struggle there. When your starting frontcourt is 6'9, 6'5" and 6'7" it means the boys will have to get rather creative on the rebounding front.
Bullard and Worrell are right... the Rockets are going to give you hustle and effort and play very, very, very uptempo basketball. They have no other choice. Unless they want to be the Clippers. Fortunately for us, our guys care.
Your 2009-10 Houston Rockets: It's going to be interesting.