TUESDAY, 10/11/05 – Even though Tuesday was the first game of the preseason for the Rockets, it was great to see them in action again. A lot of the new guys surprised me by playing well for the first preseason game, this one played against the 76ers in Philadelphia. Beyond playing well, a bonus was that the Rockets won the thing, 105-91.
Watching the game on television, it was difficult for me to tell the difference among all the new guards, like Derek Anderson, Rafer Alston, Keith Langford, and rookie Luther Head. I’m sure it will take a couple of games to get used to them all. I really liked what I saw. There was a lot more passing (26 assists) and ball movement, which is surprising considering it’s so early in the preseason. We’ll see if they keep doing this and accomplish my desired goal of sharing the ball this season like the Spurs.
As expected, the new guards are also quick with the ball. Alston had seven assists, with four of them going to Yao for easy layups and close-range jumpers. Anderson was also efficient, hitting all 4 of his shots and all 5 of his free throws to score 13 points in 25 minutes.
Even old-timer Moochie Norris looked great, weighing the lightest he has ever been as a Rocket (186 lbs.), and hitting a couple of tough shots (9 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists).
In his return to action since suffering a knee injury and incurring a heart ailment, Juwan Howard looked great (10 points, 7 rebounds). I was also impressed with the hustle of power forward Lonny Baxter, who had some great rebounds (9) and had powerful scoring moves down low (8 points on 4-of-6 shooting).
Yao looked great in 21 minutes of play, scoring 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He also made all 7 of his fee throw attempts. However, as I had mentioned in my analysis of Yao’s game a week ago, he characteristically missed a layup and a dunk in the first half. But he atoned for missing easy chip-ins with some nice moves in the post, and was accurate with jump shots and fadeaways from about 8 feet or less.
The Houston TV announcers said he worked a lot on his low-post game in the off-season, which was surprising to hear since the media hadn’t really focused on that at all during the summer. They also said he had only 7% body fat, incredible for someone who weighs over 300 pounds.
T-Mac looked like he was in mid-season form, scoring on some exciting drives to the basket and finishing with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Man, this team is looking very good, and they have only played 48 minutes!
Back to Luther Head: he was awesome in his rookie debut. He drove to the basket strong. He hit some tough outside shots. He was quick to the ball, and had a couple of steals. I know it’s too early to tell, but he reminded me a little bit of Steve Francis. Head finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 13 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
If all these new guards keep playing like this, it’s going to be tough to make cuts at the end of training camp.
The only thing I wanted to see in this game was new power forward Stromile Swift, who did not play because of a bruised arm. Maybe we’ll see him play on Wednesday night when the Rockets take on the Orlando Magic at Toyota Center. But really, what Houston sports fan is going to be watching an NBA preseason game when during the same timeframe, the Houston Astros will be playing Game 1 of the National League Championship Series?
By the way, other Rocket notables who didn’t play in this game were Jon Barry, Ryan Bowen, and Dion Glover. To see the complete boxscore of the game, click here.
See what fans are saying about the game in the YaoMania! Fan Forum by clicking here.