News » Rockets blastoff without McGrady

Rockets blastoff without McGrady

Rockets blastoff without McGrady
Tracy McGrady is a seven-time All-Star, a seven-time member of the All-NBA team, a two-time scoring champion and one of the most prolific three-point shooters in league history.

So why are the Houston Rockets prospering without him?

More significantly for a possible first-round playoff opponent like the Utah Jazz , can Houston keep playing at a championship level into June?

Good questions.

After McGrady underwent season-ending knee surgery on Feb. 24, the Rockets won 12 of their next 16 games and moved into contention for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs.

T-Mac critics nod knowingly, believing the results support their belief that he is a me-first scorer, not a team-oriented winner. But coach Rick Adelman believes those who question McGrady's value are mistaken, even though his teams have never won a playoff series and have lost three Game 7s along the way.

"... Tracy was our playmaker," Adelman said. "He is one of the best, when he was healthy, with the pick-and-roll -- creating his own shot and finding other people. He could get us a shot whenever he wanted to, when he was healthy."

According to second-year point guard Aaron Brooks, one of the former role players thrust into prime-time by McGrady's absence, the Rockets lost of one of the NBA's best closers -- a belief supported by Houston's 3-5 record in games decided by three points.

"Where we really miss T-Mac is in the fourth quarter, closing out games," Brooks said. "That's a guy who can create his own shot with a high success rate. That's what we miss without him."

Dropping in and out of the lineup throughout the first half of the season, McGrady averaged only 15.6 points and five assists in 35 games before finally electing to undergo surgery.

Like T-Mac, the Rockets struggled, too.

They started off 7-5 and were 21-15 at late as Jan. 6, when they lagged behind San Antonio and New Orleans in the Southeast Division.

"He was hurting with his knee," said All-Star center Yao Ming. "It was really bothering him, slowing him down. So we didn't play consistently, with the same lineup. That's very important for team chemistry."

The Rockets came out of the All-Star break and, without McGrady, won three straight games. On the night of his surgery, they extended the winning streak with a resounding 93-74 over Eastern Conference frontrunner Cleveland.

"It's risky surgery," Tom Clanton said at the time. "Not everybody that has microfracture surgery comes back and plays Basketball -- much less NBA-level Basketball. Tracy knows that."

In a statement, McGrady said, "My personal focus now is to look forward and dedicate myself 100 percent to returning to the court and being the kind of player I was and know I still am."

Meanwhile, the Rockets keep winning without him.

"We're all just playing together," Brooks said. "We know we don't have that [second] star player to go to. Normally, we have two options -- get Yao the ball or give T-Mac the ball. Now, we've got Yao but we don't have T-Mac. So we are playing through Yao and everybody is getting the job done."

Said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan: "The ball seems to be going inside a great deal more."

Asked if he feels more pressure to carry the McGrady-less Rockets, Yao smiled and said, "No choice."

Shane Battier, Ron Artest, Luis Scola and Brooks join Yao in Adelman's revamped starting lineup. Artest (17.1), Scola (12.7) and Brooks (11.1) all average in double figures. Together, they make the Rockets more balanced than they are when McGrady averages 21 shots per game, like he did last season.

"I know when I'm going to play now," said Brooks. "... I know everybody has confidence in me and that's how I try to play. Plus, we're winning. That gives you even more confidence."

Said Scola: "... This is who we are. Now, everybody can take a role -- whatever it is -- and that's a good thing. I wish we could have everybody healthy. But this is who we have now and I think we [are] kind of clicking. We are getting better."

Again, however, Adelman defends T-Mac from detractors who try to equate the Rockets' success this season with McGrady's absence.

"Sometimes we're pretty good," Adelman said. "But other times, we're not very good. ... There's a big hole out there without him." T-Mac when it counts

Tracy McGrady and his teams in the playoffs:

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 29, 2009


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