After the Rockets' 89-79 win over the Trail Blazers last Friday, Tracy McGrady said, "I think we've found ourselves."
And he can hardly believe how they've done it.
Sparked by their trio of rookies -- fowards Luis Scola and Carl Landry and guard Aaron Brooks -- the Rockets entered the week having won nine of 12, and coach Rick Adelman has begun to trust more and more in his young players.
In the victory at Portland, Brooks and Landry had season highs for minutes played (28 and 23, respectively), and those two and Scola accounted for the team's final 12 points. Brooks, a backup point guard and Oregon alum who received a warm ovation, played the entire fourth quarter and finished with eight points. Landry, taken 31st overall by the Sonics before being traded to the Rockets, had 12 points and eight rebounds. And Scola, the most regular of the rookies, finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"One thing about our young guys -- they aren't afraid," McGrady said. "I didn't expect after 11 years to be out there in crucial situations with three rookies. I can't fathom that right now."
Believe it, T-Mac.
Send comments, complaints or hype for your favorite rookie to Drew Packham at email@example.com.)
|NBA Rookie Rankings|
|1 ||1 || ||
These days, Durant is having a hard time just leaving the arena. "When you've lost as many as we have, it's tough to go home at night," Durant said Sunday after the Sonics' 14th straight loss. Still, Seattle GM Sam Presti is preaching patience. "There's going to be stretches where they are getting better and breaking new ground," Presti said about Durant and fellow rookie Jeff Green in the Everett Daily Herald. "And there's going to be some nights where they struggle a little bit. I think how they respond to those things and how they work through and learn will mean a lot, not only to them individually but to our team. Our expectation for them is that they continue to put in great effort, accept coaching and work to make the team better." |
|2 ||2 || ||
Of all the rookies, Horford has proved to be one of the most consistent. Last week was no exception, as the big man out of Florida had double-digit rebounds in all four of the Hawks' games. In Seattle on Friday night, hometown kid Marvin Williams grabbed the headlines, but Horford, as is often the case, did the dirty work, collecting 10 points and 16 rebounds in the Hawks' 99-90 victory. Given all of Atlanta's firepower (see Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Williams), Horford has found his niche as the guy who does the little things.
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Sunday will be a big day in Rockford, Ala., and the town's biggest basketball star has the day off. Still, you can bet Moon will be among those paying close attention to Super Bowl XLII. That's because two other alums of Central Coosa County High -- Adalius Thomas of the Patriots and Justin Tuck of the Giants -- will be playing on opposite sides. So does Moon have an allegiance? "I'm rooting for both guys, but I'd be more excited to see Justin win one because Adalius won one when he was with Baltimore," Moon told the National Post. Either way, the town could have a Super Bowl winner and a Slam Dunk contest champion all within a two-week span, if Moon holds up his end of the deal during All-Star weekend.
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Navarro may be the most prolific rookie three-point shooter ever -- he's on pace to break Kerry Kittles' rookie record of 158 triples -- and he's hoping he'll get the call for All-Star weekend's three-point contest. "For me to be there is very important," told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. When I was young, I watched all the All-Star games and the three-point shooters. If I couldn't watch I taped them, and now I'm here. It's exciting." Through Sunday, the Spanish gunner had made 92 treys (on 41.1 percent shooting), good for 14th in the league.
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Scola seems to have his best games when the Rockets are a man down. On Sunday, with Yao Ming fighting a respiratory infection, Scola chipped in 18 points and six rebounds in the Rockets' 97-89 loss to the Jazz. However, the Rockets could have used a better game from Scola from the free-throw line, where he finished only 6-for-12 to drop his season percentage to 61.5.
|6 ||5 || ||
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Yi was first in these rankings as recently as Christmas, but falls another spot this week after seeing his playing time drop considerably. He averaged 21.8 minutes in five games, and his 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds were well off his season marks of 9.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg. At least he finished on a high note in Sunday's overtime victory against the Wizards, recording his first double-digit rebound game since Dec. 22.
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Just when Conley was starting to roll, the injury bug struck again. Conley, who missed 20 games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, had his first double-double last week -- a 10-point, 10-assist outing in a win over the Bulls. The next night, Conley left early after hurting his chest in a loss to the Wizards. Conley suffered a contusion in his rib cage and was forced to sit out Saturday's OT victory against the Clippers (he reportedly could miss a week).
|8 ||7 || ||
After struggling through his first three games of the week (5.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Williams finally had a solid performance Sunday at Minnesota. Too bad it came in the Nets' ninth straight loss. Williams had eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, but it wasn't enough to prevent New Jersey from blowing a 15-point lead with 10 minutes to go. The nine-game skid is the Nets' longest since November 2004.
|9 ||10 || ||
Thornton is making a late push to earn a spot in the Rookie Challenge. Thornton had one of his best all-around games of his young career last Wednesday, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out a career-high four assists to lift L.A. past Sacramento. With two 20-point games in his last five, Thornton could grab the attention of the league's assistant coaches, who vote for the nine players on the squad (ballots were to be turned in by Monday).
|10 ||9 || ||
While his teammate Durant is a lock for the Rookie Challenge, Green, despite his inconsistency, could still land a spot thanks to his being a starter since Dec. 29. Although Green averaged only 6.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in four losses last week, coach P.J. Carlesimo has said he doesn't plan to demote Green in favor of Damien Wilkins, who started at small forward the first two months of the season.
|Honorable mention: Joakim Noah, Bulls (14 points, 15 rebounds in Sunday's win over Pacers); Corey Brewer, Timberwolves (averaged 7.2 points in four games); Carl Landry, Rockets (9.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg in four games) |