Don't underestimate them
?Key addition. Power forward Mark Bryant, who came to Houston as a free agent from the Portland Trail Blazers. He will give the two-time champion Rockets the muscle they lacked since trading Otis Thorpe last season and will allow emerging star Robert Horry to swing between power forward and his natural small-forward slot. Bryant also will occasionally give All-Star center Hakeem Olajuwon valuable relief.
?Why you shouldn't bet against a three-peat. Since Rudy Tomjanovich became coach in 1992, the Rockets are 10-1 in games in which they faced playoff elimination.
?Good news. Last June the space shuttle Atlantis took a jersey with Houston's silly-looking new logo—a needle-nosed, sharp-toothed rocket orbiting a basketball—into outer space.
?Bad news. The shuttle didn't leave it there.
?Outlook. With guard Clyde Drexler around for a full season, the Rockets should have a regular-season record more befitting a defending champion than last year's 47-35. Another long playoff run seems likely.
No Dennis as menace
?Group therapy, anyone? The biggest concern or the Spurs, who lost to Houston in the Western Conference finals after having the best record (62-20) in the league last season, is avoiding a hangover from that elimination. They will probably take their cue from center David Robinson, whose MVP award seemed to stand for Most Victimized Player after he was carved up in the playoffs by Olajuwon. A fast start is essential for both Robinson and the Spurs.
?Animal atmosphere. "It was like a zoo last year," Robinson says, referring to the climate created by the perpetual distraction, Dennis Rodman. Now, with Rodman traded to the Chicago Bulls, all is serene.
?Incredible feet. The Spurs are counting on power forwards J.R. Reid and Carl Herrera (from Houston) to fill Rodman's shoes, but center Will Perdue, who came in the Rodman trade, might be more suited to the task. Perdue's shoe size is 21AAAAA.