The new-look Houston Rockets beat the New Jersey Nets and Deron Williams 123-108 on Saturday. Since losing Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier to trades, they won their first game behind big games from Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Luis Scola.
Martin had 30 points, six rebounds and four assists. Budinger, who took the starting spot from Battier who has been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, scored 27 points by going 8-for-11 from the field and 3 out of 4 from the three-point area. Scola finished with 23 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets.
Williams paced the Nets with 15 points and a season-high 17 assists. Brook Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 21 points. Kris Humphries contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets.
The Rockets acquired Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns for Brooks while Battier was shipped to Memphis for center Hasheem Thabeet. Dragic scored 6 points and issued an assist in his first game as a Rocket. Thabeet saw brief action but was hardly a factor. It may take some more time for Houston head coach Rick Adelman how Thabeet fits in the team.
Lithuania played like true championship contenders in their quarterfinals match against Argentina on Thursday. They defeated favorites Argentina 104-85 to advance to the semifinal round of the FIBA World Championship for the first time. Lithuania is set to meet powerhouse team USA in the semifinals on Saturday.
Lithuania shot well from the floor, distributing the ball well that resulted to a balanced offense that kept the opponents guessing on defense. They also played great defense by limiting Argentina’s leading scorer Luis Scola of the Houston Rockets. The hardworking Scola averaged a shade over 30 points per game but was limited to 13 points.
Seven players from Lithuania scored in double figures led by NBA veteran Linas Kleiza of the Toronto Raptors. Simas Jasaitis, Tomas Delininkaitis and Martynus Pocius added 16 points each. Pocius played for Duke under current US coach Mike Krzyzewski. The semifinals match on Saturday between the US and Lithuania would be an unusual for them.
Houston Rockets skyscraper Yao Ming has been working on his post up game lately. Team doctor Tom Clanton has given him clearance to play basketball without physical restrictions. His injured left foot must have fully healed after surgery and missing the entire 2010 NBA season.
He is now ready to get back in action with a Rockets team that has changed in a way. Gone is Tracy McGrady who has signed up with the Detroit Pistons. This could be a positive change since it will allow Yao and the rest of the team more touches on offense.
Yao has never played with some players but they look still look strong enough to make the playoffs. Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger will surely contribute to the Rockets cause. Backup point guard Kyle Lowry and hardworking power forward Luis Scola have signed new contracts. Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes are ol reliable players. The acquisiton of veteran center Brad Miller provides depth in Yao’ postion, giving Yao the luxury of rest for the post-season.
The Rockets have the heart to win. This coming season, they are even stronger and will surely make it to the playoffs granted that Yao stays healthy.
An offseason trade between four NBA teams and five players resulted to the departure of Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and former New Jersey Nets shooting guard Courtney Lee joining the Rockets. It appears to be a cost cutting measure for the Rockets, freeing up $28 million of Ariza’s contract.
The Rockets just re-signed Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry, then picked up Brad Miller from free agency. Now they have a young talented player in Lee for what seems like a good bargain. For a young player who can play three positions, the Rockets are paying Lee $1.35 million this coming season. The team option on Lee in the 2012 season is worth $2.23 million. This is real value for money!
Although Lee is not as good a defender as Ariza, he gives the Rockets more options as he can play both guard positions and on some occasions the small forward as well. Kevin Martin can also take the small forward position too. Shane Battier will continue to defend well from the perimeter.
Overall, the Rockets lost an athletic player in Ariza but they got a young talent in return, for much less money.