Planet News Views

Sunday, January 15, 2006

When Championship Dreams Fade

By Scott McLean

When the NBA season got underway a few months ago, experts had the Houston Rockets challenging the San Antonio Spurs for a trip to the Finals.

It's far from over but the Rockets are a huge disappointment. Their record is just 12-23 which is second to last in the Western Conference. Apart from a major turnaround, the Rockets will be watching the playoffs like the rest of us.

Blame injuries? Argue that Yao Ming is overrated? Yell at the whole team for failing to get the basketball to the big man when he's around the basket? Let them hear it for lack of hustle? Well, you could do all of the above or simply realize the Rockets are just not ready to compete for the NBA title.

Championship-caliber teams need superstars like Tracy McGrady and Yao but they also need good role players. The Rockets are lacking in that department.

The other team that has fallen flat is Indiana. For the second consecutive season the Pacers have been plagued by player controvery. Last season the Pacers did themselves in by having several players suspended by the league following skirmishes with fans in Detroit. It wasn't pretty.

Ron Artest, a forward with enormous talent, missed the rest of the 2004-05 season and Indiana was no longer a title contender.

The Pacers had their full roster to start this season. But that was too good to be true. Artest said he wanted out of Indiana, and Pacers management seem ready to give him his wish.

But several weeks have gone by and the team has yet to trade Artest. The Pacers have not been playing him, and without a forward of his ability in the lineup alongside Jermaine O'Neal, they are not much better than a .500 team.

At present Indiana is five games above .500, but they don't appear to have any realistic chance of getting to the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference finals this year.

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