As if I didn't already have enough reason to make the Rockets my favorite Western Conference team, they go out and get Ron Artest.
According to ESPN, the Rockets gave up a hefty package to get Ron Ron—Bobby Jackson, "You ugly as shit, Donte" Green and a 2009 first-round draft pick. That's a steep price, but certainly one that makes Houston more dangerous than it has been since Hakeem was winning back-to-back titles.
On paper, the Rockets are now, as Shoals pointed out, one of the most complete teams in the league. They have a superstar shooting guard in Tracy McGrady who can simply do it all, a dominant big man who cannot be defended in Yao and a slew of players to play their respective roles. If Yao and T-Mac can stay relatively healthy, especially come playoff time, this team will almost be a lock to get out of the first round for the first time in the duo's respective careers with Artest in the fold. Simply put, Ron Ron is the best defender in the NBA. He can guard just about anyone on court, except truly big centers, and he brings a toughness and swagger that this team completely lacked from its stars. And make no mistake, Ron Artest is a star.
A team that already had the fourth best defense in ppg allowed and second best in opponents fg percentage last season got even better. There isn't another team in the NBA that has two defenders on its roster better than Artest and Shane Battier.
In fact, on paper, this becomes the toughest, scariest team in the West. They can run out a starting lineup of players that include Rafer Alston, T-Mac, Yao, Ron-Ron and Battier. That's pretty frightening. Rafer Alston had a career year in 2007-08, and Skip to My Lou is one never to back down from anyone. The addition of Brent Barry gives Houston a legitimate three-point threat and some much needed playoff and championship experience. Luis Scola developed into a talented banger, Luther Head is fearless chucker, Chuck Hayes is the consummate pro that does anything that's asked of him and Joey Dorsey is the most intimidating rookie in the league. If they can resign Carl Landry, Houston is that much better. Just check out the roster, taking away Bobby Jackson and Donte Green while subbing in Artest. Houston has so many talented players that a few won't make the squad.
Hopefully, Joey Dorsey does make this team. Can you imagine watching him on the floor with Artest? Opponents would have a tough time not shitting the bed. That's a duo that, while not seven feet tall, could go toe-to-toe with the Detroit Bad Boys Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, especially when you factor in Artest's crazy and Dorsey's intensity.
And picture this: for defensive purposes only, Houston could potentially run out Artest, Battier, Dorsey, Hayes and, if by some miracle he can still hang around and make the squad, Dikembe Mutombo. Shit, even T-Mac (when he wants to), Yao, Landry, Head and Scola can D it up pretty well. Frankly, on paper, this looks like the best team in the West, provided Yao and T-Mac do something they never seem to be able to do—stay healthy. Hopefully this is the year that will happen.
I know that we're in the swing of baseball season and the NFL is right around the corner, but with the acquisitions and meteoric rise of the Sixers, accompanied by the Artest to Houston move, I'm pining for basketball season.