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2008, March 7: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Seventeen Story: Houston Finding The Right Mix

June 24, 2008

March 7, 2008 — One thing stands out as we see how well the Houston Rockets have played in building this 17-game win streak.

Chemistry.

It’s the major class that’s in session all across the West right now.
The Rockets are right at the head of the class after polishing off
another exam Thursday, beating the Dallas Mavericks, 113-98.

That lesson tells us that basketball is more chess than checkers, and a
team is more than just the sum of its parts. A team that gels with five
playing in unison will always have more success than a more talented
but less cohesive team.

Getting the right chemistry is something crucial to the hopes of other
West teams. You see it going on now with the Phoenix Suns as they’re
trying to incorporate Shaquille O’Neal into their style of play. And we
see it with bringing Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks.

Even the Los Angeles Lakers, when they get Andrew Bynum back, will have
an adjustment period, fitting him in with Pau Gasol up front.

Houston made subtle changes and has found the right combinations, enough so that it can even withstand the loss of Yao Ming.

I’m happy to see Tracy McGrady, who had 31 points in the win over the
Mavs, have this kind of success. He’s taken a lot of flak for not
getting out of the first round of the playoffs, but when he’s hot, he’s
as explosive a scorer as we have in the NBA.

He has had help. Rafer Alston had a season-high 24 points against the
Mavs. Luis Scola brings some nice intangibles to the floor. Rookie Carl
Landry has come out of nowhere and given them that live athletic body
while still playing within himself. And it’s good to see Dikembe
Mutombo sipping from the fountain of youth. I played with him for two
years in Denver. As then, he knows how to play to his strengths.

Rockets coach Rick Adelman gets a lot of credit for keeping this team together after an early adjustment period.

So far, the team has adjusted well to the loss of Yao, winning all five
without their center. The loss of Yao is a tough break, and great loss
to the game, not just the Rockets.

With a healthy McGrady, this is one team that now looks like it will be
anywhere from a No. 6 to No. 8 seed. Even so, I don’t see Houston
coming out of the West as the representative. The West is tough. It’s
the Spurs, still.

The three teams generally agreed upon in the preseason as the tops in
the West included San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix. It’s amazing to me
that we now hear some suggest two of those teams are in danger of
missing the playoffs altogether.

Coming into this game without Dirk Nowitzki, if you’re Dallas, you’re
probably thinking if you lose, it’s a close game. For the Rockets to
beat you soundly, that’s something to see, and has to give Dallas
something to think about.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Dallas plays in the weeks ahead
with a tough stretch of games ahead. Still, I think they’ll find a way
to make the playoffs, even if they are on the brink of falling out now.

Finding that good chemistry will be key to it all.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular Daily Dime contributor. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.