- Eric Neel, Page 2 columnist
When I tell you the Houston Rockets are in third place in the Western Conference in late March, you aren't surprised. You knew from the start that their offseason acquisition of Ron Artest would make them contenders.
But how about when I tell you the Rockets are in third place in the West in late March and Artest has missed 13 games due to injury? That Shane Battier and Tracy McGrady have missed 22 and 37 games, respectively? That they traded away their starting point guard, Rafer Alston, at the deadline? That they've recently lost one of their key reserves, Carl Landry, because he was shot in the leg on March 16? Then you have to ask: How exactly are they doing it? How have they managed to go 16-5 since the middle of February, including wins over the Cavs, Nuggets, Hornets and Spurs? How have they remained one of the most dangerous teams heading into the postseason?
The short answer is versatility. The slightly longer answer is versatility by design.
The explanation is for ESPN Insiders.
Without Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston, the Rockets are better than ever, because of creative thinking and flexible plans.