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Just The Sports: 2009-09-13

Just The Sports

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What A Difference Two Seasons Make

Yao Ming's broken foot could not have come at a worse time for the future of the Houston Rockets. Before Ming broke his foot during the playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Rockets were finally going to be able to break up their two superstar partnership, which has netted them one playoff series win, four playoff series losses, and countless overtime hours for the Rockets training staff because of the competition Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are in to see which of them can miss the most games. At a time when it was imperative that the Rockets divorce themselves of the rapidly deteroriating Tracy McGrady and his bloated 2009-10 salary of a little over $23.2 million, they may now wrongfully feel they need to depend on him to carry the team with Ming most likely out for the season. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they will find out if they do not already know that McGrady is no longer up to that task.

Over two years ago, I wrote that between the two players, McGrady and Ming, that it was McGrady the Rockets should hitch their wagon behind. A lot has changed since then. As both McGrady and Ming were kind enough to each miss significant time during the latest two seasons, Ming in 2007-08 and McGrady in 2008-09, which allowed me to measure the effectiveness of each without the other.

McGrady is no longer able to up his game and put up better numbers without Yao on the court. Playing with Yao in 2007-08, McGrady averaged 21.5 points per game on 51.0 TS% and 1.02 points per shot attempt, all numbers that are a little below his career averages so he is not even up to playing like vintage McGrady when he has Yao. That is why it should be no surprise that without Yao, McGrady's play suffers since defenses can key on him more. Without Yao, McGrady averaged 22.0 points per game on 46.4 TS% and 0.93 points per shot attempt. The only reason he averaged a little more points per game without Ming is because he took 2.6 more field goal attempts per game. McGrady's days of being a franchise player are over.

In 2008-09, Ming also had a change of playing character. In seasons previous, without McGrady, Ming had come up aggravatingly smaller. No longer was that the cast. Ming actually put up better numbers with McGrady out of the line-up and in street clothes. He averaged 19.2 points per game on 60.7 TS% and 1.21 points per shot attempt with McGrady and 20.0 points per game on 62.3 TS% and 1.25 points per game without McGrady. It is not a great jump, but the fact Ming even put up any better numbers without McGrady is a good start. The problem now is he is out for the year so his development as the go-to player of the Houston Rockets is being stunted.

If the Houston Rockets are as smart of a franchise as they seem to be, they will choose not to retain McGrady's services and his virulent strain of basketball progeria after his contract ends after the upcoming season. Instead, Adelman will work on constructing an offense that does not rely too heavily on an aging player who can no longer deliver on a superstar level. In fact, the Rockets would be smart to not invest too much in Yao Ming anymore as it has become painfully evident his legs and feet cannot support his frame under the duress of eighty-two games plus of basketball. The McGrady-Yao experiment should be ended and labeled a failure for the sake of the future health of the Houston Rockets franchise.