Last night, though, I saw the Rockets I'm used to. Yes, they sort of hustled; yes, they didn't give up. But it wasn't enough--nowhere near. Artest got ejected for no good reason. Yao scored -3 points, and dropped the ball anytime we needed him to get a basket. Our point guards looked like they couldn't make it III college ball. We turned the ball over once a minute. And Kobe scored at will.
Which is the real Rockets? Sadly, I think it's the latter team. When we acquired Yao Ming, I predicted that he would never win a championship. I wish I could go back on that prediction, but I don't think I can. Yao is an impressive person: hard-working, generous, respectful. He's the model of how you want a pro athlete to act--off the court. (His eponymous Chinese restaurant is also one of the best in Houston). Unfortunately, his on-court play is more smoke than heat. He's the antithesis of clutch. He's the Derek Bell of basketball players; he'll score 35 in a game at home against the Raptors, but he never seems to have the goods when we need him.
It's not all his fault, of course, but he is our star; he is a future Hall-of-Famer (probably) and he should be better. He can't win us a championship by himself. But he can lose it. After last night, I'm thinking he's going to lose it--yet again.