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Rockets Look to Return to Form After Last Season's Disappointment.

by Dexter Merschbrock (Hawkeye Pierce)

O how easily we forget. In the 2000-2001 season the Houston Rockets, led by second year PG Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, won 45 games, the most ever by a team to not make the playoffs. And all this without much help from aging then Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Rockets entered the 2001-2002 season with their sights set squarely on the playoffs. The aging Dream had fled to Toronto and the team’s superstar was without question now the ultra quick, super athletic Francis, who, since his co-Rookie of the Year first season, was quickly developing into one of the leagues top all around threats at the PG position. Able to score with the best at his position, while also grabbing 7 boards and dishing out 7 assists per game. Francis led the team to 6 straight wins to begin the season, and the Rockets took the white hot Lakers to the wire for their first real test of the season. All was well in Houston, then disaster struck, Francis the team’s leader, went down with an injury. Despite the efforts of Mobley and backup PG Moochie Norris, the Rockets were never able to get back on track without Francis, who wasn’t quite the same even after he returned due to recurring migraine headaches.

So the 2001-2002 season was considered a wash and the rockets went through the motions after the All-Star break and finished a dismal 28-54. The season was not without its bright spots however, with the scoring load squarely on his shoulders with Francis out, Mobley scored 21.7 PPG good enough for 13th in the league. When healthy Francis put up numbers of 21.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 6.4 APG, further solidifying his rep as one of the best all around contributors in the game. Rookie Eddie Griffin showed vast improvement over the course of the season as well, garnering hope for the future at the 4 spot.

So now the Rockets look forward to the 2002-2003 season with the same goal as the 2001-2002 campaign, a spot in the playoffs. Assuming their All-Star PG is healthy, and his backcourt mate comes with the same production as the following year, along with the further development of the potential-laden Griffin, and a very strong draft, Houston’s path to the playoffs should be realized, just a year late.
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