AP Report: Rockets taking off early in the season have Houston fans excited.
HOUSTON, TX. The Houston Rockets have started the first the first four weeks of the season with the best record in the league due to a potent offensive attack led by Rasheed Wallace and Sam Cassell. With a 9-2 record, the Rockets have a slight edge in percentage points over their 90s rival the 8-2 Phoenix Suns. The early start has definitely earned the attention of Houston fans who just dealt with an early playoff exit from the Astros and also a void in football as the Oilers left for Tennessee a few years earlier.
The key to the Rockets success has been a balanced offensive attack led by PF Rasheed Wallace and PG Sam Cassell. Wallace is currently averaging 27.6 ppg, 10.6 rbg and even 5 assists per game and has provided the Rockets with an inside force that was missing with the aging Hakeem Olajuwon and the retirement of Charles Barkely. "He's really been playing at a high level so far with his scoring and passing", states head coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "He really makes everyone better around him and is taking on a leadership role. He's providing us with a go-to-guy and brings an intense effort each game. The whole team really feeds off his energy.
Cassell returns to Houston where he won two championships in the 90s and is glad to be back bringing stability with his scoring and leadership. "Its good to be back. I'm really enjoying playing with coach Tomjanovich and having an opportunity to take on a big role and help the team win." Cassell is averaging 17.6 ppg with 9.6 assists per game and only 2.8 turnovers. "Its been great to have Sam back. He's the glue to the team. He scores, passes, and makes everyone better. He's making me a better coach as well", says Tomjanovich.
However, the Rockets offense has been a balanced effort. Backups Brad Miller and Laphonso Ellis are in the top 10 in the league in FG%. Backup guard Cuttino Mobley is shooting 46% from beyond the arc and starters Brent Barry and Kelvin Cato are also averaging double figures in points per game. The Rockets are 3rd in the league in scoring and are top 10 in most offensive categories. Tomjanovich believes a balanced approach has been a big reason why. "We're really scoring from the inside, outside, and off the bench as well. Ball movement and finding open guys can make any offense successful." Not only is Cato providing scoring in the paint, he's averaging 11 rebounds per game and 2 blocks. "He's really provided a defensive presence on this team. I wouldn't say we're a great defensive team, but we can defend well in the paint with him and his presence allows our perimeter guys to defend better", according to Tomjanovich. The Rockets are top 10 in opponents FG% and 3-point%.
Tomjanovich is still being caution despite the early start. "Its still early in the season. Things can happen, and we will have to face adversity whether its injuries or a tough stretch on the court." He's concerned with Cassell averaging 40 minutes per game and hopes he can limit his minutes as the season goes along. However, he's confident in his team and thinks they can continue to get better. "I like our guys. We play hard, we don't stay content, and I think we can even get better. Its early in the season, but we're gonna continue to work hard and hope for the best."