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A week ago I wrote an article about how Yao Ming’s injury would affect the Rockets. In that article I alluded to the fact that Yao Mings’ broken foot could be the bane of the Rockets’ surge in the West, and possibly ruin their season entirely. Now, however, I have changed my mind and retract my statements. Well, actually, the Rockets have changed my mind. In fact, rather than feel like the Rockets are doomed to another season of mediocrity, my position now is that this injury is a blessing in disguise.

Since Yao’s downfall, the Rockets have won five straight. A perfect stretch in which they’ve beaten two subpar teams (Grizzlies, Pacers), one reasonably good team (Wizards) and two very good and talented teams (Nuggets, Mavericks). So it seems that having their most reliable player hasn’t affected the Rockets in a bad way. Rather, the fact that Yao was sidelined seems to have galvanized Houston.

Case in point: Tracy McGrady is a superstar and when he’s healthy he’s one of the best players in the league. She will get the points from her with or without Yao Ming. But, the rest of the team is a different story. When Yao and McGrady are in the game, the rest of the team is reduced to mere role players, giving a little something extra to get Houston through the hurdle. Neither player does anything out of the ordinary. However, since Yao went down, Tracy McGrady has had to rely on the rest of the team to continue the crazy streak the Rockets are currently on. Rafer Alston is scoring as a prime time player. Shane Battier, in addition to his usual selfless play and reliable defense of his own, has also started putting up big numbers. Luis Scola is filling the void in the painting beautifully. And even Carl Landry has gotten into the act of late, scoring in double figures in recent games.

The point is that every Rockets fan from here to Beijing was completely demoralized to hear about Yao Ming’s foot. But, to me, the Rockets will be better for it. All of their players are starting to step up their games. When Yao recovers, the Rockets are going to add another dangerous player to their already talented lineup, ultimately catapulting them to the top echelon of the NBA. In the short term, the Rockets may struggle to win a title. But Rockets fans need to be patient. Because in the long run, watch out for the NBA! The Rockets are going to be dominant for many years to come.

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