Tonight, the 23-38 Toronto Raptors are in Houston to face off against Yao and the 38-22 Houston Rockets. The Rockets are on a 9-game home winning streak and have won 7 of their last 8. The Rockets have also signed D-League dunk champ, James "Flight" White to a 10-day contract. The Raptors on the other hand, are losers of two in a row and struggled with Shaquille O'Neal on Friday, leading Shaq to go on a barrage of comments calling Chris Bosh "The Rupaul of big men"and the centres of the league "barbecue chicken". The Raps may face similar problems with Rockets' big man, Yao Ming. The Raptors will have to come up with something as ESPN's John Hollinger has the Raps' playoff chances at a measly 2.3%.
I caught up with David from Houston Rockets' blog , The Dream Shake which is named after Houston Rockets legend (and former Raptor), Hakeem Olajuwon's signature move. David answered my questions about the No Stats All-Star, how to stop Yao and his favorite Yao moment.
Hoop Heads North: The Rockets have been playing good ball lately, going 7-3 in their last 10, and have been doing it without McGrady, what do you attribute to this Rockets' success?
David (The Dream Shake): McGrady's injury doesn't help the team in the most immediate sense. But the Rockets know that McGrady is out for the season and their day-to-day roles are now more defined. Yao is clearly the focal point of the offense. Ron Artest no longer bounces between the starting lineup and a role as the 6th Man. Von Wafer knows he's going to get minutes and have a specific role as "instant offense". Brent Barry will get more time. Also, without McGrady, the team has started to push the ball more and there are no more instances where everyone waits around for McGrady to do something on his own. Ball movement has been the key (except in the 4th Q against Chicago).
A similar thing happened last year when McGrady was out... as Adelman's offensive schemes opened up and the team played more aggressively. Hopefully we can maintain this success and find our way past Round 1.
HHN: The Raptors had a tough time with Shaq on Friday as he dropped 45 points on the Raptors' bigs, how can the Raptors stop Yao and the Rockets?
David (The Dream Shake):Stop Yao? That is so not happening! The only way to do so is to hope that Artest and Brooks get impatient and stop trying to feed the post. Essentially, Toronto has to front Yao. But with Bosh and Marion, that may not be the game plan. The only people who can directly stop Yao Ming are Rick Adelman and the officials!
HHN: What was your opinion on the "No Stats All-Star" artivle in the New York Times? Is Battier that big of a difference maker for the Rockets?
David (The Dream Shake): My only real surprise is that we have not seen an article like this on Daryl Morey or Shane Battier sooner. The Rockets traded a draft pick that ended up being Rudy Gay to acquire Battier. As you can see, Morey always valued Battier highly. This article supports a lot of his reasoning for the trade - and why the Rockets never allow Shane's name to appear in trade rumors. He's truly the glue guy to this team. Now that Tracy and Rafer have moved on (via injury/trade), Shane is also more of the vocal leader of the team - a role he naturally assumes without the need for politics.
As for his on court performance? Look no further than the job he and Artest did on LeBron James on Thursday. The two of them meticulously and strategically put LeBron in statistically unfavorable spots - leading James to have his worst night as a professional ever. Without Battier, our defense would break down (as shown in the early parts of this season when Battier was recovering from foot surgery).
HHN: Yao had a huge block on Lebron on Thursday, what has been your favorite Yao moment?
David (The Dream Shake):When he trash talked Chris Kaman. That is an easy one to answer. Listen to Yao -- you can't stop him!
Shoutouts to David and The Dream Shake for taking the time to do our Q&A, check them out at TheDreamShake.com
Photo credit: (Victor Baldizon/ /NBAE via Getty Images)