For the Rockets, the 2005-06 season was an object lesson in how injuries can put asunder the best-laid plans. They opened the season expecting to compete for the Western Conference championship, but limped home to a 34-win season that sent them on an unexpected detour to the lottery.
The injury bug spared few Rockets, including the team's two best players. Most notably, Tracy McGrady's back problems cost Houston its top scorer for 35 games and limited him in most of the others. He shot a career-low 40.6 percent, and the worst news is that there's a real question whether he can regain his former excellence. Center Yao Ming put together his best season, but also spent a big chunk of the year on the sidelines -- two separate foot problems cost him 25 games.
Without those two, the Rockets had little to offer. The team was 21-10 when both Yao and McGrady played, which would have had them on pace to top the previous season's win total. But they were a ghastly 12-30 when one or the other was out of the lineup, and when both were out they were just 1-8.
For those shortcomings, blame the rest of the crew. Every important Rocket had a disappointing season. Free agents Stromile Swift and Derek Anderson led the way, with the two projected starters quickly banished to the bench. Anderson was donated to Miami at the trade deadline and Swift dumped in a deal after the season.