Houston moves on without McGrady

The practice almost felt like the start of a new season – and

era – for the Houston Rockets.

New acquisitions Kevin Martin, Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill and

Hilton Armstrong passed their physicals and watched their new team

work out Friday, a day after Houston acquired the quartet in a

three-team swap that sent Tracy McGrady to New York.

And for the first time in months, the remaining Rockets could

finally take the court without facing distracting questions about

McGrady. The seven-time All-Star met the New York media earlier in

the day, officially ending his rocky six-year tenure in

Houston.

“It’s exciting to get to see how all these pieces work,” point

guard Aaron Brooks said. “The deadline’s over, everybody was on

pins and needles, so that’s over with now.”

The Rockets had to deal away forward Carl Landry, their most

productive bench player. But Houston was willing to pay the price

to dump McGrady and nab Martin, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard highly

regarded by both Rockets coach Rick Adelman and the front office.

Adelman coached Martin for two seasons in Sacramento, and Morey had

talked to the Kings about him long before Thursday’s deal.

Martin, Sacramento’s second-leading scorer (19.8 points per

game), conceded that he had grown increasingly frustrated as the

Kings lost 20 of their last 24 games. He was thrilled to find out

at halftime of the Kings’ 130-98 loss to Golden State on Wednesday

that he was going to be reunited with his old coach and join a more

successful team.

“I’m just happy to be here, because they want to win now, and

that’s a big reason why I’m excited right now,” Martin said. “It

was time to make a move.”

One of the main appeals of Martin is his familiarity with

Adelman’s offense. It all came back to him in a wave as he watched

Houston practice in advance of Saturday’s game against Indiana.

“Adelman and his staff, they always bring out the best in their

players, and that’s what they did with me four or five years ago,”

Martin said. “I’m excited to take on that role again.”

The Rockets rank 26th in field-goal percentage (44.2 percent),

and Adelman said Martin is not only a good shooter, but an

attacking player who gets to the free-throw line. Martin was

shooting 39.8 percent from the field this season, but 45.2 percent

over the last three games. He’s also ranked among the top 10 in

free-throw attempts in each of the last three seasons, and he’s

shooting 82 percent from the line this season.

“Getting to the basket and drawing fouls is the thing he’s

really improved on,” Adelman said. “When we drafted him, he came

from a small school (Western Carolina) and he was pretty much their

only talent. When he got the ball, he was very good and when he

didn’t, he stood a lot. But he learned and he grew. Getting in the

lane and drawing fouls, he’s one of the best in the league at

that.”

The Rockets also added some much-needed size while they wait for

Yao Ming to return from his foot injury next season.

The 6-11 Jeffries was averaging 5.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1

blocks in 52 games this season. His contract, which will pay him

$6.9 million next season, was the perceived downside of the deal

for Houston. But Jeffries said the Rockets’ win-now mentality –

which he hinted was absent in New York – will re-energize him.

“I was really excited to come to a situation where there is a

winning culture, and people who expect to win and know how to put

together a winning situation,” Jeffries said.

The 6-10 Hill was the eighth overall pick in last summer’s

draft, and this move reunites him with former Arizona teammate

Chase Budinger. Hill played sparingly in New York, averaging only

four points and 2.5 rebounds in 24 games.

“When I was in New York, every minute I had, I tried to just

give it my best and compete,” he said. “Now I’m with the Houston

Rockets. Hopefully, I can just go out there and show my stuff, show

people I can play.”

The 6-11 Armstrong was traded for the second time in less than

two months. He was dealt from New Orleans to Sacramento in January,

and never felt like the Kings even gave him a look.

“I was happy to get another start, and I could try to help

another team, especially a team that’s doing pretty well right

now,” he said. “That’s huge, that’s something everybody in here

wants to play for is the playoffs, and the opportunity to help a

team in the playoffs.”