The Houston Rockets appear ready to move on after trading a pair of players they hoped would help lead them back to the playoffs this season.
Facing the lowly New Jersey Nets and their newest star might get that process off to a positive start.
The Rockets look for a ninth consecutive victory over the visiting Nets on Saturday night.
Houston (28-31) takes the court for the first time since making separate trades Thursday that sent popular forward Shane Battier(notes) to Memphis and guard Aaron Brooks(notes) to Phoenix. Both veterans were expected to be major contributors for a club looking to return to the postseason after missing out in 2009-10.
Instead, the Rockets have struggled with star Yao Ming(notes) injured, Brooks plagued by an ankle injury that likely hampered his performance and some overall inconsistent play that has them four games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got 23 games left, and we’re all going to have to take up the challenge, try to win games down the stretch here,” coach Rick Adelman said. “Different guys will have an opportunity to step up. Everybody is going to have to do a little bit more, take up the challenge.”
Houston has won two in a row and three of four, and hopes to benefit from the two players they acquired Thursday. However, it’s uncertain if either 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet(notes) or Goran Dragic(notes) will be in uniform Saturday.
Though Thabeet averaged 1.2 points and 1.7 rebounds with the Grizzlies this season and has been disappointing since being selected second overall in 2009, he could get more minutes on a Houston team without a true center.
Dragic averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists off the bench for the Suns and is likely to remain in a reserve role with the Rockets.
“We’re just going to have to see where it all fits when they get here,” Adelman said.
He also has totaled 56 points in his last two games versus New Jersey, while Scola scored a career-high 44 and pulled down 12 boards in a 116-108 home win over the Nets on March 13.
Williams had 14 points with 12 assists in Friday’s 106-96 loss at San Antonio, his first game since being acquired by New Jersey from Utah on Wednesday for guard Devin Harris(notes), rookie Derrick Favors(notes), two first-round draft picks and cash.
“It’s just good to be back on the court,” said Williams, who has made no commitment to the Nets beyond 2012 when he can opt out of his contract. “I’m excited for this opportunity and to play for these guys and coach (Avery) Johnson, and to make the most of it.”
Williams will try to help New Jersey its fifth consecutive loss Saturday. He is averaging a career-high 21.2 points this season, but has totaled 26 in his last two games at the Toyota Center.