HOUSTON -- Ron Artest gave Houston fans an early glimpse of what he brings to the team.
Artest scored 12 of his 15 points in the first quarter of his Rockets debut, and Houston beat the Memphis Grizzlies 96-93 on Tuesday night in its preseason opener.
The Rockets picked up Artest in an offseason trade with Sacramento with the hope that the talented, temperamental forward transforms them into a title contender.
Artest concedes that he and the team still have a lot of work to do on their chemistry.
"There are a lot of tendencies we don't know about each other," said Artest, who went 4-for-12 from the field. "As we play more and more with each other, everybody's going to get used to each other's game."
It'll help to have a full roster.
Tracy McGrady sat out to rest his sore left knee. The Rockets star had offseason surgery to remove loose tissue in the knee and said last week that it was healing slower than expected. And Shane Battier, the starting forward last season, is out for at least three more weeks with inflammation in his left foot.
"We'll only get better as a team," Artest said.
Yao Ming had 10 points and nine rebounds in less than two quarters of action. Houston coach Rick Adelman has said he'll be careful with Yao during the preseason to try and keep the six-time All-Star fresh and injury-free.
Yao was playing an NBA game for the first time since breaking his left foot last February. Yao said he felt like a rookie in the first quarter, trying to get used to the speed and intensity after such a long layoff. He looked better in the third quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds.
"It felt like new, like I'm new here," Yao said.
Carl Landry, Yao's backup, had 18 points and nine rebounds.
Houston led 71-70 after three quarters, and Artest and Yao were done for the night. Artest played 24 minutes and Yao played just over 22.
Rudy Gay scored 14 for the Grizzlies and had a pair of highlight-reel dunks in the fourth quarter. Hakim Warrick led Memphis with 15, including a dunk that tied it at 92.
Coach Marc Iavaroni liked what he saw from point guards Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry, who combined for eight assists.
"Both our point guards were very aggressive and we want them to penetrate to the basket," Iavaroni said. "This is an indication that both of them have made progress from last year."
Artest got the loudest ovation of the night when he was introduced with the starting lineup. He missed his first shot as a Rocket, a 3-point try from the top of the key. He sank a 3-pointer from the same spot a minute later.
Yao already saw Artest taking scoring pressure off of him.
"He took a lot of shots and drew a lot of fouls on the offensive end," Yao said.
Gay scored five points, including a driving dunk past Yao, to help Memphis build an early lead. Artest scored seven points, including another 3-pointer, during a 9-0 run that put the Rockets up 18-13.
Artest played for Adelman for one season in Sacramento and knows the offense as well as any of the Rockets. Adelman said he'd like his team to learn how to use Artest more effectively in fast-breaking situations.
"We've still got to get used to knowing what he does and what he likes to do," Adelman said. "We'd like to take advantage of him when we're pushing the ball and things are on the move and it's not so stagnant, where they can just see everybody come at him. But that will just take some time."
Yao had a quiet start and came out with 1:44 left in the quarter. He had five rebounds, but only two points, in 10 minutes before he was replaced by Landry.
Artest also sat out the second quarter. Brent Barry, the Rockets' other big offseason acquisition, hit a 3-pointer with 10:12 left in the first half to tie the game at 27-all.
Adelman only used reserves in the second quarter and Houston took a 46-43 halftime lead. Warrick had nine points and O.J. Mayo had eight for Memphis in the first half.
Yao and Artest were back for the start of the third quarter.