HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets never have had any problems reeling in a celebrated center.

First, there was Moses Malone, who arrived in 1976. Then Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon showed up, thanks to coin flips in 1983 and 1984. But while the Rockets have had great luck with pivotmen, they've been extremely unlucky trying to find a playmaker.

Until last Saturday, that is.

The Rockets are hopeful Eric (Sleepy) Floyd, acquired last week in the trade that sent Sampson to the Golden State Warriors, will be the quality floor leader Houston has lacked since the drug-related loss of John Lucas 21 months ago.

"I'm excited and have extremely positive feelings about coming to the Rockets," said Floyd, the 6-foot-3 former Georgetown standout. "Hopefully, I can help take the Rockets up another notch."

Asked if he felt any pressure about being the key man involved in a deal for Sampson, Floyd shook his head. "I can only do what I've done my whole career -- give 110 percent," he said. "The Rockets felt I was the point guard they wanted to fit into their scheme. So now I have to concentrate on becoming an even better player. I feel I can improve as a point guard, maybe mentally more than physically."

Floyd, 27, switched to point guard three years ago because of a league-wide trend toward taller off guards.

"There were 6-7 and 6-8 guys like Robert Reid, Julius Erving and Marques Johnson moving from small forward to the back court," Floyd said. "I'm 6-3, so {former Golden State coach} John Bach moved me over to the point. I think the move to point guard definitely made me a better player."

Floyd said because he often handled the ball for Coach John Thompson at Georgetown, he made the transition fairly easily. "I always liked to penetrate and hit the open man," Floyd said. "It was a natural move for me."

Floyd gained prominence last season, when he was selected to the Western Conference all-star team and led the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals. In Golden State's lone win of that series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Floyd put on an historic performance, scoring 51 points -- 29 in the fourth quarter.

But the Warriors fell on hard times at the start of this season.

"They didn't keep Greg Ballard or Purvis Short," Floyd said. "Then Larry Smith and Terry Teagle were injured in training camp. We started the year without four key guys and that's tough to overcome."

Floyd's last game for Golden State was a 34-point loss to the Utah Jazz. Then came the shocking news that Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll were headed to Houston for Sampson and Steve Harris. Floyd initially expressed concern about the trade because he is building a home in the Bay Area. But the opportunity to join a playoff team considerably brightened his spirits.

"Playing with a guy like Akeem Olajuwon can only make me better," Floyd said. "And it's nice coming to a team where I'm familiar with a lot of the personnel. I know where J.B. Carroll likes to get the ball and I know Purvis Short's moves. Give me a couple of practices and I should feel pretty comfortable."

Short, traded from the Warriors to the Rockets at the start of the season, describes Floyd as a point guard "who can do it all."

"People talk about his scoring and passing," Short said. "But I give Floyd very high marks as a defensive player, too. And he's a leader, a competitor. He doesn't like to lose."

The Rockets decided to break up their Twin Towers unit because they felt the club could not win a championship without a point guard of Floyd's caliber. In the trade's aftermath, there have been conflicting opinions as to whether Houston should have given up the 7-foot-4 Sampson. But everyone agrees the Rockets got a gem of a point guard.

"You don't give up legitimate point guards," Utah forward Karl Malone said. "Sleepy is an all-star. The last thing I need to see is a two-man game between Akeem Olajuwon and Sleepy Floyd."

"Sleepy's definitely a great player," Olajuwon said. "When he has a little more time to get adjusted, he's going to be our leader on the court. Now I think we have good guards, good forwards and a good center. If everything comes together, we can have a championship team. Sleepy is a guy who can take us there."