Monday, December 31, 2007

Fouls on Yao, Trade Rumors and New Year's Eve Tradition

To those of you asking for the YouTube user who is posting and I guess categorizing this season's poor officiating of Yao, I couldn't find him/her. But watching this clip over and over again should be enough to trigger your disgust for officials league-wide. Nies is considered one of the best.

To commenter "tor" who dropped the dime on the clips, get back at us with a URL or username or something. We all want to admire NBA's most inept.
• • •

Commentor "Rob" posts this little tidbit from the Chicago Tribune:

"Houston, with Luis Scola coming on, won its first back-to-back set and had at least five players in double figures for the second straight game, both without Tracy McGrady. It's giving the team more reason to move McGrady, who is said to have quietly let it be known he's no longer happy in Houston. With the Rockets still in need of a point guard, you could see them working out a package that includes Hinrich and Andres Nocioni."
Is that the move? Fellow blogger Duke Hogwild will settle for no less than Hinrich and Luol Deng... I'll send him to negotiate so he can directly explain the rationale for Chicago taking that deal. It's like one of those fantasy basketball trade offers you just dare the other team to take. It's more like an insult. Still, it seems a little too soon to move Mac, this could all be unfounded rumor, but would you be any more motivated if it was Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas?
• • •

In what's becoming a family tradition, my brothers and I will be at the New Year's Eve game tonight vs. Golden State. This should be a real test of that balanced offense we've been seeing. We'll probably be in the Yao Ming fan club section. Hope to see you all there.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Yao Line 12.20.07: Just Short of Picture Perfect

51:36 min | 26 pts | 9-22 FGs | 8-9 FTs | 19 rebs | 6 asts | 2 blks | 2 TOs | 3 PFs | recap

The stage was set. When Denver's Eduardo Najera hit two big 3FGs that seemed to bury the Rockets for good, they clawed back in it, tied the game at 94 and after a big stop on the defensive end, found themselves with :17 seconds left and a shot to win. Yao Ming's turnaround jumper was just short. Short at the rim and short of being the picture perfect ending to what was thought at least by everyone at TNT to be a highly unlikely effort by our struggling Rockets.

After facing Dwight Howard and the Magic for 42 minutes the night before, Yao put on his season's best performance against the reigning Defensive MVP, Marcus Camby (who was limited to only two, albeit very big, points). Yao gutted it out for a career high 51:36 minutes and led this Rockets team to a gutsy performance that fell just short in double OT. He didn't make every shot down the stretch and didn't make every defensive play, but he led. That's what was different about this team in this game. He directed the Rockets and they followed. They hit big shots and finally started covering Yao's back. And in a fix, they looked like an actual team for once.

Which brings up the TNT halftime show and Magic Johnson, who made what some might call a rare concise and less than obvious observation. The Rockets must trade either Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady. The combination has failed, there must be a change. And when asked which one he would trade, Magic said T-Mac. I have to admit, I've never really thought of trading one of them. But watching Yao lead his team in the second half and the Rockets move the ball better than they have all season, it started to make some sense.

With T-Mac out, Houston wouldn't be expected to be much more than a .500 team and a low playoff seed--which would still be better than where they are now. The Rockets with T-Mac are supposed to be an elite team. A trade wouldn't work any miracles, but it might give the Rockets a fresh start and a definitive identity; and maybe they can get a young athletic power forward with the deal. The point is, it wasn't a perfect game, Rockets guards (namely Rafer Alston) made some costly turnovers and struggled to control the tempo at times, but there were moments of tremendous team cohesion and Bonzi Wells looked just as good a sidekick to Yao as anyone else. Luther Head came up big as we started to expect from him last season and Aaron Brooks gave a little taste of just what he's capable of. In other words, the prospect of life without T-Mac suddenly didn't look so terrible. A win would have solidified that idea. I've been a fan of Mac over the span of his career and still am, but is it time to let him go?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Creating a Tougher, Better Yao

I was forwarded by commenter, CYE, two different takes from the basketball blog HoopsVibe on Yao's recent assessment of the Rockets' lack of intestinal fortitude. They can basically be summed up as such: Oly Sandor proposes on his blog that Yao's stepping up vocally in a meaningful way is his coming-out party into legitimate superstardom, from second fiddle to franchise. The second is Jason Kelly's response to Sandor's blog, in which he believes that speaking out is not necessarily a mark of superstardom, but rather of maturing leadership. He believes that Yao should is the franchise and by default should be the leader, but Kelly feels like it's a role Yao's reluctant to take.

That's all very sensible, but I didn't think there was any debate on whether or not Yao was a superstar. Like it or not, Yao has been a superstar and so has T-Mac, that term has nothing to do with leadership, but of talent and great appreciation from fans. Yao and T-Mac are bonafide superstars but are they winners? I think that might be the more appropriate term. Because they are leaders already, whether unwittingly or consciously they lead this team, the Rockets can only go as far as they lead them. They might not fully realize the enormity of their impact yet, but Yao looks like he's starting to get the idea. So, they are superstars, they are leaders, no question, but are they winners yet? No.

But even Hakeem took a little while. He wasn't always unbeatable. Winners can often take time. Dream was once just an All-World athlete with anger management problems and no jumpshot. He worked on his game, and became a winner over the course of years of honing his craft, but he wouldn't have been able to do it alone. There were other winners on those Championship teams. Clyde, OT, Mario, Sam I Am, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, even Mad Max. Does this current team have those kinds of winners?

It might not even matter, this isn't that team. Neither Yao or T-Mac have quite reached the "maturity" level mentioned in the HoopsVibe story to make a really significant Championship run. Talent is talent. Winning is a whole different monster. They need more time. Think about it like this, it's taken Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen this long to get on a legitimate contender, let's not start jumping the gun on Yao and T-Mac. Don't get it twisted, the Rockets need to right this ship right now, and a win in Detroit, is a righting those rudders, but this is still a long-term deal.

How many of us fans looked at this roster at the beginning of the season and started thinking Chip? Let's get the Rockets out of the first round first. Yao looks like he's up to the challenge. It looks as if he's finally embracing his role as a leader on this team. Let's face it, T-Mac, as talented as he is but with all his idiosyncrasies, he may never be the kind of leader (read: winner) we expect or are used to. I don't necessarily buy concrete formulas for winning when it comes to the very human arena of professional sports, but if it's a winner you're looking for, it's Yao we'll have to keep an eye on.

UPDATE (12/14, 10:42a): Jack McCallum over at has an interesting and tough take on Tracy McGrady.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Yao Line 12.12.07: A Gutcheck Win

43:49 min | 21 pts | 9-21 FGs | 3-6 FTs | 13 rebs | 3 asts | 1 stl | 4 blks | 1 TO | 2 PFs | recap

It wasn't pretty but any win against the Detroit Pistons is a win against the Detroit Pistons. The Rockets' FT shooting could have been a record low, but they kept getting to the line and salvaged it somewhat. What was more encouraging than that was the performance Yao and T-Mac down the stretch. They did what we've wanted them to do all season, take over in the final minutes with authority. And Rafer Alston even hit a key 3-pointer just when the Rockets needed it, putting them up 66-63 with 6:49 left in the game. It was all Yao and Mac after that.

Yao had 9 pts and T-Mac 5 pts to finish the game. T-Mac was feeling it from the perimeter all night and hit a couple of more key jumpers, though you'd prefer him to take it to the hoop late in the game. But Yao might not have had 9 more gutsier points this season. With Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups doing their best to steal this one, Yao demanded the ball and forcefully dropped huge buckets right over the top of Wallace, who's no slouch on D and pretty crafty at that. He had no answer for Yao. And you could see it in their eyes, Wallace and Yao. They both knew it. 'Sheed loves to taunt opposing post players who try to post him up, bringing a healthy disrespect for the league's big men. He said nothing to Yao in the 4th.

Feigen writes a beautiful little piece on what real toughness is--it's Yao Ming. Yao Ming Mania has your pics.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Yao Lines 12.09.07 & 12.10.07: When it Rains it Pours

Dec. 09: 38:27 min | 15 pts | 5-10 FGs | 5-6 FTs | 6 rebs | 1 ast | 3 blks | 3 TOs | 1 PF | recap

Dec. 10: 33:19 min | 12 pts | 3-11 FGs | 6-6 FTs | 9 rebs | 2 TOs | 1 PF | recap

Pardon the inactivity for the past few days, though honestly, I don't have much to say about these last two. Threw my back out in a rec. league championship game and I've been bed-ridden for a few days, but I'm actually kind of happy I missed the last two games. Catching up, I read through Fran Blinebury's blog entry, "Take me to your leader" and well, he makes a great point... one I hadn't really thought of. Jeff Van Gundy was the fire. And now with him gone, nobody else has stepped up. Yao looked as if he was ready two games after releasing his inner 'Sheed but now it seems he's relapsed. For everyone, who's wanted Stevie Franchise back in the mix, he's started the last two games... two of the worst games the Rockets have played this season.

Is it a forgone conclusion? Is there no leader on this team? Are Yao and T-Mac simply incapable of stepping up? That would pretty much mean giving up on this squad, not just this season, but for good.

As it is, this is pretty much rock-bottom, letting it get any worse than this is giving this season away, yes, even just 22 games in. They need to have this be one of those sports cliches they'll remember this at season's end as the spark that lit the Rockets fire. It's the turning point. Turn it around or turn and go home. Nobody needs a leader to go home. It's the other way that needs guts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Yao Line 12.08.07: Bokie Got It

39:18 min | 25 pts | 9-18 FGs | 7-7 FTs | 11 rebs | 5 asts | 3 blks | 3 TOs | 4 PFs | recap

Yao knew it was you, Bokie... and It breaks his heart. Maybe not.

Yao racks up his 12th double-double of the season and for the second straight game plays with a little spicy in his crawl. How did Rick Kamilah phrase it over at Yao dunked over the whole state of New Jersey. Yea, and Bokie Nachbar, too. I know that because running back on defense, he turns to Steve Francis, laughing, "I dunked on Bokie."

He dunked on him nasty like. It's the nastiest dunk I've ever seen Yao put down, it just had to be on Bokie. It was like Michael Corleone sending Fredo out fishing for the last time. Unfortunate but necessary. Bokie got posterized. And I'm loving this new side of Yao. Dunk it. Just dunk it.

5 assists were good to see, too, which means Rockets supporting cast members were hitting shots. It was an all-around solid game, as Jon points out in his recap. When the Rockets play like this, they look hardly beatable. Finding consistency in this will be the key. As it is, San Antonio wins their 12th straight at home, even if Utah was robbed, to stay undefeated there--that late offensive foul on Boozer suggests that Yao isn't the only big man that officials have a hard time officiating. Hornets win, too, but Mavs have lost two in a row. Rockets are 5 games back in the Division, but only 1 game back from Dallas who's 1 game back of New Orleans. Yea, it's a tough division.

Yao Ming Mania has game photos.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If China boycotted the NBA

There have been grumblings of a nation-wide Chinese boycott of the NBA on the message boards.

It won't happen, probably... not the entire country's viewing audience, anyway, but if somehow enough viewers were to organize and boycott watching the NBA and buying NBA-related products--or even if they just threatened the NBA office of such a boycott--until Yao Ming gets better officiating, what would happen?

Stern would probably have to listen and probably have to do something, but I'd expect mostly lip service. Lots of promises of this and that, but no real definitive measures would be taken. Yao might get more benefit of the doubt, but he might be unwittingly fostering resentment in some fraternity of NBA referees. How much further the Chinese public and Chinese American citizens here are willing to go one can only imagine. What you can be sure of is backlash in the American media.

Yao would be deemed a crybaby. Who gets an entire country to boycott for a guy when he doesn't get his away... I mean, other than a president. And even though Yao would have nothing to do with it, he would catch all the flak. It's enough that people still sneer (and misguidedly so) that Yao has 1 billion people to vote him into the All-Star game. How about 1 billion people boycotting the NBA? He would get inundated by a prying media and hostile fans, all who just don't know any better, as if he summoned his people to boycott on his behalf. And he would have to explain himself and politely ask the Chinese people not to boycott. And that would have minor backlash of its own, as if Yao didn't appreciate his fans. So, what good exactly what a very specific player-based boycott, do? Seems like the harm outweighs the benefits.

But beyond that hypothetical, it just seems odd to boycott a professional sports league on the basis of one player. The truth is, the officiating is at best very inconsistent in the NBA. If anyone wants to boycott, boycott the whole league. Is anyone else still unsatisfied with Stern's handling of gambling referees and the Donaghy controversy? Does anyone else look at a string of bad calls and swear its point-shaving? In the summer, when the Donaghy incident first went public, there was a lot of talk about public mistrust and how the NBA might suffer, then time passed, pre-season came and went, blockbuster moves were made, hype, hype, hype and suddenly nobody could wait for the NBA to start. And once it did, everyone seemed to be okay with it. But they're not. It's taken some time, it's had to seep back up through their subconscious, but now fans are getting disgruntled and they have something very specific to pin that bad officiating on. And it isn't pretty. So if Stern doesn't do something about his referees--and I'm not saying I have any idea how he can even begin to approach this--it seems like good or bad, for Yao or anyone else, there may be boycotts on the rise.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Yao Line 12.01.07: Yao's Inner 'Sheed

37:11 min | 29 pts | 8-15 FGs | 13-13 FTs 11 rebs 1 ast | 2 blks | 3 TOs | 6 PFs | recap

Houston didn't look very good in this one. Yao and T-Mac were solid enough on offense but defensively, the Rockets as a team couldn't stop Sacramento from doing basically anything they wanted on offense. It was a tough one to watch, but it was interesting to see Yao get fired up at the officiating, even if it was after they had already preposterously fouled him out.

I didn't get to fact check this, but I believe this is the first time Yao's ever been ejected from a NBA game. I guess this kind of fire is what we've been asking for in Yao, but seeing him react so out of character raised some interesting questions. Isn't what fans, critics and perhaps even coaches want to see from Yao pretty much condemned in this league when acted out by other players, mostly of African American descent. It seems to be a double standard, but in what ways is it relevant? What are the implications of wanting some players to be... let's say spirited, while telling others to be less so?

I even find myself to have some part in this double-standard. Though I don't often think less of players for acting out in games, I'll admit that from Asian American perspective, Yao's act was affirming in a way, maybe even encouraging to see Yao express himself in anger. After all this time of being poorly officiated (as big men often are), he had had enough and felt compelled to show everyone watching that he couldn't take it anymore. No one outside of Sacramento wouldn't fault Yao for throwing in the towel so to speak, but Yao's reaction was actually kind of refreshing. It carried the idea that a man's nature does change; but also, the notion that maybe that was never Yao's nature to begin with and not a completely valid stereotype. We've seen increasing increments of Yao's change (or perhaps release) from what was once thought to be a cultural and bound passivity over the past few years. And though it was just one ejection for a fairly innocuous act, could it finally be the tipping point for a more spirited Yao?

Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I mean, how constructive has acting out about the officiating ever been? It's always seemed to work better for players when you take it out on your opponents and let the officials sort it out. But we'll see soon enough whether this is a sign of Yao letting out his inner 'Sheed. And what that means for the NBA, it's image and it's millions of Chinese fans.

For now, it's still the fire on the hardwood and toward the opposing team that we need to see. Yao's already an immense presence off the court. He says all the right things, puts the onus on himself night in and night out and takes the blame when the team doesn't perform up to par. Yao's continuing growth still needs to translate that in his presence on the court. Last night's outburst might have been a step in the right direction. And then, it might not.

Yao Ming Mania has your pics.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Yao Line 11.28.07: Too Sweet to be True

from Yao Central

28:00 min | 10 pts | 4-12 FGs | 2-2 FTs | 7 rebs | 1 ast | 3 blks | 5 TOs |

Jon Feigen assesses the "Yao Ming dilemma" on his blog, which basically sums itself up in its last two lines:
The Rockets' offense will be a season-long project, ideally growing all the way into the playoffs. Job one, however, might need to be getting Yao the ball in position to dominate quickness and Yao sure enough with the ball to do it.
He's absolutely right, nobody outside the Rockets locker room would know better, so why haven't the Rockets found a consistent way to take advantage of smaller teams? The Spurs have. And so did the old Lakers with Shaq. A win against the Phoenix Suns in the manner in which it was attained brings a lot of expectations; and the Rockets were nowhere close to meeting those expectations last night. It's easy say it was the second game of a back-to-back, but the Rockets didn't just look tired, they looked like they didn't want it.

I've been harping on Yao all season about those turnovers and everyone keeps saying well, the great ones all turnover the ball, or turnovers are okay as long the Rockets win. There hasn't really been a singular moment or game that was glaring enough for most fans to get too concerned about Yao's TOs. But turnovers are what give teams like Golden State easy buckets, the kind where you blink and suddenly they've doubled their lead. Yao has to protect the ball better against smaller defenders. It really should never be slapped out of his hands from the high post; he should laugh when defenders try it--and I hate to make the comparison--but like Shaq used to. That fiery dominant nature Yao's apparently still working to command doesn't just manifest itself through dunks and blocks, it's a complete attitude throughout the game, getting position, boxing out, throwing elbows and protecting the ball. Last night, he didn't have it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Yao Line 11.26.07: Winning Ugly is Still Winning

from Yao Central

36:58 min | 14 pts | 5-11 FGs | 4-5 FTs | 8 rebs | 2 asts | 1 stl | 1 blk | 6 TOs | 4 PFs |

Well, it wasn't pretty, but thank the heavens for T-Mac or his jumpshot. His 19 points in the 4th turned what was really an unnecessarily face-tightening game into a comfortable W. And it couldn't have come at a better time as what feels like other Western Conference team in the league lost the past couple of nights. Yao, however, struggled against the Clips' Chris Kaman and it wasn't always clear as to why. My brother and I like to watch the games on broadband with Jim Peterson's radio broadcasts going, a bit of nostalgia that recalls the warm fuzzy feeling when our dad used to cruise us around Houston in the car just to listen to the broadcast of the games, back when you couldn't get many games on television.

But Peterson made some interesting observations regarding Yao's offense and the bothersome part was how many times he repeated them. Yao just didn't seem to want to shoot the ball and often when he had it in point-blank territory, preferring to just throwing it back out right as it was thrown in. And even in single coverage, Yao struggled to make the right moves. Peterson kept calling for Yao to go to his right and drop a little baby-hook, that it was exposed. But Yao forced his moves left with often poor results. Everybody has a bad game but this was a rare poorly executed game from Yao. His 6 TOs this time were all his to blame. Yao usually eats Kaman alive, granted he's having the best season of his career, but he's the kind of one-on-one match-up that makes Yao's eyes light up. This kind of thing is uncommon to be sure, but Yao has seemed to defer a little too much since the Rockets hit the skid. It would be a shame to think that Yao might equate success in the motion with his shooting less.

A win is nice but T-Mac can't be forced to carry the load every night; and every team won't be a struggling Clipper squad with Dan Dickau running the point and no Elton Brand. The Rockets are going to need Yao to stay assertive on offense when he gets his touches, particularly with Phoenix and Golden State coming up. For the first time in a long time, the Rockets are gonna get multiple looks against more nimble teams with T-Mac and Yao healthy--so we'll finally get a clearer picture of how they stack up against league's best running teams.

Yao Ming Mania has your pics.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

from Yao Central

Mom's Houston Rockets v. Dallas Mavericks Birthday Wishlist:

T-Mac returns healthy and ready to play: His offensive assertiveness makes it harder for Dallas to key in on Yao. Mac and Yao combine for at least 45 points..

Yao finishes with at least 20 FG attempts: Get the big man his touches. It doesn't matter how many shots Mac takes as long as Yao get his touches. Mac is expected to be shaky after the injury, so Yao can't afford to defer. And all 20+ FGAs are better off coming in 4th quarter than in the 1st.

Rockets point guards play defense: Yea, the offense has been ugly enough, but the defense... even worse. Nothing will make those b-day candles brighter than Skip or Mike James actually guarding Jason Terry.

Scola meshes with Mac's return: Here's hoping Scola fits right in with T-Mac back in the line-up and gives the Rockets a consistent and potent third scoring option.

Yao physically dominates the Dallas bigs: Diop is significantly better this season, a testament to his work ethic, but Yao has dominated Dallas in the past, he has to do it again. Make them paint rent down there.

Yao keeps those turnovers down: At 13th in the league in TOs, Yao's the only big man in the Top 20 besides Zach Randolph (who turns it over more than anyone in the league per 48 minutes). I know they front Yao, I know the entry passes aren't always great, I know he gets tired, I know he gets fouled... now let's all try to believe Yao can overcome that as much as he's physically trying to night in night out.

If they lose, root for Dallas and San Antonio in this season's playoffs: What difference does it make, they're from Texas. I don't understand you boys.

Okay, so that's really my wishlist for the Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks to my mom... all except the last one. But at least now, she'll watch the game. Happy Birthday, Mom. Hope all our wishes come true... except the last one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Yao Line 11.16.07: Motion Improving

39:13 min | 14 pts | 7-16 FGs | 9 rebs | 2 asts | 3 blks | 7 TOs | 3 PFs

Not attractive numbers for Yao but when a team focuses their entire defense on one player, it opens things up for everyone else. And the Rockets hit shots. Unfortunately, they were playing the Spurs. Nevertheless, this wasn't a terrible loss, there was plenty to build on, the motion looked good. Nice to see Scola exhibit what kind of offensive player he can be. He lit it up.

Would've still liked Yao to be a little more physical, a little more assertive as the lone star with McGrady out. Too few FT attempts you can point at the refs, zero FT attempts and you have to point at yourself a little. The motion offense is great at getting open shots, but not necessarily getting to the line. That has to come from Yao in the low-post. Of course, the Rockets have to be able to get to him. Again, not bad numbers (except for those 7 TOs, it's only getting worse) but not as dominant as their first match-up... and in that sense, that's where you miss Mac. Even though the motion offense looked more fluid without him for this game, having him means no defense can key in on just Yao.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fists of Fury: Yi Watch '07-'08

After watching Yi for a few games, we have to admit he's already better than we had hoped. He's really got some talent to work with and not in that Stromile Swift kind of way. He's actually got a pretty good head for this game already. And that jump-shot is kind of Dirk-like, even in the wide stance.

David Thorpe has Yi better than Kevin Durant right now over in ESPN's Daily Dime and really... we can't argue with him. We would've, we've seen a helluva lot more of Durant's games at TX than Yi at Guangdong. Thorpe notices that wide stance, too, but doesn't like it. It's wider than Dirk's we're guessing.

Yi probably still won't win Rookie of the Year with Durant getting as many touches as he wants in the Emerald City, but it's not too crazy to think Yi is a future star. We upgrade his "reasonable outcome" potential from Mark Blount to Al Harrington... for now. Dirk-ish is on the horizon.

The Yao Line 11.14.07: We want Bonzi...

To work on his free throws. Chants of, "we want Steve!" rang out in the Toyota Center in the 2nd half, a thinly veiled critique of the uninspiring play of Rafer Alston and Mike James. It was terrible. We want Stevie, yea, to get in shape and make this spot competitive. Say what you want about Tracy McGrady taking more shots this season, he finds you offense where there looks like there's none. He puts you over the top--something the Rockets couldn't quite muster last night. Kobe did that for the Lakers, dagger after dagger, he was unconscious in the 4th and it was par for the course. Houston missed T-Mac, hopefully it won't be for long.

36:45 min | 26 pts | 6-18 FGs | 15-20 FTs | 13 rebs | 5 asts | 3 stls | 1 TO | 4 PFs

Yao did a solid job of keeping the Rockets in the game despite his poor shooting, having Bonzi go off didn't hurt either, but down the stretch neither could get it done at the line. For Yao that's particularly anomalous. I haven't seen him miss that many in years--it's baffling. And as if just to reassure us of his accuracy, how well did that last intentional FT miss play work? The Rockets had as good a shot at it as Battier's three in the first game. Instead, Rafer Alston missed it. As bad as Mike James was last night, you almost wish he'd taken that shot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Yao Line 11.13.07: Darko ain't that good

34:56 min | 7-12 FGs | 8-8 FTs | 7 rebs | 1 ast | 2 stls | 1 blk | 1 TO | 5 PFs

Has it gotten to the point that Yao, taking on this very American persona of bad-assery, has started writing off lesser players now? It's an unfortunate side effect of swagger. Whether that's the case or not, Yao didn't play with much fire against Darko Milicic and the Grizz last night. And Darko gave it to him. 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks.

Yao still put up decent numbers, but this play sort of encapsulates the night: down 4, Rockets needed a stop, they got one from Mike James in a steal off Kyle Lowry. James, takes it coast to coast to the rack, looking for the shot, as you know he's going to do. He puts up a floater and Yao has a direct line to the offensive board. And for all intents and purposes he should have had it and finished it or gotten fouled as in Charlotte. Instead, Darko just shoved him out of the way. And, not that the Rockets would have had a guaranteed win if Yao scores, but the Memphis rebound pretty much meant it was over. He didn't really seem to want it. Yao looked tired for much of this one. But no time think about it too much, just like they had the Spurs right after their first loss to Dallas, the Rockets now have the Lakers. Hopefully, they'll get the same result.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Yao Line 11.11.07: Greatest duo ever?

from Yao Central

39:56 min | 34 pts | 13-15 FGs | 8-8 FTs | 8 rebs | 4 asts | 3 blks | 4 PFs | 6 TOs

"I don't think there's a better one-two combination (in the NBA). That might be the best one-two combination since MJ and Pippen."

That's Gerald Wallace said to Jonathan Feigen in his recap of the Rockets v. Bobcats game Sunday night. It certainly hasn't taken long for Yao for return to form. He looks like he's in the best shape of his life; leading the Rockets in minutes played. 34 points and the game-winner; he's come a long way.

Yao looked unstoppable out there to fans and Bobcats alike. If not for those 6 TOs, that might have been one of the most efficient games ever seen by someone in a Rockets uniform. But we've already established Rockets fans will take 6 TOs a game as long a W comes with it.

Still, you'll notice that the Rockets didn't exactly execute the motion offense and stuck with Yao-Mac & roll late in the game. The offense is taking maybe a little more time than expected to start clicking. Somehow, the Rockets are still 5-1. David Moore at the Dallas Morning News (of all places) explains why.

Yao Ming Mania has your pics. Some really nice ones actually.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rockets in the Head: Yao v. Yi

This isn't Shaq vs. Yao in his rookie season. Those games were ones to remember if you're a Rockets or Yao Ming fan. We have them on videocassette. VHS. It's not that we mind all the hype, which is really more about how many Chinese might be watching it, but it won't be Shaq v. Yao I or II. For a couple of reasons: it's inter-conference so not quite as meaningful for either team, but surely both want to win; and second, Yao and Yi won't guard each other. Maybe occasionally on a switch, but for the most part it'll be Yao v. Bogut and Yi v. Scola/Hayes. Or if by some stroke of genius/idiocy, Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak gets sneaky and puts Yi on Yao thinking he might know some insider info on how to defend Yao. But Yao's the dah-guh here. He's got the mind control over little brother.

Bad idea jeans.

What do you think Charlie Villanueva thinks about all this. This is a guy who dropped 48 pts in his rookie year, just two seasons ago. Anyone think Yi will ever drop 48?

There's appears to be three criteria for NBAers to getting a lucrative shoe deal in China. You either have to be Shaq, Damon Jones (for some reason), or be once or currently part of the Houston Rockets. Luis Scola makes the list, welcome to Anta Sports Products Limited.

If Bucks/Rockets gets this kind of love in November, can you even imagine a Finals match-up? We're making another bold prediction... even though our last prediction was wrong and resulted in a Mavs win. We pick Rockets by at least 8.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Lists of Fury: It Sounds Much Better in Chinese

(1) Lebron James museum in China; Jackie Chan museums in China (0).

(2) matchups between Yao Ming and fellow Chinese national Yi Jianlian, the first to be played this Friday (11/09).

(3),491 is the no. of babies in China named for the Olympics since 2000. Trust us, Aoyun sounds better in Chinese.

(4)5% of Rockets fans think they'll win it all this year. We weren't one of them, but we like the enthusiasm.

(5),598 people in China named Yao Ming. We wonder if they get as much shit as Cal professor Michael I. Jordan.

Rockets in the Head: Game of the Night

Yes, it's the only game on tonight, but it's a helluva game. We're gonna start doing lines now... er, uh... projections. Not necessarily because we want you to gamble, but because we like to tell you what to think.

Rockets beat the Mavs by at least 4, likely 112-108. Yes, in their own house. Yes, with Josh Howard back. And no, Steve Francis will not play.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Yao Line 11.03.07: Have Referees No Shame?

The Yao Line 11.03.07: Have referees no shame?
from Yao Central

39:02 min, 21 pts, 8-17 FGs, 5-6 FTs, 12 rebs, 2 ast, 3 TOs, 5 PFs, (+/-) +10

Another leisurely double-double for Yao, though physically, his body paid for it as Portland seemed to want to beat him into submission. And then of course, when Yao repays the favor, the little Trailblazers fall to the floor. That little 2nd half flop by Pryzbilla was laughable... I don't know how professional referees keep falling for this.

Shouldn't it be a matter of individual pride? Shouldn't they feel even a little foolish for letting a player sham them into making inaccurate decisions? It's Joel Pryzbilla, when did he start getting the benefit of the doubt? Yao Ming Mania has courtside pics.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rockets in the Head: Daryl Morey... Still Genius

Don't know how we missed this, uhm, let's say in-depth, and very much so, story on Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but Henry Abbott picked this up over at True Hoop and that's why he's on ESPN. It's where we get all our blog news anyway. Yea, we've been phoning it in a little, but we'll pony up for the regular season. It's time.

Which brings us to's
catchphrase this season... "it's time." You're goddamn right it's time. "Beat it, beat that dead fucking horse," works, too. Rockets in Utah tonight at 8:00pm. We're gonna have to stream that shit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Yao's Bottom Line 10.30.07

Yao's Bottom Line 10.30.07
from Yao Central

25 pts, 9-16 FGs, 7-8 FTs 12 rebs, 3 asts, 1 stl, 3 blks, 4 TOs, 5 PFs, 40:32 min

Was this the most leisurely 25 pts and 12 rebs Yao's ever seen? Though the Rockets struggled to get Yao into the low-post for much of the game--and it wasn't exactly clear whether it was the play calling or Yao's still growing familiarity with the offense--they did manage to get it to him when it counted, on consecutive possessions that seemed to put away the Lakers in the last 4:00 minutes of the game. Then the little collapse.

But what was promising was Yao's team-leading 40:32 minutes played, and he wasn't exactly lumbering by game's end. Certainly a combination of Yao's improving fitness and Adelman's system, but either way the result was Houston was able to get Yao 1-on-1 looks in the paint late in the game when they needed him on which he scored decisively and quickly in the way someone does when they are not fatigued--something rarely seen last season.

Is this too easy? Should Yao be more assertive in making his presence felt? Maybe not. It seems that Yao may benefit from laying low right now until he fully grasps the system. Players with dynamic perimeter skills like T-Mac are better suited to wing it in the meantime while everyone gets acclimated to the system. And the 19 TOs means there's still plenty of acclimating to do. Adelman's Kings teams were always on the low-end of that particular statistic.

But it's apparent now, the Rockets have more weapons in Mike James and Bonzi Wells (and perhaps Steve Francis by mid-season), so Yao should have plenty of single coverage looks to come and more chances to make it look this easy... at least, on offense. as always with the best courtside pics.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Yao Ming of our Immediate Future

2007-08 Yao Ming Preview

Yao Ming | C | #11
Years Pro: 5
Height: 7-6 / 2,29

Weight: 310 lbs. / 140,6 kg

Age: 27 (Born: 11/12/1980)

Drafted: 2002, #1 overall by HOU
2008 salary: $13,762,775.00

'06-'07 was another season of ifs and maybes, if Yao hadn't gotten injured, then maybe he would have played well enough to win MVP. He definitely received enough hype early in the season. But while his game has certainly been on the rise (not only in the eyes of players and coaches but also in the consciousness of fans worldwide as his popularity as a player--and not just a global icon--has surged, I've even seen Yao jerseys in Washington Heights, NYC); his number of games played has not. Yao was able to make it back in time to finish up the regular season and enter the playoffs with some games under his belt, but he never quite looked comfortable in Van Gundy's offense of attrition.

Yao's been "due" for a breakout season for two years running now. So you can think about that in different ways, but I like to think of it as Yao's been ready for this for two years. His dying to let it out.

This isn't a fantasy basketball type of preview, but going through fantasy basketball projections gives you an idea of how the general public (or anyway, the media that represents the general public) predicts Yao's individual statistical productivity for the coming year. Most sources have Yao at least in the Top 3 of their center position picks. And based on statistics alone, we know John Hollinger has given Yao pre-season demagogue status for his new Cult of PER.

He has his own basis for why that is, but you'll have to read his breakdown and see if it makes sense to you. I for one am a newly converted Hollinger-man. You will be, too, when you check out the Rockets preview on ESPN, he's picked the Rockets to be #1 in the Southwest and #1 in the Western Conference. I didn't even do that. He even says don't be surprised if they win it all. So yea, I like how this guy thinks. But PER is one thing, I've got Yao will solidify his position as the top center of the league this season and much of it will do with the following observations:

The Adelman Way of Assisted Living
Low-post Yao brow-beat style will end up being thought of as a necessary experiment in a few years. Van Gundy's system instilled in him the type of grit and determination it takes to be a dominant player. You learn that best in the trenches. All that work required Yao to be a beast or get beat night in, night out. It also wore him down. So, it's a good time to change it up. Get the lesson without the beating. We already knew he had high post capabilities from the Rudy-T days and the ability to pass. Now, with this new system that switches it up so that defenses can't really get a bead, he'll continue to be one of the most versatile big men in the league.

With Yao operating in and out of the high post we'll see his assists go up (to about 3+ a game) and his turnovers go down. The more mobile he gets the better he will be. The motion-style offense makes everyone around him a threat to score and everyone a threat to find a teammate to score. The assists should add up to easier buckets. More cuts and more passes equals more open looks. But it wouldn't work without the additional weapons Adelman/Morey have added (and kept) on the roster. So, they got that going for them.

Efficiency vs. Dominance
It still impresses me that Yao finished '04-'05 shooting .552 percent from the field, and since his rookie year, he's never shot less than .500 from the field. Moving him from the low-post won't hurt that percentage. He'll only get more open looks; and we'll get to see how deadly that jump-shot is, particularly with back-cutting Rockets guards drawing heat to the paint.

Yao's trips to the line have increased every season and his FT% is ridiculous compared to other big men in the league (86% last season). But really, no one doubts his efficiency from the field or even his impact has a team player, meaning his effort, leadership and work ethic. What might be questionable, particularly to some in the national media, is his ability to take over games and carry a team to victory. But Rockets fans who are more than casual observers know he's gotten better at that every season and showed real signs of real dominance last season.

Again, Adelman's system will help. Whether in the low-post or high, Yao will facilitate the offense with T-Mac. They will initiate things, but not necessarily from the same spot. Even if neither of them take the actual shots, their adjustable presence on the floor forces opponents to have to constantly adapt on the fly, making it difficult to lockdown any one player. In this way, Yao can be dominate as a playmaker and finisher. No one will have to try and force it into the low-post with three defenders just waiting for the entry pass.

What will be interesting to see is if he's transfered that dominance to the defensive end of the court. That's a huge part of what Hakeem Olajuwon addressed in their workouts together this summer. Yao's already highly regarded as the best scoring center in the league, Hakeem and Jack Sikma's work with him over the summer should only make him better, but more can be done to improve Yao's D. He'll never be the kind of dominant defender Dream was, but there is certainly room for improvement in efficiently using his size and presence.

Setting the Tempo and the Magic of Mobility
The idea of Yao not being able to keep up with a more uptempo offensive style is overblown. Adelman has always had big men on his rosters that were effectively integrated and sometimes with a lesser skill set. The new offense will actually do much to cover for Yao's less-than-Amare-like footspeed by keeping him moving in the half-court--that sounds counter-intuitive, but perhaps ironically, the more Yao moves (in an offense that has him covering less ground that JVG's old pick and roll setup), his size and versatility--and the inability for defenders to play a sit and wait style of defense--will open things up. Yao will actually appear more mobile, much in the way Vlade Divac and Brad Miller did.

Drop the 'Injury Prone' Stuff
Again, you'll notice very quickly if you read those fantasy previews that no one disputes Yao's statistical productivity. But Amare is consistently given top pick status over Yao because they think he is less injury prone. Yao is "high risk" due to past injuries. It's funny, they never seem to say that about Amare, who's missed 47 more career regular season games than Yao and hadn't played an exhibition game until last night due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Amare has a recurring situation with his knees, Yao doesn't.

Yao was a horse for three seasons until he finally had surgery to fix an old toe injury; and then of course, last season's freak accident. Neither of these is necessarily recurring... but keep an eye on that toe. So think positive, there's no sense in expecting injury. Yao's leg is not Amare's knee and certainly not T-Mac's back.

The Rockets will get out of the first round. With this much talent on the roster, to not reach the conference semis is simply unacceptable, even in the top-heavy Western Conference. I predict them to finish 2nd in the Division and 3rd in the West. There's more at Globetrotter's' Houston Rockets '07-'08 preview.

Bring on the Jazz again in the first round, which is likely. It would be nice to see Yao draw Boozer out to the perimeter the way he so effectively did to him last season; not to mention having a PF like Scola who can track down both AK-47 and Mehmet Okur. Having Bonzi, Mike James and Stevie around will make it awfully hard to double Yao or T-Mac. This far in, they should both be very familiar with the offense. It could be a beautiful thing watching Yao pick apart the defense from the high post.

The second round is another beast entirely. Likely facing San Antonio, Phoenix or Dallas, to advance against any of these three will be an upset to be sure, but I wouldn't it past this team if they hit a groove to reach the Finals. They've had the necessary parts to do it in place for three seasons, now they've just added some premium add-ons and more than just a little chrome.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yao Ming is Not On My Fantasy Team

Yao Ming is not on my fantasy team
from Yao Central

He is the new PER
truth of ESPN's John Hollinger. And with the prospect of seeing him going through the high post, visions of 3.2 assists per game and no injuries danced through my head. Globetrotter had its Fantasy Basketball league draft last night. I tried to get him, I did, but Yao wasn't around when I picked at 11th (out of 14). Dwyane Wade was. So I took Wade. T-Mac dropped to the 3rd round. Everyone was sleeping on Mac... so I got Mac.The rest of the roster is listed on Globetrotter, but for picking 11th, I think I fared all right.

Over at, GM Larry Harris says that on any "one Friday night Houston Rockets game (with China native Yao Ming on center stage)" there are 187 million people watching--that's compared to the average NBA game viewed by 10 million worldwide. That's ridiculous.

He adds that Yi comes from Beijing, home to 15 million people (not quite the 20 mill in Shanghai), in a province of 74 million residents... Milwaukee is the new smaller, less popular Houston... kind of like Yi is the new Yao, only more hip. Have you seen that ad during games of the Chinese cab driver who's singing a Country & Western song in the heart of Shanghai traffic? Somehow the classic Americana quality of the song even fits the demeanor of Yao's big mug at the end. But what band would rep Yi from Milwaukee... Steve Miller Band or the Violent Femmes?

In other important Pre-Season news, Yao's jersey is only the sixth-sellingest jersey in Chinaland. Behind Kobe, AI, T-Mac, D-Wade and Bron, Bron. But that's okay, we know why. Meanwhile, the NBA is loving it over in Asia. But are they visiting the Lebron James museum?

John over at Yao Ming Mania calls the NBA's Read to Achieve program a "ritual." Yea, a marketing ritual... anyway, YMM's got pics of Yao's session, but tell me if John seems kind of tired of the whole thing, not of the athletes reading to kids, but of the NBA (I like how he puts it) "promoting it out the ying-yang."

Francis was there, too, along with most the other Rockets, but he may have missed the objective.

Meanwhile, the Rockets won another Pre-Season game on Monday... T-Mac's ready for the regular season and so are we.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Globetrotter NBA Live Fantasy Draft

The two people organizing this thing (Duke and Train) ended up with picks 1 & 2... random selection my ass. I had the 11th pick (out of 14). Yao was the main objective in mid-to-late 1st round, but he wasn't around by 11. Dwyane Wade was, so I took him.

First time I'd ever been around for the live draft, so I did my scouting. Only mistake might have been the pick of Garbajosa at 10, because Al Thornton was available (and Elton Brand is out until '08). I don't usually like to take chances on rookies until 11+ rounds but Thornton was swooped up right after Garbajosa and I suddenly got buyer's remorse. The roster:

1. Dwyane Wade
2. Chris Bosh (traded for Carlos Boozer)
3. Tracy McGrady
4. Lamar Odom
5. Mo Williams
6. Chris Kaman
7. Anthony Parker
8. Andrea Bargnani
9. Udonis Haslem
10. Jorge Garbajosa
11. Kyle Lowry
12. Dorell Wright
13. Sean Williams

Not bad for picking at 11. T-Mac dropping to the 3rd round was a steal. So was Kyle Lowry at 11.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yao Comfortable With 'Too Many Choices'

Yao comfortable with 'too many choices'
from Yao Central

Following Houston's standing army's rout of the Dallas JV squad, Yao Ming, speaking to Chron's own Jonathan Feigen, reassured everyone of his smooth transition to the Adelman offense:
"I felt very comfortable where I was getting on the court and shooting the ball from the paint or out to the perimeter; I felt full confidence," Yao said. "It's very simple and very easy for me. Now, they can't just focus on me. I can shoot the ball. I can make a decision. I can pass to the open man. I can set a screen and roll to the basket. I have too many things I can do. I have too many choices."
Love it. Love Yao being a playmaker and making things happen inside and out. It makes it almost impossible to double-team him. A beautiful thing to watch really. And when he starts getting the timing down it should be even better. With his own admitted surge in confidence and comfort in his new role, Yao continues to make his presence more dominating to his opponents:
"It's been a while since I've seen that much meat on anybody on the basketball court," said Mavericks center Darvin Ham, who sat out the last two seasons. "What impresses me the most is he is not passive anymore. He takes it right at you and punishes you. He is bringing the fight to the post. If Houston continues to play through him, they will be a very tough team to beat. I was thoroughly impressed by how much he has improved."
Hate to say anyone is "just" Darvin Ham, but at 6-7 he's almost a foot shorter than Yao at the center spot, and he hasn't played pro ball in two years. Still, the guy's shattered backboards in NCAA tournaments and a compliment is a compliment. Nice, for an Division and Texas rival. In fact, Jason Terry had this to say:
"I'm out there and I see Mike James and Steve Francis ... and I thought, 'Oh my God, is (Hakeem) Olajuwon going to come back, too.' "
Kind of makes you think all these niceties are just covering for an underlying smugness that says we're getting Kobe.

Mike James was the Player of the Game, finishing with 17 pts on 6-9 FGs. Yao Ming Mania has pics of the game.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our Houston Rockets Preview

'06-'07 Record: 52-30
3rd in Southwest Division
4th in Western Conference

Projected Record: 58-24
2nd in Southwest Division
3rd in Western Conference

2007-08 Houston Rockets NBA Season Preview
You know what, I'm not quite ready to give them 60 wins, no matter Duke says some guy at ESPN said. And I'm not ready to give this team more than the most wins in franchise history. The wounds from that exit that shall not be named don't sting anymore, but they're sore and nagging like after knee surgery. Still, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic. The team dressed in black and gray off I-10 that shall not be named has gotten so complacent with their rings, they're giving away Euroleague MVPs. We accept. Steve Francis is back. So is Mike James. Bonzi Wells is in shape. The Rockets have a deep, endless bench and they have plenty of firepower to go around. But...

(G) Mike James, Steve Francis, Aaron Brooks
Yes, we asked for another point guard--and Duke's been begging to get Steve Francis back since the day he was traded--but isn't this a little overboard? While Adelman's system doesn't need a pure point per se (alliteration), combo guards will due, do we really need four (if you don't count JL3) undersized score-firstguards on the roster (Head, James, Francis and Brooks)? We imagine Adelman will quickly thin the herd and stick with two go-to guys at the point that might spend time on the court together in smaller line-ups like Mike Bibby/Bobby Jackson. We also imagine it might be a complete surprise who it is. And with that, how's reduced playing time for the other going to affect team chemistry. We won't be surprised if Morey moves a couple of these guys.
(F/C) Luis Scola, Jackie Butler
You almost couldn't ask for a better NBA rookie to add to this roster. Maybe Greg Oden for some twin towers action, but he ain't exactly playin' this season is he? Scola comes in with savvy and a proven track record, though admittedly, not at the NBA level. Still, the gap between NBA and the highest international ball is noticeably small now. Butler is still a project but has great tools and could become a solid backup for Scola and Yao with a little guidance from Deke.

Juwan Howard, Vassy Spoons, Jeff Van Gundy
Howard is not a starter in this league anymore--even though he did an admirable job picking his game up during Yao's absence--but he is a veteran leader on and off the court, someone everyone loves to play with and a solid choice off the bench. Unfortunately, he's out and Mike James was what received in return. Might seem odd with all the guards, but this deal was made before Francis on the table and the selection of Aaron Brooks... it's hard to imagine Adelman won't find a combination that works with this much talent in the backcourt, but it's a shame to lose Howard for that experiment. Spoons was fun to project, but not too fun to watch. He'll never get another shot if he goes back to Greece. It's too bad. I'll miss all the Greek fans. Van Gundy, I was a fan even if 99% of Houston was not. He did his thing, it's a new era. Good luck to JVG at TNT, we're fans.

PROJECTED STARTERS (with stat projections)
These are projected starters based on who will start for the majority of the games, not just who starts early in the season, plus the projected rotation the Rockets will use going into the playoffs.

(C) Yao Ming: who else? [25.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.1 bpg]
(F) Luis Scola: starter by 20 gms. [9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.3 apg]
(F) Shane Battier: always solid. [6.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg]
(G) Tracy McGrady: ...come on. [21.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.2 apg]
(G) Steve Francis: reg. starter by 30 gms. [11.8 ppg, 3.2 apg]
(F) Bonzi Wells: will be biggest contributer off bench [10.1 ppg].
(G) Mike James: fills in for either 1 or 2 spot. [8.6 ppg]
(G) Luther Head: also get some time at 2 spot. [5.3 ppg]
(C) Chuck Hayes: still the energy guy, will still get burn.
(F) Jackie Butler: may get bulk of minutes at backup F/C.
(G) Aaron Brooks: mostly garbage time unless there's an injury.

ESPN says the Rockets are the most upgraded of any NBA team (not Boston?) and it should show right away. Most losses early on will come from slight chemistry issues and mastering the Princeton offense. The most significant upside for this deep roster is that it has enough firepower to weather some minor downtime from either Yao or T-Mac, but the hope, obviously, is that their injury troubles are over.

Yes, our predictions on the site say Championship, but that's because we have to say that, but if I were someone else, someone objective, I'd say the Rockets tie their franchise record in wins this year and finally get out of the first round. How far they get after that almost doesn't matter, because they will surely either face Dallas, San Antonio or Phoenix in the second round and an ability to hold ground or beat of these three will do much to dictate expectations for the next season.

A Championship is a little fanciful with so many established powers in the West, and by no means, is it the only idea of a successful season... but we wouldn't mind.

Fists of Fury: Orlando beats China's Oyedeji

The Orlando Magic is just another NBA team conquering Asia. They spanked the "Chinese All-Stars" today, an All-Star team with no Yao or Yi Jianlian so... we're not sweatin' it.

Team China's top scorer? None other than Olumide Oyedeji with 25 points... I guess they scaled back the "Chinese" criteria for this one. That's Major Wingate guarding Dwight Howard there in that picture with a couple of anonymous Chinese All-Stars. Wang Zhi Zhi put up 16 pts in the effort.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yao's Left Hook and an 'Official' Endorsement

Yao's left hook and an 'official' endorsement
from Yao Central

Look how nice everyone's getting along. All 20 or so estimated in that huddle... who's that leading the ring-around-the-rosie? The Big Red One-One looked good against Panathinaikos last night. Saw a little bit of everything on offense including a nice lefty hook. Left and right? That's gonna be tough to stop. You can check out his highlights here.

HoopsWorld has a nice interview with Yao (Up Close with Yao Ming). In it he talks, albeit briefly, about his excitement to be reunited with (eschewing discussion about the other roster moves except for Scola) and how Jack Sikma has been working with him on specific high-post skills. releases selections of Steve Nash and Dwayne Wade as 2007's Most Caring Athletes. How does Yao not make this list?

News Groper--a satirical news site (like the Onion but not as good)--has a story by Chinese president Hu Jintao; an objective look at the upcoming NBA season in which he picks Yao Ming to win MVP and Yi Jianlian to take Rookie of the Year honors. He also picks Rockets in 6 over the Bucks in the Finals. Racist? Even funny? You decide. I'll count the pick as legit.