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.