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A great Article on Yao

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Alirules, Feb 28, 2003.

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  1. Alirules

    Alirules Member

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    link:
    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/zillgitt/2003-02-28-zillgitt_x.htm


    Doubters, opponents beware: Yao changing the game

    WASHINGTON — Ming's Delight, open 82-plus games a year, featuring an appetizing buffet of nimble footwork, sleight of hand, gentle shots and unstoppable dunks. And to think Yao Ming had his naysayers. Some even had an eye for talent.


    "My gut feeling tells me the Rockets are making a mistake, baby, in evaluating their overall No. 1 pick," Dick Vitale bellowed.

    Charles Barkley, the round mouth of the absurd, piped in.

    "Yao Ming makes Shawn Bradley look like Bill Russell," Barkley said. He went on to say he would kiss TNT co-worker Kenny Smith's butt if Yao scored more than 19 points in a game this season.

    Many of Yao's doubters were sports writers. Shows how much we know.

    "Years from now, we will remember 'Yao Ming over Jay Williams' the same way we remember 'Bowie over Jordan,' 'Traylor for Nowitzki,' 'Carroll for McHale and Parish,' 'Aguirre over Thomas' and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. I'm not just predicting it, I'm guaranteeing it," ESPN's Bill Simmons wrote.

    "They call Yao Ming 'The Next Big Thing,' but he looks like the 'Next Big Stiff' ... In the meantime, try to hold on to your cookies while watching Yao 'Can you say Foul?' Ming," Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis wrote.

    It didn't help that the previous NBAers 7-4 and taller didn't make a significant or time-tested impact except for possibly 7-4 Rik Smits. But not the rest — 7-7 Manute Bol, 7-7 Gheorghe Muresan, 7-6 Shawn Bradley, 7-5 Chuck Nevitt, 7-4 Mark Eaton, 7-4 Priest Lauderdale and 7-4 Ralph Sampson.

    At best, Yao's critics called him a project. At worst, they called him a bust, even before he played his first NBA game. When Yao finally made his NBA debut, he dropped a bagel in the scoring column against Indiana on Oct. 30. Three games later, he scored zero points against Seattle.

    Yao averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in his first six games.

    But there were Yao believers.

    "Yao Ming is the guy," NBA scout Marty Blake said. "Ming is a great talent. He can shoot the ball, pass the ball and he can run the court. He has great legs, and he is a guy you can build a team around."

    The NBA's resident hippie, Bill Walton, offered his typical mystical view.

    "Yao has a chance to alter the way the game of basketball is played," Walton said.

    In Yao's seventh game, he showed promise, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds against the Lakers on Nov. 17. Two games later, on Nov. 21 against Dallas, Yao Mania commenced in earnest with his 30-point, 16-rebound performance.

    Omit Yao's first six games and he is posting fabulous numbers for a 22-year-old rookie. Starting with the seventh game of the season, Yao is averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds through Houston's 100-98 overtime loss Thursday night against the Washington Wizards.

    Even with those statistically ugly numbers at the beginning of the season, Yao's season averages come out like this: 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game. He is rookie of year material.

    ***

    I am a Yao fan. Mostly because so many shelved Yao's chance at NBA success before his NBA career began.

    There's nothing contrived about Yao. His canyon-long smile stretching across his giant face and the joy in his eyes are genuine. Even his nickname in China — The Golden Bridge — is more natural, more Zen-like than the simpleton nicknames in the U.S. using the words 'wall' and 'dynasty.'

    He is the Chinese answer to Jewish Jordan. However, it happened naturally without influence.

    ***

    Another evolution of the game is transpiring on its own, without human interference. The NBA doesn't need any one person to replace Jordan. A collection of players can replace him. McGrady, Kobe, Iverson, Nowitzki, Duncan, Francis, Webber, O'Neal (Jermaine), Garnett, Marion, Stoudemire, Jamison, Carter, Lewis, Allen, Marbury, Finley, Gasol, Martin, Brand, the list can continue.

    Yao is now a part. The NBA can survive and thrive with that group.

    ***

    Add Yao to the growing list of NBA players I'd pay to watch. Count another 20,173 who stared impending doom in the face and attended Thursday's game at MCI Center in the heart of D.C.'s Chinatown. (And by impending doom, I am not talking about code oranges, terrorist attacks or even war. I'm talking about the forecast of 6-10 inches of snow in the metro D.C. area. Here's some advice from Zen and the Art of Driving in Inclement Weather: Befriend the snow. Work with the snow. Be one with the snow.)

    This might not be the first place you heard it, but Yao sometimes looks like another great Houston center near the basket — Hakeem Olajuwon. Yao's nifty ball fakes are reminiscent of Olajuwon's dream shakes.

    But Yao is far from a finished product. As deft as he is with the ball and as smart as he is on the court, Yao's game needs help.

    Even at 7-5, 296 pounds, Yao must increase his strength, especially if he wants to go one-on-one with Shaquille O'Neal on offense and defense. Guards and speedy forwards are quick to strip the ball from Yao when he posts up. Yao also has a propensity to give up nasty dunks right in his mug — a Kobe Bryant slam and a Michael Finley jam come to mind.

    Improvement in those areas won't be hard with dedicated practice.

    Yao gave an uninspiring performance against the Wizards. He scored 32 seconds into the game on a nice up-and-under move on Brendan Haywood, who left his feet on a Yao ball fake. Yao scored six points in the first quarter and didn't score another basket until 3:58 remained in the third quarter.

    Still, Yao finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season. The contest was the last of a three-game East Coast road swing for the Rockets. Houston, which is scrapping it out for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, needs Yao in the final 24 games of the season. Does he have the stamina?

    The Rockets had faith in him with time running out in the fourth quarter. Trailing 86-83, Houston got the ball to Yao. He was fouled and made two free throws with 24.2 seconds to play in the fourth quarter making it 86-85.

    In overtime, a Yao bucket gave Houston a 90-88 advantage. It was the Rockets' first lead since 2-0. Yao also missed a shot with 2:10 left in OT.

    ***

    Yao is a hit in every city he plays. He's a hit on Madison Avenue. Yao's Apple and VISA commercials are likable. A Gatorade commercial is coming soon.

    Still, Yao has found the American pro athlete experience overwhelming, both positively and negatively.

    He said he was thrilled to be the guest of honor Wednesday at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C.

    But the media demands wear on Yao. He said his favorite English words are "This is the last question." He is homesick, too.

    ***

    Not only is the NBA evolving, the NBA player is evolving. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is 7-foot yet has amazing perimeter skills. Today's 7-footers aren't as awkward and as uncoordinated as they used to be.

    Yao is the next step. At 7-5, he has the skills of a guard and big man.

    "Every era had somebody who stretched the boundaries of talent in the league," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "But I never imagined the size, strength and agility of the guys playing today."

    I shudder to think of the 7-2 point center. But he's on his way.

    ***
     
  2. ivanyy2000

    ivanyy2000 Contributing Member

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    Ugh, search before you post.

    double post, closed.:eek:
     
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