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Blinebury: Meet A Hollywood Star (Yao)

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Free Agent, Nov 18, 2002.

  1. Free Agent

    Free Agent Member

    Oct 19, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

    Pucker up, Charles.

    Listen up, NBA.

    This was the night all of China had been waiting on.

    This was the game the Rockets had been counting on.

    Yao Ming.

    Yao zing!

    The Lakers might have been playing without The Big Welcome Wagon in Shaquille O'Neal.

    But Yao Ming still showed he has the stuff to eventually become the lead horse.

    We can only presume Charles Barkley will bring plenty of Chapstick to his next gig as TNT analyst.

    The bon vivant and serial opinionator had vowed to kiss the, uh, cheeks of his broadcast partner Kenny Smith if Yao ever scored 19 points in a game. That clinking sound you hear is Smith undoing his belt buckle.

    Is this what passes for "must-see TV" these days? Can't we file a formal complaint with the FCC?

    Yao scored 20 points Sunday night. He shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from the foul line.

    What's more, he was determined, driven, a real force in the game. A difference-maker even, scoring the winning points in the Rockets' 93-89 victory at Staples Center over the struggling Lakers.

    This was nothing at all like his previous seven games with the Rockets, in which Yao showed flashes of potential, glimpses of what it is hoped he can be.

    He accepted the ball confidently down on the blocks, wheeled inside for layups and tossed in a gorgeous fourth-quarter jump hook from the right baseline over Samaki Walker.

    Yao still had his share of difficulties defensively, continuing his habit of not raising his long arms over his head to contest shots. But he put his long body into the crowds in the lane. He jostled in the scrums under the hoop and got his hands on six rebounds.

    You want the most vivid difference between Yao now and Yao three weeks ago? He threw down three dunks.

    "We're riding him on that all the time in practice," said Steve Francis, who led the way with 27 points and nine rebounds. "He has these nice moves that he wants to finish off with finesse. We tell him, `Slam it.' "

    So Yao did.

    Sure, it would have been a world of difference if he'd had to contend with Shaq rather than Walker and Stanislav Medvedenko in the middle.

    Shaq months ago had promised to deliver an elbow to Yao's nose and see how the 7-5 rookie reacted. He had asked, "Who's Yao Ming?" just last week.

    "Of course, I don't feel completely prepared to play against Shaquille O'Neal," Yao said before the game. "But since he's not playing tonight, I will accept the challenge that is out there."

    Lakers coach Phil Jackson had expressed relief that the celebrated matchup didn't occur.

    "I feel sorry for the kid," he said. "I was worried that it would be Shaq's first game. He'd break him in two."

    Another time, another date. The Lakers come to Houston on Jan. 17.

    What Yao delivered was a perfect Hollywood debut in front of all the beautiful people at courtside. Jack Nicholson was in his usual seat for the occasion. Dyan Cannon was in her perch, and actor Bill Paxton was on hand with his young son for the coming-out party. Director Steven Spielberg was sitting in the front row across from one free-throw line.

    Is there a fantasy-type movie in this? Maybe E.T. -- the Extra-Tall.

    Yao said he always enjoyed watching American movies while growing up in Shanghai. Harrison Ford has always been on his list of favorite stars. Then there is another.

    "Julia Roberts," he said with a smile. "Very, very good. I like her."

    Alas, no Julia in the house. Just Yao showing us the rough-edged, aggressive, no-nonsense Erin Brockovich side of his personality.

    His first bucket was a dunk off a feed from Mo Taylor. He then went inside after a Moochie Norris missed jumper, grabbed the rebound and made a put-back bucket.

    There was a nifty reverse layup on which he drove the left baseline and came out on the right side, then a 12-foot face-up jumper and a give-and-go slam off a feed from Norris that completed a clinical 6-for-6 second quarter.

    It was more than just his shooting. It was the way Yao consistently hustled to get up and down the floor. He made a defensive play at one end, got the ball out to start the fast break and was filling the lane on a three-on-two situation when Glen Rice pulled up and took an ill-thought 22-footer.

    Yao came back into the game to start the fourth quarter and ran better than any 7-5 center has a right to in taking a difficult bounce pass from Francis, then twisting his body around Tracy Murray to score as he was fouled on what became a three-point play.

    It might be another couple years before Yao is doing this on a consistent basis. Certainly it will take that long to do it against the likes of O'Neal.

    But you take progress where you can get it, in small steps or long ones.

    With a minute left in the game, fellow rookie Juaquin Hawkins drove to the hoop, drew the defense and fed Yao one more time.

    Another slam dunk. The most meaningful basket of his infant career, it gave the Rockets a 90-86 lead.

    Until now, it had been nothing but potential. On this night, Yao made a significant difference in a win.

    Shaq or no Shaq, this meant something.

    At the very least, it means a certain somebody can use his mouth for something other than talking.

    Pucker up, Chuck.
  2. Free Agent

    Free Agent Member

    Oct 19, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Ooops...I just saw Clutch's post of this article on the front page.

    My bad.
  3. ElVenezolano

    ElVenezolano Contributing Member

    Oct 5, 2001
    Likes Received:
    good post anyways!

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