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Chron: Yao finds comfort zone for Rox

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by CourtCourt, Oct 11, 2003.

  1. CourtCourt

    CourtCourt Member

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    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/2150761

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    Yao finds comfort zone
    Game comes easier in second year for Rockets' center
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
    RESOURCES


    NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The buzz in the arena -- even if the arena was a quarter full and sitting in North Little Rock -- was familiar. Yao Ming still doesn't need to be introduced to inspire screams.

    The buzz was back. But it was different. Yao was different.

    Yao made his preseason debut Friday in the Rockets' 96-86 loss to the SuperSonics on Friday. He showcased the usual array of gifts that made him the heart of so much of the Rockets' hopes, to say nothing of a major reason Jeff Van Gundy became his coach.

    Along the way, he offered a healthy reminder of his repertoire. He grabbed an early rebound with one hand and put it back up in a smooth jumper without even needing the aid of his left hand. He slammed home one drive. He made the smoothest of turnaround jumpers. He flashed spin moves to the basket.

    When he was through before 4,800 fans at Alltel Arena, Yao had made eight of 10 shots for 20 points with 10 rebounds. But as he considered his progress since joining the team just five days before, he couldn't help but consider the progress since the last time he made his preseason debut.

    "I couldn't do anything worse," he said in perfect, clear English, "than I did in my first game last year. I feel much better. I have one year under my belt."

    A year ago, his head was spinning. Voices were screaming from every direction, asking for just a little more. In his first minute on an NBA court, he was sent crashing hard to the floor, a welcome to the NBA delivered by David Robinson.

    The challenge of getting to know a new coach and a new system seemed minor by comparison.

    "Every year there are new things to learn," Yao said. "It takes time to get adjusted. I had to get into a game to do that.I've learned a lot in the practices, but I need some time to get used to new things. The game is a very important part of that."

    Yao said he does feel "some tiredness" from his summer training with the Chinese national team and his play in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Since, he has flown from Harbin, China to Shanghai, China to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Houston, Portland, Seattle and finally Little Rock.

    "I thought it would affect me," Yao said. "Being a professional player, it's something you have to deal with. You don't know what is going to happen, like when you pass the ball.

    "I think it gave me more difficulty. I wouldn't go as far as say it was frustrating."

    The Rockets would have no trouble calling Yao's struggle "frustrating," especially while struggling to grow accustomed to a new system.

    "This is no one's fault," Van Gundy said. "He was serving his country. Is it ideal? No. Is he ideal? Yeah."

    Besides, Yao seemed fresher than he did much of last season and is at least as at home in the Rockets' offense as most of his teammates.

    That offered enough to support the popular argument that Yao did not get the ball enough last season and will be more of a focal point in Van Gundy's offense. The coach has repeatedly disputed that notion, arguing that Yao got the ball last season as often as he was able to battle for low post position.

    "I'm going to learn in Mandarin (to say), `Paint catch,' " Van Gundy said.

    "The deeper the catch, the better. He is by force a finesse guy. He has to combine force with finesse. I'm trying to get him deeper, lower. He's very willing, and when you're willing you're a good learner."

    The translation will have to include an explanation that the "paint" is slang for the lane. But even before Colin Pine could teach Van Gundy Chinese or Yao slang, Yao did post deeper than he often did last season.

    "My teammates helped get the ball to me deep, very deep," he said.

    Yao, who took 9.8 shots per game last season, took 10 in his 30 minutes Friday.

    "There's a lot of stuff, a lot of options to work on," Rockets guard Steve Francis said. "But in this offense, the post is always open."

    Any center would enjoy that, and it did not take long for the offense to grow on Yao. But it really did not matter what offense he ran or how he ran it, at least not yet.

    "I felt comfortable because I was back on the court," he said. "Or maybe it's because I'm not a rookie anymore."
     
  2. Shooter1583

    Shooter1583 Member

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    he's comin along a lot nicer than many thought...he's adapting real well and is only gonna improve in leaps and bunches this season...im thinkin 22 ppg/ 12 rpg/3 apg/3bpg...I love the fact that JVG is stressin on post play in the offense....
     

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