View Full Version : NBA has finally found a new centerpiece in Yao

11-26-2006, 09:32 AM
NBA Insider

NBA has finally found a new centerpiece in Yao

By Dwain Price
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

It seems a lot of people were wrong about Yao Ming.

More than a few folks thought the Houston Rockets blew it when they used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft to select the 7-foot-5 center from China.

But Yao was a project the Rockets felt they couldn't afford to pass up.

Despite joining Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets player to start four All-Star Games, Yao isn't viewed as one of the league's premier players. And that has Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy hopping mad.

"I never understood the Yao hate," Van Gundy said. "I'm trying to figure out why people have a problem with him sometimes.

"They're always trying to say what he's not. 'He's not that great.' I don't understand that. I'm baffled by that."

So is Yao's teammate, All-Star guard Tracy McGrady.

"Now I know what it feels like to sit back and watch a great player before your eyes," McGrady said. "Guys I played with in the past got caught up in the moment of just watching something great.

"That's what I'm doing right now. Watching something great."

Yao is averaging career highs of 26.3 points and 10.6 rebounds, and is shooting 51.9 percent from the field. He has scored 20 or more points in 11 of the Rockets' 12 games, including a season-high 36 points in a Nov. 4 rout of the Mavericks.

Yao also dominated Shaquille O'Neal on Nov. 12 to the tune of 34 points and 14 rebounds.

Are the opinions about Yao's ability now changing?

"Right now, everyone's on the bandwagon, but Yao was doing a lot of this increasingly better over time," Van Gundy said. "I don't think [coaches are] being taken by surprise.

"I think the media is now trying to say how much he's improved instead of recognizing all along that he was really good. So now, some are trying to backtrack and say, 'Oh, yeah, he's really made major improvement,' trying to get themselves off the hook, instead of, 'Oh, I'm such a dope. I didn't realize how good the guy was.'"

Never mind what happened Monday, when 5-9 Knicks guard Nate Robinson blocked Yao's shot in a 97-90 Houston win.

Yao acknowledged it wasn't a big deal, admitting that a 5-3 teammate on his Chinese national team, Fan Bin, once blocked his shot.

None of that matters to Van Gundy. All he knows is Yao is on a tear, and that his scoring average has increased in each of his five NBA seasons: 13.5, 17.5, 18.3, 22.3 and 26.3.

Van Gundy, though, is tempering his praise because of lessons learned. When he coached the Knicks in 1997, Van Gundy once called Michael Jordan a "con man" who befriended players to soften them up before beating them.

"We lost by one, and [Jordan] had 51," Van Gundy said. "I remember [Knicks guard] John Starks and a couple of other '2' guards said, 'When you say stuff, you're not the guy who ends up having to guard him.'

"I learned that just because you have a strong opinion, it doesn't mean you have to share it."

Van Gundy, though, is sharing his strong opinions about Yao with everyone. And he should.

Yao is by far the best center in the NBA today.

11-26-2006, 10:49 AM
I wonder how good the Rockets would've been with a healthy Amare Stoudemire and a healthy Tracy McGrady.

11-26-2006, 12:23 PM
I wonder how good the Rockets would've been with a healthy Amare Stoudemire and a healthy Tracy McGrady.Amare on the Rockets? Am I missing something?

11-26-2006, 01:02 PM
I wonder how good the Rockets would've been with a healthy Amare Stoudemire and a healthy Tracy McGrady.

Not as good. Amare isn't a defensive presence and Yao is (check the Rockets defensive rankings pre/post Yao). I would even argue that Yao is a better 1-1 defender.

You also can't run the offense through Amare. He is usually the receiver of Nash setting things up. You can throw the ball to Yao and he can create shots for everyone.

11-26-2006, 05:25 PM
Amare on the Rockets? Am I missing something?

Amare was drafted no. 9 the same year Yao was drafted no. 1.