Thursday, November 28th, 2002
No one was sure what Yao Ming would bring to the Houston Rockets.
The 7-5 Chinese star averaged 30 points, 19 rebounds, and 9 blocks per game
for his team in China last season, but how does that translate to the NBA
game? The Chinese Basketball Association is basically a six-foot and under
league, so there are plenty of questions as Yao Ming tries to make the transition
from China to the NBA.
Yao Ming did not impress too many people with his first few appearances for
the Rockets. He had trouble holding his position in the low post, and picked
up lots of ticky-tack fouls. He had trouble holding onto the ball, often
losing it to smaller players who were zoning him out and stripping him as
soon as he caught the ball. Yao Ming was frustrated, but then he had a
convesation with teammate Glen Rice that changed his approach to the
game and made him a factor overnight.
It seems it's not cool to dunk in China. Apparently dunking the ball is like
dishonoring your opponent, and thus Yao Ming did not come to the NBA expecting
to play above the rim. Glen Rice pulled him aside and explained to him that
he should dunk the ball as soon as he catches it, and explained the difference
between dunking in the NBA and dunking in China. It didn't take long for
Yao Ming to take to his new instructions.
In his next game, Yao Ming scored 10 points on 5-6 shooting, four of them
dunks. He still had some foul trouble, but for the first time, he was a
legitimate presence in the post. He would only get better. Playing his next
game against a Lakers team that was missing Shaq, he scored
20 points on 9-9 shooting and helped the Rockets get the win. Yao was just
Yao Ming's breakthrough game came on Thursday in Dallas. He came off
the bench to score 30 points (10-12 FG) and collect 16 rebounds. Shawn
Bradley was defenseless to stop the Chinese sensation, and only a low-post
zone slowed him down. Yao Ming became Houston's official starter that night,
as coach Rudy Tomjanovich put him in the starting lineup for the next
game. Yao Ming responded with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the
first start of his career.
Clearly, Yao Ming has arrived. He is still going to struggle to play with
the bigger centers in the league, but he is going to dominate the many smaller
starting centers around the league. Rookie of the Year? Too early to call.
He is certainly making life exciting for Rockets fans, though.
Visit "The Rocket Guy," Bill Ingram, at