Archive for the ‘Yao Ming’ Category

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now

July 18, 2009

Not surprisingly, it was announced today that Yao Ming will probably miss all of next season after undergoing foot surgery. Not surprising, but still disappointing news for Rockets fans and the millions of Yao supporters worldwide.

I called for the Rockets to cut ties with Yao and Tracy McGrady ages ago (well, maybe not ages), and this certainly hasn’t changed my stance. Yao still has $34 million left on his contract when you include the player option he has for 2010/11 and the Rockets should do all they can to get out from under his enormous shadow. While the Rockets won’t appear to be very compassionate buying a guy out of his contract while he is injured, they need to worry about fixing their franchise. McGrady and Yao are two huge albatrosses weighing the franchise down, and they must do all that they can to rid themselves of them. Yao wasn’t reliable enough even before this latest setback and even if he is able to get back on the court, it may only be a matter of time before the other shoe drops (in this case, the other foot breaks).

This is eerily similar to what happened to another legendary NBA big man, Bill Walton. The Big Redhead was one of the greatest college players of all-time and was on his way to being the same in the pros until fragile feet zapped him of his powers. Basketball is so demanding on your feet it’s surprising more players don’t have problems with their puppies (maybe today’s high tech shoes really are worth their money). In Yao’s case, his size probably compounds the problem, as each time he leaves the floor his feet take the brunt of the impact of his 300-plus pounds as he lands again.

While I’m no doctor, I have serious doubts whether Yao’s feet will ever be trustworthy enough for him to be a considered a franchise player. The Rockets can’t afford to wait around a year or even two to see if he is able to make it back. Its more than just a burden on their salary cap – it is also an emotional burden for everyone involved in the organization, including Yao. The waiting and hoping that he will be healthy again puts too much pressure on both the player and the organization. They weren’t winning any titles with Yao anyhow, so the time is now to cut ties and start rebuilding their franchise.

And on more cheerful note, if you haven’t heard the stories of the adventures of Mike Miller and his pet monkey, then you need to right now.

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Houston, We Have a Problem (Again)

May 10, 2009

Houston fans will have to get used to seeing these two sitting on the bench beside each other again. With it being announced that Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the playoffs due to a broken foot, the Rockets dream of a championship this season has crashed and burned. And a playoff series that was just recently hyped in this space as must-see-TV has become about as compelling as a Friends rerun.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise though. Yao hasn’t played a full 82 since 03/04. McGrady has never. The thing I’ve always wondered is why? Why are certain players always injured? Why was Bill Walton’s playing career AND broadcasting career cut short by injury?

My knee-jerk reaction is to chalk it up to toughness, or rather, the lack thereof. While that is probably the case with many players with minor injuries, you can’t really fake a broken bone or a knee requiring microfracture surgery. Is it due to a player’s style of play? For players like Gerald Wallace and Dwyane Wade, who use their bodies as wrecking balls, probably. His physical makeup? Big guys like Walton and Yao tend to have the foot problems, so possibly. Or are some guys just snakebitten, like McGrady, doomed for eternity to the injury list and the first round of the playoffs?

Whatever the reasons for the injuries, Houston finds themselves with a dynamic, damaged duo in Yao and T-Mac. And they need to get rid of one – or both – of them to improve their championship odds. After five seasons together, and only one appearance in the second round of the playoffs, Yao and McGrady have proven that they aren’t capable of carrying a team to a championship, alone or together. And considering they will make a combined $40 million next season, expecting a championship as a return on that investment isn’t an unreasonable demand.

They probably won’t want to get rid of Yao, because even if he isn’t going to win you a championship, he does bring a financial windfall to the team. But they really should consider shipping him out. If the man can’t stay healthy while in his 20s, there is no way he’s going to when he hits 30. Despite his injury concerns, quality big men are at such a premium that Houston should find plenty of suitors for him.

McGrady, on the other hand, is definitely expendable and will be coveted by some teams this offseason. This isn’t due to his skills – oft-injured 30-year-olds coming off microfracture surgery aren’t in high demand – but rather his expiring $23 million contract. Coming off the books just in time for the much-hyped 2010 free agent class, McGrady should be a very popular guy next season. If Houston can’t find suitable compensation for him, they may decide to write off next season, keep McGrady and take their chances on landing one of the 2010 big fish free agents once T-Mac is off their payroll.

Either way, the YaoMcGrady experiment has to come to an end.