July 22, 2010
It's not an overstatement to say that Yao Ming(notes) changes the complexion of the NBA. Hyper-skilled, 7-foot-6 centers with flat-tops seem to have that effect. The Rockets are an average team without their centerpiece, but with him healthy — no easy thing, admittedly — they are a team that can contend in the Western Conference. So after a season of the Rockets playing 21 different guys, none of which were even 7-feet tall, the Houston faithful are pretty excited to be getting Yao back.
However, to hear it from Yao, those fans shouldn't be expecting much. He's coming off a foot injury, and those are usually a bother for giants. In fact, he's saying that no one should expect much from him this coming season. From Reuters:
"Talk about recovering my form is nothing but nonsense and will only be realized if I can get through the next season smoothly," he said in an interview in Thursday's China Daily.
"Then, you will see results after that season."
Yao, who exercised the player option in his contract with the Rockets last month to avoid free agency, said he was unsure what kind of contribution he would be able to make to the team's bid to win the NBA title next season.
"I have no idea if I can return the peak of my form," he added. "I have not been tested. I have not played competitive basketball since the injury even in training. I cannot answer if I will return to my best."
Honesty is the best policy, but sometimes it is also the policy that brings the most frowns. And while Houston fans are probably having some serious upside-down smiles right now, the biggest sadness is that of Yao. He seems seriously bummed about having to return from injury.
"I know I will retire one day. My career will end sooner or later. Even if I can play until I am 36, I have to accept that fact," said Yao, who will turn 30 in September.
"The only problem is that 30 is the golden time for an athlete, but for me it's sudden death and I find it hard to accept that."
So yeah, even though he's really good and really, really, really tall, maybe we should temper our expectations for Yao this year. Between having to deal with a foot that he's not sure will hold up and confidence that is clearly shaken, this might not be the Yao Ming we're used to. On the bright side, Yao struggling to come back means that much more Brad Miller(notes). There's always a silver lining, folks.