Houston's Yao Ming will miss at least the next six weeks of the
National Basketball Association season after fracturing his right
knee Saturday in a 98-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 7-foot-5 Chinese center, having the greatest season of his
career, ranks eighth among NBA scorers with 26.8 points. He also
leads the Rockets with 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game and is
also the team's most accurate shooter.
Yao is unlikely to return before the NBA All-Star Game, meaning
he will almost certainly miss the event for the first time in his
NBA career. He was voted onto the starting lineup the past four
"I couldn't feel worse for an athlete," Rockets coach Jeff Van
"If there's ever been an athlete who doesn't deserve the bad
breaks he's gotten the last two years with the injuries, it's him.
He works hard and he's in great shape."
Stealing the joy from the Christmas season for Rockets'
supporters, the injury came one night after Houston routed San
Antonio 97-78, winning on the Spurs' home court for the first time
"It's tough to deal with," Rockets guard Rafer Alston said.
"You're shocked, disappointed. (Yao) has worked so hard. He was
carrying this team."
Yao left the game with 6:17 remaining in the first quarter after
appearing to hurt his knee attempting to block a shot by the
Clippers' Tim Thomas.
Yao fell awkwardly and instantly grabbed his knee, yelling for
aid as he grimaced in pain on the court. He limped off to the
locker room with the help of teammates while his worried parents
watched from the stands.
While the game continued, Yao was taken to Memorial Hermann
Hospital and underwent an MRI exam. What was thought to be only a
bone bruise instead turned out to be a major setback for Asia's
"Because it's on a weight-bearing surface, we're saying a
minimum of six weeks," said Rockets trainer Keith Jones.
Jones said no decision has been made about possible surgery.
"We're going to see how it reacts. We think he'll do well with
just rest," he said. "An option is to do something more, surgery.
We have to wait and see."
The Rockets, 16-11, were already playing without star guard
Tracy McGrady, sidelined with back spasms for the past seven
Houston's record without both Yao and McGrady is a woeful 1-8
since they became teammates.
Yao missed 25 games last season with a toe injury and later a
broken foot while McGrady missed 35 games last season with back
"Last year we responded OK," Van Gundy said. "We have a chance
to learn from last year. A lot of things happen to us, but it's how
you deal with what happens to you that shows who you are."
Rockets guard Luther Head said the team can handle the setback
better than when it lost Yao last season.
"I think we're better off. We've got a slight cushion. We've got
more wins than losses," Head said. "It was unfortunate (to lose
Yao) but it's no excuse why we lost."
Thomas scored 21 points and Cuttino Mobley added 18 to lead the
Clippers, who took full advantage of Yao's absence to snap a
six-game losing streak and improve the NBA's worst road record to
"Obviously, we needed a win and we got a major break when Yao
went down," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "The difference in
the game after Yao went out is they couldn't post us low and pass
out to the perimeter."
Shane Battier scored a season-high 28 points and Head added 22
for the Rockets, who hit only 30-of-75 shots.
"We all have to do a little bit more," Battier said. "We have to
be tougher, we have to be more mentally sharp and we have to not
expect less of ourselves when (McGrady) and Yao are out."
Yao scored 32 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and passed off
five assists last week when the Rockets beat the Clippers at Los
Democratic Republic of Congo center Dikembe Mutombo replaced Yao
and played 25 minutes, but only eight minutes in the second half as
Van Gundy struggled to find enough scoring threats.
"I'm going to have to really think about the rotation," Van
Gundy said. "When we started the second half with Chuck (Hayes) and
(Mutombo) out there together, that's just not enough offense."
(China Daily December 25, 2006)