The triumph over New Zealand on Tuesday seemed to have dispelled
the doubt and concern lingering above the Chinese men's basketball
China fell at the first hurdle when they lost to Spain 58-83 in
their first match at the Athens Olympics on Sunday, putting the
Asian champions on the verge of being stopped outside of the
quarterfinals given the strength of the rest of the opponents.
The loss to Spain was also worsened by the mounting rumors that
star center Yao Ming threatened to quit due to discontent with the
performance of the national team.
But the cloud seemed to be cleared by what happened on the court
when China beat New Zealand 69-62 in a preliminary group match of
the Olympic basketball tournament.
China came out with more drive and power than in the first game,
defending as one team while attacking fiercely spearheaded by
Yao, who plays with the Houston Rockets in the American NBA,
appeared very keen on winning, running back and fro, jumping at
every rebound, yelling when scoring on big points, and cheering on
teammates when rested on the bench.
With Yao dominating the paint, China dominated the match.
"I am very proud of my players responding to the high-pressure
situation. As you know, if we had not won today, we would have at
least a remote possibility of going beyond the preliminary stage."
said China's head coach Del Harris at a post-match press
Harris also dismissed the speculation that Yao is likely to walk
out on the national team, saying that he had been misunderstood by
"He was grabbed by someone on the way to the locker room. A
player should never interview until after you had the chance to go
into the locker room, sat down and collected your thoughts.
"He (Yao) didn’t mean that stuff (reported),"Harris added.
Yao was quoted by the organizing committee's information system
as saying that he might retire from the national team.
"I feel very bad," said Yao after the loss to Spain where he
scored only 12 points and collected eight rebounds before being
fouled out with more than four minutes remaining on Sunday.
Team captain Li Nan would not draw on the subject at the press
conference, saying that this issue has been brought to an end.
"I would not want to talk further on this," said Li.
"As a team, there is mutual understanding between players, and
mutual trust between players and coaches. This match (against New
Zealand) also demonstrated the solidarity between us," he
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2004)