Jul 7th, 2007 by Rocket for Life
For the past five years of Yao Ming’s career, writers and fans have ridiculed his lack of aggression and power. The media plays a powerful role in developing opinions about certain players; ESPN, in particular, has a knack for making ridiculous milestones for rookies. Due to Yao’s size, the media expected him to be a dominant player and steamroll through the first year of his young career. Unfortunately, Yao did not deliver what the media expected to see; instead, he averaged a “measly” 13 PPG and 8 RPG.
Five years later, Yao Ming has defied the odds for a player who is 7′6″. Although for the past two years he has had injury riddled seasons, he has yet to stop developing his game and in fact he has yet to show signs of slowing down. Every season he has improved his scoring averages along with his free throw shooting. He is not a great rebounder, but he isn’t the softie everyone seems envision. He has only averaged over 10 rebounds per game once in his career, but he has yet to drop under 9 rebounds per game since his rookie season. It’s amazing to see a man his size even have the agility to average this many rebounds. Fans automatically assume because he is 7′6″ that he will grab every rebound in the area, but many fail to realize, rebounding is an art; it is hard to master and only few in the game will ever become great rebounders.
Summer after summer, Yao has worked on his game. He wishes to reach the potential that he knows he is capable of reaching and will do everything in his power to untap every bit of game he has in him. In May, two weeks after his season ended, Yao began his usual training. Not only does he train to be ready for the World Championships during August, but Yao also trains for the upcoming NBA season. Yao has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer; even though he does not possess the agility of Hakeem, he learned how to defend a quicker player, plus according to an article published by chron.com, Hakeem showed Yao a quick dribble and shoot move. Under Rick Adelman, we expect to see the Chinese phenom to stretch his game within fifteen feet of the basket. With this move hopefully added to his repertoire, Yao will be able to adjust to defenders around him; whether they guard the cutters heavily or the passer, Yao will either be able to shoot over the defender or perhaps with this dribble move, he will be able to place himself closer to the basket and maybe shoot a twelve footer rather than fifteen. According to another chron.com article posted a couple of weeks ago, Feigan writes about Yao and Carroll Dawson (former Rockets GM) working on a skyhook. Any Rockets fan should be excited at the possibility of adding a skyhook to his game; it would perhaps make him truly unstoppable from the eight feet in area. A couple of steps and stepping into his skyhook, it would be nearly impossible for even the most athletic center (i.e Dwight Howard) to block the shot; it would certainly prevent from an embarrassing moment, such as Nate Robinson’s block this earlier in the 2006-2007 season.
Jeff Van Gundy helped Yao Ming’s game grow tremendously. Many fail to see the improvement under the Van Gundy era, but Yao was able to commit to the low post and develop a power game. Yao is a finesse player, but under Jeff Van Gundy he was required to establish deep post position for the easy basket, or shoot a fade away from ten feet within the basket. As a Rockets fan, I’m excited to see how much Yao’s game will improve.
Under Rick Adelman, I envision Yao having the freedom to work within fifteen feet. I do not wish for Yao to shoot three pointers, so I hope I don’t see him attempting any three point shots during the season. For a guy of Yao’s size, it is important to conserve his stamina. Constantly pounding the ball down low exhausted the huge center. He not only had to fight for position, but he was forced to fight for the well being of his body. If you think those scratches he has on his arm are childhood scars, think again; ever since he got to the NBA, he has been a victim of aggressive “defense”. Within this new system, Yao will have the liberty to pass out, or shoot a midrange jumper. His game will not only consist of pounding, but it will also involve him being a playmaker. As of now, he has problems controlling his turnovers, but with his basketball IQ along with Rick as a coach he should hopefully improve his decision making.
Adelman lets the players have a lot of freedom under his system. With Jeff Van Gundy, Yao had to constantly worry about making mistakes. Jeff is a perfectionist; even though I know Adelman is the same way, he has a much more laid back personality which should make it easier for Yao to make mistakes and learn from them.
Overall I expect Yao to improve a lot more under Adelman. Yao is a learner. He doesn’t satisfy, rather he hungers for more knowledge. He wishes to be the best and nothing will stop him from being the best. As a Rockets fan, I’m not afraid to defend the big guy. Although he has his shortcomings no one can deny his improvement and awareness on the court. Many players have the “potential” to be a great players, but only few have the work ethic to achieve such levels; I truly believe Yao Ming is a special player, who one day will lead the Houston Rockets to the NBA Championship.