The evolution of Yao - '02 to '06
Web Posted: 11/14/2006 07:53 PM CST
San Antonio Express-News
Yao Ming's domination of Shaquille O'Neal in the Houston Rockets' 94-72 dismantling of the defending champion Miami Heat on Sunday night further solidified Yao as the NBA's No. 1 center. The Evolution of Yao has been steady since he became the first Asian player selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft. Named on Monday the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 29 points in four games, Yao appears ready to state his case as one of the league's top five players. Express-News NBA writer Mike Monroe examines the progression of Yao's career and the adjustments he's made thus far ...
Yao spoke better English upon his arrival in 2002 than he ever let on. His interpreter was deemed unnecessary two years ago. Yao always understood English quite well but had some problems with idioms and pronunciation. It is now fair to say he speaks the language better than some NBA players who were born and raised in America. Yes, he even curses in English.
To Jeff Van Gundy
Van Gundy has been the one who has done the adjusting, and this has dramatically affected the speed of Yao's development. After assigning Patrick Ewing to work with Yao during his rookie season and being disappointed with the results, Van Gundy turned Yao over to assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. The results have been dramatically better. Van Gundy loves Yao's skills and his competitiveness. He should be the one to adjust.
To the NBA lifestyle
This may have been as big an adjustment as any. When Yao arrived in America, he didn't even know how to drive. Now, he owns a larger Mercedes and an SUV, though at last report he had not fitted the wheels of either vehicle with "spinners." Yao reportedly does not do nightclubs because he does not like the attention his 7-foot-6, 310-pound frame guarantees him wherever he goes.
To pressure from China
The Chinese basketball establishment has eased off making a lot of demands on Yao. In particular, Yao is allowed to do his injury rehabilitation and offseason skills development under the direction of the Rockets, not the Chinese. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau has gone to China the past two summers to help Yao work on his individual skills, so his summer workouts are very similar to what other NBA players experience.
To Tracy McGrady
This has been the easiest adjustment of all for Yao, because McGrady is one of the most unselfish scoring stars in the league. Getting accustomed to playing with McGrady is like getting used to the butler delivering breakfast in bed each morning. Added bonus: T-Mac also gets as much attention from the media as Yao, which helps minimize demands on Yao's time.
To NBA referees
This is one adjustment that is ongoing and slow to come. When the league changed the rules a few years ago and made it more difficult for big men to move in the low post, Yao found himself frustrated and often in foul trouble. He is a chronic complainer and tends to let the refs get to him more than he should. Yes, he does get technical fouls. (See "Adjusting to America").