x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fickle feet thwart Ming dynasty in Houston

The Houston Rockets are waiting for Yao Ming. They should be good at it by now. It has been a story for six consecutive seasons.

The Houston Rockets are waiting for Yao Ming. They should be good at it by now. It has been a story for six consecutive seasons. Yao, the 7ft 6ins centre from China, could keep a dozen orthopaedic surgeons in full employment.

He has had surgery on his left big toe, a broken bone in his left foot, a broken right knee, a stress fracture in his left foot and then a broken left foot that caused him to miss all of last season.

When he came back this season the Rockets decided to limit him to 20 minutes per game and not allow him to play on consecutive days, hoping they could nurse him back to stardom. But even with those precautions in place, he is out again, with a sprained left ankle. He survived five games and 91 minutes on the court before his latest breakdown. He is the tallest player in the NBA, and one of its most marvellous, on those rare occasions when he is healthy.

Yao has been an NBA All-Star in each of his seven seasons and his career scoring and rebounding averages are a healthy 19 and 9.2, respectively. As the greatest player to come out of China, he is an international celebrity and possibly the most popular athlete in Chinese history.

However, it must be conceded he may never have the impact for the Rockets that many envisioned. In Yao's seven seasons in Houston, the Rockets have advanced past the first round of the play-offs only once.

He wanted to lift the Rockets to greatness. And without him, this team cannot get there.