Yao Ming is back in Houston, sitting on the bench while his Houston Rockets battle against the Utah Jazz in their Western Conference first round series. Last night at the Toyota Center it brought up a whole lot of mixed emotions to see Yao, looking dapper in coat and tie, sitting on the end of the Rockets bench, doing a television interview, and smacking his hands together in frustration during a Utah drive. If Yao were healthy and able to play, this would be an entirely different series - Houston would have tremendous coverage in the low post and many more answers for the Carlos Boozer-Deron Williams juggernaut on the defensive end.
This morning a very fit-looking Yao emerged from his rehab workout and walked past a slew of media types in front of the Rockets locker room. One reporter asked, "So, you ready for Game 2?" to which Yao waited a moment, thought, and said, "That's a secret!" with a smile. His sense of humor will never die, no matter what challenges his basketball career throws at him. One beat reporter laughed and said, "there's 7-foot-6 of smarta** in him," and he meant that as a compliment. I just smiled and said back to him, "And in multiple languages!" (In addition to Mandarin Chinese and English, Yao speaks Shanghai dialect.) According to Rockets head trainer Keith Jones, Yao's recovery is right on schedule, meaning his chances of suiting up for China in the Olympics this summer are as good as ever. That's good news for China - in any language.
Rockets notes: Yao joins teammates on bench (Houston Chronicle, 04-20-2008)