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Yao breaks foot against Utah Monday night

April 10th, 2006
by John

by John

MONDAY, 4/10/06 – As shown above, Yao broke his foot in the Rockets game against Utah. He suffered a “Jones fracture,” and is obviously out for the rest of the season. He hurt it on a seemingly innocent play. “I was just fighting for position,” Yao said. “I think (Mehmet) Okur kicked my foot. That happens on the court. I believe he kicked it on the side of my foot.”

I looked it up, and here’s a definition of the injury:

A Jones fracture is a fracture of the fifth metatarsal of the foot. The fifth metatarsal is at the base of the small toe, and the proximal end, where the Jones fracture occurs, is in the midportion of the foot. Patients who sustain a Jones fracture have pain over this middle/outside area of their foot, swelling, and difficulty walking.

Treatment of an acute Jones fracture that is not significantly displaced consists of a cast or walking boot for 6-8 weeks. Patients should not place weight on the foot until instructed by their doctor.

Jones fractures can become chronic conditions if the fracture fails to unite. If this is the case, surgery will likely be recommended to secure the fracture in place with a screw.

So Yao is out for the season, which only has four games remaining in it. Not a big deal. We all know he’s great, he doesn’t have much more to prove this season, and this injury should heal nicely during the off-season. In fact, it may not be all that bad since it might keep him from being overworked by the Chinese National Team and let him be more rested for next season.

His stats before exiting early in the game was 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 block in eight minutes. As depressing as it was to see him leave the game early, the Rockets surprisingly hung in there the rest of the game and almost pulled off a major upset, but they couldn’t execute down the stretch. When the pressure got tough and the game was on the line in the last two minutes, they blew several chances and went scoreless to lose it 85-83.

Although Rafer Alston had a much better game (22 points on 8-of-19 shooting, 4 assists, one turnover) compared to the previous night’s game when he shot 0-for-11 and committed six turnovers, he bungled a golden opportunity that could have given the Rockets the lead with 1:11 remaining. After the Rockets forced a Utah turnover and had a 4-on-2 fast break, Alston was leading the break, but then decided NOT to push it to the basket and instead dished it off to Juwan Howard for a baseline jumper that missed. No guts, no glory!

Deron Williams rebounded the miss, and Chuck Hayes fouled him in frustration, which was a bad move considering the Jazz were in the penalty. Williams went to the line and made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 84-83 Jazz.

Alston came back and put up a tough, running jumper in the lane that missed. Utah missed on the ensuing possession, and the Rockets responded with a Keith Bogans shot in the lane that was blocked by Andrei Kirilenko, but Hayes grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Unfortunately, Hayes, who had a big game and was responsible for helping the Rockets come back in this game, missed both free throws.

Carlos Boozer grabbed Hayes’ second free throw miss and was fouled, sending him to the line. Boozer made the first one and missed the second, which the Rockets rebounded and called timeout with 3.7 seconds remaining trailing 85-83.

The good thing is that the Rockets were going to be able to inbound the ball on their end of the court. With 3.7 seconds remaining, you think that would be enough time to get off a shot in time. So what did Alston do? He took way too much time dribbling the ball and passed off to Howard for another jumper. Howard launched the shot and swished it, but it was obvious that he got the ball too late from Alston, as Howard released it after the game clock expired. Nice going, point guard.

When it was said and done, the Rockets missed four shots and two free throws in the final two minutes and didn’t score a point. That’s not going to cut it.

You have to give a little credit to the Rockets playing hard while Yao was out. They were down 70-61 at the end of the third quarter (it would have been only 67-61 if they hadn’t let Williams dribble the length of the court with 3 seconds remaining in the third quarter and hit a three-pointer at the buzzer).

Hayes really made a name for himself and probably secured an invitation back to training camp next season with the effort he put forth. Although he missed both of those late free throws, he had a great game, scoring 9 points, stealing the ball 3 times, and grabbing 10 boards, many in the heart of the Jazz interior, in only 22 minutes of action! He had one sweet move on defensive extraordinaire Kirilenko that I’ll never forget — posting him up, he did one of those quick spin moves like Yao does toward the baseline, leaving AK47 in his wake shocked, as Hayes laid it in for the easy score.

So I’ll forgive Hayes for the missed free throws with an effort like this one. He isn’t accustomed to pressure situations like that, and he needs to work on his free throw shooting form anyway. Because of this unfortunate experience at the end, and his obviously strong work ethic, you know he’s going to work hard on correcting it.

Now with Yao out, it will be good to see Hayes get more playing time for the final four games of the season.

Although Juwan missed that jumper after getting the late pass from Alston, Juwan had an outstanding game, scoring 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting. As old as Howard is, he’s still valuable enough to keep around if he keeps putting up numbers like those.

Finally, the Rockets’ chances of winning any of their next four games (Minnesota, Memphis, Denver and San Antonio) without Yao and T-Mac are extremely low. According to my estimates, barring any miracles with the ping-pong balls, if they lose these next four games, they could be selecting as high as 8th in the NBA draft, or as low as 13th. That’s a big difference in a draft that’s not all that deep.


To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

To read the Houston Chronicle’s article about the game, click here.