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Exclusive ClubYao interview with Yao in Austin

October 5th, 2006
by John
Yao ices down his knees and left foot after the Rockets practice on Thursday morning.  Not to worry, though.  As Dikembe Mutombo told ClubYao last night, this is just a precautionary measure to reduce swelling so that players can extend their careers as long as possible. Yao ices down his knees and left foot after the Rockets practice on Thursday morning. Not to worry, though. As Dikembe Mutombo told ClubYao last night, this is just a precautionary measure to reduce swelling so that players can extend their careers as long as possible. For more photos from training camp, click here.

This coming NBA season we’re planning on offering memberships to the *new* ClubYao where members will get exclusive online content to what’s going on in Yao’s world. Much of the proceeds of these memberships will go to Yao’s favorite charities.

Some of this content will include exclusive interviews with Yao, journal entries from Yao himself, online chats, video, and more! More information will certainly follow as we get closer to the start of the season.

As a free preview of what will be offered, I will interview Yao every so often to get caught up on what he has been doing and his thoughts. I was able to talk with Yao one-on-one today in Austin during a break in the Rockets training camp. As you’ll see, I prefer to ask Yao questions that he probably hasn’t been asked by traditional American media so that his fans will maybe learn something new about him.

ClubYao: Tell us about that 3-pointer at the buzzer that Wang Shipeng hit against Slovenia in the World Championships. What was a better moment: that shot by Wang Shipeng to win that game, or coming back from 10 points down and beating Serbia & Montenegro in the Olympics two years ago?

Yao: “Both games were important for us. I can’t really say which one was more important. But I more enjoy the game in the World Championship because it was a knock-down game shot. Against Serbia & Montenegro, that’s a game where 30 seconds before the game finish, we know we’re going to win already. It’s right there. That’s very happy and very exciting, but not like that one (Wang Shipeng’s shot). We’re down two with 5 seconds left, and a knock-down shot. That’s totally another end (finish).”

ClubYao: We had heard you had offered to buy Wang Shipeng’s autographed jersey at any price. Did you get the jersey?

Yao: “No (Note: I got the sense Yao was either joking at the time he made that statement, or it was because that was a very important game to Wang Shipeng, too).”

ClubYao: You mentioned that players like Wang Shipeng and Yi Jianlin should play or train overseas so the Chinese National Team can get more competitive. Have you heard if that might happen?

Yao: “I guess it will happen. But I hope it will happen before it’s too late. Some of the players are past the age where the player can improve, and have more experience than young players. Some players can still improve at 26 (years of age), 27, 30, but the earlier they come out the more help they can get. I believe maybe after the Olympics some will come out, but I hope it’s not too late. I hope the CBA and their owner can give them the best career they can have.”

ClubYao: You played against new Rocket Vasilis Spanoulis in some of the FIBA matches in Asia this summer. Although you were on opposing teams, I remember seeing you guys walk off the court with each other during the World Championships. Did you get to know each other better this summer?

Yao: “No, we just said hello during that time. We had our own teams and we had to concentrate on our own teammates. I know he was (going to be) my teammate with the Rockets, but at that time all I could do was say hello, nothing deep. So we were just friendly, you know?”

ClubYao: Have you been impressed with Vasilis in the two days you both have been here?

Yao: “He’s very quick, very quick. He’s very good at penetrating. He’s a good shooter, but very different from here (in the NBA) because the 3-point line is longer. It looks like he hasn’t adjusted yet. I think he will change, though.”

ClubYao: And the smaller ball size they use in FIBA play? Does that have any effect on 3-point shooting?

Yao: “That’s not a big deal.”

ClubYao: Have you seen anything in these first two days of training camp in Austin that surprises you, either with the players or how the practices are?

Yao: “Chemistry is very important for every team. We have a lot of new players. We need to rebuild it (the chemistry). It will take time for our old guys who played here last year. We’re very powerful on the perimeter guys. We have great shooters and we have post-up point guards. So we can have a lot of chances in the game against different opponents.”

ClubYao: Have you had a chance to build chemistry off the court since training camp started, like going out to eat?

Yao: “Maybe later, but right now training camp is ‘burn it out.'”

ClubYao: After you rehabilitated your foot that was injured last April, was it hard for you to workout this summer?

Yao: “I don’t think it was hard. It was time. The World Championship started in the middle of August, and last year our Asian Championships started in September. So we had a half month less, and 15 days can make a big difference. It’s very hard for me after my foot was broken, then the surgery, the rehab, getting back in shape, playing with teammate in China, and finally going to play the World Championship. The time for me was not that good.”

ClubYao: I know Colin Pine (Yao’s former translator) is working for the NBA in Beijing now. Have you kept in touch with him this summer?

Yao: “Yeah, I saw him twice this summer. You know, he looks like a business guy now. He dresses very nice. We email sometimes.”

ClubYao: We all have noticed you have gotten bigger over the past few years. Has your diet changed much over the past few years to hold up to the NBA schedule?

Yao: “My eating has not changed a lot. I eat more beef, chicken, vegetables and potatoes. And keep training.”

ClubYao: We know you like to play video games. Which ones? Which Web sites?

Yao: “World Warcraft. I just got it ‘stolen.’ Some people stole my identity in my computer. It’s just a game, though. They sent some kind of Trojan Horse or virus, and it stole my password or something a few days ago.”

ClubYao: Compared to your rookie year, is it a lot more calm now so that you can venture out and go to restaurants? Or do you still stay in to eat?

Yao: “I go out to eat a couple of times, not a lot. It depends on how I feel. If I feel tired, I’ll stay in my room. If I have some energy, I’ll go out with a couple of team mates. I’ll go out and hang out with them. I never go out by myself.”

ClubYao: Do you still live in the same house in Houston as the one you lived in during your rookie year?

Yao: “Yes.”

A view of part of Austin's skyline on Thursday, with the Rockets' hotel -- The Four Seasons -- shown at the right in brown.  Yao thinks the city of Austin is a nice one.A view of part of Austin’s skyline on Thursday, with the Rockets’ hotel — The Four Seasons — shown at the right in brown. Yao thinks the city of Austin is a nice one.

ClubYao: I know you probably haven’t seen much of it, but what do you think of Austin?

Yao: “It’s a nice city. It has clean water, rivers, boats, and a lot of trees. If you drive down the street, you will see some places that are very functional, but some places look very good for living.”

I live here in Austin, next to your hotel. It’s nice.

Yao (jokingly): “I have nowhere to hide (from you), huh?”