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Yao out at least 6 weeks after fracturing leg

December 23rd, 2006
by John
Yao gets attention from the Rockets medical staff after fracturing his right tibia Saturday night in Houston against the Clippers.Yao gets attention from the Rockets medical staff after fracturing his right tibia Saturday night in Houston against the Clippers. Yao is expected to miss at least 6 weeks of action during a season where he had a legitimate chance to win the league MVP award. Click here for photos of Yao leaving Toyota Center on crutches.

Like millions of Yao fans tonight, I’m completely depressed. Yao suffered a fracture of his right tibia and is out at least 6 weeks.

I suffered a similar fracture in my left tibia almost 3 years ago, and it hurt like hell. I’ll never forget the pain and trauma inflicted on my knee that created the fracture. Ironically, I fell and landed right on some concrete steps at a Rockets-Warriors game. It hurt so much, I’ll never forget the day — March 19th. When I saw Yao rolling on the court in extreme pain, it reminded me of my own pain at the time. Looking at his reaction, I’m sure he’ll never forget it either.

To recuperate, I had to rest as well as do some rehab work for the injury inflicted on my knee and tibia. What sucked was that I couldn’t run on it, and I quickly lost my cardiovascular fitness. I could still ride a stationary bike as much as I wanted, but it’s just not the same as running. I expect Yao will have a big adjustment period to get his conditioning back once he returns, hopefully right around the All-Star game break (February 18th).

Rafer Alston summed it up just as well as anyone after the Rockets game against the Clippers. “That’s our guy. You’re talking about a guy who’s on an MVP pace, a guy that’s been carrying this team for the last two seasons. That hurts.”

Van Gundy also echoed my sentiments. “If there’s ever been an athlete who doesn’t deserve the bad breaks he’s gotten the last two years, it’s him. He works hard, he’s in great shape, so I feel badly for him.”

I was so looking forward to seeing Yao make a run at the MVP award this year. He could still do it if his recuperation period of 6 weeks stands, but the chances will be slim since the Rockets need to make the playoffs in order for that happen. Without T-Mac and/or Yao playing together, the Rockets will probably lose more games than they win, and that will most likely not cut it in the tough Western Conference.

Oh, by the way, the Rockets lost tonight against a Clipper team that had lost 5 in a row and was probably going to get beat before Yao’s injury entered the picture. Even Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy acknowledged how lucky the Clippers were. “We got a major break when Yao went down. We moved the ball better, we had open gaps and we were able to make our shots.”

It’s like the Clippers gained confidence after Yao went down that they could win this game, and played knowing they could win.

I was surprised the remaining Rockets still made a game of it, taking an 11-point lead in the first half at one point. Shane Battier took on a lot of the scoring load after Yao left the game, scoring a season-high 28 points. You have to love Shane — a player who doesn’t score much but does many of the little things needed to win — for being able to immediately turn on his offense like that when the team needs it. Not many guys can do that. The ultimate pro.

Along with Shane, Luther Head chipped in with 22 (7-of-15 shooting) and Alston had 21 (8-of-20). But not having Yao in the lineup took its toll on the Rockets, who made only 14-of-40 shots in the second half.

But the two guys who shot so well on Friday night – Juwan Howard and Bonzi Wells – made only 2-of-10 shots and 1-of-6 field goals, respectively. That’s just not going to cut it when the Rockets need all hands on deck hitting for a high percentage while Yao is out.

Click here for the Houston Chronicle story about Yao’s injury and the game.