I went to the Rockets-Grizzlies game Friday night, which was a blowout the Rockets won going away 103-87. It wasn’t even that close as the Rockets got off to a hot start, opening up an incredible 30-point lead early in the second quarter. Kevin Martin was incredible, scoring 22 points in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry scored 15 points and had a career-high 16 assists, along with 5 steals through 3 quarters.
Of course, the big news was the announcement today that Yao is done for the season, which is no surprise, and the press conference the Rockets had before the game with Rockets’ team doctor Dr. Walter Lowe and Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey.
Rather than spend time writing about the blowout victory, I went ahead and typed up the press conference transcript the Rockets provided the media before the game. Here are some quotes that didn’t appear in some of the major news stories about the press conference.
Dr. Walt Lowe:
On the likelihood that Yao Ming can play again without future stress fractures: “I think that’s a question that doesn’t have an answer. Probably. A stress fracture, as you guys know, has to heal and the thing about this is different is this is related to an injury fairly recently and so I think that’s a question that just doesn’t have an answer.”
On talking to Yao Ming about the injury: “We’re saying ‘Hey Yao, you know, this needs to get treated.’ We’re talking to the foot and ankle guys about getting it treated and about the appropriate courses with that. So it needs to get treated. It needs to heal. It needs to be rehabbed right, brought back right, all those things. Is this something that I would say, hey, you’ve got no chance of every playing again, no, absolutely not.”
On what needs to be done to heal Yao’s injury: “Well, the usual case with this would be surgery. It’s a stress fracture and its in a location that the typical course (would be surgery). Has that decision been made yet, no. But the usual medial stress fracture is one that you would fix (with surgery).”
On if this year’s injury is a result of last year’s injury: “Well, last year was an osteotomy of his foot to make it flatter and help distribute the stresses more. But, I think you have to say, yeah, this is related to the previous issues Yao has had with his foot and the surgeries he’s had.”
More details on last year’s surgery relating to this year’s injury: “Well, it is a transfer of stresses that this big osteotomy moved his heel bone around to shift them into a different place and now his body has to take those new stresses to a new area. So, anytime they do something to change it or you see something else come from it, I don’t see any way you can say it’s not related to it.”
On if this will increase the likelihood of future stress fractures on Yao’s foot: “Well, when you look at the course of Yao’s career, stress fractures have been a part of his foot. To say he’s not at a risk to continue to have stress fractures would be crazy. So he is at a continued risk. The new position of his foot should unload his foot and make those stresses lower. We still have this injury back in Washington as a part of this injury to factor into it.”
On if this new injury needs “restructuring” surgery like his previous injury from last year: “No. No, this is a fracture that’s not displaced, so it’s still anatomically located and it’s one to provide fixation so it won’t displace and at the same time create a healing response inside that fracture, so it will heal. So it’s not a corrective osteotomy or moving his foot around, it’s just fixing it where it is.”
On how bad this stress fracture really is: “I don’t think there’s any word for it. I think no one is happy that Yao has any stress fracture for sure. At the same time if you ask me is this better or worse than having another navicular stress fracture, I’d say I’d rather have this one than that one. There have been stress fractures that guys have come back from in this league, too.”
On if this injury was already present when Yao was injured back in Washington: “I think it’s manifested itself since then. This was sort of an ankle sprain with bone bruising it sounds like. The MRI done up in Indianapolis, then brought back here and then really not progressing from a rehab standpoint which stimulated the new studies done yesterday that revealed a stress fracture.”
On if the fracture was hidden by the bone bruise: “You know it should not. A bone bruise is basically fluid or adema in bone and you can see fracture lines in that adema and you see those all the time with fractures. So, I don’t think it’s somewhat fluid in the bone obscured the fracture at all, you would see that.”
On if this fracture occurred sometime between the two MRIs: “Well, it manifested itself as a stress fracture, so it progressed to the point between the two MRI’s, yes.”
On if he is concerned about Yao ever returning: “Well, I think, as the doctor said, this is an injury that players come back from. We’re still gathering data to know on the likelihood and the prognosis. I think that’s something we’re still learning. I think it is too soon to know where we go from here, exactly, with Yao Ming.”
On how it will affect his plans this season without Yao Ming: “Well, I think , overall we’ve been preparing for this possibility, obviously as doctor said and we’ve talked to Dr. Lowe and Dr. Clanton and all the folks. Also Dr. Yazuki, close to working with Yao Ming. We’ve obviously known he’s (Yao Ming) been prone to possible future inures. So, as you can tell in our preparation, our signings, our trades, our draft picks. We’ve prepared a team to sort of work with Yao Ming and work without, both at a player level and mentality level. I think we have a very resilient group. They’ve been able to fight through injuries and have had winning seasons without both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady last year. This year obviously we’re gonna have Yao Ming for mostly not this whole season. We feel like we have a resilient group to work for guys that can fight through injuries and we feel like we’ve got a young team that each day they play, they’re better than the day before. Not a team that’s declining but a team that’s improving.
On if there is any way Yao may not need surgery: “Sure. Stress fractures do heal with prolonged periods of unloading and crutches and non-laboring and those kind of things. So I think those things all have to be debated with Yao and sort of go through the whole process like you would with anybody that needs or should have a surgical procedure. I’d say yes, there’s a potential it would, but the likelihood that fixing it would lead to more certainty in it healing and also much quicker.”
On if this injury has any acute issues with it: “No, this definitely has no acute issues associated with it. So, I think there’s plenty of time to get all the bright minds of foot and ankle in the country together and look at it and talk to Yao and come up with a course of treatment that his doctors and Yao both believe in.”
On what kind of rest Yao should take after this injury: “I’m not the foot and ankle guy, which is okay. But, at the same time I do think the suggestion or the usual course of action for this particular stress fracture, which is a vertical fracture through the medial malleolus is that it would be fixed. I think that’s the smartest course of action. I’d put it in one of those 4-6 month recoveries. For a stress fracture to heal completely, it should take that 3-4 month period, and then there’s, as you saw with some other things in Yao, a very slow, progressive return to higher and higher unloading. So, that’s for sure in that 4-6 month window after it’s fixed.
On what Yao’s rehab would look like: “In the foot there’s not a lot of rehab. It’s range of motion, strengthening of the tendons that surround it, so it’s not as complicated of a rehab as a knee or a shoulder or some of the things you guys see fairly frequently out there. What has to happen in the foot is healing because the foot is skin, bones and tendons, so it doesn’t have a lot of muscles surrounding it. Those things that lead to a more vibrant healing anatomy. So you have to let it heal. You have to keep the motion. You have to get the swelling down. Then after the healing is there, you have to progressively load. That means there’s partial weight bearing, then more weight bearing, the same process you guys have seen him go through before. There’s not a cookbook protocol that says after this fracture you do this on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. It’s a very progressive loading and the bigger the guys are, the more issues there have been with stress fractures or related issues, the slower you would go in that progressive loading process.”
On Yao’s future: “I think until we learn more, we still see Yao Ming as the potential future of our team. We need to continue to talk to the doctors and see where that goes. So obviously Yao Ming is an All-Star center and if you look throughout the league, there’s not many of them. If it looks like there’s a good prognosis here and we’re still learning how good that prognosis will be, for sure we’re going to look at Yao Ming past this season.”
On Yao’s spirit: “I think he’s appropriately taking a step back and saying I want to hear all of my options and all the facts. That hasn’t happened yet. Doctors like Dr. Lowe, Dr. Yakuzi, Dr. Clanton, they’re all still conferring and he’ll get multiple opinions before he takes a course of action. I think he’s obviously taking the news hard just like we are, just like Rockets fans, just like everybody. I think for those who know Yao Ming, like many in this room, when there’s tough news, he sort of cracks jokes and things like that. He was doing that yesterday. He’s in good spirits. I think obviously when he’s not around others I’m sure it’s pretty tough to digest this news. As much as he’s been off the court and how much he cares about his teammates, the fans and the Rockets, it’s probably pretty tough for him.”
On how big of a setback this is for the Rockets: “Well, I think we’ve been, as we’ve said, preparing for this as well as we can. I think you need great players in this league to win. We’ve got a lot of players we believe in on this team. Yao Ming is very unique. There’s no Yao Ming store that we can go to to get another one with his abilities. So, it’s definitely a setback. It’s definitely a setback that we don’t have him this season. We felt like this season, where we could make this a special season was Yao Ming comes back and people step up on our team. Maybe there was a move that’s made and felt like we could really make some noise this season. We still feel like we’re a team that can make the playoffs this season. We feel like we’re fighting with about 4 or 5 other teams for the 7th or 8th seed this season. I know our guys in the locker room aren’t writing this season off. I know I’m not. I know Coach Adelman isn’t. We still think this can be a great season. Obviously the news yesterday was negative, it wasn’t positive.”