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Yao still ranked in top 10 of Forbes China Top 100 Celebrities list

Saturday, May 5th, 2012
by John

Even after a year in retirement, Yao is still ranking high on Forbes’ (China) annual Top 100 celebrity list.

The list is compiled by looking at several variables, like earnings and buzz (in newspapers, Internet, TV and magazines). Yao ranked #8 overall, and #9 in earnings.

Li Na is ranked as the top athlete, helped by her winning the 2011 French Open.

early May 2012: Tennis player Li Na - No. 5 on Forbes China Top 100 Celebrities list

Jay Chou ranked as the #1 celebrity overall.

early May, 2012: Jay Chou was ranked #1 in Forbes China Top 100 Celebrity List

Click here for a list and photos of the Top 10.

Yao attends Rockets game Saturday, headed to China Monday morning

Sunday, February 7th, 2010
by John

Saturday night Yao attended the Rockets-76ers game. Unfortunately the Rockets went cold in the second half and lost.

Click here for more photos from the game.

On Monday morning, Yao will be flying back to China, in part for Chinese New Year, which is next Sunday, February 14th.

Pucker up, Charles! Rockets make you look bad again

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
by John

After another stunning win in this short season — the Rockets beating Utah handily in Salt Lake 113-96 Monday night to push their record to 3-1 — I think even the most die-hard Rockets fan has to be shocked at how well they are playing together as a team, not to mention the millions of NBA fans who thought they were going to be terrible. The Rockets are shocking everyone right now.

I never thought the Rockets were going to be as bad as some people predicted this season, like Charles Barkley saying they were going to be the worst team in the Western Conference this season. But to beat Portland and Utah in consecutive games so early in the season, with 8 players scoring in double figures last night in Utah? I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.

Still, Barkley made himself look like an ass again. Remember when he said back in Yao’s rookie year that Yao would never score more than 19 points as a pro, and had to kiss a donkey’s butt on national TV after losing that bet?

This team continues to amaze us: the 22-game winning streak two seasons ago that had spans where either Yao or McGrady didn’t play. Two victories against the Lakers in the playoffs last season without Yao or McGrady playing. Chuck Hayes now as the starting center. A very short point guard in Aaron Brooks showing no signs of being handicapped because of his lack of height in the NBA. A free agent signee in Trevor Ariza, who no one thought would be this good this early, even his former team the Lakers. An “offensively-challenged” Shane Battier being more aggressive and amping up his offense. A rookie in Chase Budinger (17 points Monday night in 22 minutes) showing skills and maturity far beyond his middle-of-second round draft selection expectations. The list goes on and on.

You’ve got to these guys a ton of credit, including coach Rick Adelman. They were expected to be a shambles by now. They may still miss the playoffs when it’s all said and done, as everyone had predicted. Even without Yao, though, you can’t help but want to watch each one of their games to see what they will do next. And none is bigger than the Rockets’ next game on Wednesday: a rematch against the Lakers at Toyota Center. You can bet Ariza is going to be motivated for that game. Will he eclipse his career high point total (33) from Saturday night’s game against Portland? That’s going to be Must See TV.

Jazz jolt Rockets again

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
by John

There would be no amazing comeback victory in Salt Lake Tuesday night like there was in San Antonio on Sunday. The Rockets were discombobulated in so many facets of the game, they must have lost their composure somewhere between San Antonio, Houston and Utah.

First, Yao Ming and Ron Artest didn’t step up like you would expect your two best players to do in a game this big. They did against the Spurs, but not in the altitude of Salt Lake.

Artest was 5-for-22 for 13 points, taking it into the paint and putting up difficult shots or getting his shot blocked. The same goes for Yao, who not only missed 10-of-16 shots to score only 14 points, but seemed to have a hard time getting his shot off in the paint.

Utah’s Paul Millsap blocks Yao Ming’s shot.
Click here for more photos from the game.

I give Artest and Yao credit for attacking the basket for higher percentage shots or increasing the chances of getting fouled, but I can’t remember the last time the Rockets got blocked 12 times in a game before. I don’t know if that sets any kind of record, but when 13% of your 92 shots get blocked, it has to get in your head and make you rush your shots, thinking it’s going to get blocked again.

In my opinion, that’s clearly what happened as the Rockets shot only 35% from the floor, exceeded even by their 39% shooting from 3-point land where they had more breathing room against shot blockers like Mehmet Okur (4), Paul Milsap (3), and Andrei Kirilenko (2).

No one knows how much a difference Carl Landry and the way he attacks the basket would have made in a game like this, but because of some idiots in Houston with a gun, we won’t every really know. Side note: I hope they find those scumbags, lock them up, and throw away the key.

As much scrutiny Aaron Brooks may get for not being a ‘traditional’ point guard who passes first and shoots second, the fact is without his scoring punch (20 points on 8-of-17 shots), this game would have been a blowout much earlier on.

Keep in mind that Daryl Morey and the Rockets brass made the decision that they want that kind of player at the point rather than Rafer Alston, who was so inconsistent you didn’t know what kind of game you were going to get.

Brooks didn’t lobby for the starting guard position, nor demand it. He is still evolving as a player, but what he brings to this team now is still so much better than what JVG would have done by bringing in some old guy who couldn’t score and was way past their prime. Remember Mark Jackson? I’ll take a young player like Brooks any day, and his 16-5 record as a starter since the All-Star break speaks volumes.

I just wish Yao had kept shooting jumpers where he had some success, rather than trying to put it up among Utah’s shot blockers. People may wonder why he didn’t get the ball more, but I strongly believe if you have guys who can run on the break, and you’ve got a legitimate opportunity to do it, you do it because it increases your odds of scoring immensely. That’s been the key to their success since the All-Star break. And it worked pretty well for other teams who had big men who couldn’t run and keep up with the gazelles. Remember Kareem and the Showtime Lakers?

When a center like Yao is being double-teamed, and he’s having a hard time getting his shot off against a swarming defense or shot blockers, you don’t keep forcing it in there. You adapt. Your other players should attack the basket or kick it out to your perimeter shooters. If you don’t, you’re going to lose.

There were times when the Rockets had nice stretches of scoring and defensive stands, but many times their shooting went south for huge chunks of time (like when they missed 11 shots in a row), or they made egregious defensive lapses letting guys score easily on dunks and layups, with Yao, Artest and Von Wafer three of the culprits.

So much inconsistency in one game is not going to get it done. I’m happy that Yao got 4 blocks, but none of them were really game changers. It seemed every time the Rockets would get the ball after a block and went on a fast break, they would miss the shot, force up a shot in traffic, or turn it over.

Wafer and Kyle Lowry had an especially difficult night putting the ball in the hoop, shooting 2-for-7 and 0-for-6 respectively. Throw in Brent Barry’s 0-for-3 shooting, and you’ve got an uncharacteristic bad shooting night for a bench that has performed so well this season, getting outscored 34-11.

Amazingly the Rockets out-rebounded the Jazz 13-3 on the offensive boards, but they never really did anything with it. There were 2 possessions in a row where Yao really worked hard to grab O.R.’s, but I don’t think any score resulted from it. And 5 of those 13 boards came on ONE possession where Chuck Hayes eventually scored with a little baby hook.

On the bright side, Luis Scola shot decent (4-for-9 for 10 points). But the best player by far for the Rockets was Shane Battier, who was an offensive juggernaut who scored 18 points, including 4-of-7 three pointers, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. I also loved how he stole the ball from former Duke teammate Carlos Boozer when Booz inbounded the ball, then took it strong to get fouled, and then proceeded to hit both free throws. That was complete hustle.

But Deron Williams (19 point), Boozer (13), Paul Milsap (15), Ronnie Brewer (17), and Okur (12) showed they will continue to be a tough matchup for the Rockets if they are to meet in the playoffs.

But now is not the time for the Rockets or their fans to hide in the corner hoping the Jazz won’t face them in the first round. It’s time for the Rockets to realize that although they have made tremendous strides this season, they still have lots of work to do if they’re going to get past the Jazz this time around. If they don’t, then this season will take a huge blow when it comes down to deciding if it was a success or not.

I for one wouldn’t mind them facing the Jazz because it will force everyone of them, from the head coach to the last guy on the bench, to prepare better and perform with more intensity.

A frustrating night in Utah, and my home

Thursday, March 5th, 2009
by John

Sorry that I don’t have much posted here, but I am so pissed at Comcast and the NBA for making my watching of the Rockets-Jazz game so painful for me. After enduring hassle after hassle, I have no time to write anything.

I had set my DVR to record the game because I was knew I was going to be getting home after the game ended. So when I started watching the recording, stupid Comcast must have moved the game to another channel because I had nothing but 2 ½ hours of blank screen recorded. And yes, I set the recording perfectly. They just moved the game to another channel, which was a first all season for me.

As a backup plan, I figured I would watch the game online on NBA League Pass Broadband. It usually works okay, but skipping past commercials is a pain and would require the full 2 1/2 hours for me to watch it.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the streaming sucked so bad tonight, the replay got ‘stuck’ dozens of times to where the final 4 minutes, the most critical part of the game, took over an hour to watch. Now it’s very late, and I have to stop because I have to wake up in a handful of hours for work

It wasn’t a good night for me, nor for the Rockets, who lost to Utah 101-94. I’m upset at the idiots who provided a terrible product tonight independent of each other: Comcast and the NBA.

Maybe tomorrow after I’ve cooled off and have had a little rest, I’ll comment about what went wrong tonight in Utah, and some of the encouraging signs I saw in the game.

Update: Raymond sent me this YouTube video of Yao being interviewed after the game about the unfair officiating that screwed the Rockets. You go Yao! Maybe the league will finally listen once the NBA’s classiest player calls out the refs for incompetence. YouTube tends to take stuff like this down fairly quick, so if it doesn’t play, you’ll know why. But you can read the transcript in Jonathan Feigen’s post-game story in the Chronicle.

Rockets roll — beat Jazz again

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009
by John

As steady as Yao has been lately — helping the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz Wednesday night with 19 points (9-of-9 from the line) and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes of action — Rafer and Wafer have been almost as key to the Rockets winning 5 of their last 6 games, too.

Yao spins baseline on Utah’s Paul Milsap Wednesday night on his way to 19 points. Click here for more photos from the game.

Alston scored a season-high 23 points, including 5-of-7 three-pointers, 7-of-13 from the field, 4-of-4 from the line, 8 assists, and only 1 turnover. Wow! Rafer has been stepping up big-time in Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady’s absence.

And Von Wafer is still playing the role of Cinderella at the ball, scoring 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including a dagger of a 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining that gave the Rockets some breathing room, 94-87. The rest of the way, the Rockets hit 12-of-12 free throws in the final 2 minutes to ice it.

So let’s see…the Rockets are #5 in the league in free throw shooting (they were an incredible 27-of-28 from the line Wednesday night), they have a point guard who is playing out of his mind lately, they have consistent and athletic role players like Luis Scola (19 points on 6-of-10 shooting) and Carl Landry (10 points, 4-of-8 from the field). They have a virtually unstoppable All-Star center who is playing at an MVP level. They have an experienced backup guard who can hit the three and who has won championships (Brent Barry – 3-of-4 from behind the arc).

On top of that, their offense is moving the ball around like they did during their 22-game win streak last season, one of their best players (Ron Artest) will be rejoining the team very soon, Tracy McGrady will be playing again in a couple of games, and they have one of the biggest surprise players of the league (Wafer) who can score in bunches and shoot for a high percentage.

Finally, they have 2 very good role players — Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier — who are in shooting slumps right now, but you know they will get it going again. And when they do, watch out!

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty conservative guy and don’t say things like the following off-the-cuff. But with all the Rockets have going for them again, it is not unreasonable to expect them to be playing in June.

Okay, now more about their 108-99 victory over the Jazz Wednesday night. The Rockets remind me of the Jazz a couple of years ago when they had all these new players like Ronnie Brewer and Paul Milsap, and there was no let-up when these reserves came in. It was unbelievable! That’s the way it is this season for the Rockets when phenoms like Von Wafer, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks come into the game. There’s hardly any drop-off in intensity and energy.

For the second straight game, I’ve put together a summary of the top plays from the game on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Enjoy!

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Ankle injury to Rafer too much to overcome. Rockets season ends in Game 6.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
by John

A picture is worth a thousand words. By the looks of it, Yao wants a playoff rematch against Utah in 2009 when the Rockets will be playing with a full deck. Wouldn’t we all.

In a playoff series where the Rockets had gone so far pushing the series to 6 games by overcoming many obstacles, like:

Yao’s injury
Andrei Kirilenko‘s late-game flop the refs bought involving Luis Scola, as well as others
– Terrible officiating in general
Tracy McGrady‘s disappearing act in the fourth quarter in Games 1 & 2
Rafer Alston missing Games 1 & 2 because of a hamstring injury
– a bad shot by Utah off the side of the backboard in the closing minute that got a lucky bounce and resulted in a game-winning shot for them

…the Rockets couldn’t overcome the final blow Friday night – Alston severely spraining his ankle in the second quarter and missing the rest of the game. That injury would be the final straw that broke the camel’s back, leading to a 113-91 loss. At least this loss was only about half as bad as the 40-point loss the Rockets suffered in 2005 in Game 7 against Dallas.

Although the Rockets showed heart by cutting a 19-point deficit in the first half down to 1 point late in the second quarter, the loss of their floor general was so devastating, it really showed in the 3rd quarter when they only made 4-of-22 shots.

To make matters worse, without Alston in the game on defense, his absence helped his counterpart Deron Williams go off in the 3rd with 13 points, including 4-of-5 three-pointers, opening the Jazz lead up again to 20 points entering the 4th quarter.

The 4th quarter was merely a formality as the Rockets were visibly deflated and played out their final game of the season.

If you’re bummed about this loss and the fact the Rockets still haven’t won in the first round yet again, you’ve got to look at more than what happened Friday night or even over the past couple of weeks in this series for why they didn’t advance.

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Keys to Game 6

Friday, May 2nd, 2008
by John

As confident as the Rockets are heading into Friday night’s Game 6 in Utah, it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen. So many times the Rockets have entered this same kind of situation with confidence, only to have their dreams shattered very quickly.

The most notable example was 3 years ago in early May 2005. That’s when they played a Game 7 in Dallas after having blown out the Mavs in Game 6 at home, just like the Rockets did Tuesday night in Game 5 against the Jazz in Houston. We all know what happened in that Game 7 when the Rockets got blown out by 40 points. I was at that game, and it was one of the most disappointing performances you could ever sit through. I guess after that experience I’m scarred for life and will always expect the worst in a similar situation.

If I were to envision what’s going to happen in Utah Friday night, I think the Rockets will play much better because they learned much about playing under pressure during the 22-game winning streak this season. Also, Tracy McGrady‘s experience in these situations multiple times in his career has got to start paying off.

I also think that Luis Scola has figured out how to play more effectively in this series. In Game 1, he seemed to be getting blocked all over the place, but in Game 5 he showed an improved ability to get his shot off around the rim without getting rejected. It figures that the smart and crafty Argentinian would make adjustments within the series. Carl Landry is also back to his old self.

These two guys being the lineup gives the Rockets a much better chance that last season when all they had was Chuck Hayes. So the Rockets are solid at the power forward position. Here are the factors where you’re not sure, and to me are the key factors in this game in no particular order:

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Rockets show the right stuff in Game 5

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
by John

Yao Ming & Steve Francis cheer on the Rockets Tuesday night as the Rockets blew out the Utah Jazz to force a Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday night. Click here for more photos of Yao and Steve at the game.

Now THIS is the way it should be. Down 3-1 in their series to Utah and facing elimination with one more loss, the Rockets manhandled the Jazz in Game 5 Tuesday night 95-69, extending their playoff series to at least one more game that will be played in Utah Friday night.

Finally everything came together like we knew this team was capable of doing. We just wonder why it took four games for it to happen. Sure, they won Game 3 in Utah thanks to a Carl Landry block at the end of the game. But this game was different. Unlike that Game 3 win, the Rockets built a double-digit lead in the first half, and every time the Jazz made a run to make it look like they would rip the heart out of their Rockets and fans with a comeback win to win the series, the Rockets would respond and hold them off.

When they could have just laid down and died against the big, bad Jazz, and head into the off-season with a sour taste in their mouths, the Rockets were like an animal backed into a corner and they came out fighting. And they never let up.

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Rockets-Jazz Game 5 relegated to 2nd-tier status

Monday, April 28th, 2008
by John

Don’t know if you saw it, but tonight the league announced the schedule for Tuesday night’s games. And guess what — the Rockets game against the Jazz will NOT be on ESPN or TNT. It’s going to be on NBA TV! I get the NBA TV channel, but something tells me there are a lot of folks out there who don’t get that channel and also don’t live in Houston where they can watch the local broadcast. So they may be out of luck.

I’d be curious to see if any of you out there are not going to be able to see it at home, or if NBA TV is part of your basic cable package.

And get this: the game will go head-to-head against Game 5 of the Phoenix-San Antonio series on TNT that also starts at 8:30pm Central like the Utah-Houston game. To me, that’s a slap in the face to fans in both Houston and Utah. Both series are at 3-1, so how did they go about choosing what game would go on each network? You would have thought they would have just spread out the games over different days so that basketball fans wouldn’t have to make such a difficult choice.

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