Yao’s Limit? 24 Minutes!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just so we are clear on this one, Rockets center Yao Ming plays 24 minutes a night this season and not a second more?

That’s the word from the brass in Houston, where the prospect of another injury-plagued season for the franchise center has led to this somewhat perplexing move.

We understand the sentiment, preserving the big fellas body until the playoffs.

We just don’t understand how anyone is going to be able to enforce this mandate when Yao is at 23 minutes and 57 seconds with two minutes to play in a crucial, must-win game.

Does anyone really expect the competitor in him to simply abide by this rule and take a seat when his team needs him most?

According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And there’s little to no room for debate:

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey pledged that he and coach Rick Adelman will not come to blows over a star center’s playing time, something Bulls vice president John Paxson and former coach Vinny Del Negro did when limiting Joakim Noah’s minutes last season as the Rockets will Yao’s this season.

Yao will play no more than 24 minutes per game, Rockets vice president and athletic trainer Keith Jones said. There will be no exceptions. If Yao has played his 24 minutes and the Rockets have the ball and eight seconds on the clock to make up a one-point deficit, Yao will not play those eight seconds.

Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game.

Again, the theory is relatively sound.

Executing this plan, however, won’t be nearly as easy it seems on paper. Things didn’t exactly work out in Chicago, hence Del Negro eventually being shown the door due in large part to his strained relationship with Paxson.                   

And that’s why the Rockets left some wiggle room to tweak this system as the season wears on.

But they are standing on the mountain of research that led them to this point, including the sobering history of Yao’s past five seasons — the big fella has missed all or part of those five seasons with bone-related injuries.

Morey explained:

“We’re going to take what we think is a cautious approach to try to make sure he is healthy throughout the playoffs,” he said. “Does anyone know for sure what that best approach is? No. The question then becomes who is best to make an educated case, so given that criteria, you go with our medical staff.

“We have evidence that when he played 35 to 40 minutes he averaged two years ago there was a buildup of stress on his foot that led to it being injured in the playoffs. On some level, we have at least one indication 35 to 40 minutes might be too much. That would lead you to choose to look at having a limit.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this approach changes if Yao’s limit has a negative impact on the Rockets’ ability to compete for the playoff spot everyone seems to be taking for granted.

Last we checked, the Rockets missed the playoffs without Yao last season.

So there’s no guarantee they make it this year with a part-time Yao!

And no, having Erick Dampier on retainer doesn’t make up for the time spent playing without Yao.



  1. joao says:

    I think that people are forgetting one important aspect. The Rockets didn’t make the playoffs last season w/o Yao, so this must meant something. They can limit his minutes but there’s no guarantee that they will make it w/ subs (Miller is way far from is Sacramento days and Hill is too green), cuz this conference is very deep. so for me these 7 teams will make it: Lakers (duh), Mavs (perenial underachievers, this could be their year),Blazers (if healthy), Durant’s farm, Suns, Jazz, Spurs (they know how to limit their vets minutes).
    At the gates you have: Hornets, Rockets, Grizzlies, Nuggets, and you could have some uninvited guests, like the LA Clippers and the Sacramento Kings. So don’t start dreaming w/ playoffs already.

  2. Dongz23 says:

    Yao’s retirement or trade is the next issue the Rockets fan will be hearing few days from now.

  3. readthis says:

    Everyone should not watch the NBA and not buy tickets. so that we all could be richer and the NBA players wouldn’t get paid millions while a person like me will get lucky if i make 27-52 dollars in a day doing hard labor. its not fair. but if we all do that we can make it fairer.

  4. That's All I Know says:

    Will somebody help me understand why the Rockets are already assured of a playoff spot? I get the premise behind the minutes limit, but this seems to be bad strategy if we’re talking about success THIS season.

  5. Jade says:

    i think the Rockets should add about 4mins to Yao’s playing time . It would be really effective and efficient . How about 7mins per quarter . That should be enough for Yao to play every quarter and that if they should face a team that will not give them a challenge they should rest Yao especially on back to back games where Yao will only play the most important game of that back to back ..

  6. So Cal Paradise says:

    I think it is smart to limit him during the season and then turn it full gear during the playoffs. but not smart at the same time. if you cant trust a player with 48 minutes he doesnt belong on your team though. either way the rockets stand no chance against the lakers heat celtics and so on.

  7. Yiyun says:

    I’m sieriesly worried about Yao’s “24 min limit” will become a sign of him being traded in the future like T-mac’s “7 min limit ” 😦

  8. Trey Orman says:

    The Rockets have absolutely no chance at winning in the playoffs without Yao. There hasn’t been an NBA champion in the past 10 years that didn’t have a true dominant big man playing for them.
    99-00 LA Shaquille O’neil
    00-01 LA Shawquille O’neil
    01-02 LA Shaquille O’neil
    02-03 San An Tim Duncan
    03-04 Detroit Wallace(s)
    04-05 San An Tim Duncan
    05-06 Miami Shaquille O’neil
    06-07 San An Tim Duncan
    07-08 Boston Kevin Garnett
    08-09 LA Pau Gasol/Bynum
    09-10 LA Pau Gasol/Bynum

    Without a healthy Yao the Rockets are an 8th seed team knocked out in the first round. You need a work horse to put the ball down to for automatic points.

  9. Pablito77 says:

    OH please guys…! I am not a rocket fan… I follow them because of Luis my country man and for the love for the game itself… 24 minutes of Yao is better that not Yao at all… In the other hand I believe they would be a play off contender even without him… Crazy? think about when Martin got to this team last season? he was still getting used to the city when the season was over for the rockets. Ariza is more confortable, Miller is a very good center that will make a great one-two punch with Scola. This kid Buddinger or whatever you spell his name can strech the floor…. Is plenty of talent in this team, and a completed season ahead of them… On top of everything you have 24 minutes of Yao…! I take this 24 minutes as a plus of what the rockets already have.

    • tingyman says:

      you are crazy…. i mean sure they can make it to the playoffs without yao, but not because of how much the rockets improved, but rather becasue of how much the west got worse. melo might be leaving soon, the suns lost amare.. yeah that opens up a few spots for the rockets to move in, maybe at 4-6 depending on yao. also, you made a mistake when you mentioned ariza, he no longer plays for the rockets, hes on the hornets

  10. Ned Einstein says:


    Sticking to the 24 minute rule with no flexibility is asinine, and we all realize it wont’ happen. On back-to-back nights, he might only play 20, but after three nights off, it won’t destroy his career to play 28. Don’t forget they have a more-than-capable center in Luis Scola, who is getting better each year, and had a monster Summer. If they only play 10 minutes together, Miami is still a 9 on a 10 scale at center, as long as their 30-minute other power forward can manage a decent season. They have problems and limitations elsewhere, but their lightning quick point guard can get Ming and Luis the ball in advantageous places, and look for the Rockets to be competitive, and Ming to be well-rested for the last three minutes of every game, when he and Luis can pick-and-roll themselves into the win-column, despite Ming’s lack of speed.

  11. vytautas says:

    write shorter comments

  12. mark says:

    Too big of a deal is being made of the 24 minute time limit and not having Yao at the end of the game when it matters. Do you really think Adelman is that stupid? If Yao has played 18 minutes (for example) by the end of the 3rd quarter, Adelman will just put him in when there are 6 minutes left to the game. It’s just that simple. It’s not “rocket science”.

  13. mr.celtic says:

    i think that they need 2 play yao a little more than 24 a game.i think that he can because he has worked very hard this season 2 get 2 where he is and where he wants 2 b.he will b an all-star weather or not he plays more than 24 or less then 24 a game.either way i don’t blame yao if he dose;nt play like he has in years past because of injury.i see 14 and 8 with a block a game.he will do his best this year.and thats that

    • tingyman says:

      maybe a little more when the games start to become important, and yao would always be a allstar because of his fan base in china lol, even if he becomes a bust and goes 2 for 50 each game

  14. simon says:

    I believe that if the rockets plays yao ming for 24 mins only.(that is about 2 quarters in a game)… why not play yao ming in the 3rd and 4th quarter of games.?… im pretty sure..that the rockets can last the first two quarters.. they only need yao ming in the 3rd or 4th quarter of games…

    • tingyman says:

      i would think the 2nd and 4th would be a better fit for yao to play. first off, he would be leading his team into every intermission in the game [halftime and end of game]. 2nd off he will get to be playing in the clutch minutes that happen in the 4th.

  15. Snika says:

    Unfortunately for the Rockets, they lack one solid veteran to lead this team to the promised land. Ron Artest did a better job than T-Mac ever did, which is sad. But I don’t think K-Mart gets them over the hump. Scola and Brooks are underrated, and Courtney Lee and Brad Miller were great pick ups. But they are like a poor man’s Dallas, keep getting good players, but not exceptional players that will put them over the hump. They tried to make a play for Bosh, and Melo is still lingering in trade rumor land… but let’s face it. If Yao is COMPLETELY healthy, this team is a decade away from competing from a championship.

  16. GoKnicks says:

    I believe that Yao should play around 28 or 29 minutes per game. I have a feeling that this will be the case as the season progresses. He’ll start off playing 24 mpg during the first quarter of the season, but he’ll improve as the season goes by. Playing 24 minutes per game for the first 15 or 20 games is perfect for somebody to get back into the jist of the game. I feel that he’ll be content with playing 28 minutes per game.

  17. Matt says:

    ZZanzibar – Yao doesn’t play for his country because he is a patriot. He plays because his country is a communist nation that requires him to play. Trust me, he has no choice in the matter. Just like he has no choice when he sends 50% of his NBA salary directly to the Chinese government every year. It’s the same for any chinese national who the goverment allows to leave the country. (Look it up!) That’s the way communism works. He came here to play in the NBA because they told him to. He will go back to home when they tell him to. He is property of RED CHINA.

    • Zzanzabar says:


      All to that may be true Matt, but that does NOT mean that Yao is any less patriotic than any other citizen of their country. It could very well be that he is just a PROUD to be a Chinese Communist (if he is a party member) as any other citizen is to be a Democrat, Republican, Labor Party, or any other political party member. If he was from Britain he would have to pay almost the same (40% I believe) in taxes, and would probably feel the same pressures of his countrymen to represent his country that many international players feel, I cannot say. Whatever the reason the effect is the same, additional wear and tear on his frame.

    • tingyman says:

      first of all, you need to have evidence that all you said was true, or ur a big liar,secondly, i believe that if you want to talk about politics, go to yahoo.com. NBA is not the place for this

  18. caaaaarrrrrllllllllloooooo says:

    Well, I agree with this one… Though Yao’s minutes wold be limited, I am sure he can get a lot done. And may I remind you that 24 minutes are big minutes, just ask Leandro Barbosa… It is better to have Yao playing throughout the season than just half of it. His presence alone is already a big thing for the Rockets. With him playing along side, the somewhat still strong, Brad Miller I believe that Rick Adelman wouldn’t have a hard time on the low post. When Yao is at the bench, Brad is on the floor. Either way, it is a win-win scenario for the Rockets. Together with the Rockets’ continuous rising stars, Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger and their very strong, mature-minded player Luis Scola, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rockets finish their season around late May.

  19. Don Reed says:

    Drink some milk Yao!

  20. Rocky D says:

    He shoud be able to provide a simple 14 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes

  21. blazerfan says:

    I think their decision is wise. As the season and Yao progresses they will evaluate how the team and how Yao is doing…which could mean Yao playing less than 24 mins! Yao won’t be upset that he is playing limited mins (maybe disappointed by not upset) for two reasons. 1 – He knows his body better than anyone and knows how easy he can get injured. 2 – Yao is in a contract year! He needs to be healthy in order to re-sign or have a decent team be willing to risk a contract on him. Falling part isn’t an option if you want a career past May/June.

    Also, I think he feel some loyalty towards Houston because of all the injuries he has put them through. This next season he will be making $17.8M (eightieth highest paying player in the league). He owes it to Houston to be willing to accept what they ask, or don’t ask of him.

  22. KGM says:


  23. peter says:

    I dont think this rule will be as strict as they say for now. Yao will definitely play less this season and even though 24 minutes sounds a bit less, its pretty decent. Considering Yao also played for China during the summer in his early seasons, one can obviously see the build up of stress.

  24. RJ says:

    Brad Miller should easily be able to cover the other 25 or 26 minutes. If not, Scola, Hayes, Hill, Patterson, and any other frontcourt players should each be able to log a few minutes at center when needed.

  25. Matt says:

    Guess they just have to think of every game as one where he’s in foul trouble or something. They need a back-up who could start for most teams, and I suppose they’ve gotten that in Brad Miller, and in effect, Yao is now the bench man.

  26. BlackMamba says:

    ok… the rockets are now definitely off my list of fav teams. they traded away tmac without giving him a second chance and now they only letting yao play 24 mins per game?!?! thats unreasonable, 30 mins per game at least would be better

  27. 3Peat,17,6 says:

    this just shows that they have confidence in the big guy…they pushed my lakers to 7 games in ’09 with yao gettin hurt in the beginnin of the series (i 4got which game)…this team has potential…brooks, scola, martin and miller comin off the bench…it is true that the west is really tight right now and maybe even worst next yr if al jefferson works 4 utah if hedo works 4 phoenix and if melo stays with denver then the exact same teams will be fighting 4 playoff spots with possibly only the lakers dallas potland san antonio and oklahoma makin it 4 sure and 2 add 2 that chris paul is comin back 4 new orleans and they added ariza, the clippers have blake griffin gorden davis and kaman, and the grizzilies r improved team and their starters r talented, but if it works out 4 them and they can squeeze in their it will probably help them in the long run…poppovich managed duncan’s min phoenix swept them but it was a nice try…its a gamble but i think its a fantastic idea…

  28. think says:

    Of course aside from limiting Yao to 24 minutes a game, they should also be concerned on what he and the team will do on those 24 minutes. I guess its not just the time he’s on the court that would put a lot of stress in his body, but how will he be used during his time there. If the Rockets would utilize all the 24 minutes and feed the ball to Yao everytime he’s there, then there’s no use to the time limit isnt it? Or if they force Yao to play his 24 minutes running with the Suns, Warriors or even NY, then the stress would be much the same. Its not about the time actually, but how much work you do when you’re playing that stresses the body.

    The Rockets scrappy play and the deep talent that they have this year is a great help enough for Yao not to work so hard than in the past years (when its was just him and T-Mac). Adelman’s Kings before were effecient because of the ball movement that they have and even an old Divac was so effective in making plays for his team or hitting shots when he’s open. Having a line-up of Brooks, Scola, Martin, Battier and Yao has enough talent for Yao not to worry too much on scoring, playing D or getting rebounds by himself. And with his towering height, he would just be more effective than Vlade back then in making plays for his team mates while posting up, rather than bang bodies for him to score.

    If the management sees limiting Yao’s time will help the team come playoffs, then I’m for it. But for me, I’d rather explore on the possibility of having effecient offensive and defensive schemes where all players will be in the same page so they won’t be forcing Yao to wear his body playing hard in those 24 mins. And when theyre able to do that, they’d be more dangerous during the playoffs because theyll have a solid Rockets team than just having a preserved Yao.

  29. Vlad says:

    rockets still a good all around team at all positions plus they are well coached and the west got weak this year. I predict 48 wins and good for 7th.
    after yao’s contract ends he should take a pay cut and come play in new york for 24 min a nite good things will begin to happen!

  30. Gabe says:

    They should pick up Lou Amundson. He’s not tall, but long and scrappy and definitely fits into the Rockets’ style of play. He’s no Yao, but he could help when Yao is on the bench. I’d rather have Lou than Erick Dampier. He still has upside, while Dampier is on the downside of an overrated career. Most likely, ED will head to Miami for a minimum deal and the chance to be a contributor on a championship team. No matter what, I don’t think this idea to play Yao no more than 24 minutes will work. He’s either on the team and contributing as much as he can or on the bench playing cheerleader. Trying to combine those two options does not seem like a viable option at all.

  31. rocketfan_believeit or not says:

    I have been a rocket fan since I was 10 ( I learned how to play basketball at 8 and the first 2 years I suported the Jordan Bulls) and I am very pleased to see that finally team management staff are taking the right desicions. Yeah, Yao is an Icon that represents the rockets in terms of stats and marketing, but as good as this player was, is when healthy, and still might be he needs to stop punishing his body that much.
    In recent years Yao did not have the suport he will have this season with Brad Mille coming off the bench and Scola averaging 15 and 12 a game. Martin as mentioned earlier is a solid offensive player and with Brooks contributing as he did last year there will be an improvement for sure on this team and they will probably win 50 to 54 games this season.

    I know cutting his playing time will upset the great wall, but I am pretty sure that he understands 2 things, his health is not better than his talent and he is who he is because of it. And the second thing is that he also knows, that if he gets so mad with the team staff for not playing him that much time, and decides to ask for a trade at any point in time, there will be very few or none teams that will take the risk of getting him due his injury history. The rockets have faith in this man, he needs to do the same and trust them, and if he is healthy and happy, maybe he could get close to what the “Dream” did for this town years ago.

    • Zzanzabar says:


      You once asked me about predictions for the upcoming season, so I thought I would give it a try. Predictions at the beginning of any sporting season are almost always useless by the end of the season simply because there are just so many changes to teams that occur during the year (injuries being the main wild card), but they sure are fun to do. Well here goes R-man:

      An individual would have to be nuts to think they can accurately predict the Western Conference Division (but isn’t that part of the definition of a NBA fan?) simply because there are 2 strong divisions and only one simi-‘weak’ one:

      Again the Lakers have no challenge in the Pacific and most likely Phoenix will miss the playoffs (wouldn’t you say that Boozer was worth at least 5 or 6 games?). The Northwest all depends on the health of Denver, and of course the new leader there (if Denver falls) is OKC, with Portland close behind. In the Southwest Houston (with Yao) could very well end up the winner (only because the Spurs are just as cagey as Boston and will look to position their old legs for the best match-us come playoff time, and Houston with Yao is sligtly better than Dallas with Dirk). As for the final positioning it would look like this:

      1)Lakers, 2) – 8)…just about anyone else LOL.
      Note: I don’t think that either Cousins for the Kings, or Blake for the Clippers can make up 20+ wins for either team (what it would take to make the playoffs in the West) but, I admit, it could get VERY interesting.

      Why do I look at the Divisions rather than just the Conference from 1 – 8? Because the Divisions DRIVE the playoff race. Look at the Eastern Conference:

      Boston will not have to break a sweat to end up the head of its division with Bosh-less Toronto as their only true competitor in the Atlantic, while there is a true dogfight in the Southeast between Miami, Orlando and Atlanta. The Central has opened up and will be a dog-fight between Milwaukee and Chicago, which will actually probably make Indiana a true contender (yes I said Indiana). It will be CRITICAL for the wild-card team in that Conference to have a better record than Boston to snatch the number 2 seed, so it should look like this towards the end:
      1) Miami, 2) Orlando (wild card), 3) Boston, 4) Chicago/Milwaukee 5) Chicago/Milwaukee,
      6) Atlanta (ok, ok maybe the 5 spot) 7) Washington/Charlotte/Indiana 8)Washington/Indiana/Charlotte

      Boston’s final record will actually be immaterial because those cagey vets KNOW how to conserve their energies for the playoffs and how to position themselves for the match-ups that are the most advantageous to them. The 4 and 5 spot (young energetic legs) will undoubtedly battle each other so that only ONE is left, and ideally Boston ends up playing Atlanta in the first round. Washington’s inclusion is basted solely on how Arenas adjust to his new teammate.

  32. JayNate says:

    Well for one the Rockets did do fairly decent last year without Yao, I mean 42-40 for a team that was relatively young and without All-Star talent at the Center position is incredibly respectable. I think the Rockets are taking the right approach by limiting his minutes but I think 24 minutes will not be enough playing time for him. I think Yao will be unhappy with that amount of playing time. I mean if you do the math that means he will only play two quarters a game and that just won’t be enough especially if the Brad Miller experiment doesn’t workout. I understand that the Rockets are trying to keep him fresh for the playoffs but what if the Rockets don’t make the playoffs due their little Yao limiting experiment?? Then what?? This is what I think, I feel that the Rockets should limit his minutes in the beginning of the season and see how that works out but when it’s crunch time Yao should absolutely be in the game even if he has played his 24 minutes. They should monitor his time but then increase his throughout the season because believe me the Rockets are not a playoff team without Yao as was evidenced last season even with the key additions we added this offseason the Rockets are a on the bubble might miss the playoffs by a game or two team. WE NEED YAO to make the playoffs and we definitely need him to compete with the usual Western Conference playoff teams. The Lakers, Trailblazers, Nuggets, Mavs, Spurs, Suns, hell even the young up and coming Thunder made the playoffs and all they have is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Please Darryl and Rick if you read this do not limit Yao’s minutes the whole season if you want to make the playoffs.

  33. Dongz23 says:

    TOO bad if thats the only minutes Yao could bring to the court this season. If not, then to focus to the strength the team have right now. . .And the worst is that if Yao has already played the minutes he supposed to play then hes already out of the game. . IF thats the case then focus your attention to your big three (brooks, Scola and Martin). Or not make the move through trading now before the season starts.

  34. Go Yoa!~!!!!!!!!! says:

    That budinger kid is really something………………

  35. tenki says:

    I definitely agree with your statement. Besides, Houston made some offseason moves that should benefit their team, particularly at the center spot. Brad Miller should be able to play the way he did in Sacramento, since he had Rick Adelman as coach back then. And their brand of play must complement their lineup. They can play fast or slow, depending on the teams that they will have to face. Aaron Brooks is a revelation, and Kevin Martin is the main beneficiary of the offense while Yao is still working out his true form. They need not to rush things, because should an uneventful injury recurs to the Great Wall, maybe he would not take his time to think about hanging up his jersey to the rafters.

  36. zzanzabar says:

    It seems obvious that the Rockets have heard some medical opinion on this and have made their decisions accordingly. Yao is a BIG guy (read heavy also) and the stress on his knees and feet must be tremendous. There is no amount of conditioning that will totally overcome the effect of gravity on his frame, so I guess Houston feels that this is the correct compromise. It doesn’t help that he feels that he must also represent his country in off season exhibitions and tournaments putting further stress on already tired legs (yes, it is commendable that he is so patriotic for his country, but unfortunately this is the price he will pay).

    Finally, someone in Houston is beginning to get it. It is ALL about the playoffs as far as the teams aspirations go. The regular season is for us fans, and the playoffs is for the players and fans. Houston has proven that it can do fairly well (read be competitive) without Yao, so if they can keep their All Star healthy for the ‘end game’ all the better. What good is an MVP award if it isn’t awarded for the Finals? Houston has a great chance to secure a fairly high seeded position, why jeopardize their playoff chances with a broken down Yao?

    • Lakers WillWin says:

      This guy should be a writer up here I enjoy his opinions more than the blogs sometimes!

    • Reviverr says:

      24 minutes per game in the regular season should be enough if it’s 24 fully meaningful minutes. Spurs did something similiar to Manu Ginoblie where he came off the bench and played some cruicial minutes. However, will that work in the playoff? If not, after playing 24 mins a game for 82 games, how would you going to make that adjustment?

      • mhyke says:

        that statement of rockets v.p. is just plain stupidity “If Yao has played his 24 minutes and the Rockets have the ball and eight seconds on the clock to make up a one-point deficit, Yao will not play those eight seconds.