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?
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?
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.
“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.