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Yao Ming, Risk, And Reward

Rahat Huq over at Red 94 penned a masterpiece yesterday afternoon on Yao Ming and the injuries that the Rockets will have to deal with if they recommit to him. It's easy and simplistic to say "well Yao Ming can still be great, lets throw him on the bench!" and Huq goes into the reasons why:

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Yao Ming is not a player who can simply be pulled/inserted/replaced from a lineup. Perhaps moreso than anyone else in basketball, his teammates must adapt to his presence. This reality is infinitely more heightened with his current physical circumstances. Yao Ming slows down the game and forces requisite a learning curve of adaptability for those around him.

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You argue that when he goes down, because he was only playing 15mpg, hypothetically, nothing is lost and someone else can just be plugged in. I do not feel this to be the case. If we all agree that Yao Ming will go down at some point, I do not believe the Rockets can afford to bring him back. With the time it will require to acclimate him into the scheme in addition to the games it will take to re-set/readapt the new rotation after his inevitable annual injury, the Rockets will have lost more games than they can afford to throw at this stage in their development. At just 15mpg, the potential upside of his presence is simply not worthwhile.

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I doubt this argument actually hold sway with Daryl Morey and company because a) I bet they still think Yao has a chance to get through a season unscathed, and b) Yao brings in a whole ton of foreign money, to the point where signing him for $3 million a year is almost a must from a business perspective.

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But this should be heavily weighted given where the Rockets are right now. Experimentation is not the sort of thing you should be doing when you need a lot to go right to make the playoffs. Yao has been a wonderful player for the franchise, but more and more, I find myself rooting for him to just hang it up so the Rockets don't have to deal with the drama that surrounds whether he can stay healthy or not. The Rockets, with a healthy big man last season, are a playoff team. No matter how much you minimize the risk, Yao is still a risk. 

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Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.