|AP Photo BEJ102, NUH110|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 February 2008 19:19|
Not so soon after the injury to Yao Ming, which could ruin the host country's hopes of showing how much it has improved in basketball.
``The Olympics is more than five months away right now, so I haven't really thought too much about that,'' Yi said Thursday through a translator. ``But I'm really hoping that Yao Ming can get better before the Olympics and participate in that. But he has a lot of time right now.''
Yao will miss the rest of the NBA season with a stress fracture in his left foot. An expected recovery time of about four months would have the Houston Rockets center ready for the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8 in Beijing.
But any setback would likely put his status in jeopardy, which is why there is such concern back in China. Yi said he has gotten many calls this week from people who want to talk about Yao. Yi said he also spoke to his injured Olympic teammate.
``He just said that I've got to watch out for my own physical condition in the future,'' said Yi, the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie forward.
The Chinese aren't a threat to win a medal, and without Yao they would struggle to win even a game. But if he does play, China certainly can be competitive against some teams, as it proved two years ago in the world championships.
New Jersey's Bostjan Nachbar was on the court for one of Yao's most courageous performances, one which most Americans never saw.
Yao had 36 points and 10 rebounds to help China stun Slovenia 78-77 in Japan, a victory that advanced the Chinese out of the first round. Shortly after returning from a four-month absence following a broken foot and far from in top condition, Yao played all 40 minutes, dominating NBA centers Rasho Nesterovic and Primoz Brezec.
``He's definitely carrying that team,'' Nachbar said Thursday. ``He's obviously the main, main player over there, so it didn't surprise us that he had a good game.''
When Yi spoke, he was one of many Chinese awaiting results of a second opinion Yao was seeking to determine if he would need surgery. In the meantime, Yi wasn't ready to think beyond that.
``All the Chinese fans right now are really caring about the results of the examination. What we need to do right now is wait for the results to come out and after that we can make a plan for what's going to happen,'' Yi said. ``So right now, since everything isn't certain, there isn't really any point in thinking too much about 'what if' or what could happen.''
ARTEST'S BATTLE: Ron Artest knows the Sacramento Kings' playoff hopes are, at best, endangered in the loaded Western Conference.
He doesn't mind.
``It's supposed to be hard,'' Artest said.
Artest and the Kings were dealt a crushing loss this week in Miami, when the Heat kept them without a field goal for 9 1/2 minutes in the third quarter and rolled to a 107-86 win. Maybe the Kings were doomed by the phenomenon known as South Beach Flu - when the revelry of Miami Beach keeps a team out too late the night before - or maybe it was just Murphy's Law, since the Heat hadn't won a game in a month.
Either way, Artest wasn't too shaken afterward.
``If good things came easy, we'd all be rich. We'd all have championship rings already,'' Artest said. ``Nothing good ever comes easy. We will hang in there. I'm not worried.''
The Kings are running out of time, though. That loss in Miami knocked them eight games out of the final playoff spot in the West - albeit with a record that would have Sacramento firmly in the East's playoff picture.
TAKING HIS SHOT: The Milwaukee Bucks were surprised Thursday when Devin Harris hurt them with jumpers, since the scouting report told them to let him shoot from the outside.
Apparently the scouting report will change now that Harris has gone from Dallas to New Jersey.
Harris showed off an unexpected perimeter game and scored 21 points in his debut with the Nets, a 120-106 victory over the Bucks.
``I had a specific role with the last team, there were certain things I could and could not do,'' Harris said. ``It's a new start here, so I'm letting it all out and we'll see what happens.''
Harris is one of the league's quickest players, able to get to the basket against almost any defender. And apparently, that's all he was supposed to try to do while playing for the Mavericks.
But he hit two 3-pointers during his 6-for-6 first half Thursday, forcing the Bucks to completely change their defensive strategy.
``The freedom to do it here is a little bit different. If I can space a guy out that far, we'll have a lot of success,'' Harris said. ``Going out on the screen-and-rolls, like I said, I had a specific role, get to the basket and make plays. With a little freedom here just to be able to step back and shoot it, hopefully I can just stretch them out that far, and like I said, it's going to make it a lot easier for a lot of guys, not just myself.''
Nets coach Lawrence Frank has no plans to discourage Harris from pulling up for jumpers.
``When you are making perimeter shots like he is and you are as fast as he is, he is a really hard cover,'' Frank said.
BREZEC BELIEVES: Primoz Brezec has been traded twice this season. But even if a couple of teams lacked confidence in him, he still has plenty in himself.
A trade deadline deal sent Brezec from Detroit to Toronto, barely two months after the Charlotte Bobcats shipped the center to the Pistons.
Brezec praised Pistons president Joe Dumars and said he briefly preferred to stay in Detroit for a better chance to win a title. But he wasn't part of the rotation in Detroit, and Brezec believes he definitely should be.
``I was just looking for a chance and I didn't get it. In a month and a half, two months I didn't get one chance,'' Brezec said. ``All I was getting was garbage time. That's not me, man. I've been a starter in this league. I know I can play, so I'm not going to sit on the bench, I guarantee you that.''
Brezec started 18 of 20 games in Charlotte this season but averaged just 1.9 points in about 13 minutes a game. His problem there was with the coach.
Sam Vincent implemented an up-tempo style in an attempt to take advantage of speedy wings Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson, and point guard Raymond Felton. Brezec thinks he could have been useful in that role.
``He wants to run and gun. I have no problem with that,'' Brezec said. ``I'm in good shape. I can run three days in a row. But if you're the starter, I think I set a record in the NBA. Out of 15 games I didn't get a ball, I didn't get a shot off.
``I mean so there ... 'You know what Sam, you don't need me, you don't like me, I don't like you, so get me out of here (if) I'm not playing.' You see how they're doing this year.''
Vincent was much more diplomatic, saying the Bobcats ``were happy that he's doing well.''
``I'm very aware of what Primoz Brezec had to say, and my only response is I'm happy Primoz is playing in Toronto,'' Vincent said. ``We gave him the ball in Charlotte and we wanted him to score, and it didn't happen for us. Maybe his conditioning has gotten better or he's gotten more confidence.''
Brezec had a promising Toronto debut, scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in 13 minutes of a victory over New York last Sunday. He racked up another DNP-Coach's Decision the next night, but believes he'll get an opportunity with the Raptors to prove he's the player he thinks he is.
``They told me I'm going to get a shot. That's all I need to prove, to show that I can play,'' Brezec said. ``If I can't play, I'll take it as a man. Just tell me straight in the face, 'You (stink), you can't play.' I'll take that. But I know that's not the truth. I've been a starter in this league, I know I can play. I know I can help this team.''
UNUSUAL PITCH: In an effort to keep season-ticket holders, the Miami Heat are offering an array of perks.
Some of the stuff is standard: meet-and-greets with players and coaches, access to the family lounge on a game night, a VIP package to travel to a Heat home game.
But there's a major issue in Florida these days, and that's property taxes.
So the Heat added that to the offers this year.
One season-ticket holder will have his or her property taxes paid by the Heat as a thank-you for being a season-ticket holder. Considering that some season packages start as low as $731, that's quite the bargain - because it isn't uncommon for a home assessed at, say, $250,000 in South Florida to have a tax bill flirting with the $5,000 mark.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.