BEIJING (AP) -Rick Adelman will make Yao Ming better.
That's the word in China where fans intensely follow every pivot, every move the 7-foot-6 center makes for the Houston Rockets.
Knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Utah Jazz, the Rockets fired coach Jeff Van Gundy last week and replaced him with Adelman - a shakeup reported in nearly every newspaper in China.
``Yao's Home Fans Welcome New Coach,'' said a headline in Wednesday's China Daily newspaper.
In a poll cited by the paper, 53 percent said Adelman would be a better coach for the Rockets, with only 37 percent unhappy to see Van Gundy leave.
Yao averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds this season, but committed critical turnovers against Utah in the first-round playoff ouster. To sharpen his skills, he has worked out since the playoffs with Hakeen Olajuwon, the center who led the Rockets to NBA titles in 1994 and '95.
``The new coach will be better for Yao Ming because he thinks more about offense,'' said Ni Aiqi, 27, who heads a Beijing-based Yao Ming fan club - appropriately called the ``Giant Club.''
``Yao Ming's agility got worse under the old coach,'' Ni added. ``But Adelman will improve this and help his decision making.''
Ni said 30-to-40 club members meet every weekend to play basketball and watch Rockets games.
Basketball is widely followed in China, where about 300 million are estimated to play the game. NBA ratings are on the rise and should go higher with China's latest star, 7-foot forward Yi Jianlian, expected to go in the first round of next month's NBA draft.
He would be the fourth Chinese to make the NBA, following Wang Zhizhi, Mengek Bateer and Yao.
Adelman sat out this season after the Sacramento Kings decided not to renew his contract following the 2005-06 season. He has a 752-481 record in 16 seasons and his teams have made the playoffs 14 times. His teams made it out of the first round seven of those 14 times, and he is 70-68 in the playoffs.
He also coached Golden State and Portland.

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