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Yao blocks critics of Kazlauskas
China's star basketball player comes to the defence of his embattled national coach.
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2007 09:12 GMT

Jonas Kazlauskas, China's national basketball coach, is under pressure from local media [EPA]

Yao Ming, Chinese basketball superstar, has defended under-siege national coach Jonas Kazlauskas after he came under heavy criticism after a string of poor performances by his team in Europe and at home.
Many sports publications in China have accused the Lithuanian of being bereft of ideas, motivation and leadership, although Yao has fired back saying his coach is "a great man" and the best choice to lead the team at next year's Beijing Olympics.

"I have heard a lot of people speaking against him, but I am sure he is a great man, he unites the team and of course he should stay and lead us at the Beijing Olympics," Yao was quoted as saying in Thursday's China Daily.

The Houston Rockets centre also accused the Chinese press of being capricious in its support of Kazlauskas, who was hired in 2005 with the view to take China to a basketball medal at their home Olympics.

"Some media are like grass atop a wall swaying in the wind. When you win some games, they cheer for you. But when you lose, they go to the other side," Yao said.

The China team recently lost five consecutive games in Europe, albeit without Yao, who was on his honeymoon and recovering from injury, and calls for Kazlauskas's axing have grown.

"When you win some games, they cheer for you. But when you lose, they go to the other side."

Basketballer Yao Ming on China's media

"How many summers can we waste? Kazlauskas' prestige has hit a new low," the Titan Sports publication said, while other press said the coach was placing too much faith in key-man Yao to lead China to glory next year.

"Jonas has put all his hopes on Yao Ming, this is absolutely dangerous. What if Yao was injured at the Olympics or he committed too many fouls (early)?" the Beijing Evening News said this week.

Negative outlook

Wang Zhizhi, former NBA player and one of Yao's key teammates, also had a negative outlook about the team's prospects.

"Problems are everywhere. We are struggling (all over the court). I cannot say I am optimistic about the team's future," China Daily quoted Wang as saying.

Yao, Wang and new Milwaukee Bucks recruit Yi Jianlian played together for the first time this year when the national team beat Australian domestic team the Melbourne Tigers on Wednesday night 84-78 in Macau.

Yao top scored with 25 points while Yi added 20 of his own.

Source:
Agencies
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