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Yao Ming fired up for NBA season
Chinese giant aims to overcome injuries for new Houston Rockets season.
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2008 08:41 GMT

Yao Ming towers over Kobe Bryant [GALLO/GETTY]
Injury-prone Yao Ming's main aim must surely be getting through an NBA season without getting hurt.

The 2.29 metre centre, who turned 28 on September 12, has missed more than 80 games across the last three seasons with four separate injuries and this season is busy making preparations to avoid the same kind of misfortune.

Accident prone

In 2005-06, he contracted an infection in his left big toe that required surgery, then broke his left foot later.

In 2006-07, he broke his right leg.

Last February, he broke his left foot in a different place, had surgery and sat out the playoffs.

Yao acknowledges that he has to change some aspect of his play, whether it is his workout routine or the number of minutes he logs in games.

Improve conditioning

"I need to learn something from the last three years. Seriously," Yao said after the Rockets' first practice.

"Maybe I need to be careful with my pre-game workout or something, lay down a little bit, not get my body too tired before a game.

"Let's try some new schedules, put my best shape into the game."

Coach Rick Adelman said he would carefully monitor Yao's daily schedule and hold him out of segments of practice to keep him fresh.

Workhorse

Yao played 37 minutes per game last season and often resisted when Adelman tried to replace him.

"He's such a hard worker, he just runs himself into the ground," Adelman said.

"He keeps saying he wants to rest, but he never wants to sit out.

"We're going to try to monitor him as much as we can, be smart in how we use him," he continued.

Career high

Yao was averaging 22 points and a career-high 10.8 rebounds when he sustained the stress fracture in his foot on February 26.

He recovered enough to play for China at the Olympics, but said his foot was only 70-80 percent healed.

His Houston teammates nervously watched his games in Beijing.

"You cringe because you don't want to see him fall down," said point guard Rafer Alston.

"And then he falls, and things like that. Then, he's doing an interview, and he falls over a writer or a camera."

Olympic experience

Yao averaged 19 points and 8.2 rebounds in Beijing, leading China to the quarterfinals.

"The Olympics was a very good tryout for me to prepare for the Rockets season," he said.

"Some Chinese fans probably won't be happy, but that's just being honest. It feels great to come out of the injury.

"I had a good recovery. I feel fresh and ready for next season."

Monitoring progress

Houston assistant coach Jack Sikma made two trips to China, one before the games and one after, to work individually with Yao.

Sikma said Yao has lost about 4½ kilograms and just needs to regain his game conditioning.

Ron Artest is one of the Rocket's new signings [GALLO/GETTY]
Rocket talent

The Rockets acquired Ron Artest and Brent Barry in the offseason and Adelman hopes that the improved versatility will give Yao more chances to rest, and fewer opportunities to get hurt.

Adelman is starting his second season in Houston and also has more confidence now in frontcourt players like Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes, who can come off the bench to replace Yao.

Dikembe Mutombo backed up Yao last season, but Mutombo has yet to sign a new contract.

Dynamic duo

"I'm very comfortable playing two of those guys together and that would help keep Yao's minutes down," Adelman said.

"We had to play without him last year and those guys had to play, so I think having a versatility, we have some more things we can go to offensively."

Until then, Yao said he is not afraid to test his foot and go hard in practice to rebuild his stamina.

"The foot feels all right. I can't say it's like brand new, but it's like it's my foot," he said.

"I can't wait to go, for the first preseason game, the first regular-season game."

Source:
Agencies
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