Huq’s Pen: The Yao Premise

I wrote some time ago that I hoped the Rockets would make a clean break from the Yao era and move on, not bringing back the large man.  Several of you disagreed, citing that with minimal expectations, there was little to lose.  I’m still struggling to understand this reasoning but I wonder if we’re all even operating from the same basic assumptions.

My assumption is that, regardless of the circumstances, at some point, whenever it will be, Yao Ming will go down with injury once more.  Is this agreed upon?  My basis, which probably needs little explanation, is that his body simply cannot sustain the physical taxation required of such athletics.  If you don’t agree with this starting point, we’ll agree to disagree, and our personal conversation has culminated.  I imagine very few of you here fall into this camp of such extreme idealism.

To the rest of you: we all agree he’ll go down…at some point. You argue that at just simply 15minutes per game, and $3million/year, Yao is a far superior option to the alternatives.  You argue that with such little expectations, and so few minutes, anything he provides is gravy and that the circumstances are risk-free.  I vehemently disagree.

I don’t think we’re placing appropriate value upon the currency of NBA ‘time.’  15mpg may not sound as gaudy as 35mpg, but it holds significance and a greater trickle-down effect upon the entire team.  We saw how much difference there was this season between starting Jordan Hill and bringing him off the bench.  Mere fractions of NBA games determine standings; the Rockets lost out on wins that could have been the difference.  For a team that has missed the postseason by small increments in recent history, games cannot be so easily sacrificed under the premise of ‘experimentation.’  The Houston Rockets are not the LA Lakers; there is no room to ‘figure it out.’

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.

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.

‘Huq’s Pen’ is a column of musings written by Red94 founder/editor, Rahat Huq.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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